America's top Pacific fleet commander is the latest casualty in ship collision crisis - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

America’s top Pacific fleet commander is the latest casualty in ship collision crisis

The admiral commanding America’s Pacific naval fleet says he will retire.


Admiral Scott Swift made the shocking announcement in a statement released late Sept. 25.

In the statement, Swift revealed he had been informed that he would not rise to become Commander of United States Pacific Command, a usual advancement for Navy admirals who commanded the Pacific Fleet.

America’s top Pacific fleet commander is the latest casualty in ship collision crisis
Admiral Scott Swift, Commander, United States Pacific Fleet. (US Navy photo)

“I have been informed by the Chief of Naval Operations that I will not be his nominee to replace Adm. [Harry] Harris as the Commander, U.S. Pacific Command,” he said. “In keeping with tradition and in loyalty to the Navy, I have submitted my request to retire.”

Admiral Harry B. Harris, Jr., the current commander of Pacific Command, is reportedly under consideration to serve as the United States ambassador to Australia. Prior to commanding Pacific Command, Harris had commanded the Pacific Fleet.

America’s top Pacific fleet commander is the latest casualty in ship collision crisis
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) returns to Fleet Activities Yokosuka following a collision with a merchant vessel while operating southwest of Yokosuka, Japan. (Photo: U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Peter Burghart)

Admiral Swift’s career included service with Attack Squadrons 94 and 97, flying the LTV A-7 Corsair. He saw combat during Operation Preying Mantis, and commander Air Wing 14 and Carrier Strike Group 9. His awards include the Distinguished Service Medal, Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal, and Air Medal with Combat V.

In recent months, the Pacific Fleet as rocked by the collisions involving the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) and USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) that killed a total of 17 sailors and seriously damaged both vessels, which were forward-based as part of Destroyer Squadron 15.

America’s top Pacific fleet commander is the latest casualty in ship collision crisis
Damage to the portside is visible as the Guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) steers towards Changi Naval Base, Republic of Singapore, following a collision with the merchant vessel Alnic MC while underway east of the Straits of Malacca and Singapore on Aug. 21. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Joshua Fulton/Released)

A number of other officers have been relieved of duty in the wake of those collisions, including Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, the commander of the 7th Fleet, and the commanders of Destroyer Squadron 15 and Task Force 70.

Articles

This Army general’s death is a sad reminder of the military’s mental health crisis

The mysterious death of Maj. Gen. (Promotable) John G. Rossi on July 31, shortly before he was to be promoted to lieutenant general and take command of U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command, has now been ruled a suicide.


According to a report by the Associated Press, Rossi is the highest-ranking officer and first Army general officer to kill himself while on active duty since statistics were kept in 2000. In an obituary posted online, Rossi left behind a wife, three children (one an Army officer), his father and a sister.

America’s top Pacific fleet commander is the latest casualty in ship collision crisis
Then-Brig. Gen. John Rossi shakes hands with Command Sgt. Maj. Jim Thomson, Nov. 12, after arriving on Camp Taji, Iraq, for a visit to the troops there. On Rossi’s left walks Col. Frank Muth, the commander of the Enhanced Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division. (Photo U.S. Army)

During his career, Rossi had received the Distinguished Service Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters, the Legion of Merit with four Oak Leaf Clusters, and the Bronze Star with an Oak Leaf Cluster, among other decorations. He had served a tour during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Rossi became part of an increasingly tragic statistic. According to a study by the Department of Veterans Affairs released in July, 20 veterans take their own lives every day. That was down from 22 per day according to the previous study that used data from 2012.

While Rossi’s suicide is the Army’s first active duty general officer who took his own life since the Department of Defense started to keep statistics in 2000, high-ranking officials committing suicide is not an unknown phenomenon.

One of the most notable incidents involved Adm. Jeremy Boorda who was the Chief of Naval Operations when he shot himself in May, 1996. Another incident involved James Forrestal, who had recently resigned as Secretary of Defense when he was hospitalized for treatment of “overwork” (he was actually suffering from serious depression). In May of 1949, he jumped out of a window at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

Even legendary military leaders contemplated suicide. William Tecumseh Sherman, the Civil War general who was most famous for capturing Atlanta and his March to the Sea, had a mental breakdown in late 1861 during which he considered taking his own life.

In a statement released after the announcement of Rossi’s cause of death his family said, “For our family, this has been an incredibly painful time, and we ask that you continue to keep us in your thoughts and prayers. To all the other families out there, to the man or woman who may be facing challenging times, please seek assistance immediately.”

For veterans in crisis, or their friends and family, help is available. Call (800)273-8255, send a text message to 838255, or chat online at https://www.veteranscrisisline.net/ChatTermsOfService.aspx.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Watch WW2 vet finally receive her service medal — during quarantine

In possibly the most polite and delightful medal ceremony of all time, World War II veteran Edna Wells, 94, was surprised with her long overdue service medal — and a few extra celebrants.

Edna, a member of the Women’s Royal Naval Service, was eighteen years old when she became a “Wren” — the popular term for those who served in the WRNS.

“It was great. I was just so happy to be doing my time for my country,” Edna shared of her military service.

When the war was over, Edna didn’t know that service members had to ask for their commendation medals, but thanks to her granddaughter Sharron and Joanna Lumley of the BBC, Edna finally received the gratitude she deserved.

Watch the video — and trust me, you’re going to want the sound on for her lovely Scottish lilt alone!


World War Two veteran Edna never claimed her service medal – until now?️ | VE Day 75 – BBC

www.youtube.com

When asked what it was like to serve with “all those sailor boys” Edna joked, “Well, I had a few! And a lad in every port!”

Edna’s ceremony coincided with the 75th anniversary of VE Day, or Victory in Europe Day, when the Allies gained victory over the Axis powers in the European Theater of World War II. Lumley asked Edna what she remembered of May 8, 1945.

“It was one party after another. Nobody did anything that day. It was just abuzz. We didn’t believe it to begin with — we went to the officers and they said, ‘Yes it’s true. The war is over,'” Edna recalled.

Lumley then hinted that Edna would be receiving her overdue medal sooner than she’d expected and invited the veteran to go outside. Waiting for her, from a respectful and safe distance, was Captain Chris Smith, regional Navy commander for Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Smith presented Edna with her medal, placing it before her so that Sharron could pick it up and wipe it clean before hanging it from her grandmother’s collar.

Edna returned Smith’s salute with one as sharp as ever while neighbors banged pots and pans and cheered her on.


Articles

This is how Kim Jong Un picks Pyongyang’s traffic cops

North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un — already notorious for a “Hangover”-style blackout — has now managed to pull a page (or two) from the playbook of disgraced former Fox News chairman Roger Ailes.


According to a report from the Washington Free Beacon, the dictator requires that applicants to the highly-respected Pyongyang traffic cop corps must be between 16 and 26-years-old, at least 5-feet, 4-inches tall, a high school graduate, and not married.

Attractiveness and health are also job requirements. Successful applicants will get about 3,500 North Korean won per month – a good salary by North Korean standards but which amounts to about $30.

America’s top Pacific fleet commander is the latest casualty in ship collision crisis
A Pyongyang traffic cop in the rain. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The status of those women goes beyond their high pay. They reportedly are given preference for careers and post-graduate studies, free housing and health care, and about 60 percent more food than the average North Korean citizen.

Men in North Korea compete fiercely for the affections of the Pyongyang Traffic Girls, or “PTGs,” and there is even a website devoted to them.

Why these women get such solicitude is unknown. The London Daily Star reported that speculation centers around an incident three years ago when one traffic cop reportedly saved the life of the “tubby tyrant.”

The cop was reportedly named a Hero of the Republic, the highest honor North Korea can give, but the North Korean government has refused to explain the circumstances, leading to speculation that the incident involved either a traffic accident or an assassination attempt.

The traffic cops man about 50 posts in the North Korean capital.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

These pocket-sized drones could be a game changer on the battlefield

US soldiers have started receiving pocket-sized drones that could be a game changer for troops on the battlefield.

Soldiers with the 3 rd Brigade Combat Team, 82 ndAirborne Division recently got their hands on FLIR Black Hornet personal reconnaissance drones, a part of the Army’s Soldier Borne Sensor (SBS) Program.

These drones, which are small enough to be carried on a soldier’s person, allow troops to see the field of battle more clearly without putting themselves in harms way.


America’s top Pacific fleet commander is the latest casualty in ship collision crisis

A soldier with the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division trains with a personal drone at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

(US Army photo by Patrick Ferraris)

The personal reconnaissance system includes two drones, one for day and one for night, as well as a base station, which connects to a handheld controller and a display.

These drones are small — only about 6 inches in length — and extremely lightweight, making it possible for soldiers to carry these tiny unmanned aerial vehicles on a utility belt.

Able to fly out to roughly one and a half miles, these little drones allow soldiers to assess the situation beyond them without abandoning their cover.

This technology, according to the Army’s PEO Soldier, “mitigates future losses of life and injuries by having a drone complete dangerous work that combat soldiers would usually perform on their own,” such as sending out a fire team to gather intel and conduct field reconnaissance.

One of the engineers involved in the project likened the new drones to flying binoculars that allow soldiers to see their surroundings like never before.

America’s top Pacific fleet commander is the latest casualty in ship collision crisis

A personal reconnaissance drone flies in the sky at Ft. Bragg.

(US Army Photo by Patrick Ferraris)

The 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division will take these drones with them on their upcoming deployment, which will be the first time these UAVs will be deployed at the squad level.

Soldiers trained for a week at Fort Bragg in North Carolina with the new drones, getting a feel for the possibilities provided by this technology.

“This system is something new that not a lot of Soldiers have touched or even seen before, so it’s cool to test it out and push it to its limits before we take it with us on our deployment,” Army Sgt. Dalton Kruse, one of the operators, said in a statement.

He further commented that most of the operators who were trained on this new system had never flown a drone before, but they were able to adapt to the technology quickly.

“It was easy to pick up and fly, very user-friendly, and I can already tell that this system will benefit my unit downrange,” Kruse explained.

America’s top Pacific fleet commander is the latest casualty in ship collision crisis

A soldier with the 3rd BCT, 82nd Airborne Division gets his turn during the recent fielding at Fort Bragg.

(US Army Photo by Patrick Ferraris)

This is life-saving technology that helps reduce the risk soldiers face on the battlefield.

“This kind of technology will be a life-saver for us because it takes us out of harm’s way while enhancing our ability to execute whatever combat mission we’re on,” Sgt. Ryan Subers, another operator, said in a statement.

The Army plans to eventually equip every squad with its own personal reconnaissance drone.

“It is the start of an era where every squad will have vision beyond their line of sight,” Nathan Heslink, the Assistant Program Manager for SBS with PEO Soldier, explained. “This allows soldiers to detect threats earlier than ever, meaning it is more likely Soldiers won’t be harmed during their missions.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

What China’s new carrier strike group could look like

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army is pushing ahead with its ambitious plan to build a modern, capable “blue-water navy” that will dominate China’s neighbors, showcase Beijing’s rising power and one day even threaten the US Navy.

China has one aircraft carrier in operation, another undergoing sea trials, and a third one in development, putting the Chinese navy on track to begin fielding carrier task forces as it gains experience with carrier operations.


Type 001 Liaoning

China’s Type 001 Liaoning, a refitted Soviet “heavy aircraft-carrying cruiser,” is the sister ship of Russia’s Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier. This vessel was officially commissioned into the PLAN in 2012, and it was declared combat ready in 2016, even though its primary purpose is to serve as a training platform.

“For what the Liaoning is, I think it’s pretty good at its job,” Matthew Funaiole, a fellow with the China Power Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, previously explained to Business Insider.

America’s top Pacific fleet commander is the latest casualty in ship collision crisis

Aircraft Carrier Liaoning CV-16 at Hong Kong Waters.

The Chinese “purchased it, they reverse engineered it, they used it to design their second aircraft carrier, and now they are using it as a training vessel to sort out carrier operations, figure out how to integrate it into the fleet, and determine what kind of supporting vessels they need to put with the carrier for their mission,” he added, suggesting that training with the Liaoning could potentially inform future carrier task force decisions, among other important choices.

Type 001A and Type 002

The Type 001A, a domestically-produced version of the Liaoning undergoing sea trials, features some improvements over its predecessor, but it is the Type 002, the third carrier in development, that could be a “huge step forward” for the Chinese PLAN, according to Funaiole.

It is with these next two carriers that the world may start to see China push ahead with the next stage of carrier operations, specifically task force creation for joint operations.

Imagining future Chinese carrier battle groups

The Liaoning has set sail with a number of different escorts over the years, but the deployment of effective task forces will require a bit more time, experts argue.

“To create really meaningful carrier task groups is probably five years out, and a lot of it depends on their actual experience with combat aircraft,” Tony Cordesman, the Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy at CSIS, told BI.

Chinese carriers lack the ability to go toe-to-toe with the US Navy, although they have an advantage in waters near China because Chinese ballistic missiles “can reach out almost to the limits of its claims and actually potentially hit a carrier-sized object with a conventional warhead,” he explained, adding that observers should not “make the assumption that to make the carriers useful, they have to reach a level of competition that could deal with a really sophisticated US threat.”

The primary task for Chinese carriers is the prestige mission, experts note, suggesting that the Chinese aim to send a message to their neighbors.

“The prestige mission is probably the most important one. They are going to be going out to show the flag,” Bryan Clark, a naval expert and senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, told Business Insider.

Areas where Chinese carriers could matter most

There are several areas of potential interest, with two being the contested waterways around China and the Indian Ocean.

In local waterways, such as the East and South China Seas, Chinese carriers advance Chinese interests by simply serving as displays of military might. “When it comes to projecting power against smaller states, it’s often a matter of demonstrative action or influence,” Cordesman explained.

Countries in the region may soon find themselves “dealing with a China that can actually project carrier forces and air power now into areas that they’ve never been able to really project air power before.” With that capability, which can be achieved relatively quickly, China can make “a very real difference in regional power and influence.”

But China could also extend its reach beyond its immediate neighborhood. Clark expects to see China eventually deploy carrier task forces to the Indian Ocean given Beijing’s growing interest in the area.

“Within the South and East China Sea, they have lots of land-based systems, aircraft, and ships they can deploy out there under the cover of their shore-based air defenses and surface missiles,” he remarked, “They need the navy to go over and help protect Chinese interests in the Indian Ocean and along the littorals.”

China could, for instance, be looking at projecting military power in the Strait of Malacca and along East Africa from Djibouti down to Mozambique and Madagascar, where China has notable business interests. China has already, via legitimate and questionable means, developed a string of ports in Sri Lanka, Djibouti, and Pakistan to support such operations.

Type and number of ships in a carrier task force

“I imagine a Chinese CTF may be a Type 055, a Type 054, and then maybe three or four Luyangs because they want to make sure they’ve got a lot of air defense capacity and because they want to make it look like a formidable threat,” Clark explained, referring to China’s new cruiser, as well as the country’s capable frigates and destroyers.

“This includes, in some ways, the classic mix that we would use,” Cordesman told BI.

A typical US Navy carrier strike group includes the carrier and five ships — one cruiser and four destroyers. But China might deploy even greater numbers.

“It’s likely they are going to want to have more surface combatants than even we might have put with a ship,” Clark said, pointing to the need for increased air defense capacity due to the limited number of vertical launch system (VLS) cells on Chinese surface ships, which can be loaded with missiles to intercept incoming threats and to strike ships.

A Chinese carrier task force would also require support ships, like ammunition oilers, for certain deployments.

America’s top Pacific fleet commander is the latest casualty in ship collision crisis

Type 054A frigate 575 Yueyang.

Type 054/A Jiangkai I/II frigates

The 4,000-ton Type 054A warships, Chinese stealth frigates designed for fleet defense, are armed with HQ-16 medium-range air defense missiles and a 32-cell VLS in the forward section that is able to fire anti-ship missiles, air defense missiles, and anti-submarine torpedoes, according to The Diplomat.

The first Type 054A was commissioned into the PLAN in 2005, but China has made some modifications to the ship in recent years. For instance, some of the newer ships of this class feature variable depth sonar and towed array sonar, as well as an improved close-in weapon system.

China is reportedly in the process of developing a 5,000-ton variant, the Type 054B Jiangkai III-class frigate.

Type 052C/D Luyang II/III destroyers

These ships, especially the newer Type 052D, are said to be similar to the US Navy’s Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers.

Commonly referred to as the “Chinese Aegis,” the Type 052D destroyers feature a 64-cell VLS, with each cell capable of carrying up to four missiles, including the lethal YJ-18 anti-ship cruise missile and the HQ-9 surface-to-air missile. A US destroyer, in comparison, can carry 90 or more missiles in its VLS.

Toward the end of September 2018, a Chinese Luyang-class destroyer challenged a US destroyer, the USS Decatur, to a showdown in the South China Sea during a routine freedom-of-navigation operation. The Chinese vessel is said to have nearly collided with the American warship.

Type 055 Renhai-class cruisers

While China designates these vessels as destroyers, the US classifies them as cruisers, due to their large size and role as multi-mission surface combatants. This ship is expected to serve a similar purpose to that of America’s Ticonderoga-class cruisers.

This ship, which began sea trials in August 2018, is armed with 112 vertical launch cells with the ability to fire HHQ-9 surface-to-air missiles, YJ-18 anti-ship cruise missiles, and CJ-10 land-attack cruise missiles.

The main gun is a H/PJ-38 130 mm gun, but there are reports that this vessel could eventually be equipped with a railgun.

Type 056 Jingdao corvettes

Chinese corvettes, like the newer PLAN frigates, feature improved anti-submarine warfare capabilities that could be advantageous to the carrier task force, although it’s unclear if China would actually incorporate these ships into a future carrier group, especially considering that the Type 054 frigates can provide the same capabilities.

“What the frigates and the corvettes have are variable-depth sonars, an active sonar operating at a lower frequency and on a cable that can be lowered down into the water below the [sonic] layer to actually find submarines,” Clark explained. “I think the Chinese would deploy a Jiangkai frigate or [Type 056] Jingdao corvette with the task force primarily for [anti-submarine warfare].”

These ships would play a lesser role in air defense, focusing instead on defending the task force from threats lurking beneath the surface of the sea.

America’s top Pacific fleet commander is the latest casualty in ship collision crisis

Chinese Navy oiler Hongzehu (AOR 881), an older vessel. China has since developed fast combat support ships for ammunition and refueling.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ben A. Gonzales)

Additional naval and support vessels

In waters near China, the need for support ships is limited. China can rely on its commercial shipping fleet, as well as various outposts and ports, but at greater distances, the task force will require support ships.

“I would anticipate the carrier task force is going to include an oiler to support them, and that oiler would be what goes ashore in these different bases along the Indian Ocean to receive supplies and fuel and take that out to the carrier task force,” Clark told Business Insider.

“Normally, when the Chinese deploy, such as when they deployed destroyers and frigates for counter-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden, they’ve generally deployed two combatant ships and a support ship. They always have an oiler that goes with these ships.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

How the Air Force helps save homes and fight wildfires

Staff Sgt. Timothy Dawson was trying to get some rest before work the next day. The phone rang twice before he answered it. His neighbor, who lives just above his apartment complex on the hill, told him the fire was really close and they were evacuating.


That neighbor was 1st Lt. Mike Constable, a pilot with the 146th Airlift Wing, Channel Islands Air National Guard Station, California. Dawson said he could see Constable and his roommates packing things into their cars.

The Thomas Fire started on Dec. 4, 2017 in Santa Paula, near Thomas Aquinas College. Driven by Santa Ana winds gusting up to 70 mph, the flames screamed across the hillsides toward Ojai and Ventura. Numerous fires leapfrogged across Ventura and Los Angeles Counties the following day.

America’s top Pacific fleet commander is the latest casualty in ship collision crisis
Chino Valley firefighters watch the oncoming flames of the Thomas Fire from the yard of a home in Montecito, California, Dec. 12, 2017. C-130Js of the 146th Airlift Wing at Channel Islands Air National Guard Base in Port Hueneme, carried the Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System and dropped fire suppression chemicals onto the fire’s path to slow its advance in support of firefighters on the ground. (U.S. Air Force photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)

Dawson’s three-level, 52-unit apartment complex burned to the ground a few hours later.

Ironically, Dawson is a C-130J Hercules crew chief for the 146th AW, one of five wings in the Air Force equipped with the module airborne firefighting system, or MAFFS. This system is loaded onto C-130s and is designed to fight the very thing that took his home, wildfires.

The 146th AW was activated Dec. 5 to fight what became the largest California wildfire by size in the state’s recorded history, covering 281,893 acres. The Thomas Fire is now 100 percent contained.

 

“We got the word and everybody sprung into action. Our maintenance folk got the airplane ready for us, our aerial port guys went and got the MAFFS units pulled out and loadmasters got the airplanes ready. It was really a well-oiled machine on that day. We got things done really quickly,” said Senior Master Sgt. Phil Poulsen, a loadmaster with the 146th AW.

Most of the Airmen stationed at Channel Islands ANGS are from Ventura County or the surrounding area. Approximately 50 people from the 146th AW evacuated their homes during the fire and five Airmen lost their homes.

America’s top Pacific fleet commander is the latest casualty in ship collision crisis
Residents of a 52-unit apartment complex search for belongings, Dec. 13, 2017, after the Thomas Fire roared through their neighborhood. Staff Sgt. Timothy Dawson, a C-130J Hercules aircraft maintenance technician with the 146th Airlift Wing, was also a resident of the apartment complex. The 146 Airlift Wing was activated Dec.5, 2017, to support CAL FIRE with wildfire suppression efforts within the state. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Brian Ferguson)

“I can see the smoke from my house and we know people who live there,” Poulson said. “My daughter went to daycare up there and I think I flew over that house. I think it’s gone. So it really hits close to home when you are this close to home.”

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or CAL FIRE, requested MAFFS aircraft and personnel support through the state’s governor and the Adjutant General of the state’s National Guard. Once activated, CAL FIRE incident commanders assigned to the Thomas Fire, and based at the Ventura Fairgrounds, generate the launch orders for the MAFFS. The aircraft sit ready at Tanker Base Operations, a few miles south of the fairgrounds at Channel Islands Air National Guard Station.

Once requested, the C-130s would join the fight at a designated altitude in the protected flight area, typically 1,500 feet above ground. An aerial supervisor, or air attack, would fly at about 2,000 feet, directing and controlling the aircraft. Lead planes, at 1,000 feet, guide the tankers to their drop points, approximately 150 feet above the ground.

America’s top Pacific fleet commander is the latest casualty in ship collision crisis
Technicians perform repairs on a Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System (MAFFS) in the cargo bay of a C-130J of the 146th Airlift Wing at Channel Islands Air National Guard Base in Port Hueneme, California, Dec. 9, 2017. The MAFFS units, which are owned by the U.S. Forestry Service, can be loaded and made ready for operations in about three hours. A mixture of water and fire-retardant chemicals is deployed through a nozzle attached to an orange door the replaces the paratroop door on the C-130J. (U.S. Air Force photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)

“Once we enter the fire traffic area, we join on the lead plane. He’ll typically give us a show me [puff of smoke] which shows us where he’s intending us to drop,” said Lt. Col. Scott Pemberton, a C-130J pilot with the 146th AW. “We try to be very precise with that because you know it’s a high value asset and you get one shot at it.”

The mission requires the crews to fly the C-130s very close to the fires.

“You’re taking the fight directly to the ground,” Pemberton said. “We are 150 feet above the ground at 120 knots, at the edge of the airplane’s envelope. You’re demanding a lot of yourself and your fellow crewmembers. So that’s why you are typically very highly trained and are very prepared to do this mission.”

The MAFFS can hold 3,000 gallons of retardant, which is released from a nozzle placed in the left rear troop door of the aircraft. It takes approximately 15 minutes to load retardant into the MAFFS, another 15 minutes to reach the Thomas Fire, 10 more to join the lead plane and drop and then another 15 minutes to return to base. With 10 hours of daylight and two planes, the 146th AW drops an average of 60,000 gallons of retardant each day.

America’s top Pacific fleet commander is the latest casualty in ship collision crisis
Lt. Col. Scott Pemberton, a C-130J pilot with the 146th Airlift Wing, has been with the 146th for 30 years and has lived in the Ventura/Santa Barbara, California community for about 48. He has been flying the modular airborne fire fighting system for approximately 20 years. The 146th was activated Dec.5, 2017, to support CAL FIRE with wildfire suppression efforts within the state. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Brian Ferguson)

“Many times if you are close to a fire line and you’re doing direct attack you’ll see the guys standing down there,” Pemberton said. “On the second, third or fourth drop you’ll come by and you will see that you have gotten close enough to where they are a different color. But I’ve also seen the whites of their eyes where they’re diving behind their bulldozer because you’re that close, and they know that the retardant is coming.”

Still, the dangers of this mission are not lost on Pemberton.

On July 1, 2012, MAFFS 7, which belonged to the North Carolina Air National Guard’s 145th Airlift Wing based at the Charlotte-Douglas International Airport, crashed while fighting the White Draw Fire in South Dakota’s Black Hills. Four of the six crewmembers aboard died.

“There was a thunderstorm approaching from the north and as they were waiting for the lead to coordinate and get his bearings… The thunderstorm moved closer and closer,” Pemberton said. “They made a first run and I think they got off half of their retardant.”

As they made their second run, they had a wind shear event and a microburst took away their lift and forced them to fly straight ahead into the terrain.

America’s top Pacific fleet commander is the latest casualty in ship collision crisis
Senior Master Sgt. Phil Poulsen, 146th Airlift Wing loadmaster, checks the level of retardant in the module airborne firefighting system as redardant is loaded, Dec. 9, 2017. The 146th AW is one of five wings in the Air Force equipped with MAFFS. This system is loaded onto C-130s and is designed to fight wildfires. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Brian Ferguson)

“As a result of that incident, we completely changed our training. We incorporated a lot of the wind shear escape maneuvers, and we built new seats for the loadmasters in the back and made crashworthy seats for those crewmembers,” Pemberton said.

This training and the 146th AW’s capabilities benefit everyone involved in the wildfire fighting community, too.

The 146th AW plays a big role in extinguishing fires, said Tenner Renz a dozer swamper with the Kern County Fire Department, but it’s something he sees on almost every fire. Whether a 100-acre or a 250,000-acre fire, the guard shows up.

“Some of these guys are crazy. I mean dipping down into some of these canyons, flying through smoke, buzzing treetops,” Renz said. “They have a talent that most people don’t have.”

Having the MAFFS capability means the 146th AW can be federally activated to support firefighting operations around the United States by the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho. An Air Force liaison group, led on a rotating basis by one of the five MAFFS unit commanders, staffs the center.

America’s top Pacific fleet commander is the latest casualty in ship collision crisis
A C-130J Hercules from the 146th Airlift Wing, California Air National Guard, sprays fire retardant ahead of the leading edge of the Thomas Fire, Dec. 13, 2017. The 146th was activated to support CAL FIRE with wildfire suppression efforts within the state. The C-130s from Channel Islands Air National Guard Station are capable of spraying fire retardant from a modular airborne firefighting systems loaded in the cargo bay. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Brian Ferguson)

This wide-ranging operational experience and capability gives CAL FIRE an extra capability when things are at their worst.

“We currently have low humidity, Santa Ana winds, we haven’t had rain in a number of days and we’re in areas that haven’t burned in 50-60 years,” said Dan Sendek, MAFFS liaison officer for CAL FIRE. “You can never have enough equipment for every eventuality. What the guard brings to us is that surge capacity when we’re in a situation where we need everything we can get.”

Six days after he lost his home, Dawson was back at work.

Also Read: Here’s how the Guard is helping mudslide victims after fires

“The routine of going about the mission and getting things done is probably better,” Dawson said. “I needed to get back and get involved in the fire mission. The show must go on. The world doesn’t stop spinning and the guard doesn’t stop flying missions.”

For Dawson, it’s also a chance to combat the fire that took his home and save some of his neighbor’s property.

America’s top Pacific fleet commander is the latest casualty in ship collision crisis
Tanner Renz, Kern County Fire Department, looks on as a C-130J Hercules from the 146th Airlift Wing, California Air National Guard, sprays fire retardant ahead of the leading edge of the Thomas Fire, Dec. 13, 2017. The 146th was activated to support CAL FIRE with wildfire suppression efforts within the state. The C-130s from Channel Islands Air National Guard Station are capable of spraying fire retardant from a modular airborne firefighting systems loaded in the cargo bay. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Brian Ferguson)

Dawson and his wife were able to return to their apartment a few days after the fire destroyed it, however, they were not able to search for personal items because the fire was still smoldering.

“Every single tenant in the 52 units was able to get out ahead of the fire. When we went back for the first time it was it was pretty emotionally taxing,” he said. “There were two stories worth of apartments that collapsed into a carport. There’s nothing left that we could really find.

“To me, then and even now, it still feels a little surreal. I know it’s happening to me, but it feels like it’s happening to someone else.”

Articles

House vets panel subpoenas details on VA art purchases

America’s top Pacific fleet commander is the latest casualty in ship collision crisis
The VA campus in Palo Alto, CA | VA photo


The Republican majority on the House Veterans Affairs Committee pushed through a voice vote Wednesday to subpoena documents from the Department of Veterans Affairs on millions spent for artworks at VA facilities and huge cost overruns at a Denver-area hospital.

Also read: VA awards $300 million in grants to help end veteran homelessness

“It’s unfortunate that the VA’s continuing lack of transparency has led us to this decision” to move for the subpoenas, said Rep. Jeff Miller, a Florida Republican and the committee chairman.

“I am confident we are not receiving the whole picture from the department” on spending for art and ornamental furnishings, including $6.4 million at Palo Alto, California, facilities.

The committee also wants specifics on the costs for a new Aurora, Colorado, facility that ballooned to $1.7 billion, nearly three times the original estimate.

Rep. Mark Takano, a California Democrat and the ranking committee member, argued that the VA was already working to provide answers and warned that the subpoenas could expose whistleblowers. “Now you will be outing employees who were honest with investigators” on the artworks and the spending on the Aurora facility, Takano said.

In June, Deputy VA Secretary Sloan Gibson said, “We got a lot of things wrong” with construction of the Aurora facility, but releasing an internal VA investigation would be counterproductive.

“You end up chilling the whole investigative process,” Gibson said in a news conference at the construction site.

America’s top Pacific fleet commander is the latest casualty in ship collision crisis
House Veterans Affairs chairman Rep. Jeff Miller

The subpoenas ask for all information on VA art and ornamental furniture purchases since 2010. The VA’s response in the inquiry thus far has been “wholly incomplete,” Miller charged.

“We will not accept VA trying to pull the wool over the eyes of this committee and the American people for poor decision-making and waste of funds made on the part of the department,” Miller said.

“VA claims to have spent approximately $4.7 million on art nationwide from January 2010 to July 2016, yet the committee has already substantiated over $6.4 million spent during this period in the Palo Alto health care system alone,” he said.

Miller again singled out artworks at the Palo Alto Polytrauma Rehabilitation Center, described by the VA as one of five facilities nationwide designed to provide intensive rehabilitative care to veterans and service members with severe injuries to more than one organ system. Miller made similar complaints about Palo Alto nearly a year ago in a House floor speech.

Miller took issue with “Harbor,” a huge rock sculpture in a pool that its designers said was intended to evoke “a sense of transformation, rebuilding and self-investigation.”

When installation was included, it cost nearly $1 million “to put the rock up,” Miller told the committee.

Miller also complained about an artwork called “Horizon” on the walls of the Palo Alto facility’s parking garage.

“Horizon” spells out in Morse code the “With malice toward none …” quote from President Abraham Lincoln’s famous Second Inaugural address and a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt, which says in part, “You must do the things you think you cannot do.”

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Top Marine general warns that border deployments hurt combat readiness

President Donald Trump’s decision to send troops to the southern border and funding transfers following the declaration of a national emergency pose an “unacceptable risk to Marine Corps combat readiness and solvency,” the Marine Corps commandant warned.

An internal memo sent in March 2019 by Marine Corps Gen. Robert Neller to Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer and Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan listed “unplanned/unbudgeted southwest border operations” and “border security funding transfers” alongside Hurricanes Florence and Michael as “negative factors” putting readiness at risk, the Los Angeles Times first reported.


The four-star general explained that due to a number of unexpected costs, referred to as “negative impacts,” the Marines will be forced to cancel or limit their participation in a number of previously planned activities, including training exercises in at least five countries.

America’s top Pacific fleet commander is the latest casualty in ship collision crisis
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Asia J. Sorenson)

He warned that the cancelled training exercises will “degrade the combat readiness and effectiveness of the Marine Corps,” adding that “Marines rely on the hard, realistic training provided by these events to develop the individual and collective skills necessary to prepare for high-end combat.”

Neller further argued that cancellations or reduced participation would hurt the Corps’ ties to US allies and partners at a critical time.

Border security is listed among several factors, such as new housing allowances and civilian pay raises, that could trigger a budget shortfall for the Marine Corps, but it is noteworthy that the commandant identified a presidential priority as a detriment to the service.

In a separate memo, Neller explained that the Marines are currently short id=”listicle-2632709751″.3 billion for hurricane recovery operations.

“The hurricane season is only three months away, and we have Marines, Sailors, and civilians working in compromised structures,” he wrote.

America’s top Pacific fleet commander is the latest casualty in ship collision crisis

Marines help push a car out of a flooded area during Hurricane Florence, at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, Sept. 15, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Isaiah Gomez)

The Pentagon sent a list of military construction projects that could lose their funding to cover the cost of the president’s border wall to Congress on March 18, 2019. Among the 400 projects that could be affected were funds for Camp Lejeune and Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Station, both of which suffered hurricane damage in 2018.

Congress voted in March 2019 to cancel Trump’s national emergency, but the president quickly vetoed the legislation.

Critics have argued that the president’s deployment of active-duty troops to the border, as well as plans to cut funding for military projects, are unnecessary and will harm military readiness.

In October 2018, more than 5,000 active-duty troops joined the more than 2,000 National Guard troops already at the southern border.

The deployment, a response to migrant caravans from Central America, was initially set to end in mid-December 2018, but it has since been extended until at least September 2019 As of January 2019, border operations have already cost the military 0 million, and that figure is expected to grow throughout 2019.

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

Articles

This Iraq War vet counters Trump’s claim that soldiers stole millions

(Editor’s note: We Are The Mighty has no political affiliation. This post is presented solely because of the veteran response in this case.)


Iraq War vet and music journalist Corbin Reiff didn’t take too kindly to Donald Trump’s comments on the campaign trail recently that insinuated that U.S. soldiers stole the money they were supposed to give out for Iraqi reconstruction projects. Reiff took to Twitter with the following burst of tweets, 140 characters per:

Articles

Medal Of Honor Hero Kyle Carpenter Just Gave An Inspiring Speech That Everyone Should Read

America’s top Pacific fleet commander is the latest casualty in ship collision crisis


Former Marine Cpl. Kyle Carpenter gave a powerful speech to his fellow veterans of the Battle of Marjah recently that everyone should take the time to read.

Also Read: 4 Reasons Why Going To War Gives Veterans An Edge Over Their Civilian Peers 

Carpenter, who received the Medal of Honor last year for jumping on a grenade to save his friend’s life during the battle, told his fellow Marines that “it’s your medal” at a reunion on the five-year anniversary of Operation Moshtarak last week at the National Museum of the Marine Corps.

“With this short amount of time I have to speak to you tonight, I couldn’t possibly sum up the historical battle of Marjah,” Carpenter said in his speech, according to a transcription from Hope Hodge Seck of Marine Corps Times. “I am comforted, though, by the fact that the men in this room don’t need a summary because you were right there beside me. You felt the incredible heat of a 100 percent humidity day and the cool waters of a muddy canal. You felt the weight of 100 pounds of gear, ammo and water at your back, the weight of knowing as Marines we are and forever will be the first line of defense for our loved ones, our nation and above all, freedom.”

America’s top Pacific fleet commander is the latest casualty in ship collision crisis
Kyle Carpenter and Nick Eufrazio

The Battle of Marjah involved 15,000 American, Afghan, Canadian, British, and French troops in the largest joint operation up to that point in the Afghan war. The effort to wrestle the key town of Marjah from the Taliban took NATO forces nearly 10 months, according to ABC News.

“I stand here today extremely proud of you all. I’m proud of the job you did in the face of what most cannot even fathom. I am more than honored to call you friends, fellow Marines and brothers,” Carpenter said. “You stand as an example for others and for what’s best for not only our nation but the rest of the world.”

In his speech, Carpenter did not reference his incredible example from Nov. 21, 2010, when he jumped on a grenade while providing rooftop security at a small outpost. “I only remember a few moments after I got hit,” Carpenter told me previously when I interviewed him for Business Insider. “But nothing before.”

He was severely wounded — as was his friend Lance Cpl. Nick Eufrazio — but both survived. While Carpenter lost his right eye and took shrapnel throughout his face and lower body, his recovery has been nothing short of remarkable.

America’s top Pacific fleet commander is the latest casualty in ship collision crisis
Photo: The White House

Carpenter continued (via Marine Times):

Be proud of who you are. Be proud of what you did in that country. You are alive today and have been blessed with this opportunity of life. Don’t waste it. Live a life worth living, full of meaning and purpose, and one that will make the fallen who are looking down on us proud.

Marines, I’m proud to have worn the same uniform as you.

Never forget that when no one else would raise their right hand, you did. You sacrificed and became part of our nation’s history and our Marine Corps legacy for taking part in the historical battleground of Marjah. Thank you so much. I really do appreciate it.

Marine Corps Times has the full speech. It’s definitely worth a read.

NOW: This Hero Saved Six Soldiers From A Burning Vehicle While He Was Drenched In Fuel 

OR: 10 Photos That Capture The Military Experience 

Articles

The 5 biggest takeaways from General Mattis’ confirmation hearing

The Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing Thursday on whether to confirm Gen. James Mattis as the next defense secretary, and plenty of interesting bits came out of the roughly three-hour session.


The retired four-star general gave frank and concise answers on everything from cybersecurity policy to what he expects will be the biggest threats to the United States.

Also read: 6 new changes to expect at the Pentagon with Mattis as SECDEF

Shortly afterward, he was approved for a waiver for the requirement of having a seven-year gap between being active-duty in the military and serving in the civilian role at the Pentagon.

America’s top Pacific fleet commander is the latest casualty in ship collision crisis
U.S. Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis, commander, U.S. Central Command visits with Marines stationed at the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait on Feb. 26, 2011. | DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeleyMattis thinks the US needs to be more aggressive going after ISIS

When asked whether the US can confront the terror group in its capital of Raqqa, Mattis said he believed the US could, but he added that the anti-ISIS strategy needed to be reviewed and “energized on a more aggressive timeline.”

He told members that “we have to deliver a very hard blow against ISIS in the Middle East so there is no sense of invulnerability or invincibility there.” For the US, according to Mattis, that means attacking ISIS’ main areas of strength so they cannot pop up elsewhere.

He mentioned Russia as the biggest threat

Despite President-elect Trump’s restraint on calling out Russian aggression and cyberwarfare, Mattis didn’t pull punches in his assessment of Moscow.

“Since Yalta, we have a long list of times that we’ve tried to engage positively with Russia,” Mattis said. “We have a relatively short list of successes in that regard.” He praised NATO and its effectiveness, and added that Russian President Vladimir Putin was “trying to break” that alliance.

In some areas Russia and the US can work together, but in many others, Mattis said, Putin remained a strategic competitor or an outright adversary.

“I have very modest expectations about areas of cooperation with Mr. Putin,” he said.

Mattis says he wouldn’t roll back the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell or the change on women in combat roles

In the past, Mattis has not really been a fan of women being integrated into combat roles, such as infantry. He was asked about this repeatedly — at times having his speeches quoted to him — and asked whether he would reverse the 2013 policy change.

“I’ve never come into any job with an agenda, a pre-formed agenda of changing anything,” he said. “I assume the people before me deserve respect for the decisions they’ve made.”

That answer did not satisfy Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), however, and she continued to press him. In the end, Mattis told her: “I have no plan to oppose women in any aspect of our military. In 2003, I had hundreds of Marines who happened to be women serving in my 23,000 person division … I put them right on the front lines with everyone else.”

He was also asked about protections for LGBTQ service members, and he had a very blunt answer to that. “Frankly, senator, I’ve never cared about two consenting adults and who they go to bed with.”

He says the Iran deal isn’t perfect, but it should remain intact

Mattis called the Iran deal an “imperfect” one, but still supported the US keeping its end of the bargain. The answer was a break from the President-elect, who has promised to “rip up” the deal with Tehran.

“I think it is an imperfect arms control agreement — it’s not a friendship treaty,” Mattis said. “But when America gives her word, we have to live up to it and work with our allies.”

Later, he said, “It’s not a deal I would have signed.”

Mattis says cyberwar is a big problem that still has no clear doctrine in place

Mattis was asked interesting questions on cyberwarfare, which were especially pertinent in the wake of Russian hacks of Democratic party officials and their affect on the presidential election. Unfortunately, he said he did not believe the US has anything resembling a sophisticated cyber doctrine.

In other words, there is no strategy in place for the US to respond to cyber attacks, like there is for other physical examples, such as a nuclear strike or an attack on a NATO ally.

Mattis said there needs to be a comprehensive plan developed to address this shortfall, because “cyber cuts across everything we do today.”

He added: “Because of the cyber domain, it’s not something the military can do in isolation.”

Articles

Here’s how Mattis reacted to Flynn’s resignation

When asked about the recent resignation of President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, Michael Flynn, Defense Secretary James Mattis sounded unmoved about Flynn’s departure.


“Here’s the bottom line, ladies and gentlemen. I’m brought in to be the secretary of defense. I give the president advice on the use of military force,” he said, according to Yahoo News Washington correspondent Olivier Knox.

Related: 5 possible replacements for Michael Flynn as national security adviser

“I maintain good relations, strong relations … and so military-to-military relations with other ministries of defense around the world,” he added.

“And frankly, this has no impact. Obviously, I haven’t changed what I’m heading there for. It doesn’t change my message at all. And who’s on the president’s staff is who I will work with.”

Mattis spoke after arriving in Brussels for a NATO meeting. Speaking with the press upon his arrival, he was reluctant to take many questions about Flynn resignation, according to Washington Post correspondent Dan Lamothe.

Flynn and Mattis have a history.

America’s top Pacific fleet commander is the latest casualty in ship collision crisis
Former US National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. | via Flickr

From August 2010 to March 2013, Mattis, then a Marine general, led an investigation into unauthorized disclosures of classified information allegedly made by Flynn, who was then a lieutenant general in the US Army.

The investigation found Flynn shared “classified information with various foreign military officers and/or officials in Afghanistan without proper authorization,” according to a Washington Post report late last year. Sources told The Post the secrets were about CIA operations in Afghanistan.

Flynn was not disciplined for the incident, however, since the disclosures were not “done knowingly” and not damaging to national security.

America’s top Pacific fleet commander is the latest casualty in ship collision crisis
The 26th Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, is greeted on his first full day in the position by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., in Arlington, VA, Jan. 21, 2017. DoD photo by D. Myles Cullen (released)

After the investigation, Flynn was assigned to lead the Defense Intelligence Agency in September 2011. However, he was forced out of that role in early 2014, reportedly due to mismanagement.

In November, NBC News reported that Flynn personally crossed Mattis’ name off a list of candidates for national-security positions in the Trump administration.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information