Army Air Forces Lt. Col. Louis E. Curdes got a piece of every original signatory to the Axis Pact: Germany, Italy, and Japan. If that wasn’t outstanding enough, it’s how he got an American flag kill mark on his fuselage that earned him a place in military history — and maybe even the Distinguished Service Cross.
It’s not a mistake. The young, 20-something pilot earned every single one of his kill marks. He joined the Army Air Corps in 1942 at the age of 22 to fly planes against the Nazis. By 1943, he was a hotshot lieutenant scoring three kills against Nazi Messerschmidt Bf-109s, the workhorse of the German Luftwaffe, in his P-38 Lighting. That was ten days into his first assignment. Within the next month, he notched up two more kills, earning fighter “ace” status.
In August of that year, he ran into an Italian Macchi C.202 and shot that one down. Unfortunately, that was his last combat kill over Europe. He was shot down by Nazi pilots over Italy and captured by the Italians, resigning himself to spending the rest of the war in a POW camp.
But that didn’t happen. Italy capitulated a few days into Curdes’ internment.
Curdes was then sent to the Philippines and put behind the stick of the new P-51 Mustang fighter, going up against talented Japanese pilots. He was quickly able to shoot down a Japanese recon plane near the island of Formosa. His hat trick was complete, but that’s not where the story ends.
He and his plane, “Bad Angel,” were fighting over Japanese-held Bataan when his wingman was shot down over the Pacific. Soon after, he saw a C-47 transport plane, wheels-down, headed to land on the Japanese island. When he was unable to make radio contact, he tried to physically wave the transport off, but came up empty. So, rather than allow the American plane and its crew to be held prisoner by the Japanese, he used the option left: He shot them down over the ocean.
Curdes skillfully took out one engine and then the other without blowing the entire cargo plane to bits. He was able to bring the C-47 down just yards from his downed wingman. Curdes returned to the site the next morning as an escort to an American “flying boat.” The pilot, crew, and its human cargo were completely intact.
Among the passengers he shot down was a nurse Curdes dated just the night before, a girl named Valorie — whom he later married. The story was rewritten by Air Force Col. Ken Tollefson in his book US Army Air Force Pilot Shoots Down Wife.
The residents alleged they were being intimidated into not fighting the overages, and sources told WATM Navy investigators were looking into the issue.
But according to a Feb. 14 statement from Naval Criminal Investigative Service spokesman Ed Buice, Navy officials closed the inquiry into accusations of over billing “after it became evident the allegations being made were unfounded.”
“No criminal misconduct was discovered,” Buice added in the email statement to WATM.
Buice did not reply to a request for additional comment.
Residents of the San Onofre II neighborhood at Camp Pendleton say they were within the margins for monthly electricity use that would preclude an overage charge.
Military families there pay a lump sum rent that includes a certain amount of energy usage. When they consume less electricity than the allotted amount, they are refunded; when they go over, they receive bills, officials say.
Several residents told WATM that they had seen sudden sharp increases in their electric bills and were threatened with eviction if they didn’t pay up. Many claimed they were rebuffed when they approached base housing officials about the alleged billing problems.
Marine Corps Installations West spokeswoman 1st Lt. Abigail Peterson told WATM in a Feb. 16 email that “all of the official complaints received regarding this situation were addressed and resolved,” adding that Lincoln Military Housing had “implemented a new process to monitor requests to ensure all concerns are addressed in a timely manner.”
“We take feedback very seriously and want to ensure responsible measures are followed to alleviate any issues for our Marines, sailors and their families living here on base,” Peterson said.
Military family advocate Kristine Schellhaas — who originally brought the billing allegations to light — wasn’t satisfied Pendleton’s response, arguing base residents aren’t simply misreading their bills.
“There are systematic flaws with how this program has been implemented,” Schellhaas told WATM. “The facts are that this program needs to get audited.”
When he finished his enlistment and left the Army in 2012, Alex Ortega wasn’t quite sure what he wanted to do for his post-military career.
With no specific plan for a civilian career, Ortega decided school was the best option. But he still wasn’t sure what direction to take.
While in school one of his classmates, a military veteran like him, mentioned help available through the Easterseals Bob Hope Veterans Support Program.
An Easterseals employment specialist helped Ortega by guiding the former soldier through the process of crafting a plan for his post-military education and to find work in a professional field.
The specialist helped Ortega retool and improve his resume — such as translating military-specific tasks and jobs he held during his six years in the Army into similar, equivalent duties in civilian employment. With the specialist’s help, Ortega was able to detail his military experience on his resume in a way that was clearer and more relevant to potential civilian employers.
That assistance paid off. Today, Ortega works as a veteran peer support specialist at a leading university in Southern California.
“An employment specialist will help that veteran accomplish his or her goals, which is very important,” he said. “I’m very thankful for Easterseals and the employment mentorship. They provided great mentorship and guidance for me and assisted in the transition … from my military experience to my civilian job now that I’m completely happy and content in.”
Ortega said he’s grateful to the work of the Easterseals Bob Hope Veterans Support Program, which “is making a big difference in the lives of veterans like myself.”
Ortega is among many veterans and their spouses who have received help, guidance and resources through Easterseals and the Bob Hope Veterans Support Program. The transition assistance program gives veterans and their families some peace of mind after they leave the military and have to reset themselves or their families for a new chapter of life — whether they want to find civilian employment, pursue college or technical training, or start a small business.
Funded with a seed grant from The Bob Hope Legacy, the support program was launched in 2014 and provides referrals and resources, including one-on-one support for transitioning veterans and reservists and National Guard members who are leaving active duty.
The program provides resources that fit each veteran’s interests, skills and goals. Specialists help them write resumes, sharpen interviewing skills, learn how to network and boost their confidence to help them obtain work with potential employers. The program also helps with direct referrals to partner agencies who can provide housing, legal assistance, counseling or child care.
Support is free for post-Sept. 11, 2001, veterans leaving active or reserve duty who intend to work in San Diego County or Orange County and who have received an honorable, general or other-than-honorable discharge. A veteran does not need to have a disability to be eligible for the program.
The service also is available to spouses or registered domestic partners of veterans who are unable to work due to a disability.
The transition program is part of Bob Hope’s legacy, and its impact is felt in veterans like Ortega. He follows a long lineage of military service in his family, including his father, brother and an uncle who all served in the Army like him.
Growing up, Ortega often watched videos of Bob Hope as he entertained tens of thousands of U.S. troops during his famous USO shows and worldwide tours.
“For a well-known comedian to come out like that and boost the morale of the troops in tough times, it’s a game-changer, and it really helps the veterans get through the day and deployment,” he said. “It really brings a touch of home, a piece of the United States to wherever they were.”
The western world is always in a rush for the latest and greatest iPhone or other tech gadgets, but troops know that some weapons systems stand the test of time without too many, if any, mods. Here are 11 of them:
1. M2 (1933)
This baby predates World War II, entering service in 1933. The M2 fires a .50-caliber round at 2,910 feet per second. It was originally adopted as an anti-aircraft weapon, but has served for decades in anti-personnel, anti-light vehicle, and anti-ship roles as well.
The C-130 Hercules was a radical, and ugly, design departure from Lockheed’s previous transport aircraft. But the ridiculed “Herk” of 1954 has proven itself over hundreds of thousands of sorties and still serves with distinction today.
It’s the perfect scenario for an action film: the villain from a foreign country goes on a crime spree and, because of international law protecting them, there’s nothing anyone but the protagonist can do about it.
Diplomatic immunity does exist. It treats diplomats (and their families) as an agent of their host country, meaning that if you cite a diplomat for a parking violation, you’re giving their entire host nation a ticket for a parking violation. In an extreme scenario, if a South African diplomat were to be arrested for heading a cocaine smuggling ring in America, then the American diplomat in South Africa would be in danger.
Any serious crime committed would require action from the diplomat’s nation. In 1997, a high-ranking Georgian diplomat drove drunk, caused a five-car pileup in Washington D.C., and killed a 16 year-old girl. He was protected under diplomatic immunity when he was pulled over for a previous DUI, but when it happened again and an American girl was killed, the nation of Georgia waived all immunity and he was sentenced to 21 years in prison.
This is because a nation is bound by diplomatic ties to act. Because the diplomat was acting in lieu of the Georgian government, murdering an American fractured American-Georgian relations and could be considered an act of war. Which lead to the waiving of diplomatic immunity, expulsion, and eventual imprisonment of the diplomat.
The benefit of diplomatic immunity that gets used the most is that diplomats don’t need to personally pay fines. If a diplomat were to be pulled over for speeding, as is extremely common in Germany (there actually are speed limits on the Autobahn,) the fine is paid for by the diplomat’s country.
It also works for other smaller infractions like failure to pay rent. Many officials from Zaire refused to pay in 2002. Their diplomatic immunity prevented them from being evicted and the landlord couldn’t do anything about it. It was after their return home that the country of Zaire paid their debt.
Navy Veteran Gabriel George came to the National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic in 2018 filled with energy and excitement. Returning for his second time to the clinic, George says his first time at the clinic was life-changing.
He joined the Navy in July 2004 where he served as a corpsman and deployed twice.
A few weeks after arriving home from his second deployment, he was involved in a devastating motorcycle accident. While heading home from bible study, a car pulled out in front of him. He awoke three weeks later in a hospital to find he had broken his C2 and C5 vertebrae, six ribs, his collar bone and scapula; he had collapsed both his lungs; suffered a traumatic brain injury; and permanently paralyzed his right arm.
After the injury, George says he spent a lot of time living on the couch and watching tv.
initially, he had low expectations at the clinic, and thought his paralyzed arm would prevent him from doing many activities.
“No way. I can’t do that,” he said, when he learned archery would be one of the sports he’d be introduced to.
But instructors showed him how to draw the bow by biting down on a mouth tab, and with that first pull and release of the arrow something woke within him.
Navy Veteran Gabriel George returned for his second time to participate in the National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic. George says the clinic got him moving and off the couch after suffering injuries from a motorcycle accident.
After archery, he went to sailing. As a Navy Veteran, George had lived aboard ship, but he’d never sailed a small vessel. He found the experience exhilarating, and says he felt connected with the water, pulling lines and working the sail.
“(It’s) at the top of the list of healing. Being able to find something you can do, moving just one body part, the rest of the body wants to follow and move too,” George said.
By the end of his first clinic, he was looking for a way to extend the experience. With Blunk’s help, George signed up for a sailing clinic near his home in Florida before the week in San Diego was finished.
“The very next morning I went out and found an archery shop and bought a bow,” he said about the moments after he arrived home.
Blunk says George’s experience is similar to many of the Veterans she’s seen benefit from adaptive sports therapy.
“Often I hear so many people saying I can’t do that. And then once they do try, it’s healing,” she said. “Once a Veteran sees they can do one sport they are inspired to keep trying other sports.”
George continues to participate in sports programs whenever and wherever he can.
“I was doing nothing before the (National Veterans) Summer Sports Clinic,” he said. “I bought a house and I don’t know why, because now, I’m never home.”
Army Cyber Command plans to add more direct commissioned officers after its first two were recently sworn in as part of a five-year pilot to bolster the emerging force.
Since October 2017, almost 250 applicants have applied for the Cyber Direct Commissioning Program, which allows talented civilians a fast track to becoming an officer.
Those who qualify have the opportunity to join the Army as first lieutenant, with the possibility of a higher rank in the near future pending a decision by Congress. Up to $65,000 in student loan repayment over the course of an officer’s initial three-year term is also on the table to attract desired applicants.
“The cyber realm is developing at a speed really not seen in the traditional military career fields,” said Brig. Gen. Neil Hersey, commandant of the Army Cyber School here. “We, the Army, think it’s important to leverage the capability provided by the private sector to make our forces more ready and capable to combat the adversaries we’re going to face now and in the future.”
Most applicants have fallen into one of four categories, including prior-service enlisted military personnel, government employees and contractors, private sector workers, and academics.
Each category represents roughly a quarter of the applicants.
First Lts. Timothy Hennessy, left, and James Gusman during the Cyber Direct Commissioning Ceremony May 9, 2018, at Fort Benning, Georgia.
(U.S. Army photo by Markeith Horace)
Desired skills and qualifications include experience in cybersecurity, software or hardware engineering, or product management. A four-year degree or higher in a computer science or related field, such as data science or industrial control systems, is also required.
At least seven applicants have already been recommended by a board for the program. The board plans to convene again in a few weeks to consider additional applicants who may one day protect networks.
“We need to have a very technically adept workforce to be able to do that and stay ahead of what’s coming,” Hersey said.
First Lts. James Gusman and Timothy Hennessy, both former enlisted soldiers, were the first to be commissioned in early May 2018.
In 2008, Gusman left the Army after serving in military intelligence to pursue higher education, and to ultimately find work in information technology and cybersecurity fields at major U.S. and international companies. When he heard of the program, he decided to sign up and do something more meaningful to him.
“On the commercial side, you’re working for that one single organization and maybe helping their bottom line or keeping certain systems online,” he said. “With the Army, you’re keeping the United States online, you’re keeping its citizens safe and you’re creating something that’s really making a difference in this world.”
Those chosen for the program are commissioned upon arrival at the six-week direct commissioning course at Fort Benning, Georgia, which indoctrinates applicants into the Army.
Prospective officers typically go through Officer Candidate School, a 12-week-long course.
Once the direct commissioning course is completed, there is a 12-week Cyber Officer Basic Leadership Course here, which is more specialized to the career field. When a top-secret clearance is obtained, officers are then eligible for additional follow-on training.
Brig. Gen. Neil Hersey, commandant of the Army Cyber School, right, swears in 1st Lts. James Gusman, far left, and Timothy Hennessy during the Cyber Direct Commissioning Ceremony May 9, 2018, at Fort Benning, Georgia.
(U.S. Army photo by Markeith Horace)
Both Gusman and Hennessy plan to start the leadership course in July 2018.
Hennessy, a former signals intelligence analyst who became a cryptologic network warfare operator in the Army, is currently working on his master’s degree in computer science.
“With the academic background I have, I would really like to help soldiers who might not have that same background,” he said. “I think that’s a part I really can help develop for the Army. And any opportunity I get to roll up my sleeves and write some code and build some algorithms would be one that I would enjoy [too].”
The cyber direct commissioning program is similar to those the Army has for lawyers, doctors and chaplains.
The newest program was developed amid a push to strengthen the Army’s role in the cyber domain, which senior leaders envision will be key in its future warfighting concept: multi-domain operations.
In early 2017, Army cyber also stood up a civilian cyberspace-effects career program for current and future government workers. The year before, Army leaders decided to move 29-series electronic warfare soldiers into Cyber’s 17-series career field by the end of this fiscal year.
“We have to be on our toes at all times,” Hersey said of the career field. “As we’ve learned, the attacker has the advantage in the cyber realm. They only have to be right once. Us, as defenders, have to be right every single time.
“To that end, the Army is working on initiatives like the direct commissioning pilot program to make ourselves better and more ready to answer the call when things like that happen.”
Every gun fanatic loves a great Hollywood shootout. Bullets flying, cars exploding, magazines never emptying — all the essential elements combine to make for some high-octane movie magic.
We’ve seen some fantastic portrayals of firefights in classics like Black Hawk Down and Saving Private Ryan, but not everybody can call for backup. Sometimes, if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself. The guys on this list not only get the job done, they go above and beyond, dazzling audiences and tying off the finished product with a pretty bow.
Round up the body bags and let the bullets fly, these are the 7 most ridiculous, unrealistic, fantastic shootouts in film.
You can’t have a list of shootouts without mentioning the veteran who was just minding his own business. Rambo has been lighting up the screen for decades with his relentless, guerrilla-warfare style, crushing the opposition.
John Rambo will never be the first to start a fight, but he damned sure will finish one.
Revenge is a dish best served cold, or, as is the case with El Mariachi in Desperado, with a fresh beer. This shooter carries a guitar case filled brim with weaponry and isn’t going to let anyone out of his sights — that’s a promise.
As long as he has his mobile arsenal in hand, there’s nothing that can stop this musician from playing his tune.
Now we all know those fanatic dog lovers. You know, the ones who color their dog’s hair and paint their nails? I’d like to see just how far they would go for revenge if harmed their dog — our guess is not quite as far as John Wick.
Once this sharpshooter smells blood, just close your eyes because the boogeyman always gets his mark.
Even though I am a prophet, you can’t base your entire life off a horoscope, no matter how badass and totally true it is. You might have to make some decisions on your own. I know, that’s scary and you might make mistakes. I can’t be there to hold your hand. At least, not unless you pay me, a lot, cause you’re pretty f’ed up.
Anyway, don’t be such a soup sandwich. You’re embarrassing me.
Remember all those times you fantasized about how great your life would be if the universe provided the perfect opportunity? That time is here, and if you don’t go for your goals right now, you will have missed an incredibly powerful time for growth and achievement. Your perceived career and money problems seem to be looming over your head, but they’ll pass without consequence if you don’t do anything impulsively. You are positioned for incredible advancement, but all you can think of this weekend are lustful thoughts. Just don’t break the bank or do something in public your mom would find distasteful, because this week it will definitely end up on the internet.
You only get rewarded if you actually do the right thing.
Leaders don’t do the right thing because someone is watching. A real leader does the right thing all the time—when things are good and when things are sh!t. They also never stop improving, even when things are going great. Don’t get complacent; just because you hope everything you do will work out perfectly, doesn’t mean it will. If asked to work alone or in secret, do it and do your work to the higher standards. You will find yourself in unexpected leadership roles.
This week finds you focused on friends and events, maybe planning to see some live music or something. Don’t plan a trip just yet. Remember that thing where you have to put on a uniform and play military? This week forces you to find balance between your increasing need for freedom and work which must be redone. The fact this mess was not your doing is inconsequential. You must fix the mistakes of others, and you must do so perfectly. Try to be a good leader and don’t cry about it while you work. Everyone else will be inspired by your example, and you may even enjoy yourself.
Okay Private, let’s do this again. Literally, you will be asked to return to something you believed was complete. Just got back from a deployment? The field? A float? You might have to go back. Do whatever the task requires and try not to tell too many lies this week. Your web of deceit is more likely to trap you than your prey. This weekend brings all the adult entertainment you could hope for, especially if you are traveling. Have fun, but be respectful—you never know who is lurking about watching.
This week finds you re-examining the past, again. On top of that nonsense, your decision-making ability concerning money is terribly flawed and emotionally driven. Don’t burn any bridges no matter how much you would like to this week; just focus on the little things and keep your head down. If you find yourself involved in a romance with someone other than your primary relationship, keep it on the DL, and you will probably get away with it this week. As long as you don’t leave a paper trail, anyway, so hide those receipts and don’t tell your friends about your illicit fling, that is.
Whatever your go-to move is, your game is on point.
Oh yeah, it’s about time us Leos got some love, pun intended. If you are single and looking for a friend, or relationship, or repeat from your past you are likely to find it. In fact, even if you are not looking for it, it will probably find you. Time with your friends will lead to romantic opportunities. Oh yeah, don’t forget about your oath of enlistment; this week it’s low on your priority list, but your relentless work ethic coupled with powerful aggression positions you for career advancement.
If you get the opportunity for advanced training this week, jump on it. Even if you have to forgo something you really want. It will not only pay off, it will be way more fun than you were expecting. If the training involves shooting, blowing stuff up, or punching people in the face, you will not only excel, but will probably end up as the honor grad. Have fun and remember the only person you should expect perfection from is yourself. As long as you remember—while perfection is the goal, it is an unreachable one.
Come on, it’s just some desperately needed character building.
Does a squad leader have to pull a midnight guard shift or is that the work of the lower enlisted swine? Trick question, but you might want to review the NCO’s creed. Anyway, I’ll tell you the answer: Yes, you do. There is a good chance it will feel like the only thing that exists this week is work, but that’s not totally true. This is a time to focus on your duties, but your pleasant attitude and willingness to do things you normally feel are beneath you will endear you to others and lead to all sorts of travel and romance opportunities.
Just remember how you felt the first time you watched the Miracle of Life.
Hey corporal, are you trying to make a baby? Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but didn’t they show you that video about where babies come from in Boot Camp? Let me know if you need me to send you a link so you can review it. Other than your sloppy finances and questionable morals, things are looking up for you. Your home and family life are pleasant and engaging. You may find a positive change in your daily duties. Lateral transfer, perhaps?
You win a four-day pass for crushing the SGM’s PT event? Go visit your family. You will have a bunch of your favorite thing, Fun. Promise. You might even get someone to show you how to do your laundry. No matter where you find yourself this week, get out and explore the local area, even if you’ve been everywhere a million times before. Surprising excitement awaits you. Just don’t overdraft your account again while enjoying yourself.
There, there, it’ll all be over soon. Uhhh… we hope.
Remember how life has been kicking your ass recently? There is a light at the end of the tunnel. This week starts with no apparent end to the problems you have been dealing with, but by next week things start to improve, slowly at first, then gaining momentum rapidly. However, there will continue to be one thing hanging over your head through next week; just accept what you cannot control. Besides, it has to be resolved eventually. I think…..
We both know you can’t help it, but for the love of God. Please skip the melodrama.
This week, you might find your military duties getting in the way of your favorite hobby—going out and spending time in public with as many different people as possible. On top of that, you are forced to work in isolation and in secret. You’re not gonna die. I mean not from working by yourself, but eventually yes, you will die. To make it worse you will have an old friend, or maybe a new one, drop by this weekend to ‘catch up and stuff’ and come Monday they will not want to leave. We all know how you feel about ‘long term relationships,’ and it will restrict your freedom far too much.
Looking for a way to get in a great workout? Want to get in a great PT session with your fellow vets and service members? Need to get out of the house while still practicing social distancing?
Dawn your patriotic swag, grab your pack and head to your favorite hiking spot.
This Saturday, March 28, 2020, 23rd Veteran is hosting a Virtual Ruck March that you can participate in from anywhere in the world.
The event was originally supposed to be held in Los Angeles and Minnesota as a fundraiser for 23rd Veteran. However, as we all know, the coronavirus outbreak forced mass gatherings to be canceled or postponed. Yes, even marching one arm’s distance from each other would not be a good thing.
So Mike Waldron, Marine veteran and founder and executive director of 23rd Veteran came up with a great way to still have the event and get people moving, while still keeping smart about social distancing.
“We have lost a lot as a country these past few weeks,” Waldon told We Are The Mighty. “We had to cancel all our fundraising events to help our troops, but we don’t want to give up on them. Join this free virtual event to walk side-by-side with those defending our freedom on the front line.”
The original event had participants in Iraq that included both US and Allied service members so this is also a way to march with them in solidarity. The forward deployed troops will still be participating and will be able to be seen via the event’s Facebook page.
This also brings attention to an amazing nonprofit that helps veterans overcome a lot of the mental and emotional obstacles that we face when we transition out of military service.
23rd Veteran is a program that encourages veterans to overcome their challenges by engaging in rigorous exercise, group outings and therapy in a structured, 14-week program. This program originated from Mike’s own experience as a Marine grunt. He served in the 1st Marine Division with 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines from 2000 to 2004. He was in the initial push into Iraq and upon EASing out of the Marines went to college and majored in business. He found a career managing federal buildings when he went through what a lot of us go through years after getting out. He started having panic attacks, anxiety and nightmares which were impeding his life. He initially refused to attribute it to his service in Iraq because, well, it was five years after the fact. Wouldn’t he have had issues before that?
When he got help, he learned, as many of us do, that PTS might not surface until years later. As he got help, he decided to look deeper as to why that delay occurs.
What he found was that your brain changes when experiencing a traumatic event. It makes itself remember the event and files it away. Your brain recognizes that there was a threat and you survived the threat. But the problem that many service members face is that you go from a high threat atmosphere to one that isn’t. However, your brain remembers; it’s called Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor, which is a protein that affects long term memory.
When your brain sees a threat (even if it isn’t there), it remembers the traumatic event so you can remember it as a survival skill.
Using this knowledge, Waldron created a 14-week program to help veterans who are dealing with mental health issues.
The program starts with a one week excursion out of their town (the program is currently in four cities and growing) and puts them in nature, with just themselves as company. The point is to team build and put them in activities that will engage their bodies and brains.
After that one-week indoc, they go back home and three times a week, work out together in high intensity training. This gets the blood flowing and body moving but also engages the BDNF in your brain. Immediately afterward, the group will go and have some type of outing that will put them in a public spot and force them to face their triggers.
Starting out small and with just the group, the outing eventually moves to more public spots with civilians joining. This process of having vets engage after a high intensity workout allows them to retrain their brain to be accepting of situations instead of triggering a fight or flight reaction that comes with PTS. Vets are then given assignments for each week which help them overcome their triggers and face their PTS head on.
There are only four rules:
No news (local news but not to take in negative)
No war stories
Using advice from personal trainers, positive psychologists and military personnel, Waldron created the 23V Recon playbook which is the backbone for the program. The result has been a resounding success and has led Waldron and his team to seek to expand their program to other cities. Based out of Minnesota, 23V is looking to expand into Los Angeles, which one of the canceled ruck marches was supposed to raise money for.
This is where you come in.
If you want to get out of the house, raise awareness for a great cause and help 23V grow, sign up and march on Saturday. Get outside, put on your pack and take to a trail and show your support. Let others know too, but make sure if you do it together you stay a safe distance apart. Get to stepping!
Defense Department officials want Congress to include in its fiscal 2019 defense policy bill new authorities to execute its plan to merge the Defense Commissary Agency with the three military exchange services under a single system of on-base stores to be called the Defense Resale Enterprise.
Resisting that effort out of public view are executives of the exchange services who fear their own success in running base department stores, gas stations and convenience outlets, which generate profits to support on-base morale, and recreational activities, could be put at risk by some of the policy executives they blame for deepening the decline in sales across the commissary system.
In 2016, Congress gave the department authority and new tools to “transform” base grocery stores, which for generations relied on taxpayer dollars to offer a wide array of brand products to military families and retirees at cost.
In addition, shoppers pay a five percent surcharge to fund the modernizing or replacement of aging commissaries.
The goal of recent reforms is to turn commissaries into profit-generating stores, similar to exchanges, thus lowering the $1.3 billion annual subsidy so that money can be diverted to more critical needs for sustaining a ready fighting force.
Congress insisted, however, that overall savings to patrons not drop, even as DeCA phases in more business-like practices. Two big ones are variable pricing of goods to replace the tradition of selling at cost, and adoption of commissary-label goods to compete for patron dollars with a narrowed selection of national brands.
Manufacturers over have competed through pricing for commissary shelf space. Surviving brands, in turn, often have cut coupon offerings and other promotions to make up for lower pricing, say industry sources.
(Photo by Chiara Mattirolo)
Meanwhile, they have complained, it’s unclear whether their reduced profit margins are being passed on to patrons or retained to offset commissary operating costs. So far, critics in industry contend, one clear consequence of commissary reforms has been to accelerate declining sales.
Policy officials implementing the reforms are now seen as doubling down on their bet, insisting that, to survive, military resale stores must consolidate to squeeze out inefficiencies, rescue commissaries and evolve into super retailers to more effectively compete with commercial stores, not only on prices but on providing a more attractive, rewarding, and convenient shopping experience.
Officials are warning Congress, store suppliers and advocates for military shoppers that defending the status quo, amid falling sales, will jeopardize “the department’s ability to ensure the long-term viability” of base stores.
The comment appears in a draft legislative proposal for creating the Defense Resale Enterprise by merging DeCA with the Army & Air Force Exchange Service, Navy Exchange Command and the Marine Corps exchange system.
A merger, the proposal contends, will reduce reliance on appropriated funding; eliminate management redundancies; increase standardization of processes and systems; cut operating costs, and generate greater margins on goods sold “to be reinvested in price reductions, morale, welfare and recreation program funding and capital reinvestment.”
It also contends it “will increase the enterprise’s agility to respond to dynamic mission, industry and patron requirements and trends; and [to] ensure the long-term viability of these services” as benefits of military service.
(Photo by Masayuki Kawagishi)
Sources say exchange officials are concerned that the team executing what so far are unproven commissary reforms is directing a merger of all resale operations with misleading claims. They are bristling at briefing materials to explain merger plans that lump exchanges in with DeCA as distressed operations. That’s just wrong, exchange leaders are contending, according to sources.
For example, AAFES touts that it has almost doubled earnings from sales over a recent five-year period, from 3.2 percent in 2012 to 5.9 percent in 2016, despite an 11 percent force drawdown across Army and Air Force in those years. Also, its website business is growing 50 percent annually and AAFES says it consistently has delivered about $375 million annually to support MWR programs.
And yet, sources say, to win support for a merger, Defense officials have portrayed exchanges as part of a failing resale system. The only store system that has been mismanaged, particularly against outside competitors, is DeCA, they insist. One internal communication referred to DeCA “the elephant in the room,” with sales down 20 percent since 2012 and current reforms aggravating patrons rather than turning sales around.
On April 12, 2018, Defense officials briefed some military associations on merger plans, perhaps also learned what sort of resistance to expect. Advocacy groups say they need to learn more.
“We are open to ideas that could make the system more efficient as long as they also preserve the value of the benefit for military families,” said Eileen Huck, deputy director of government relations for National Military Family Association.
Priorities for families are to sustain shopper savings, improve the in-store experience and ensure proper funding of MWR programs, Huck added.
Streamlining of backroom processes across base stores to gain efficiency, without diluting the shopping benefit, “is something we support,” said Brooke Goldberg, director of military family policy for Military Officers Association of America. But how does a full merger of stores benefit the exchanges, she asked.
(U.S. Army Corps of Engineers photo by Carol E. Davis)
“We don’t have answers on that,” she said.
“The intriguing part of all this is the untapped potential of commissaries…[T]here are things that should be explored [to] preserve that benefit. But we also want to preserve the exchange benefit,” Goldberg said. “Any change to the commissary that negatively affects the exchange is not something we support.”
Steve Rossetti, director of government affairs for the American Logistics Association, the industry trade group for businesses supporting military resale, cautioned against using exchange earnings to underwrite a wider resale enterprise. The earnings belong to patrons, he said, and have been used for decades to reinvest in exchanges and support MWR to improve base community programs.
Rossetti suggested Defense officials should focus first on reversing the falloff in sales at commissaries before launching a merger with exchanges to try to gain long-term efficiencies, and also that they “take a long hard look before they leap to ensure benefits truly outweigh costs.”
There’s fear a broken commissary system, and the quest to cut taxpayer support of it, could endanger still thriving exchanges if, through merger, their profits are seen as a life raft to save grocery discounts as the law requires.
The draft legislative proposal, however, describes different goals aimed at keeping all base retail operations competitive, for example by allowing exchanges and commissaries to combine into single stores. This could “respond to generational shopping habits” and to market forces “impacting all traditional grocery and retail stores,” it says. “Millennials (ages 22-36), who collectively represent the majority of military shoppers, [are] using technology to shop and save, and are driven by speed, convenience, proximity, variety, (rather than brand) and experiences.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.
The U.S. Air Force has grounded the entire B-1B Lancer bomber fleet, marking the second fleetwide stand-down in about a year.
Officials with Air Force Global Strike Command said that, during a routine inspection of at least one aircraft, airmen found a rigged “drogue chute” incorrectly installed in the ejection seat egress system, a problem that might affect the rest of the fleet.
“The drogue chute corrects the seat before the parachute deploys out of the seat,” said Capt. Earon Brown, a spokesman with Air Force Global Strike Command.
The issue is “part of the egress system,” or the way airmen exit the bomber in an emergency, Brown told Military.com on March 28, 2019. The problem does not appear to be related to the issues that occurred last year, AFGSC said.
“There are procedural issues of how [the drogue chute is] being put into place,” Brown said.
Officials will “look at each aircraft [para]chute system and make sure they are meeting technical order requirements to employ” the drogue chute appropriately, he added. The B-1 has four seats, for the pilot, co-pilot and two weapons systems officers in the back.
A B-1B Lancer assigned to the 28th Bomb Squadron, Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, maneuvers over New Mexico during a training mission on Feb. 24, 2010.
(U.S. Air Force photo/ Master Sgt. Kevin J. Gruenwald)
AFGSC commander Gen. Timothy Ray on March 28, 2019, directed the stand-down for “a holistic inspection of the entire egress system,” according to a press release. “The safety stand-down will afford maintenance and Aircrew Flight Equipment technicians the necessary time to thoroughly inspect each aircraft.”
Brown said the Air Force does not have a timeline for when fleet will be back in the air, but said the fixes are a “high priority.”
In 2018, the command grounded the fleet over safety concerns related to the Lancer’s ejection seats. The stand-down was a result of an emergency landing by a B-1 on May 1, 2018, at Midland Airport in Texas.
Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson confirmed speculation at the time that the B-1, out of Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, had to make an emergency landing after an ejection seat didn’t blow.
A B-1B Lancer.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Brian Ferguson)
The B-1 crew “were out training,” she said during a May 2018 speech at the Defense Communities summit in Washington, D.C.
Local media reported at the time the B-1B was not carrying weapons when it requested to land because of “an engine flameout.” Weeks later, images surfaced on Facebook purporting to show the aircraft with a burnt-out engine. Photos from The Associated Press and Midland Reporter-Telegram also showed the B-1B, tail number 86-0109, was missing a ceiling hatch, leading to speculation an in-flight ejection was attempted.
Officials ordered a stand-down on June 7, 2018, which lasted three weeks while the fleet was inspected. Months after the incident, UTC Aerospace Systems, manufacturer of the bomber’s ACES II ejection seat, said the seat itself is not the problem.
After coordinating with the Air Force, UTC determined “there’s an issue with the sequencing system,” said John Fyfe, director of Air Force programs for UTC.
It had been implied “that the ejection seat didn’t fire, when in fact the ejection seat was never given the command to fire,” Fyfe told Military.com in September 2018.
“This particular B-1, [the sequence system] was not ours,” he said, adding that there are multiple vendors for the sequencing systems.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
On July 1, 2019, Boeing announced that T-X aircraft N381TX flew the first official Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) flight test from Boeing’s St Louis plant in Missouri. Boeing did not disclose further details about this flight although the Chief T-X Test Pilot, Steve ‘Bull’ Schmidt, said: “She flew just superb. First EMD test points went off without a hitch”.
The aircraft is one of the two company-funded prototypes built for the Air Force T-X Advanced Pilot Training program and modified into the EMD design after the first flight test campaign. The two aircraft performed 72 test flights between December 2016 and December 2018, gathering data ahead of the EMD testing. During the last months, Boeing and Saab (rear fuselage supplier for T-X) modified the prototypes with ACES 5 ejection seat, an updated On-Board Oxygen Generation System (OBOGS) and other minor changes. Boeing is counting on completing the critical design review of the final EMD configuration by the end of 2019.
The two T-X prototypes in formation during a flight test.
The U.S. Air Force awarded the $ 9.2 billion T-X contract to Boeing and Saab in September 2018 for 350 trainer aircraft, 46 ground-based training systems and related ground equipment, with other 125 aircraft on option.
The first five aircraft and seven simulators will be delivered to Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph (Texas) in 2023, with Initial Operational Capability (IOC) planned by the end of 2024 and Full Operational Capability (FOC) planned by 2034. The T-X trainer is due to replace the Northrop T-38 Talon, the world’s first supersonic and most produced jet trainer, that has been in service for over 50 years.
The new aircraft is powered by a single General Electric Aviation F404 engine (the same engine used by the Saab Gripen C/D and legacy F/A-18) and has a design similar to the F/A-18, with leading-edge root extensions (LERX) and twin tails that can provide high performance training for pilots that will fly US front-line fighters. The cockpit features a touchscreen large-area display (LAD), digital Up-Front Controller (UFC) and standby instruments, Hands On Throttle And Stick (HOTAS) controls and a low profile Head-Up Display (HUD), much like the F-35 cockpit or the proposed cockpits for Boeing’s F/A-18E/F Block III and F-15X and Saab’s Gripen E.
This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.