Analysis: The Army has a range problem, but it's not because of the 5.56 round - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Analysis: The Army has a range problem, but it’s not because of the 5.56 round

Back in May, the Army Times ran a piece announcing that the Army was officially looking to replace the M16 family of weapons and the 5.56mm cartridge with a weapon system that is both more reliable, and has greater range.


As the article states, they’re taking a hard look at “intermediate rounds,” or rounds with diameters between 6.5 and 7mm, that have greater range and ballistics than either the 5.56 x 45 or the 7.62 x 51, both of which are old and outdated compared to the crop of rounds that have sprung up in the last decade or so. The thinking is, with these newer rounds, you can easily match the superior stopping power of the 7.62 without sacrificing the magazine capacity afforded by the tiny 5.56 cartridge, while still giving troops better range and accuracy.

Coupled with a more reliable platform, preferably one that doesn’t jam up if you so much as think about sand getting in it, this could potentially be a game changer for the US Army.

Now, me personally, I think this is great. I’ve had a chance to play around with a couple of these intermediate calibers, and I quickly fell in love. I’m not one of those guys who despises the 5.56, because, for what it is, it’s not a bad little round. It’s got decent ballistics out to a decent range, and you can carry a lot of them. But, when you compare it to something like the 6.5 Creedmore, one of the rounds reportedly being considered as a replacement, it’s like comparing a Mazda Miata to a Lamborghini Aventador.

And hey, a new rifle would be pretty great, too. The M16 platform has been around for ages, and while its modular nature means that it’s endlessly adaptable, the direct gas impingement operating system is a right pain in the ass. Advances in firearm technology over the past half century have given us plenty of options, and it’s high time we took a look at them.

Analysis: The Army has a range problem, but it’s not because of the 5.56 round
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Qujuan Baptiste uses smoke as concealment during a stress shoot at the 2017 Army Materiel Command’s Best Warrior Competition July 18, 2017, at Camp Atterbury, Indiana. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Teddy Wade)

But giving soldiers a more reliable weapon with greater range is kinda pointless if we don’t address one of the Army’s most persistent and glaring faults: its marksmanship program sucks. There’s no one part of the thing we can point to as being problematic. It’s not just the BRM taught at Basic, or the qualification tables. The whole thing, from start to finish, really, really, sucks.

What’s the point of giving soldiers a shiny, new rifle if they can’t hit the broadside of a barn with the one they’ve got?

Now, before you break out the pitchforks and your Expert qualification badges, sit down and think about what I’m saying. Unless your MOS directly involves shooting things in the face, when was the last time you went to the range during the workday for something other than qualification? When was the last time you broke out the rifles for anything other than to qualify, or to clean them for inspection?

For most of you, that answer will be either the last time you deployed, or never. And that’s a huge problem.

Over the last ten-and-a-half years in the North Carolina Army National Guard, I’ve spent more time being told not to kill myself or rape people than how to shoot. I don’t have a problem with qualification myself; I can reliably shoot high sharpshooter to low expert. But I also make a point to shoot recreationally whenever I can. Not everyone has that option, and plenty of folks who do don’t take advantage of it.

For most folks, the entirety of their marksmanship training will consist of three weeks in Basic, the few days out of the year when they go qualify, and maybe a few days or even a week or two of extra training when they mobilize. And that simply isn’t enough.

Analysis: The Army has a range problem, but it’s not because of the 5.56 round
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Qujuan Baptiste uses a vehicle as a barricade and fires at multiple targets during a stress shoot scenario at the 2017 Army Materiel Command’s Best Warrior Competition July 18, 2017, at Camp Atterbury, Indiana. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Teddy Wade)

Nevermind that the Army’s qualification system is stupid and outdated. Shooting static popup targets at ranges between 50-300 meters is a good start, but to rely on that as the sole measure of a soldier’s ability to engage the enemy is insane. According to the Army Times article linked up at the top, one of the driving forces behind looking for a new round is the fact that something like half of all firefights occurred at ranges greater than 300 meters. Meanwhile, your average soldier doesn’t even bother shooting at the 300 meter targets, because they know they can’t hit the damn things.

If the Army’s quest for a new sidearm is any indication, the search for a new rifle will take at least a decade, untold millions of dollars, a half-dozen Congressional inquiries and investigations, and probably a few lawsuits before they settle on the final product. Which means there’s plenty of time to teach soldiers how to shoot before the new gear ever starts filtering its way through the system.

As a starting point, come up with a comprehensive training plan that utilizes Basic Rifle Marksmanship, then build on that foundation throughout the soldier’s career. Get soldiers to the range more often. Update the qualification tables to more accurately represent the threat they’re expected to face. Enforce qualification standards like PT standards, and offer regular remedial training for folks who fail to meet those standards.

Or just carry on before and put a shiny new rifle in the hands of a kid who barely knows which end goes bang. I watched a guy from out battalion’s Forward Support Company shoot a 6 this year. That’s good enough, right?

MIGHTY TACTICAL

High-tech body armor of the future could come from spider butts

The silk spiders produce is tougher than Kevlar and more flexible than nylon, and Air Force researchers think it could be key to creating new materials that take the load and heat off troops in the field.

Scientists at the Air Force Research Lab and Purdue University have been examining natural silk to get a sense of its ability to regulate temperature — silk can drop 10 to 15 degrees Fahrenheit through passive, radiative cooling, which means radiating more heat than it absorbs, according to an Air Force news release.


Analysis: The Army has a range problem, but it’s not because of the 5.56 round

Spc. Arielle Mailloux gets some help adjusting her protoype Generation III Improved Outer Tactical Vest from Capt. Lindsey Pawlowski, Aug. 21, 2012, at Fort Campbell, Ky.

(US Army photo by Megan Locke Simpson)

Those researchers want to apply that property to synthetics, like artificial spider silk, which is stronger than Kevlar, the polymer typically used in body armor, and more flexible than nylon.

Enhancing body armor and adding comfort for troops is one of many improvements hoped for by a team led by Dr. Augustine Urbas, a researcher in the Functional Materials Division of the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate.

“Understanding natural silk will enable us to engineer multifunctional fibers with exponential possibilities. The ultra-strong fibers outperform the mechanical characteristics of many synthetic materials as well as steel,” Urbas said in the release. “These materials could be the future in comfort and strength in body armor and parachute material for the warfighter.”

In addition to making flexible, cooler body armor, the material could also be used to make tents that keep occupants cooler as well as parachutes that can carry heavier loads.

Artificial spider silk may initially cost double what Kevlar does, but its light weight, strength, flexibility, and potential for other uses make it more appealing, according to the release.

Air Force researchers are also looking at Fibroin, a silk protein produced by silkworms, to create materials that can reflect, absorb, focus, or split light under different circumstances.

It’s not the military’s first attempt to shake up its body armor with natural or synthetic substances.

Analysis: The Army has a range problem, but it’s not because of the 5.56 round

Maj. James Pelland, team lead for Marine Corps Systems Command’s Individual Armor Team, jumps over a log to demonstrate the mobility provided by a prototype Modular Scalable Vest, the next generation body armor for the Marine Corps.

(USMC photo by Monique Randolph)

Two years ago, the Army said it was looking into using genetically modified silkworms to create a tough, elastic fiber known as Dragon Silk.

Dr. James Zheng, chief scientist for project manager Soldier Protection and Individual Equipment, told Army Times at the time that while the Army is developing and testing material solutions all the time, “Mother Nature has created and optimized many extraordinary materials.”

At the end of 2016, then-Air Force Academy cadet Hayley Weir and her adviser, professor Ryan Burke, successfully tested a kind of viscous substance that could be used to enhance existing body armor. Weir did not reveal the formula for the substance, but she used plastic utensils and a KitchenAid mixer to whip up the gravy-like goo, placing it in vacuum-sealed bags and flattened into quarter-inch layers.

The material was designed to be lighter than standard Kevlar and offer more flexibility for the wearer. During tests, when struck by bullets, the gooey material absorbed the impact and stopped the bullets.

“Like Under Armour, for real,” Weir told the Colorado Springs Gazette.

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Soldier shoots her way to Olympic dream

Many Soldiers join the Army as a step towards achieving their goals and dreams. That was reversed for one Soldier going through Advanced Individual Training on Fort Jackson. She qualified for the Olympics in a sport equally suited for the Army – marksmanship.

Spc. Alison Weisz, from Company B, 369th Adjutant General Battalion, will graduate Advanced Individual Training Oct. 8 and then head to the Army Marksmanship Unit in Fort Benning, Georgia. She made Team USA for the Women’s 10m Air Rifle Event for the 2021 Olympic Games, and will be part of the AMU’s International Rifle Team, and compete internationally in both 10m Air Rifle and 50m Three-Position Small bore Rifle.


“It had always been a goal of mine to join the Army after qualifying for the Olympics,” said the Belgrade, Montana native. “The initial plan pre-COVID was that I was going to qualify, go to the Olympics this summer in Tokyo, in August come back, take a little bit of time off, and go to basic training. And that was all just because I wanted to look forward towards 2024 and the Olympics in Paris. The best way to do that for my career and my sport was with the Army.”

The AMU will help her hone her craft even further.

“The Army Marksmanship Unit has some of the best resources that you could imagine, for our sport specifically,” said Weisz, who graduated Basic Combat Training at Fort Jackson with Company A, 3rd Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment. “As far as gunsmiths on hand, obviously it’s a source of income as well.”

The Army also helps her financially.

“It’s hard to get that money and financial stability outside of it, outside of anything like the Army,” she said.

Analysis: The Army has a range problem, but it’s not because of the 5.56 round

Spc. Alison Weisz poses in front of her company sign. Photo by Josephine Carlson

According to USA Shooting, Weisz “became involved in shooting sports through a gun safety and education program out of a small club in Montana at 9 years old.” She was hooked and began her pursuit that led her to the University of Mississippi’s shooting program where she witnessed a slice of Army-life for the first time. Her great uncle was the only one in her Family to have served in the Army.

Some highlights to her shooting resume include 2019 Pan American Games Gold Medalist, Olympic Quota Winner, splitting a playing card on her first try, and four-time NCAA Individual Qualifier and 2016 NCAA Air Rifle Bronze Medalist.

“When I was in college we had matches there,” Weisz said of traveling to Georgia to compete at Fort Benning, “because they host a lot of the national competitions and other selection matches.”

It was at these competitions she would face rivals now turned teammates.

“Even to make this Olympic team, I was competing against my now teammates at the Army Marksmanship Unit and quite honestly it was a very tight race between a couple of them and myself for the women’s 10 meter event,” she said.

In basic training she initially didn’t let her drill sergeants know that she was a world-class marksman who could split a playing card in half with a single shot. In fact, she said she found Basic Rifle Marksmanship “super- fascinating” because it reinforced principles she had known for a long time.

“I was actually really impressed by all the fundamentals that they taught and the fact that those are the same fundamentals that I still follow today and it’s a completely different type and style of shooting so it was really cool to see,” she said.

She added she was impressed how the drill sergeants were able to teach her peers “who have never touched rifles before, they’ve never seen them, and they’ve never been around them.”

Analysis: The Army has a range problem, but it’s not because of the 5.56 round

Spc. Weisz walks with her fellow trainees during basic combat training at Fort Jackson. US Army photo

While she felt home on the rifle range, she found other aspects of training difficult such as doing physical training in the hot, humid South Carolina mornings, to being rained on during training because you would be wet and have to sit in soggy clothes until later in the day when you could return to the barracks to change.

“I think the most challenging was learning how to deal with so many different people from so many different places and doing such difficult yet simple things 24/7,” she said. Things such as standing at attention, not moving, being quiet, and trying to get 60 people or more to do were difficult for people who don’t have a background founded in discipline.

“They might not have had that being raised or in their life,” she said. “In my sport, discipline is literally all it is; so it was very natural for me. When I need to do something I just do it and just deal with it even if something is bothering me to ignore it and I know and I understand that other people didn’t have that.”

Despite the challenges, Weisz said she plans on using the new experiences to help her on the firing line.

“Even though it was in using pushups or rappelling down the wall with fear … I can now take those skills I’ve learned and apply when I’m actually training and shooting so rather than questioning myself (with questions like), ‘Am I going to be able to shoot well today?'”

Weisz is “super-excited” to get to the AMU after graduation because she “will be training with the best of the best and now we will be the best of the best. The more you surround yourself with the best, the better you will become.

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

Articles

Why we need chivalry in the Marine Corps

WATM received this piece from a Marine reader deployed to Almaty, Kazakhstan, who was concerned about the scandal engulfing the Marine Corps over allegedly illegal postings of photos of female Marines on Facebook and other social media outlets. The views expressed in this piece are his own.


With controversy surrounding Marines involved in sharing photos of their female counterparts, and while sexual assault and harassment continue to be a problem within our ranks, I firmly believe it’s important we stimulate a conversation around finding a sustainable solution.

My views on the recent scandal are simple: sharing someone else’s nude photo with friends at the barracks is as equally reprehensible as sharing it on social media. There is no honor in either situation. If you justify the first, the latter will shortly follow.

I think the bigger problem here is that we have not done a good enough job fostering a culture of chivalry in the Marine Corps.

While we’ve done exceptionally well with regards to physical fitness, physical appearance, and discipline, we’ve also allowed a culture where “locker room talk” is not only acceptable, but somehow considered “manly” — and that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Analysis: The Army has a range problem, but it’s not because of the 5.56 round

This issue is neither unique to the Marine Corps nor the military. This behavior plagues our schools and workforces, and is a detriment to our society as whole.

It’s true that we are a product of the society we recruit from, but it is also true that as Marines, we hold ourselves to a higher standard. Making Marines doesn’t simply mean training them for duty, but instilling in them the values and ethics that will in turn mold them into better citizens.

We have a proven record of doing just that, but we regularly fall short with our commitment to female Marines, as evident with recent events.

On March 14, 2017, Gen. Robert B. Neller, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, told Congress he understands this kind of behavior is a problem in the Marine Corps, and he honestly confessed to not having a good answer in regard to how to fix it.

He took full responsibility as the Commandant, and I commend him for it. He didn’t make excuses; he acknowledged the deficiencies and I genuinely believe he is seeking a sustainable solution. That took humility and courage, which are characteristics of exceptional leaders.

To get to that end goal, I think it’s important we start at the beginning.

Analysis: The Army has a range problem, but it’s not because of the 5.56 round

Men and women from all over the U.S. and our territories flock to Marine Corps Recruit Depots San Diego and Parris Island every year to become Marines. Currently, the requirements to even get accepted to attend Marine Corps recruit training are higher than in that of recent years.

The Marine Corps looks for quality men and women who will add value to our force and while we may come from different backgrounds and walks of life, in the end, we’re all united in our love of Corps and country.

Many of these recruits are fresh out of high school and still in their teens, which means that sex is typically the first and last thing on their mind and a big reason why the Marine Corps has traditionally conducted much of the training separately in order to reduce distractions and make the most out of those twelve weeks.

Male Drill Instructors are known to use sexual innuendos and lewd comments about women to help male recruits remember the skills and knowledge they need to graduate. While this might be an effective way to get the male recruits to absorb the information quickly, it also exacerbates a problem that we’ve already acknowledged takes place in our society, and therefore fosters a culture that is not conducive for chivalry to thrive.

It teaches Marines that disrespecting their female counterparts, by making lewd comments about them, is acceptable.

It isn’t.

While this might be a common practice in the civilian sector, we should, and must, hold ourselves to a higher standard.

The Marine Corps’ core values are honor, courage, and commitment. While some Marines may not follow all of these, the truth of the matter is that most do, and it is our responsibility — as noncommissioned officers, staff noncommissioned officers, and officers — to instill these values in all of our Marines by setting the example and holding each other accountable.

Analysis: The Army has a range problem, but it’s not because of the 5.56 round
Approximately 20,000 recruits come to Parris Island annually for the chance to become United States Marines by enduring 13 weeks of rigorous, transformative training. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Caitlin Brink/Released)

I can’t tell you how much I love this organization as we’re perhaps the last real warrior culture that exists today.

We’re known as modern day Spartans, Devil Dogs, etc., but I think that some may have misunderstood what it means to be a warrior. Some equate it to being hostile and irreverent towards women. Some, unfortunately, believe part of being a man means to degrade our female counterparts even though Spartans were known to hold their women in the highest regard and medieval knights were the ones who created the concept of chivalry to begin with.

My hope is that we as Marines can grasp this concept and set the example for the rest. We are known to be “First to Fight,” and it’s a term we’re proud to bear.

We thrive on being known as standard-bearers, and that is a privilege and honor that should, and must, also extend to how we choose to lead.

Cpl. Erick Galera, USMC

Training NCO, Detachment Almaty, Kazakhstan

MIGHTY TRENDING

It turns out North Korea is arming this American ally

A disguised North Korean ship bound for Egypt was intercepted carrying more than 30,000 rocket-propelled grenades (RPG) in what the UN called the “largest seizure of ammunition in the history of sanctions against [North Korea],” The Washington Post reported on Sunday.


According to a confidential report, US officials tipped off Egyptian authorities on the Jie Shun, a suspicious 300-foot-long freighter that set sail on an 8,000 mile voyage from North Korea on July 23, 2016.

The ship was registered in Cambodia and flew a Cambodian flag, in an apparent attempt to avoid unwanted scrutiny. The Jie Shun also occasionally turned off its transponder, according to a February UN report.

“The vessel’s automatic identification system was off for the majority of the voyage,” the report said, according to The Post, “except in busy sea lanes where such behavior could be noticed and assessed as a safety threat.”

But once US intelligence agencies notified Egyptian officials, the plan appeared to slowly unravel. When customs agents first boarded the vessel to inspect its goods, it appeared as if nothing was out of the ordinary. The manifest listed 2,300 tons of limonite — a type of iron ore. However, beneath the stones were 79 wooden crates that contained thousands of rocket-propelled grenades, estimated to be worth $23 million.

Analysis: The Army has a range problem, but it’s not because of the 5.56 round
Rocket propelled grenades (RPGs) and other armaments lay on the deck of USS Cape St. George (CG 71) after being confiscated during an early-morning engagement with suspected pirates. (U.S. Navy photo)

The rounds themselves were a practice rounds typically used for training, The Post reported. And given the quantity of the RPGs, it suggested that it was intended for thousands of recruits for a large army — lending weight to the theory that Egypt’s military was the intended recipient.

The crates were also imprinted with the name of an Egyptian company, one that diplomats refused to name, according to The Post. The official UN report also does not mention the company —only that “the private company” had its license revoked and was closed. Egypt eventually destroyed the RPGs under UN supervision.

Beyond North Korea’s limited amount of permissible international trade, which has become even slimmer following increased UN sanctions, the country remains heavily invested in illicit trade, including narcotics, counterfeit currencies, and cheap weapons.

The relationship between Egypt and North Korea is one that has been forged since the Soviet Union, according to The Diplomat. The two nations have since remained economic partners, despite the US’s watchful gaze. In 2008, Egypt invested in North Korea’s infrastructure by creating the country’s only 3G mobile phone network, giving 300,000 North Koreans access to an outdated telecommunications service.

Although it may appear that Egypt was implicated in an arms deal with North Korea, officials from the Egyptian Embassy argued that it had been transparent with the process and that it “will continue to abide by all Security Council resolutions and will always be in conformity with these resolutions as they restrain military purchases from North Korea.”

Articles

Here are the best military photos for the week of June 24th

The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they’re always capturing what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:


Air Force:

A U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle fires flares during a flight in support of Operation Inherent Resolve June 21, 2017. The F-15, a component of U.S. Air Forces Central Command, supports U.S. and coalition forces working to liberate territory and people under the control of ISIS.

Analysis: The Army has a range problem, but it’s not because of the 5.56 round
U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Trevor T. McBride

U.S. Air Force Col. Peter Fesler, 1st Fighter Wing commander, looks back to his wingman during his final F-22 Raptor flight over Charlottesville, Va., June 21, 2017. The Raptor is a 5th-generation fighter jet that combines stealth, supercruise, maneuverability and integrated avionics.

Analysis: The Army has a range problem, but it’s not because of the 5.56 round
U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Natasha Stannard

Army:

Soldiers of the 100th Battalion donned Ghillie suits, June 18, 2017, in preparation for their mock ambush on opposing forces during their annual training at Kahuku Training Area.

Analysis: The Army has a range problem, but it’s not because of the 5.56 round
Photo by Staff Sgt. Gail Lapitan

An M1A1 Abrams from Task Force Dagger plays the role of Opposing Forces at Fort Hood, Texas, to provide the 278th Armored Brigade Combat Team with a near-peer opponent during the unit’s eXportable Combat Training Capability rotation May 30 – June 21. Task Force Dagger consisted of the 116th Brigade Engineer Battalion’s forces and was supplemented by units from five other states during the exercise.

Analysis: The Army has a range problem, but it’s not because of the 5.56 round
Photo by Staff Sgt. Kyle Warner

Navy:

The Henry J. Kaiser-class fleet replenishment oiler USNS Yukon (T-AO 202) is underway alongside the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Kidd (DDG 100) during a replenishment-at-sea. Kidd is underway with the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group on a scheduled deployment to the western Pacific and Indian Oceans.

Analysis: The Army has a range problem, but it’s not because of the 5.56 round
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jacob M. Milham

Sailors aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5) prepare to participate in an M9 pistol shoot on the ship’s port aircraft elevator. The ship and its ready group are deployed in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations in support of maritime security operations designed to reassure allies and partners, and preserve the freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce in the region.

Analysis: The Army has a range problem, but it’s not because of the 5.56 round
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Evan Thompson

Marine Corps:

Marine Special Operations School Individual Training Course students fire an M249 squad automatic weapon during night-fire training April 13, 2017, at Camp Lejeune. For the first time, U.S. Air Force Special Tactics Airmen spent three months in Marine Special Operations Command’s initial Marine Raider training pipeline, representing efforts to build joint mindsets across special operations forces.

Analysis: The Army has a range problem, but it’s not because of the 5.56 round
U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ryan Conroy

U.S. Marines of Golf Company, 2nd Battalion, 25th Marines, 4th Marine Division, Marine Forces Reserve, exit a CH-53E from Heavy Marine Helicopter Squadron 772, 4th Marine Air Wing, MARFORRES, to perform a rehearsal for the Air Assault Course as a part of the battalion final exercise for Integrated Training Exercise 4-17 at Camp Wilson, Marine Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, June 21, 2017. ITX is a Marine Air Ground Task Force integration training exercise featuring combined arms training events that incorporate live fire and maneuver.

Analysis: The Army has a range problem, but it’s not because of the 5.56 round
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Stanley Moy

Coast Guard:

A 25-foot Response Boat-Small boatcrew from Coast Guard Maritime Safety and Security Team Honolulu (91107) conducts a coastal safety and security patrol while escorting Hōkūleʻa, a Polynesian double-hulled voyaging canoe, back to Magic Island, Oahu, June 17, 2017. The Hōkūleʻa returned home after being gone for 36 months, sailing approximately 40,000 nautical miles around the world.

Analysis: The Army has a range problem, but it’s not because of the 5.56 round
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Tara Molle

A member of the U.S Coast Guard Ceremonial Honor Guard’s silent drill team waits prior to performing at a sunset salute program, Tuesday, June 20, 2017, at Charlestown Navy Yard in Boston. The team performed in front of the Coast Guard Cutter Eagle as part of the festivities surrounding Sail Boston.

Analysis: The Army has a range problem, but it’s not because of the 5.56 round
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Andrew Barresi

Articles

It looks like Washington just rescued the VA’s private-sector care program — for now

Congressional Republicans and Democrats have reached agreement on a $3.9 billion emergency spending package to fill a shortfall in the Department of Veterans Affairs’ program of private-sector care, seeking to avert a disruption to medical care for thousands of veterans.


The deal includes additional money for core VA health programs, as well. Veterans’ groups insisted this money be included.

The compromise plan sets aside $2.1 billion over six months to continue funding the Choice program, which provides federally paid medical care outside the VA and is a priority of President Donald Trump. VA Secretary David Shulkin has warned that without legislative action, Choice would run out of money by mid-August, causing delays in health care.

The proposal also would devote $1.8 billion to authorize 28 leases for new VA medical facilities and establish programs to make it easier to hire health specialists. That cost would be paid for by trimming pensions for some Medicaid-eligible veterans and collecting fees for housing loans.

Analysis: The Army has a range problem, but it’s not because of the 5.56 round
VA Secretary David Shulkin. Photo courtesy of VA.

A House vote was planned July 28, before members were to begin a five-week recess. The Senate is finishing up business for two more weeks and would also need to approve the measure.

Major veterans’ groups had opposed the original House plan as an unacceptable step toward privatization, leading Democrats to block that bill on July 24. That plan would have trimmed VA benefits to pay for Choice without additional investments in VA infrastructure.

Put in place after a 2014 wait-time scandal at the Phoenix VA hospital, the Choice program allows veterans to receive care from outside doctors if they must wait 30 days or more for an appointment or drive more than 40 miles to a VA facility.

Rep. Phil Roe of Tennessee, chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, told a hearing on July 27 that the six-month funding plan was urgently needed and would give Congress more time to debate broader issues over the future of the VA. He was joined by Rep. Tim Walz, the panel’s top Democrat.

Analysis: The Army has a range problem, but it’s not because of the 5.56 round Sens. Johnny Isakson, R- Ga., (left) and Jon Tester, D-Mont (right)

“We are glad that veterans will continue to have access to care without interruption and that the VA will be able to improve the delivery of care by addressing critical infrastructure and medical staffing needs,” Sens. Johnny Isakson, R- Ga., and Jon Tester, D-Mont., said in a statement.

Shulkin praised the agreement and urged the House to act swiftly. The legislation “will greatly benefit veterans,” he said.

Still, while the agreement may avert a shutdown to Choice, the early disputes over funding may signal bigger political fights to come.

Analysis: The Army has a range problem, but it’s not because of the 5.56 round
Photo by Michael Vadon

During the 2016 campaign, Trump had criticized the VA for long wait times and mismanagement, saying he would give veterans more options in seeing outside providers. At an event July 25 in Ohio, Trump said he would triple the number of veterans “seeing the doctor of their choice” as part of an upcoming VA overhaul.

His comments followed a warning by the leader of the Veterans of Foreign Wars against any Trump administration effort to “privatize” the VA. Speaking July 24 at its national convention in New Orleans, outgoing VFW National Commander Brian Duffy criticized the initial House plan as violating Trump’s campaign promise to VFW that it “would remain a public system, because it is a public trust.”

Shulkin announced the budget shortfall last month, citing unexpected demand from veterans for private care and poor budget planning. To slow spending, the department last month instructed VA medical centers to limit the number of veterans it sent to private doctors.

Analysis: The Army has a range problem, but it’s not because of the 5.56 round
US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sean Furey

“This situation underscores exactly why Congress needs to pass broader and more permanent Choice reforms. Even after they finish scrambling to fund this flawed program, too many veterans will still be trapped in a failing system and will be unable to seek care outside the VA when they want to or need to,” said Dan Caldwell, policy director of the conservative Concerned Veterans for America.

Currently, more than 30 percent of VA appointments are in the private sector, up from fewer than 20 percent in 2014, as the VA’s more than 1,200 health facilities struggle to meet growing demands for medical care.

The VA has an annual budget of nearly $167 billion.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is why sailors have 13 buttons on their trousers

An old sailor’s tale is that the buttons represent the 13 original colonies.

In the early 1800s, the iconic trouser’s front flap (crotch area) or “broadfall” had 15 buttons before it was modified 90-years later to have just seven, allowing the manufacturer to reduce the amount of material.


At least, that’s what Navy recruits tell each other during basic training — but that wasn’t the real intention.

In the early 1800s, the iconic trouser’s front flap (crotch area) or “broadfall” had 15 buttons before it was modified 90-years later to have just seven, allowing the manufacturer to reduce the amount of material.

Analysis: The Army has a range problem, but it’s not because of the 5.56 round

Reportedly years later, the broadfall was enlarged for various reasons including that many sailors didn’t have enough room down there, so the Navy listened and added the extra material and six buttons.

Pro tip: Many sailors have their trousers tailored to remove all the buttons and replace them with Velcro strips to grant easier access to the goods. They then resew the buttons to the outside flap, with uniform inspectors being none-the-wiser.

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The Army just picked this new semi-auto sniper rifle

The Army has chosen a new semi-automatic sniper rifle, replacing the M110 which entered service in 2008.


According to reports by the Army Times, the winning rifle was the Heckler  Koch G28. According to the the company’s website, the G28 is a version of the HK 417 battle rifle — itself a variation of the AR-10 rifle.

Analysis: The Army has a range problem, but it’s not because of the 5.56 round
Soldiers of the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment with a M110 (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Steven Colvin)

This came after a 2014 request for proposals for a more compact version of the M110. The M110 is being replaced despite the fact that it was named one of the Army’s “Best 10 Inventions” in 2007, according to M110 manufacturer Knight’s Armament website.

So, what is behind the replacement of a rifle that was widely loved by soldiers after it replaced the M24 bolt-action system? According to Military.com, it was to get something less conspicuous as a sniper rifle. The M110 is 13 inches longer than a typical M4 carbine, something an enemy sniper would be able to notice.

Being conspicuous is a good way to attract enemy fire.

Analysis: The Army has a range problem, but it’s not because of the 5.56 round
Lance Cpl. Thomas Hunt, a designated marksman with 1st Platoon, Bravo Company, 2nd Law Enforcement Battalion, looks through the scope of his M110 sniper rifle while concealed in the tree line during the II Marine Expeditionary Force Command Post Exercise 3 at Camp Lejeune, N.C., April 20, 2016. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Michelle Reif/Released)

The new M110A1 does provide some relief in that department, being about 2.5 inches shorter than the M110. More importantly for the grunt carrying it, it is about three pounds lighter than the M110.

Both the M110 and the M110A1 fire the NATO standard 7.62x51mm cartridge, and both feature 20-shot magazines. The Army plans to spend just under $45 million to get 3,643 M110A1s. That comes out to $12,000 a rifle, plus all the logistical and support needs for the Army, including the provision of spare parts.

Analysis: The Army has a range problem, but it’s not because of the 5.56 round
A German soldier fires a Heckler Koch G28 during a NATO exercise. (NATO photo by Alessio Ventura)

The Army has long made use of semi-automatic sniper rifles. During the Vietnam War, a modified version of the M14 known as the M21 was used by the service’s snipers. One of those snipers, Adelbert Waldron, was America’s top sniper in that conflict, scoring 109 confirmed kills.

By comparison, the legendary Carlos Hathcock had 93 confirmed kills.

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Hurricane Matthew unearths Civil War-era cannonballs

Analysis: The Army has a range problem, but it’s not because of the 5.56 round
Cannonballs from the Civil War unearthed on a South Carolina beach by the storm surge of Hurricane Matthew. (Photo: ABC News)


Hurricane Matthew, in addition to all the damage caused by high winds and flooding, also unearthed a number of old cannon rounds from the Civil War.

Civil War-era rounds have been discovered across the country, including a few in Washington state in 2015. Also that year, tourists at the Manassas Battlefield Park brought a shell that they had found to the visitor’s center. That prompted an evacuation until the round was confirmed to be inert. In 2013, a Confederate soldier’s souvenir from the Second Battle of Manassas caused kerfluffle near Mountain Home Air Force Base.

Unexploded ordnance is one of the realities from after any major war. In fact, one shouldn’t be surprised. In World War II, Allied bombers dropped over 1.4 million tons of bombs – the equivalent of 5.6 million Mk 82 500-pounders.

With those sort of numbers, it is easy to imagine that some of the bombs didn’t explode when they hit. And the Allies weren’t the only ones who dropped bombs in that war. As a result, random discoveries of unexploded ordnance (abbreviated in military circles as “UXO”) have been common in Europe. In fact, the ordnance has been traced to other wars as well. In France, farmers have come across World War I ordnance while plowing their fields, including some that contained poison gas.

In the case of South Carolina, these cannonballs were detonated in place by EOD after the tide receded. Nobody got hurt, and there was no damage. Residents in the area only heard the controlled detonation. The first cannonballs of the Civil War were fired in nearby Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861.

ABC News reports that Hurricane Matthew brought a nearly 6-foot storm surge and torrential rain that totaled 14 inches in spots of South Carolina, and is being blamed for two deaths there and at least 21 across four southeastern states.

When it comes to UXO, the best advice is not to touch it. Get a safe distance away, then call 911. Playing around with UXO, no matter how “safe” it might appear to be, is a good way to get a Darwin Award.

MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korea finally agrees to talk about denuclearization, peace

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is ready to talk to the US about abandoning his country’s nuclear arms and pursuing peace with South Korea, according to the South Korean president’s office, the Blue House.


After a historic meeting between South Korean diplomats and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, North Korea is apparently open to denuclearizing, with Kim himself reportedly expressing a willingness to talk to the US about the touchy subject — something unthinkable mere months ago.

North Korea also said it would suspend provocations like nuclear and missile tests during negotiations, the Blue House said March 6, 2018.

Also read: This is why you can’t trust North Korea’s new charm offensive

“Chairman Kim said that even denuclearization could be among the agenda items for talks between North Korea and the US,” a Blue House spokesman said, according to the South Korean news agency Yonhap. “What drew our attention, in particular, is that he made clear that achieving denuclearization is his father’s dying wish and that it has not been changed at all.”

“Kim also didn’t specify anything special from South Korea or other countries in return for the North coming to dialogue but expressed an intent to be treated seriously as a counterpart for talks,” he added.

Under Kim, North Korea wrote the possession of nuclear weapons into its constitution, and it has bitterly opposed any efforts to rid the country of its weapons. The US has maintained that it will denuclearize North Korea whether by force or by diplomacy, making the subject of denuclearization the major roadblock toward peace on the Korean Peninsula since 1994.

Analysis: The Army has a range problem, but it’s not because of the 5.56 round
North Korea prepares for a test launch of a mobile nuclear ballistic missile. (Photo from KCNA)

“The North side clearly affirmed its commitment to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and said it would have no reason to possess nuclear weapons should the safety of its regime be guaranteed and military threats against North Korea removed,” Chung Eui-yong, the director of South Korea’s National Security Office, who attended the latest meetings, said, according to Yonhap.

“In addition, the North promised not to use not only nuclear weapons but also conventional weapons against the South,” he added.

Related: North Korea warns that it’s ready for both war and diplomacy

The news follows a year packed with white-hot nuclear threats and increasingly provocative nuclear and missile tests carried out by North Korea. The US put together the harshest sanctions package ever against the country and increased its military posture, with President Donald Trump making some overt threats.

But even as the US has applied what the Trump administration calls a “maximum pressure” approach, South Korea, under the new leadership of a more engagement-minded liberal political party, extended olive branches to Pyongyang by including the North in the Pyeongchang Olympics and holding talks that thawed relations.

North Korea reverses course

Analysis: The Army has a range problem, but it’s not because of the 5.56 round
Kim meeting with South Korean officials in Pyongyang, North Korea. (Photo from KCNA)

North Korea appears to have changed its tone after repeatedly declaring its nuclear arsenal nonnegotiable and reserving the right to attack US forces stationed in South Korea.

North Korea has talked about denuclearization before, but promises fell through before implementation. South Korean and US officials have repeatedly said verifiable denuclearization would need to take place before larger discussions over peace or reunification of the Koreas could happen.

More: Why North Korea suddenly stopped its aggression

Yonhap reports that the groundwork has now been laid for Kim to meet South Korean President Moon Jae-in, in what would be Kim’s first meeting with another head of state.

North Korean media reported on March 5, 2018 that Kim wanted to “write a new history of national reunification” and would “rapidly take practical steps” toward creating peace between the two countries, which have technically been at war since 1950.

North Korea had previously refused to engage with the US as long as international sanctions and the US military in the region applied pressure to Kim’s government.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

Iran coronavirus deaths mount, including senior adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader

Iran’s Health Ministry reported 12 more deaths from the coronavirus, bringing the total to 66 deaths, while the number of cases in the country has reached 1,501.


A member of a council that advises Iran’s supreme leader is among those who died, state television reported on March 2.

Expediency Council member Mohammad Mirmohammadi died at a Tehran hospital of the virus, state radio said. He was 71. Mirmohammadi is the first top Iranian official to succumb to the COVID-19 disease that is affecting several members of Iran’s leadership.

The council advises Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. It also acts as a mediator between the supreme leader and parliament.

Mirmohammadi’s death comes as other top Iranian officials have contracted the virus. Iran has the highest death toll in the world after China, the epicenter of the outbreak.

Analysis: The Army has a range problem, but it’s not because of the 5.56 round

Infections Could Be Higher

Among those who are infected are Vice President Masumeh Ebtekar and Iraj Harirchi, the head of an Iranian government task force on the coronavirus who tried to downplay the virus before falling ill.

Across the wider Middle East, there are over 1,150 cases of the new coronavirus, the majority of which are linked back to Iran.

Experts say Iran’s ratio of deaths to infections, around 5.5 percent, is much higher than other countries, suggesting the number of infections in Iran may be much higher than official figures show.

In a move to stem the outbreak, Iran on March 2 held an online-only briefing by its Foreign Ministry.

Ministry spokesman Abbas Musavi opened the online news conference by dismissing an offer of help for Iran by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Meanwhile, a team from the World Health Organization (WHO) has arrived in Tehran to support Iran’s response to a coronavirus outbreak, the UN agency said.

The plane carrying the team also contained “medical supplies and protective equipment to support over 15,000 health care workers, as well as laboratory kits enough to test and diagnose nearly 100,000 people,” the WHO said in a statement.

The supplies worth more than 0,000 were loaded onto the United Arab Emirates military transport plane in Dubai.

Analysis: The Army has a range problem, but it’s not because of the 5.56 round

Earlier, Britain, Germany, and France have offered Iran a “comprehensive package of both material and financial support” to combat the spread of coronavirus.

In a statement, the three European countries committed themselves to providing financial support “close to” 5 million euros (.6 million) through the World Health Organization or other UN agencies.

The group would send by plane medical material to Iran on March 2, including equipment for laboratory tests, protective body suits, and gloves, it said.

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The British Embassy in Tehran announced that it has begun evacuations over the virus.

It said that essential staff were still in Iran, but if “the situation deteriorates further,” the embassy’s ability to help British nationals there “may be limited.”

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

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Green Beret: the US is fighting a 100 year war

Analysis: The Army has a range problem, but it’s not because of the 5.56 round
Photo courtesy of Michael Waltz.


Waltz explained that, while US Special Forces were trained and prepared as combat warriors, much of their work involved training, cultural understanding and psychological efforts to explain the messages of US freedom and humanity.

“Until America is prepared to have its grandchildren stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our grandchildren, we won’t be successful,” — Mullah Ghafoordai – tribal elder in Eastern Afghanistan 

Also read: 4 key differences between the Green Berets and Delta Force

It was a profound and decisive moment – which seemed to reverberate throughout mountain villages in Eastern Afghanistan…… an anti-Taliban Afghan tribal elder told Green Beret Michael Waltz he could no longer cooperate with US Special Forces in the fight against insurgents in his country.

Waltz had spent months having tea with friendly Afghans and tribal leaders in the area and, he reports, made great progress with efforts to collaborate against the Taliban. They shared information, allowed US allied Afghan fighters to be trained by Green Berets and, in many cases, joined US forces in the fight.

The tribal elder’s comments were quite a disappointment for Waltz, who vigorously argues that the fight against the Taliban, terrorists and many insurgent groups around the world – will take 100 years to win.

Waltz recalled that President Obama’s 2009 announcement that the US would be withdrawing from Afghanistan by 2011, engendered new risk and danger for Afghans cooperating with US forces.

Although, in the same speech, Obama announced US troop numbers would increase by thousands in the near term, a declaration of an ultimate withdrawal created a strong impact upon friendly Afghans, Waltz said.

Obama’s announcement, which has been followed by subsequent efforts to further draw-down the US presence, changed the equation on the ground in Afghanistan, compromising the long-standing cooperation between the friendly Afghan tribal elder and Waltz’s team of Green Berets in fight against the Taliban, Waltz argued.

Analysis: The Army has a range problem, but it’s not because of the 5.56 round
Photo courtesy of Michael Waltz.

“It is going to take multiple generations of winning hearts and minds,” Waltz recalled, explaining his frustration and disappointment upon seeing a long-standing collaborative partnership collapse amid fear of Taliban retribution.

Although much has happened regarding permutation of the US-Afghan strategy since that time, and specifics of Obama’s intended withdrawal date subsequently changed, there has been an overall systematic reduction of US troops in recent years.

During July 6, 2016 U.S. President Obama said he would draw down troops to 8,400 by the end of his administration in December 2016; this approach greatly increased pressure on US Special Forces, relying even more intensely upon their role as trainers and advisors.

Green Berets had already been among the most-deployed US military units, often deploying as many as 10-times throughout the course of their career.

“Green Berets don’t easily ask for help and do not easily identify themselves as having an issue, but it is OK to say you have a problem. The Green Beret Foundation understands the mindset of “America’s Quiet Professionals”, and because of this, we are in a good position to help identify needs and render assistance,” Ret. Maj. Gen. David Morris, Chairman of the Board of the Green Beret Foundation, told Scout Warrior.

While there have been many who both supported and opposed Obama’s Afghanistan strategy, sparking years of ongoing debate, Waltz maintains that impact of the 2009 announcement upon the US Special Forces’ effort in Afghanistan brought lasting implications and spoke to a larger issue regarding US-Afghan policy.

“We are in a war of ideas and we are fighting an ideology. It is easy to bomb a tank, but incredibly difficult to bomb an idea. We need a long-term strategy that discredits the ideology of Islamic extremism,” Waltz added. “We are in a multi-decade war and we are only 15-years in.”

Waltz explained that, while US Special Forces were trained and prepared as combat warriors, much of their work involved training, cultural understanding and psychological efforts to explain the messages of US freedom and humanity.

“This was kind of the premise behind George W. Bush’s freedom agenda. These ideologies have narratives that specifically target disaffected young men who see no future for themselves or their families,” Waltz explained.

Some of the many nuances behind this approached were, quite naturally, woven into a broader, long-term vision for the country including the education of girls and economic initiatives aimed at cultivating mechanisms for sustainable Afghan prosperity.

The reality of a multi-faceted, broadly oriented counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan is the premise of Waltz’s book – “Warrior Diplomat,” which seeks to delineate key aspects of his time as a Green Beret.

The book chronicles this effort to attack Taliban fighters with so-called “kinetic” or intense combat techniques – alongside an equally intense commensurate effort to launch an entirely different type of attack.

Diplomatic or “non-kinetic” elements of the war effort involved what could be referred to as war-zone diplomacy, making friends with anti-Taliban fighters, learning and respecting Afghan culture, and teaching them how to succeed in combat.

“While Green Berets perform direct combat missions, their core mission as the only Unconventional Warfare unit in the US inventory,  is to train, coach, teach and mentor others. A 12-man A-Team can train a force of 1,000 – 2,000 fighters and bring them up to an acceptable measure of combat readiness.  If you stop and think about it, that is 1,000 to 2,000 of our sons and daughters who do not have to go to war because of this training,” Morris said.

Addressing the issue of cultural sophistication, Morris explained how Green Berets are required to demonstrate proficiency in at least one foreign language.

Citing the Taliban, ISIS and historic insurgent groups such as Peru’s Shining Path – and even the decades-long Cold War effort to discredit communism, Waltz emphasizes that the need for a trans-generational, wide-ranging approach of this kind is by no means unprecedented.

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