Five suspected members of a drug-trafficking ring were arrested in Argentina and Russia as part of a joint police investigation that was launched more than a year ago after 389 kilograms of cocaine were found in the Russian Embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentinian officials say.
Argentinian Security Minister Patricia Bullrich said that the probe led to the arrest, on Feb. 22, 2018, of a naturalized Russian who was a member of the police force in Buenos Aires and another citizen of the South American country.
The investigation started in December 2016, when Russia’s ambassador to Argentina reported to Argentinian authorities that they had suspicions about luggage found in an annex of the embassy.
Once authorities confirmed that traffickers were trying to move 16 bags of cocaine from the embassy by way of a diplomatic flight, “a tracking device was placed in the suitcase that was to be used to make the shipment to Russia, which was its destination,” Bullrich told reporters.
The luggage was flown to Russia in 2017, and Bullrich said three Argentinian customs officials traveled to Russia to monitor the delivery.
In war games simulating a high-end fight against Russia or China, the US often loses, two experienced military war-gamers have revealed.
“In our games, when we fight Russia and China, ‘blue’ gets its ass handed to it,” David Ochmanek, a RAND warfare analyst, explained at the Center for a New American Security on March 7, 2019, Breaking Defense first reported. US forces are typically color-coded blue in these simulations.
“We lose a lot of people. We lose a lot of equipment. We usually fail to achieve our objective of preventing aggression by the adversary,” he said.
US stealth fighters die on the runway
At the outset of these conflicts, all five battlefield domains — land, sea, air, space, and cyberspace — are contested, meaning the US could struggle to achieve the superiority it has enjoyed in the past.
An F-35A joint strike fighter crew chief watches his aircraft approach for the first time at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, July 14, 2011.
(US Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)
In these simulated fights, the “red” aggressor force often obliterates US stealth fighters on the runway, sends US warships to the depths, destroys US bases, and takes out critical US military systems.
“In every case I know of, the F-35 rules the sky when it’s in the sky,” Robert Work, a former deputy secretary of defense and an experienced war-gamer, said March 7, 2019. “But it gets killed on the ground in large numbers.”
Neither China nor Russia has developed a fifth-generation fighter as capable as the F-35, but even the best aircraft have to land. That leaves them vulnerable to attack.
US warships are wiped off the board
“Things that sail on the surface of the sea are going to have a hard time,” Ochmanek said.
Aircraft carriers, traditional beacons of American military might, are becoming increasingly vulnerable. They may be hard to kill, but they are significantly less difficult to take out of the fight.
USS Enterprise is underway with its strike group in the Atlantic Ocean.
(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Harry Andrew D. Gordon)
Naval experts estimate that US aircraft carriers now need to operate at least 1,000 nautical miles from the Chinese mainland to keep out of range of China’s anti-ship missiles, according to USNI News.
US bases burn
“If we went to war in Europe, there would be one Patriot battery moving, and it would go to Ramstein [in Germany]. And that’s it,” Work explained, according to Breaking Defense. “We have 58 Brigade Combat Teams, but we don’t have anything to protect our bases. So what difference does it make?”
Simply put, the US military bases scattered across Europe and the Pacific don’t have the anti-air and missile-defense capabilities required to handle the overwhelming volume of fire they would face in a high-end conflict.
US networks and systems crumble
In a conflict against a near-peer threat, US communications satellites, command-and-control systems, and wireless networks would be crippled.
Marines participate in Hatch Mounted Satellite Communication Antenna System training on an MV-22B Osprey at Marine Corps Air Station New River, North Carolina, Feb. 12, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Gumchol Cho)
“The brain and the nervous system that connects all of these pieces is suppressed, if not shattered,” Ochmanek said of this scenario. Work said the Chinese call this type of attack “system destruction warfare.”
The Chinese would “attack the American battle network at all levels, relentlessly, and they practice it all the time,” Work said. “On our side, whenever we have an exercise, when the red force really destroys our command and control, we stop the exercise and say, ‘let’s restart.'”
A sobering assessment
“These are the things that the war games show over and over and over, so we need a new American way of war without question,” Work stressed.
Six High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems conduct a live-fire exercise as part of pre-deployment training at Ft. Bliss, Texas.
(Wisconsin National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Alex Baum)
Ochmanek and Work have both seen US war games play out undesirably, and their damning observations reflect the findings of an assessment done from fall 2018.
“If the United States had to fight Russia in a Baltic contingency or China in a war over Taiwan, Americans could face a decisive military defeat,” the National Defense Strategy Commission — a bipartisan panel of experts picked by Congress to evaluate the National Defense Strategy — said in a November 2018 report.
The report called attention to the erosion of the US’s military edge by rival powers, namely Russia and China, which have developed a “suite of advanced capabilities heretofore possessed only by the United States.”
The commission concluded the US is “at greater risk than at any time in decades.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
May is a month to celebrate military spouses and mothers, so let’s give a salute to all the military spouse moms holding the family together and keeping things going on the homefront!
Military life is always challenging, but it’s especially difficult when your service member is away and you’re the solo parent. This month, we shine a spotlight on military spouse moms navigating through deployments. Thank you, mothers, for your generous love and sacrifices.
To the mothers missing their service member:
We know it’s difficult when your service member is gone. It doesn’t matter how long they are away, whether it is a deployment, a TDY, or just a few days of training. We salute you, moms who are on your own. We know there are times when you cry in the shower or in your car, just so the kids won’t see your tears. And we know that you have what it takes to keep going.
“I’ve temporarily had to say see you later to my best friend, my teammate, and my partner in crime. My husband deploying was extremely difficult on myself and our four children. However, going through all of this without my husband allowed me to experience first-hand that I can, I will, I do, and I did handle deployment like a boss.” – Megan, Navy spouse
To the pregnant mothers:
We see you, moms who are juggling the difficulties of pregnancy with the obstacles of military life. To all those trying to plan a baby in between PCS moves and deployments, and experiencing sickness and fatigue on your own—we salute you! Even when you feel exhausted, you are everything your baby needs.
“I’m about to be a mom of two Irish twins. My son is 9 months old right now. I’m due again in three months. I’m very nervous not having my husband by my side for this one but I have to be strong for the both of us.” – Meagan, Army spouse
To the mothers of little ones:
We salute you, mothers surrounded by diapers and bottles, unfolded laundry, and art projects. When you feel like you’re going crazy, remember that you are not alone! You’re part of an incredible club of mothers who are making things work one day at a time.
“I am a mom of four under 7. I took a leave of absence from my job a few months into this deployment. I mentally couldn’t handle my career and solo parenting. It was the best decision I made, and has given me an opportunity to experience being a stay-at-home mom. Because I have so many young children, routine is really important.” – Emily, National Guard spouse
To the mothers of teens:
We know you’ve been feeling invisible ever since the middle school years. Even when your kids treat you like a taxi and meal delivery service, know that you are still their rock. We salute you for all the times you stay up late, taking care of the emotional needs of these bigger kids.
“Working mom of three teenage daughters here. That means this momma goes 100 mph six days a week. As tired as I am sometimes, I enjoy taking them to practices and games.” – Terri, Army spouse
To the mothers struggling with infertility:
Our hearts go out to the mothers who have struggled with the pain, loss, and disappointment of infertility. Whether you are already a mother hoping for more children, or you are longing to someday hold your own child, we see you and we salute you.
“We were going through IVF treatment during a year-long deployment. It was the most difficult deployment by far because I was going through a medical treatment that was draining emotionally and physically. It was a hard year, but it was a year of growth.” – Linda, Air Force spouse
To the mothers who are caregivers:
As a mother, you already give your energy, your love, and your care to your children. To those who also care for their service member or take on the responsibility of aging parents, we salute your generosity and we wish you all the patience in the world.
“I’ve lost a lot of my own independence and free time which is probably the hardest. I’m exhausted at the end of the day. Moving my mother-in-law in actually ended up being way harder and less help than we had hoped.” – Caitlin, National Guard spouse
To the stepmothers and blended families:
They should call you the bonus mom when you take on bonus kids and open your heart to his, yours, and ours. We salute your love, your patience, and your perseverance.
“We are a quintessential blended family. We each have children from previous marriages. I am pregnant with our second “ours” baby. Sea duty life has rocked our world for the last three years. He’s been gone as much as he’s been home.” – Julie, Navy spouse
To the mothers in dual military marriages:
You are juggling all the responsibilities, and so much falls on your shoulders. You are supporting your spouse’s military career, while pursuing your own, and trying to do what’s best for your children too. We salute you and thank you for your service!
“It’s hard being the service member and the spouse. Sometimes it’s easier to go to work and focus on a mission than it is to stay at home with the kids and not hear from him.” – Lauren, Navy married to a Marine
Whatever stage you are in, military spouse, we support you and wish you a happy Mother’s Day!
The Russian military successfully launched an intercontinental ballistic missile from its new Borei A-class submarine, the nuclear-powered Knyaz Vladimir, or Prince Vladimir, according to TASS, Russia’s state-run news agency.
The missile, the RSM-56 Bulava, has a range of 8,000 to 9,000 kilometers, or more than 5,000 miles, can carry six to 10 150-kiloton nuclear warheads, and has a yield of 1,150 kilograms. While its speed is unknown, Michael Duitsman, a research associate specializing in Russian missile technology at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at Middlebury College, estimates it’s in the range of Mach 16 to Mach 20. The Bulava has been in operational use since 2013, and it was fired for the first time from the nuclear-powered submarine on Oct. 29, 2019.
The Prince Vladimir is the first of the Borei A-class submarine, which has better noise reduction and improved communication equipment over the Borei class, Duitsman told Insider via email.
Russian Borei class nuclear ballistic missile submarine Alexander Nevsky.
According to the Moscow Times, the missile was launched from the Arkhangelsk region and traveled thousands of miles to the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia’s Far East — across the entire country.
Once it enters service — it is expected to in December — the Borei A-class strategic submarine will carry up to 16 of the Bulava missiles with four to six nuclear warheads each, according to the Moscow Times.
The missile was launched from a submerged position in the White Sea — the same place a devastating nuclear accident occurred in August 2019. In that instance, Russian engineers were attempting to recover a “Skyfall” missile from the bed of the White Sea when the weapon’s nuclear reactor exploded, causing the deaths of at least seven Russians. Russia’s handling of the incident has been referred to as a cover-up by a senior official at the State Department’s Bureau of Arms Control, Verification, and Compliance.
Russia’s Prince Vladimir submarine fires a Bulava missile into north Atlantic
The Bulava is understood to have a devastating payload — 50 to 60 times as powerful as the bomb the US dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. But just because it’s powerful, that doesn’t mean the Russian Navy is using the missile to menace its adversaries — in fact, it’s a defensive weapon.
The Bulava “forms part of Russia’s strategic deterrent force; the missiles are not for use in normal combat,” Duitsman told Insider. “Submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and ballistic missile submarines, deter an enemy from attacking you with nuclear weapons, because it is very difficult to find and destroy all of the submarines.”
The US counterparts to the Borei and the Bulava — the Ohio-class submarines and Trident II missiles — are more powerful in combination than the Russian offerings. The Ohio-class can carry 24 Trident II missiles, which have a longer range at 12,000 kilometers, a speed of Mach 24, and a payload of 2,800 kilograms. But, as Duitsman notes, the Ohio-class is 20 years old, and its replacement, the Columbia-class, isn’t scheduled to be in service until 2031.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
US military bases continue to use surveillance cameras manufactured by the Chinese firm Hikvision, according to the Financial Times, despite security concerns that the cameras could give the Chinese government a way to spy on sensitive US military installations. Government agencies will be banned from purchasing the equipment starting in August 2019.
The Financial Times found that Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado spent $112,000 in 2016 on cameras manufactured by Hikvision.
The headquarters of Air Force Space Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) are both located at Peterson. NORAD is charged with ensuring the sovereignty of American and Canadian airspace, and defending them from attack.
A Navy research base in Orlando, Florida purchased ,000 worth of Hikvision cameras after last year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which bans the purchase of such equipment, passed.
A C-17 Globemaster III loads with cargo on June 6, 2019, at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, one of the US military bases that purchased Chinese-made surveillance cameras before a ban took effect.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Andrew J. Bertain)
Both bases told The Financial Times that the cameras were not connected to the internet. The Florida base said that the cameras were being used as part of a training system. A spokesperson from Peterson said that the cameras were “not associated with base security or classified areas” and that the systems would be replaced.
The Chinese government owns 42% of Hikvision. Hikvision and Zhjiang Dahua Technology Co., another company banned by the NDAA, control approximately a third of the global video surveillance market, according to Bloomberg.
The ban extends to Huawei products and Hytera radios, too; the US State Department recently purchased ,000 worth of Hytera replacement parts for its Guatemalan embassy, and as of 2017, Army Special Forces used Hytera radios in training, according to The Financial Times.
Other bases, including Fort Drum in New York and Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, purchased Hikvision cameras in 2018, but did not disclose to the Financial Times whether they were still in use. The Defense Logistics Agency purchased nearly 0,000 worth of Hikvision cameras since 2018 for bases in Korea and Florida, but did not confirm to The Financial Times whether the cameras were still being used.
Last year, five Hikvision cameras were removed from Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri, although Col. Christopher Beck, a spokesperson for the base told the Wall Street Journal, “We never believed [the cameras] were a security risk. They were always on a closed network,” and that the cameras were removed to avoid “any negative perception.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
For a country that hasn’t been conquered since Tamerlane rolled through, Afghanistan has sure been shaped by all those who tried to control it. Today, there’s even a little strip of land in the country’s northeast that forms a panhandle – strange for such a small strip considering the major powers who fought for control of the area.
It was those major powers who created the panhandle in the first place. Today it borders China, Tajikistan, and Pakistan. But during a period of time in Afghan history known as “The Great Game,” those countries were parts of China, the Russian Empire, and the British Empire, respectively.
A treaty between Russia and Great Britain in 1873 made the Panj and Pamir Rivers the border between the Russian Empire and Afghanistan’s northern border. In 1893, the Durand Line became Afghanistan’s border with British India. A mostly independent Afghanistan was a buffer zone between the two growing empires.
It’s an area even more ungovernable than the rest of Afghanistan. At elevations as high as 17,000 feet in some areas, the area is inaccessible to most Afghans – and even the Taliban and the Soviet Union were unable (or unwilling) to fully move into the area.
The form of Islam practiced in the Wakhan is very hostile to the Taliban, a further explanation of the lack of central interference from Kabul.
The 3,500-mile area used to be a route along the Silk Road and was traversed by great historical figures like Alexander the Great and Marco Polo. People there still depend on trade, but this remote part of Afghanistan’s Badakhshan Province sees little in the way of tourists or even Afghan visitors.
Today the area has few roads, no government, and is home to roughly 12,000 nomadic and semi-nomadic people.
An amended executive order gave the Defense Department the authority to recall up to 1,000 retired pilots to address a personnel shortage.
The Air Force says it doesn’t currently intend to recall those pilots however.
The Air Force says it doesn’t plan to use new authority granted by an amended executive order to recall retired pilots to correct an ongoing personnel shortage.
“The Air Force does not currently intend to recall retired pilots to address the pilot shortage,” Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said on Oct. 22. “We appreciate the authorities and flexibility delegated to us.”
A Pentagon spokesman said on Oct. 20 that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis requested the move.
Mattis was expected to delegate to the Air Force secretary the authority to recall up to 1,000 retired pilots for up to three years.
The Air Force is currently about 1,500 pilots shy of the 20,300 it is mandated to have. About 1,000 of those absent are fighter pilots. Some officials have deemed the shortage a “quiet crisis.”
Under current law, the Air Force was limited to recalling 25 pilots; the executive order temporarily lifts that cap.
The Air Force has already pursued a number of new policies to retain current pilots and train new ones. In August, the service announced that it would welcome back up to 25 retired pilots who elected to return to fill “critical-rated staff positions” so active-duty pilots could continue in their current assignments.
There is no gift more uniquely Afghan than something made of the mineral lapis lazuli. Since the dawn of human civilization, nowhere was the powerful blue rock more plentiful than in this now-war-torn country. The history of using this stone in jewelry dates back to the days of the Pharaohs of the Nile River Valley, but its time as a mineral dates back much further, to the Archean Eon — before life on Earth.
Now, you can wear a small piece of it while helping the women of Afghanistan put their lives back together. Combat Flip-Flops, the clothing company founded by two Army Rangers with a mission of using business entrepreneurship and women’s education to end the cycle of conflict in the Afghanistan, has a new product: a bracelet made from lapis lazuli. Each is handmade in Afghanistan using stones from the Sar-i Sang Mines — the same mine whose ores have decorated ancient kings and queens across the known world.
Lapis lazuli has a rich history and you can own a piece of it. We’re working with Combat Flip-Flops to give our readers 20-percent off their purchase when using the coupon code at the end of this article.
Lapis lazuli dates back some 2.7 billion years — that’s more than half of the Earth’s total age. It wasn’t until well after its formation that the first stirrings of single-celled organisms began to appear on Earth. Humans didn’t appear as we know them until five to seven million years ago.
This stone is, truly, timeless.
The raw lapis lazuli gives the mask its deep blues.
(Egyptian Musum in Cairo)
Humans in what we today call Afghanistan first began mining and using lapis lazuli around the 7th millennium BC, the same time agriculture began to spring from Mesopotamia. The beauty of the deep blue stones has been found at numerous ancient sites, from the Indus Valley in modern-day India to the Caucasus Mountains of Russia, Georgia, and Armenia. Afghan lapis lazuli was even found on the West Coast of Africa. Queen Cleopatra is said to have used it as eyeshadow and the mineral adorns King Tutankhamun’s burial mask.
In the middle ages, lapis lazuli was imported through the Silk Road, crushed, and turned into the deepest blue hues of paint available anywhere on earth: the ultra-expensive, ultramarine color. Artists like Michelangelo, Titian, and Vermeer all used the color in their most famous works.
The skies depicted on the Sistine Chapel are all painted with ultramarine, from lapis lazuli of Afghanistan.
For 6,000 years Afghans have mined the Sar-i Sang for lapis lazuli. The deeply blue-hued mineral can be found on everything from Johannes Vermeer’s masterpiece, Girl with a Pearl Earring, to Fabergé Eggs on display in St. Petersburg.
Now, it can adorn your wrist or the wrist of someone you love. Besides having a rich history laced with historical beauty, purchasing one of the lapis lazuri bracelets from Combat Flip-Flops will fund one day of school for a young Afghan girl, employ an Afghan war widow, and support the relatives of fallen American troops..
Sold in conjunction with TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, America’s premiere nonprofit dedicated to the families of America’s fallen fighting men and women), this lapis lazuli bracelet is made in Afghanistan, shipped to the U.S., and prepared for you by members of a Gold Star Family.
If you’ve never heard of Combat Flip-Flops before now, check out this vet-owned business. They’re doing some amazing things at home and abroad.
When Meredith Willcox learned some Veterans had issues with comprehension because of COVID-19 masking policies, she did something about it.
Willcox, of Kirksville, Missouri, is the 95-year-old grandmother of a health provider at Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans’ Hospital. She used the internet and her sewing skills to make specialized masks to help Veterans with significant hearing loss.
“Hearing aids are wonderful tools,” said Laura Jacobs, an audiologist at Truman VA and Willcox’s granddaughter. “We use them to treat hearing loss in our Veteran patient population.
“The VA offers our Veterans state-of-the-art hearing devices that utilize Bluetooth technology. Our devices are the best of the best in hearing aids. However, even with extremely high-quality aids, some of our Veterans have such significant hearing loss that this technology isn’t enough for them to comprehend speech.”
Meredith Willcox, a 95-year-old grandmother from Kirksville, Missouri, displays some of the specialty hand-sewn masks she donated to Truman VA’s Audiology team.
Reading lips impossible with standard mask
Jacobs said that in extreme cases, some Veterans must rely on a combination of hearing aids and visually reading a speaker’s lips to understand conversations. This is extremely important during clinic visits with their providers. However, because clinicians must wear a mask, reading lips has been impossible ― that is, until now.
“After mentioning this issue to my grandmother, she went online and learned how to make masks that incorporate a clear mouth covering,” Jacobs said. “So far, she has made 40 specialized face masks for our clinic. I’ve always known that she was an amazing person. However, for her to take the ball and run with it as she’s done with these masks. Well, let’s just say I’m extremely proud of her!”
In the photo above, Jacobs wears one of her grandmother’s handmade masks while caring for a Veteran with profound hearing loss.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Truman VA has received an outpouring of support from the mid-Missouri community.
“I can’t put into words what it means to have this level of support,” said Patricia Hall, medical center director of Truman VA. “So many have come forward at a time of extreme uncertainty. I believe without a doubt that their generosity and support helped our team get through these dark times.”
“We truly appreciate everyone’s generosity,” said Ron Graves, Chief of Voluntary Services at Truman VA. “I especially want to thank Veterans United Home Loans. They provided daily meals for our front line staff for almost three straight months. They also made sure to use area businesses to help stimulate our local economy. I thought that was an amazing gesture.”
“There are too many individuals to name who have made reusable cloth face masks for our Veterans, visitors and staff,” Graves said. “But just to show you the level of support we’ve received in this area, Quilts of Valor, Central Missouri Mask Makers and Hanes Brands, Inc., together provided us with more than 3,000 donated cloth masks.”
Heather Black, LPN, Truman VA’s own Betsy Ross, displays just a few of the 623 masks she’s sewn for Truman VA Veterans, visitors and staff.
Nurse sewed over 600 masks…on her breaks!
Graves said Truman VA staff also should be recognized. Housekeepers, warehouse employees, frontline staff and other support personnel ― all have been important in the fight against COVID-19. However, he acknowledged one individual for going above and beyond in support of her colleagues and the Veterans that receive care at Truman VA.
“Heather Black, a nurse in Specialty Care Clinic, donated 623 hand-sewn masks,” Graves said. “She works full time on-site. She brought her sewing machine to work and makes masks before and after her shifts. Also, during her breaks. How can you not be awed by such dedication?”
“For those individuals who have made masks for us, provided meals or in any other way supported us throughout this global pandemic, we truly appreciate your efforts,” Hall said. “Each one of you has made such a positive impact on our team, and we thank you!”
The US and South Korean militaries carried out a training exercise focused on “infiltrating North Korea and removing weapons of mass destruction in case of conflict,” military sources told Yonhap News.
Lt. Col. Christopher B. Logan, a spokesman for the US military in South Korea, told Business Insider that the US military doesn’t “discuss specific scenarios,” but that “exercises are vital to the readiness of the US and our allies, and ensure we are ready and trained for combined-joint operations.”
Online video of the exercise, called Warrior Strike, shows US troops training in protective gear and in urban environments, much as they might if they had to fight through a situation where nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons had been used.
If war broke out between the US, South Korea, and North Korea, a key task early in the conflictwould be seizing control of, or destroying, Pyongyang’s weapons of mass destruction.
Though its arsenal remains secretive, experts suspect North Korea possesses chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons. North Korea has frequently threatened nuclear attacks on South Korea and the US, and demonstrated nuclear devices six times.
At the moment, China and Russia accuse the US of escalating tensions with North Korea as it increases its military drills, while the US pushes the world to implement strict sanctions on Pyongyang and refuses to accept the nation’s illegally forged nuclear status.
The Air Force has made a number of moves to reduce its shortage of active-duty pilots, including bringing on more retired pilots to administrative roles in order to keep qualified fliers in the air.
Now the service is looking to expand the number of pilots it draws in from the Air National Guard and Reserve to fill vacancies across the active-duty force.
On Oct. 1, the Total Force Aircrew Management — Assignment Augmentation Process grew from 10 positions to 30, in an effort to bring active reserve-component fighter pilots who are available and interested into the active-duty force for two to three years, according to an Air Force release.
“This is a growing total-force program,” said Maj. Walt Ehman, head of the TFAM-AAP. “It enables all air components to help fill pilot-assignment positions around the world.” (Positions are only open to fighter pilots and fighter-combat-systems officers, however.)
The TFAM-AAP, started in 2014, brings together the management of active-duty, Air Guard, and Reserve aircrew resources, whereas previously each component had its own office overseeing officers and career enlisted airmen.
“TFAM enables the use of a single agreed-upon model, in one office, to make training and resource decisions, provide policy guidance, and make integrated recommendations to solving problems like aircrew shortfalls,” Ehman said.
Boosting TFAM-AAP openings is one of many initiatives the Air Force is pursuing to improve retention, production, and absorption.
On the retention side, a number of quality-of-life improvements have been implemented, including reducing administrative duties for pilots and increasing pay and bonuses.
To boost production, the Air Force is considering outsourcing some aspects of training, like adversary-pilot duties, as well as partnering with external organizations to augment the training process.
The Air Force’s Voluntary Rated Return to Active Duty, or VRRAD, program is also open to up to 25 retired fliers from any pilot specialty code who elect to return to fill “critical-rated staff positions,” allowing active-duty pilots to stay with units where they are needed to meet mission requirements.
An amended executive order signed by President Donald Trump earlier this month also allows the Air Force to recall up to 1,000 pilots to active duty for up to three years. However, Brig. Gen. Mike Koscheski, director of the Air Force’s aircrew crisis task force, has said the service doesn’t intended to force anyone back into active duty.
Rather, he told Military.com, the executive order is an addendum to the VRRAD, giving the Air Force “more access to more retirees” for a longer period of time. Koscheski said the order opened the VRRAD program to personnel who could act as instructors.
The Air Force’s component forces are about 1,500 pilots short of the 20,300 they are required to have. According to Koscheski, 1,300 of those absent are fighter pilots.
Fighting fires is hungry work. And since firefighters spend long hours, even days, at the fire station, it naturally falls to some schlub rookie to lace up an apron and put food on the table. That’s normally how it goes.
But Meals Ready To Eat doesn’t profile normal.
In South Philadelphia, there’s a fire station where things go down a bit differently. That’s because the members of Philly’s Fire Engine 60, Ladder 19 are lucky enough to count a gourmet chef among their ranks. In fact, he outranks most of them. He’s Lieutenant Bill Joerger, he’s a former Marine and this kitchen is his by right of mastery.
It is a little weird for a ranking officer to spend hours rustling the chow. It’s a little strange that he goes to such lengths to source ingredients for his culinary art. It’s a bit outlandish when those meals are complex enough to necessitate a demo plate.
But Bill Joerger doesn’t care about any of that. When not actively saving lives, he cares about honing his cooking skills, eating well, and creating — in the midst of a chaotic work environment — some small sacred space where everyone can relax and just be people together.
“You have the brotherhood in the Marine Corps, and it’s the same as being in the firehouse…it’s some satisfaction for me to know that I’m producing a good meal for these guys after the things that we deal with on a daily basis.”
Meals Ready to Eat host August Dannehl spent a day with Joerger at the firehouse, experiencing the often violent stop-and-start nature of a firefighter’s day and, in the down moments, sous-cheffing for the Lieutenant. The story of how Joerger found his way from the Marine Corps to a cookbook and then to the firehouse kitchen is a lesson in utilizing one’s passion to impose some order in the midst of life’s disarray.
CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. — For more than four decades, the amphibious assault vehicle has been key to getting Marines ashore and into the fight.
US Marine Corps AAVs are large, tracked vehicles capable of operating in the water and on land that are essential for getting Marines onto the beach in an assault, and Insider recently had the opportunity to climb inside.
The AAV replaced the older Landing Vehicle, Tracked (LVT) and is expected to eventually be replaced by the Amphibious Combat Vehicle (ACV), but for now, the AAV is the go-to vehicle for amphibious assaults.
Over the past month, the Marines at Camp Pendleton in California have been training with their Japanese partners to execute an amphibious assault in the latest iteration of Iron Fist.
“AAVs bring a lot to that fight,” 2nd Lt. Nicholas Pierret, an officer in charge on a live-fire range, told Insider as the gunners practiced putting fire down range.
An AAV is a lightly-armored, fully-tracked amphibious landing vehicle specifically designed to get troops from ship to shore, as well as take troops inland to continue the fight.
Although Marine Corps AAVs are more than 40 years old, these 30-ton tracked vehicles are still the “the number one vehicle” to perform the amphibious assault task, Pierret told Insider.
These heavy “amphibious tractors” are commonly called “amtracs” or “tracks” by Marines.
Each AAV can carry around two dozen Marines and their gear.
The standard operating procedure for these vehicles is three operators — the crew chief, the driver, and the rear crewman — and 21 infantry.
It is currently the only operational Marine Corps vehicle capable of operating on land and in the water.
AAVs can run at a maximum speed of around 45 mph on land but only about 8 mph in the water, where they maintain an exceptionally low profile with over 75 percent of this amphibious armored personnel carrier submerged.
The AAV has a V-8 diesel engine that powers two water jets that propel it through water. In combat, it can push through waves up to 10 feet high. The ride can be rough, and there are no seat belts. It’s not uncommon for people to throw up.
AAVs are armed with significantly more firepower than the infantry units they carry ashore.
The amtracs, as the Marine’s call them, are equipped with a Mk 19 40mm grenade launcher and M2HB .50-caliber machine gun, weapons operated by the crew chief.
“Those are heavy firepower assets. Infantry has nothing that compares,” Pierret explained.
AAVs can be outfitted with additional weaponry as needed.
For example, the Marines have AAVs outfitted with Mk 154 Mine Clearing Line Charges (MICLICs) that can fire a rocket-propelled explosive line charge filled with C4 to eliminate mines and improvised explosive devices.
These AAVs can clear an entire lane out to a distance of about 100 yards.
In addition to these assets, the Marines inside all have their service weapons.
Each of the infantrymen riding in the AAV will dismount with their M4 service rifle.
Besides bringing extra firepower to the fight, another thing AAVs are really good for is logistics.
“They can carry supplies, ammo, MREs,” Pierret told Insider, referring to the sealed Meals Ready to Eat that troops eat in the field. “An AAV is also a very good casualty evacuation platform.”
On land, additional gear can be stored externally.
Marines can also live inside an AAV if necessary.
An amphibious assault vehicle is big enough to serve as an armored battle camper when necessary. Some Marines are said to call it a battle RV.
Sgt. Juan Torres Jr., a section leader, told Insider that he once lived out of an AAV for almost a month and a half. “You’re out in the field,” he said, “This is your home.”
Marines can even shower in them.
Theoretically, there is supposed to be air circulating inside the vehicle, but when it’s packed with Marines and the engine is running, it gets really hot, one Marine told Insider.
“A couple days in the field, and we’re smelly,” they said.
AAV crews can shower in their tracks using five gallon jugs filled with water carried onboard or stored in the hull. The AAV can hold up to 171 gallons of any liquid.
It takes a ton of maintenance to keep these old amtracs operational.
A few hours of training can require as much as four times as much prep work and maintenance, Torres told Insider.
“The four hours of cool stuff we get to do adds up to about 16 hours of hard work and preparation if not more,” he said.