Air Force has new app to save time, keep planes battle-ready - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Air Force has new app to save time, keep planes battle-ready

The Air Force Reserve went live with an app that is expected to save time and stress for aircraft maintainers late 2018 with an estimated 100 users to be enrolled by February 2019.

Headquarters Air Force, AFRC, and Monkton teamed up to create an iOS modern mobile app that enables maintainers to directly access the maintenance database from the flight line at the point of aircraft repair. This eliminates the need to secure their tools, go to back to their office and log into a network computer to document the maintenance actions performed.

The BRICE app, or Battle Record Information Core Environment, was designed with all the necessary Department of Defense security and authentication required to allow the maintainers to input, store and transmit data in real time to the maintenance database.


“Maintainers didn’t have a convenient way to input their maintenance actions into the system of record.” said Maj. Jonathan Jordan, Headquarters Air Force Reserve A6 logistics IT policy and strategy branch chief. “They have to travel to a desktop computer, go through the sign-in procedure for both the computer and the maintenance data system, then they can enter the data for the maintenance performed on the flightline.”

During user acceptance testing at Davis Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, 81 percent of testers estimated the app saved an hour or more of time per day.

Air Force has new app to save time, keep planes battle-ready

Air Force Reserve Command A4 Directorate, Logistics, Engineering and Force Protection, hosts a user acceptance testing session for the Battle Record Information Core Environment mobile app at Davis Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., with the 924th Fighter Group maintainers in March 2018.

(US Air Force photo)

“Live data availability is paramount for field units to take swift maintenance actions and schedule work orders as changes are occurring across the flight line,” said Christopher Butigieg, Headquarters Air Force project delivery manager. “Additionally, returning time back to maintainers is an added benefit as task documentation is completed throughout the day rather than at the end of shift.”

Because the data entry can occur in real time by using the new app, there is a greater probability of accuracy and less steps involved compared to the current steps of writing notes on a piece of paper and transcribing them into the database later from an office.

Some of the challenges overcome with development of the app were overwhelming security documentation requirements and connectivity challenges on the flightline. Through a partnership with Monkton, Amazon, and Verizon, the team was able to create a secure path to take the modern technology and interface with a legacy database system securely from almost anywhere according to Jordan.

“Over the past couple of years there has been a paradigm shift from desktop computing to mobile. This application provides a friendly and easy-to-use interface that is familiar to an everyday mobile users,” said Butigieg.

He said the app performs the same desktop computer actions on a handheld device and typically more efficiently by utilizing on-device hardware and software.

The biggest benefit is improved quality of life according to Master Sgt. Daniel Brierton, AFRC A4 Directorate, Logistics, Engineering and Force Protection, eTool Functional Manager, A4 Directorate, Logistics, Engineering, and Force Protection.

As someone who has worked in aircraft maintenance for 10 years Brierton knows how the workload has changed especially when the maintainer shortage was at its peak.

“When we signed up for aircraft maintenance, the image in our head was not sitting at a desk,” said Brierton. “Maintainers are here to fix jets. This effort aides maintainers by reducing time spent on documentation, transit, and legacy IT systems.”

According to Jordan, if each maintainer saved an hour of time by using the app, as many reported in the acceptance testing, this would result in over five million hours of recouped time on maintenance tasks Air Force-wide.

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Slovakia grounds fleet of soviet-made jets after crash

The Slovak Defense Ministry says a Soviet-made MiG-29 military jet from the country’s air force has crashed during a training flight.

The ministry says the pilot ejected before the crash that occurred late on Sept. 28, 2019, near the city of Nitra, about 100 kilometers east of Bratislava.

The ministry said the pilot was hospitalized in a stable and not-life-threatening condition.


Slovakia has grounded its fleet of MiG-29s until an investigation into the cause of the crash is completed.

Air Force has new app to save time, keep planes battle-ready

Slovak Air Force MiG-29.

Slovakia signed a deal in 2018 to buy 14 F-16 military jets from the U.S.-based firm Lockheed Martin as it seeks to replace its aging Soviet-era jets.

The first of the F-16 warplanes are scheduled to be delivered to Slovakia by 2022.

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

Articles

This former SEAL Team 6 officer just called the VA chief a ‘fellow veteran’ — which he’s not

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke incorrectly identified Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin as a “fellow veteran” in a photo Zinke tweeted from Air Force One.


Zinke, a former Navy SEAL, tweeted a photo of himself with Shulkin, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, and White House adviser Kellyanne Conway on the way to Youngstown, Ohio, July 25 with President Donald Trump.

 

Perry is an Air Force veteran. Shulkin, a medical doctor, was appointed by President Barack Obama as the VA’s undersecretary for health in 2015 and became secretary this year. He did not serve in the military. He’s the first VA secretary who is not a veteran.

Representatives for Zinke and Shulkin did not respond to requests for comment.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia’s capture of Ukrainian sailors threatens meeting with US

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

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


Will President Trump hold Russia accountable over Ukraine?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Months Of Heightened Tension

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Coast Guard caught a sea turtle with $53 million in cocaine

The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Thetis was just doing their thing in November, 2017, hunting smugglers and mapping America’s puddles (or whatever it is they do), when they came across the ultimate smuggler: an ancient sea monster with $53 million of drugs in tow.


Air Force has new app to save time, keep planes battle-ready

USCGC Thetis transits past the USCGC Tampa Bay in Key West.

(U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Lisa Ferdinando)

The Coast Guard first spotted the drugs with an Over The Horizon small boat, identifying it as a debris patch with contraband likely in it. When the pursuit mission commander arrived at the debris field, he identified both the cocaine and a sea turtle caught in the middle of it.

Despite catching the sea turtle swimming with bales of contraband on it, the commander kept an open mind about whether or not the sea turtle was involved in the underlying crime.

Air Force has new app to save time, keep planes battle-ready

A crewman from the USCGC Thetis prepares to cut a sea turtle free of bales of cocaine.

(Coast Guard

The Coast Guardsmen identified chaffing on the sea turtle and went to render aid. Speaking of which, seriously guys —do not leave trash lines in the ocean. Slowly dying of infection from chaffing or starvation because you can’t hunt is a horrible way to go.

The Coast Guardsmen cut the turtle free and allowed it to swim away without further investigation, instead concentrating on recovering what turned out to be 1,800 pounds of cocaine valued at million. They also recovered the 75 feet of lines and cords which would’ve been a persistent threat to sea turtles and other wildlife.

Air Force has new app to save time, keep planes battle-ready

For some reason, these are the best photos the Coast Guard released of the sea turtle rescue. Not sure if all Coast Guardsmen are limited to smart phones from 2008 or what, but we would include better photos if we had them.

(U.S. Coast Guard)

The encounter was part of Operation Martillo, and USCGC Thetis was on a 68-day patrol where the Coast Guard and its partners ultimately captured 5 million worth of drugs, mostly cocaine and marijuana.

While the Coast Guard is often mocked as being not real military or being “puddle pirates” (see the intro paragraph), the service does amazing work in the Pacific, capturing massive amounts of drugs otherwise destined for illegal U.S. markets. For the past few years, they’ve captured three times as many drugs at sea as the rest of law enforcement has captured within the U.S. and at all land borders.

Air Force has new app to save time, keep planes battle-ready

USCGC Thetis arrives in Naval Station Guantanamo Bay in 2010.

(U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Bill Mesta)

And the Coast Guard has done this while being dramatically under-resourced for such a large mission. They can often only put three cutters onto the mission at a time, and are only able to interdict 20 to 25 percent of the seaborne drugs headed into the country.

As one Coast Guard officer put it to Men’s Journal, “imagine a police force trying to cover the entire U.S. with three cars. That’s the tactical problem we’re trying to solve.”

The U.S. isn’t the only country involved in the efforts. Operation Martillo has been going on since 2012 and has member countries from South America and Europe, and Canadian forces were part of the sea turtle rescue. SOUTHCOM says the operation has scooped up over 693 metric tons of cocaine, nearly 600 sea vessels and aircraft, and nearly 2,000 smugglers since it was launched in early 2012. It’s also nabbed million in bulk cash.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How VR has helped prosecute a Nazi guard

There’s a common refrain in Germany, “This is the last Nazi trial.” The country keeps striving to hold Nazis from World War II, especially those who worked in concentration camps, accountable for their crimes against the world and against those Europeans that the Third Reich deemed undesirable. But as many camps were dismantled after the war and survivors of the camps are dying of old age, it’s hard to collect evidence against individuals for crimes perpetrated in the 1930s and 40s.


But now, forensic virtual reality is helping jury members and judges see exactly what crime scenes, including concentration camps, looked like, and that’s helping German prosecutors go after former concentration camp guards and staff. This could allow Germany to assign culpability to perpetrators of the Holocaust until the last accomplice has died.

How Virtual Reality Helps Catch Nazis

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Take the case of Reinhold Hanning. He was, undeniably, a guard at Auschwitz Concentration Camp. During Hanning’s time at the camp, 170,000 people were killed, most of them Jewish, most of them in gas chambers. As an SS sergeant, Hanning would likely have been involved in the “selection” process, where some prisoners were sent to the chambers and some to hard labor.

But prosecutors had to prove that Hanning was involved in that process or that he knew the process resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths. It wasn’t enough to prove that he was at the camp. It wasn’t enough to prove that he worked there. They had to prove that he knew his actions contributed to murder.

If that was proven, he could be convicted as an accomplice to 170,000 murders. But, how do you prove that he must have known about the gas chambers and that he must have known what the results of their use were? After all, he claimed that he had never seen a prisoner gassed and that he didn’t know people were being killed.

Air Force has new app to save time, keep planes battle-ready

Prisoners in advanced state of starvation in a concentration camp liberated by the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division, Sergeant Lucien Lapierre of the New Brunswick North Shore Regiment.

(Donald I. Grant, Library and Archives Canada)

And, nearly all the records from the time have been lost or destroyed. And most of the camp was either torn down or has fallen apart in the years since World War II. While some concentration camps survive today, that is because they’ve been maintained as museums and memorials to the atrocities. The camps were not designed or constructed to last 100 years.

But prosecutors had a modern tool in their arsenal for prosecuting murderers and other criminals in the modern day: forensic virtual reality. Experts went to crime scenes and imaged the site with lasers, digitally recreating the area in 3D down to the blood splatters on the walls. Prosecutors asked the experts if they could recreate a concentration camp, instead.

Engineers turned to maps of the camp and compared those to measurements taken over four days at what remains of Auschwitz. Then members of the jury and the court were given VR headsets and a tour of the camp, complete with the views from the areas where Hanning lived and worked.

If Hanning could see how the selection process sent people to the gas chambers to die, then the jury could convict. And when the jury saw Hanning’s views from the tower, it became clear that he must have known that the camp was used to kill people, that his actions contributed to that, and that his actions allowed it to continue.

Hanning was found guilty, thanks to a digital recreation of a long-lost site. It should be noted, though, that he appealed this decision and that he died while his case was on appeal. In the German system, that means his case ended on appeal; it did not end with a standing conviction.

But VR could help prosecutors make other convictions in the coming years for the atrocities of World War II, so the last Nazi prosecution might not come until the last Nazi accomplice has died.

MIGHTY CULTURE

VA cures 100,000 vets from Hepatitis C

VA will soon mark 100,000 veterans cured of hepatitis C. This is exciting news and puts VA on track to eliminate hepatitis C in all eligible veterans enrolled in VA care who are willing and able to be treated.

Building on this success, VA takes on another important issue during Hepatitis Awareness Month: making sure all veterans experiencing homelessness are vaccinated for hepatitis A.

Recently, there have been multiple large outbreaks of hepatitis A among people who are homeless and people who use injection drugs across the U.S. Currently, there is a large outbreak in Tennessee and Kentucky that has affected well over 5,000 people across the two states with 60 deaths reported thus far.


Earlier this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, advising that all individuals experiencing homelessness be vaccinated against hepatitis A.

Given that individuals experiencing homelessness may also be at increased risk of exposure to hepatitis B, VA recommends vaccination for those with risk factors against both hepatitis A and B, as appropriate.

Air Force has new app to save time, keep planes battle-ready

3D illustration of the Liver.

During Hepatitis Awareness Month, the HIV, Hepatitis, and Related Conditions Programs, the Homeless Programs, and the National Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention are collaborating to raise awareness on this issue.

We are collaborating with leadership and frontline providers to ensure all identified veterans who are homeless, non-immune and unvaccinated for hepatitis A and those at risk of HBV exposure are offered vaccination, as appropriate, at their next VA appointment.

Veterans who are interested in either hepatitis A or B vaccination may ask their VA provider for more information.

Hepatitis Testing Day (May 19) is a great reminder to check in with your provider about hepatitis C testing and treatment as well.

Learn more about hepatitis on the VA’s Viral Hepatitis website.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

What you need to know about the soldier receiving the Medal of Honor

A 10th Mountain Division squad leader credited with saving the lives of three of his soldiers by throwing himself atop a suicide bomber in Iraq will be posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, the White House announced March 12, 2019.

Staff Sgt. Travis W. Atkins went above and beyond the call of duty on June 1, 2007, while his unit — Delta Company, 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team — conducted route clearance southwest of Baghdad.

During the mission, Atkins, 31, of Bozeman, Montana, heard a report over the radio of suspected insurgents crossing an intersection in the Iraqi town of Abu Samak.


As the truck commander in his Humvee, Atkins ordered the driver to pull the vehicle up to the intersection so they could interdict the suspected insurgents. Once stopped, Atkins exited the vehicle and approached one of the men to check him for weapons while another soldier covered him.

When Atkins attempted to search him, the man resisted. Atkins then engaged in hand-to-hand combat with the insurgent, who was reaching for an explosive vest under his clothing, according to an award citation.

Staff Sgt. Travis Atkins: Final Mission

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Atkins then grabbed the suicide bomber from behind with a bear hug and slammed him onto the ground, away from his soldiers. As he pinned the insurgent to the ground, the bomb detonated.

Atkins was mortally wounded by the blast. With complete disregard for his own safety, he had used his own body as a shield to protect his fellow soldiers from injury. They were only feet away.

Soon after, another insurgent was fatally shot by one of Atkins’ soldiers before he could detonate another suicide vest.

For his actions, Atkins was initially given the Army’s second-highest award, the Distinguished Service Cross. Now that award has been upgraded to a Medal of Honor.

President Donald J. Trump will present the medal to Atkins’ family on March 27, 2019.

Before he joined the Army, Atkins worked for concrete and painting contractors and as an engine mechanic in Montana. He enlisted into the infantry in 2000 and less than three years later he deployed to participate in the invasion of Iraq.

Air Force has new app to save time, keep planes battle-ready

Then-Sgt. Travis Atkins poses with battle buddies in Iraq, 2007.

Atkins left the Army in late 2003, but rejoined two years later and was assigned to the 10th Mountain Division.

He deployed to Iraq again with the division in the summer of 2006 and became a staff sergeant in May 2007, a month before his death.

At Fort Drum, New York, the division honored Atkins by naming a fitness center after him in 2013.

During the dedication ceremony, then-Sgt. Aaron Hall, who was Atkins’ battle buddy, described the staff sergeant as a “quiet professional” who always had the respect of others.

“When my 4-year-old son Travis tells me his favorite superhero is Captain America and asks me who my favorite superhero is, my reply always has and will be Staff Sgt. Travis W. Atkins,” Hall said.

According to his obituary, Atkins was also known to hunt, fish, camp, and ride snowmobiles. His first love, though, was his son, Trevor Oliver, who was 11 years old at the time of his father’s death.

Atkins was buried June 12, 2007, in his hometown of Bozeman in south-central Montana. He is also survived by his parents, Jack and Elaine Atkins.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How security forces airmen defend planes at Bagram

In a deployed environment, security forces airmen perform a unique mission that differs from their traditional roles at home station. From patrolling the flightline in armored tactical vehicles to providing security for all personnel and Department of Defense assets going to austere locations in Afghanistan, the 455th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron maintains a vigilant presence at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan.

Security forces airmen are experts in base defense and provide support to the airfield and mission partners through offensive and defensive postures, quick response force capabilities, and fly away security teams that support C-130 Hercules missions to dangerous locations.


“Our job is to provide mission support and enable safe and secure airfield operations,” said Maj. Joshua Webb, 455th ESFS commander. “We do that by providing different security postures at different points to detect and deter enemies.”

These airmen patrol the flightline in Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, commonly known as MRAPs, with a standard heavy weapons kit that allows sustainability in a firefight by protecting them while they defend the airfield.

They are specially trained to have a unique skillset and fundamental understanding of what it means to defend an airfield and the requirements to securely launch airfield operations. Webb said 455th ESFS airmen understand airfield operations and are better equipped to detect and defend against different types of threats in multiple domains.

“They are the first and last line of detection for the premiere counterterrorism wing,” he added.

Air Force has new app to save time, keep planes battle-ready

A C-17 Globemaster III taxis to its parking spot Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, Sept. 25, 2012.

(U.S. Air Force phot by Capt. Raymond Geoffroy)

As well as being fully capable of responding to any threat on the flightline, these airmen are trained fly away security teams, or FAST, members who provide security for personnel and equipment transiting through the region to austere locations.

“Being part of the fly away security team means these guys get more training in close quarters combat and are able to provide a flight deck denial capability,” Webb said. “We aren’t dealing with the same mission as at a home station where they do various bits of law enforcement.”

Master Sgt. Paul Vibar, 455th ESFS FAST noncommissioned officer in charge, said he enjoys the excitement of being on FAST missions and his team’s role in securing DoD assets.

“It’s about protecting people and aircraft, which is especially important in this environment,” said Vibar, who deployed from the 255th Security Forces Squadron at Anderson Air Force Base, Guam. “You never know what we’re going to find at some of these locations, so we always need to be prepared.”

Despite long hours patrolling and shift work, Webb said morale remains high because his team knows they are contributing to a worthy cause.

“Here it is nothing but mission, nothing but defense, and they find a lot of value in that,” Webb said.

Security forces airmen enable safe airfield operations and the safety of personnel at Bagram, but also back home.

“The mission we do here enables the men and women back home to be safe and secure,” Webb said. “We take the fight to the enemy and our role in that is to keep the aircraft and base personnel safe so they can perform their mission.”

Webb said he is proud of the work his airmen do each day and knows they believe in the mission.

“The expertise and mindset these airmen display on a day to day basis is unique, and that’s what allows us to adapt and overcome any issues we may encounter and mount a proper defense in the face of adversity,” he added. “I believe in my team and this mission with my whole heart.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

Articles

How the Marines and the Navy work together on the high seas

The seven-month odyssey of a “blue-green” flotilla that saw combat in Yemen and Syria and conducted training exercises across a large swath of the globe demonstrates the enduring importance of the Navy-Marine Corps team overseas, commanders of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit said May 24.


Departing San Diego on Oct. 14, the 11th MEU and the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group reportedly supported a Jan. 29 raid in Yemen in which a Navy SEAL — Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens — was killed. They also brought artillery and infantry troops to Kuwait for later duty, providing firepower to Kurdish partners besieging Raqqa, the Syrian city that doubles as the capital for the terrorist Islamic State.

Air Force has new app to save time, keep planes battle-ready
U.S. Marines with Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 369 (HMLA-369), 3d Marine Aircraft Wing, exits a CH-53E Super Stallion upon return from a deployment with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., May 12, 2017. Friends and family members welcomed home Marines from the 11th MEU’s Command Element during a homecoming ceremony. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Clare J. Shaffer/Released)

The howitzers manned by the Marines conducted more than 400 fire-support missions in Syria, firing more than 4,500 shells at ISIS targets, according to the 11th MEU.

“It was the right Marine air-ground task force to provide supportability, mobility, and lethality,” 11th MEU spokesman Maj. Craig Thomas said during a news conference May 24 at Camp Pendleton. “The Marines supported local Syrians who are fighting to rid ISIS from their country.”

Also read: Marines arrive in Syria to support assault on ISIS capital

Citing the classified nature of the Yemen operations, Thomas said he couldn’t comment on that raid.

His report card for the MEU comes during a series of debates not only about America’s policies toward Yemen and Syria but also grumbling concerns about the future of Marine expeditionary units.

Experts continue to fret about how Marine battalions will conduct their amphibious missions in an age of super-fast and precise, long-range anti-ship-air missiles, plus Pentagon budget woes that appear to prioritize submarines and destroyers over amphibious assault ships like the Makin Island.

Air Force has new app to save time, keep planes battle-ready
Sailors man the rails aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8) in 2012. | (Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Dominique Pineiro/Navy)

That flagship vessel returned to San Diego on May 15. It and the fellow amphibious assault ships Somerset and Comstock combined to carry more than 4,500 sailors and Marines, spending three months in the Pacific Ocean and four months in the waters off the Middle East and Africa.

Beyond the combat operations in Syria, the group held exercises in Hawaii, Guam, Papua New Guinea, Malaysia, Djibouti, Oman, and the Persian Gulf. Marines also stood ready to evacuate the embassy in the South Sudanese capital of Juba during hostilities there — the sort of mission that makes an amphibious ready group and Marine expeditionary unit “the 9-1-1 organization from the sea,” 11th MEU commander Col. Clay Tipton said.

Retired Marine Col. Mark Cancian — a senior adviser with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a nonpartisan think tank based in Washington, D.C. — echoed Tipton’s perspective that the MEU remains a lasting example of flexible armed response from the sea.

“What makes a Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force so valuable is the ability of the Marines to mix and match capabilities,” Cancian said. “That’s what they’re doing and that’s what they should be doing.”

And that’s particularly important for Syria because how the Marines were used dovetails with President Donald Trump’s foreign policy goals — defeat the Islamic State without putting too many boots on the ground, he added.

Air Force has new app to save time, keep planes battle-ready
U.S. Marines with Fox Company, Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines (BLT 2/1), 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), conduct a Table 3 combat marksmanship course of fire as a part of sustainment training on the flight deck of the USS San Diego (LPD 22). (U.S. Marine Corps photos by Gunnery Sgt. Rome M. Lazarus)

“The thing that the Marine Corps can provide that’s really needed is fire power for allies like the Kurds or Iraqis — artillery, mortars, aircraft,” Cancian said. “So far, Trump’s policy has been adamant about not using infantry, except in a limited role to protect artillery and other units that are on the ground to add firepower for allies.”

If the mission in Syria grows, Cancian could envision Marine and Navy logistical heft toting more supplies to Kurdish militias or the Free Syrian Army, perhaps even occupying an airfield and using it as a forward operating base. The Corps also could deploy more artillery observers and so called “Joint Terminal Attack Controllers” who call in airstrikes, but Cancian doubts the White House would land a large number of “boots on the ground.”

“The tough question on Syria is the same as the one in Iraq: What happens next, after ISIS is defeated? … That’s a huge fork in the road for the Trump administration, but it’s still months away,” he predicted.

Potential rivals at sea such as Russia, China, and Iran increasingly field anti-ship and surface-to-air missiles that can be fired from hundreds of miles away. Large amphibs, their hovercraft and lumbering armored troop carriers that take hours to wade ashore and unload, would be punished by precision missiles, experts contend.

Air Force has new app to save time, keep planes battle-ready
Marines assigned to the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) board an MV-22 Osprey, assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 163 (Reinforced) on the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Devin M. Langer)

The Makin Island is one of the world’s largest amphibs. But it’s also considered a transitional vessel, with similar but superior high-tech “Big Deck Amphibs” like the San Diego-based America poised to share space in the piers.

The America, and up to 10 of its planned sister warships, will feature bigger fuel tanks and storage capacity along with hardened decks to support the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter, the next-generation aircraft that takes off and lands vertically. In other navies, those ships would be considered aircraft carriers — a point that has sparked questions about whether the Navy favors that capability over its traditional mission of putting Marines ashore.

“The answer, to me, is that we had better prepare to fight for command of the sea,” said James Holmes, a professor of strategy at the U.S. Naval War College and a former Navy surface warfare officer who is widely considered one of the world’s top experts on maritime battle. “As the greats of sea power tell us, you have to be able to win command of the sea if you want to use the sea to do things like conduct amphibious landings.

“So we need to be ready to do these things, but chances are there will be delays while we fight our way into the theater, reduce shore-based missile batteries and on and on. Sea power is no longer just about navies,” he added.

Air Force has new app to save time, keep planes battle-ready
Assault amphibious vehicles (AAVs) with the AAV platoon, Echo Company, Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), leave the well deck of the dock landing ship USS Comstock (LSD 45). (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Melissa Wenger/Released)

Holmes believes the Marines might fret about the future of the amphibious fleet because ongoing studies have called for converting some assault ships into light aircraft carriers and replacing them with other vessels when they’re retired, but the Navy must strike the right balance.

“As far as priorities, certainly the types of ships we need to defeat our enemies and take command of the sea must take precedence,” he said, adding that it’s “a lot easier to improvise a fleet of amphibious transports than it would to improvise destroyers or nuclear-powered attack submarines.”

In a major war, like a potential Pacific-wide bout with China, the traditional mission of the amphibs likely wouldn’t end.

Holmes said Marines could be called to seize islands, much as they did in World War II. Cancian added that the Corps also might return to traditional missions like coastal artillery batteries, working alongside the Army and other services to to defend anti-ship missile batteries on the islands and shoals peppering the Pacific Ocean.

That concept is still a work in progress.

“The bottom line is that there’s no answer about the ultimate future of the ships and the marine expeditionary units, but we do know that in peacetime they’re very useful,” Cancian said. “You’re seeing in the Middle East just how useful they are.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Air Force test pilot dies in crash of top secret plane in Nevada desert

An Air Force pilot from Annapolis, Maryland, died Sept. 6 when his plane crashed during a training flight in Nevada.


Lt. Col. Eric Schultz was flying an unspecified aircraft at about 6 p.m. over the Nevada Test and Training Range, approximately 100 miles northwest of Nellis Air Force Base, a spokeswoman at the air base said Friday.

The aircraft was assigned to Air Force Materiel Command, which leads development of new combat technologies for the service.

Maj. Christina Sukach, a spokeswoman for the 99th Air Base Wing, said Schultz died as a result of injuries sustained in the accident. The crash remains under investigation, and additional details were not immediately available.

“Our immediate concern is for the family of Lt. Col. Schultz,” she wrote in an email.

Schultz is a 1991 Annapolis High School graduate, and the son of Linda and Larry Schultz, of Annapolis. They traveled to Nevada on Wednesday to be with their son’s wife and other members of the family.

A former civilian test pilot, Eric Schultz held multiple graduate degrees when he joined the Air Force in 2001. He went on to be an experienced flight training officer who was the 29th pilot to qualify to fly the F-35 fighter jet in 2011.

His crash was one of two Air Force crashes near Nellis on Wednesday. Two A-10C Thunderbolt II jets assigned to the 57th Wing crashed on the test range at approximately 8 p.m.

An Air Force spokeswoman at Nellis said the pilots ejected safely. The aircraft were on a routine training mission at the time of the crash.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why it’s so crazy that Russia is inviting China to huge war games

Russia’s armed forces are gearing up for Vostok-18, or East-18, a massive military exercise in the country’s far east from Sept. 11-15, 2018.

Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said in August 2018 that about 300,000 troops and 1,000 aircraft would participate, using all of the training ranges in the country’s central and eastern military districts. Russia’s Pacific and Northern fleets and its airborne forces are also expected to join.

Shoigu said 2018’s iteration of the Vostok exercise would be “unprecedented in scale, both in terms of area of operations and numbers of military command structure, troops, and forces involved.”


But the size of the forces involved is not the only feature that has turned heads.

Forces from China and Mongolia also plan to take part. Beijing has said it will send about 3,200 troops, 30 helicopters, and more than 900 other pieces of military hardware.

China’s Defense Ministry said the drills were meant to strengthen the two countries’ strategic military partnership and increase their ability to respond to threats and ensure stability in the region.

The Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said China’s participation “speaks about the expansion of interaction of the two allies in all the spheres.”

Chinese forces have already joined their Russian counterparts in some military exercises.

Chinese warships have drilled with their Russian counterparts in the Pacific Ocean and the Baltic Sea. In summer 2018 Chinese warplanes were in Russia for International Army Games 2018, a multinational event.

August 2018, Chinese forces are taking part in Peace Mission 2018, an exercise organized by the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a regional bloc led by Russia and China. (It’s the first exercise to include all eight SCO members.)

Air Force has new app to save time, keep planes battle-ready

China’s Jian-10 fighter jet

But including China in the Vostok exercise hints at a significant geopolitical shift.

“China was seen as the potential threat or target in exercises like Vostok,” Alexander Gabuev, an expert on China at the Carnegie Moscow Center, told The New York Times.

“But it is now being invited to join as a friend and even a quasi-ally,” Gabuev added. “This is really unprecedented.”

The Soviet Union clashed with China along their shared border several times in the 1960s — once in a deadly Chinese raid on a Soviet border outpost that almost kicked off a full-scale war in early 1969.

The Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev normalized relations with China in 1989, and some 6 million Russians in Siberia now live alongside roughly 100 million Chinese in northern China, where trade relations have grown.

But eastern Russia’s vast expanse and sparse population make it a vulnerable area, and Russians there have expressed frustration with the growing Chinese presence and with concessions to Chinese commercial interests.

Amid heightened tensions with the West, however, Russian President Vladimir Putin has made a concerted effort to build ties with China. Beijing, for its part, has also embraced Russia. Both have done so with an eye on the West.

Air Force has new app to save time, keep planes battle-ready

United States President Donald Trump and Russian President Valdimir Putin.

The two have said they are building a “strategic partnership” and expressed shared opposition to what they describe as a “unipolar” world dominated by the US.

China’s defense minister, Gen. Wei Fenghe, went to Moscow early 2018 on his first trip abroad, saying the visit was meant to “let the Americans know about the close ties between the armed forces of China and Russia.”

“I am visiting Russia as a new defense minister of China to show the world a high level of development of our bilateral relations and firm determination of our armed forces to strengthen strategic cooperation,” Wei said.

That rhetoric and statements about close ties don’t mean that Russia has dropped its guard, Gabuev said, noting that Chinese troops at Vostok-18 may be limited to training areas near the countries’ shared border with Mongolia, allowing Russian forces deployed elsewhere to carry out exercises designed with China in mind.

The Russian military “is not so naive that it is not preparing a contingency plan,” Gabuev told The Times.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here’s how the Marine Corps is changing its promotions policies

Corporals need the opportunity to be corporals before they become sergeants.

That’s what Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Troy Black told Marines last week when introducing new enlisted promotion and retention policies.

Starting in January 2019, corporals won’t be able to pick up sergeant until they’ve been in the Marine Corps for four years. That’s twice as long as the current requirement.

And sergeants won’t make staff noncommissioned officer status until they’ve served at least five years — a year longer than currently required. Sergeants will also need 36 months time-in-grade before they can make staff sergeant. That’s up nine months from the 27 required now.


Black told Marines that about a third of new sergeants are leaving the service within a year of picking up rank.

“Quite frankly, we can’t afford to lose about 30% of our sergeants every single year,” he said. “… We need sergeants on flight lines, we need sergeants in squads, we need sergeants doing what they’re supposed to do, and we need corporals to … master their responsibilities to reach the next higher paygrade.”

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U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Hector J. Marchi Ramos, a radio operator with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, I Marine Expeditionary Force, is promoted to sergeant by his wife during a promotion ceremony at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif. Sept. 4, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps/Capt. Joshua P. Hays)

Starting in July 2019, new staff sergeants will also owe the Marine Corps at least two years of service once they pin on their new rank.

“Marines who are selected to the rank of staff sergeant must have at least 24 months of obligated service remaining on contract beginning on the date of their promotion,” states Marine administrative message 612/19, which announced the changes.

The service already requires gunnery sergeants to serve at least three more years after pinning on that rank, Black told the Marines in Yuma, Arizona, where he discussed the policies last week.

“What’s the benefit of that?” asked Black, who previously served as the top enlisted leader of Manpower and Reserve Affairs. “If about 30% of people who get selected to staff sergeant … and don’t stay at least 24 more, that speeds up promotion from sergeant to staff sergeant, that speeds up promotion from corporal to sergeant. You start to lose experience along the way.”

That’s because the Marine Corps promotes to fill vacancies, said Yvonne Carlock, a Manpower and Reserve Affairs spokeswoman. A lot of corporals were picking up sergeant before they hit the end of their first four-year enlistment, only to leave the service at that point, she said.

Air Force has new app to save time, keep planes battle-ready

(Screenshot via YouTube)

To fill those voids, the Marine Corps would again tap into the corporal ranks to promote more Marines to sergeant, and the same pattern was repeated.

“The reason we’re doing this,” Carlock added, “is to reduce the churn.”

The move hasn’t been popular with everyone. One Reserve Marine career planner told Stars and Stripes “nobody is going to want to wait four years to pick up sergeant.” And a corporal told the outlet if the changes leave fewer Marines making sergeant, that could mean “less structure in the ranks.”

Marine officials say the opposite will be true — that the moves will keep more newly promoted noncommissioned officers and staff NCOs from immediately leaving the ranks.

Along with the new promotion rules for sergeants and staff sergeants, the Marine Corps is introducing new initiatives to help retain enlisted leathernecks. Carlock said the moves are meant to improve processes.

Marines who demonstrate “high levels of proficiency and talent must be given the most efficient means by which to request and be approved for reenlistment and subsequently be provided opportunities to excel in critical leadership roles,” the administrative message states.

Air Force has new app to save time, keep planes battle-ready

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Mackenzie Gibson)

A select number of Marines will be allowed to submit their reenlistment packages a year ahead of schedule. The move could also leave them eligible to receive reenlistment bonuses and other initiatives that apply to Marines choosing to stay on another term in that fiscal year.

“Under current policy, [a Marine] with an end of current contract (ECC) of April 2022 is considered an FY22 cohort Marine and is currently required to wait until July 2021 to submit for reenlistment,” the administrative message states. “Under Early Reenlistment Authority, this Marine, if a computed Tier 1 Marine with no jeopardy on current contract, will be allowed to reenlist as early as July 2020 during the FY21 Enlisted Retention Campaign.”

General officers will also be given the authority to approve some Marines’ reenlistments without sending requests to Headquarters Marine Corps.

“[Major Subordinate Command-level] General Officers will be allocated a specified number of reenlistments for approval based on the percentage of the eligible cohort assigned to their command,” the message states.

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

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