U.S. Army weapons officials have figured out the cause and ginned up a fix for a dangerous glitch in the selector switch of M4 and M4A1 carbines that could cause the weapon to fire unintentionally.
In June 2018, Military.com reported that about 3,000 Army M4 and M4A1s had failed new safety inspections begun after the service’s Tank-automotive and Armaments Command sent out a safety-of-use message in March 2018 to all branches of the U.S. military, advising units to perform an updated functions check on all variants of M16s and M4s after a soldier experienced an unexplained, unintended discharge.
After more than 50,000 weapons were checked, TACOM officials discovered the cause of the glitch and halted the inspections, TACOM spokesman R. Slade Walters told Military.com.
“After receiving a significant number of reports from the field and an average failure rate of about 6 percent of the weapons inspected, we ended the inspections and have determined that the cause of the problem is a tolerance stack of the internal firing components,” he said in an email. “The problem is fixed by modifying the selector to remove the tolerance issue and the fault. TACOM is working on an Army-wide directive to repair weapons with the issue that will be released when it is approved at the appropriate levels.”
During a follow-up phone interview, Walters said, “Each individual part conforms to the tolerance requirements, but when the multiple parts get stuck together in 6 to 9 percent of the weapons, depending on which models you are looking at … those tolerances create that condition.”
“So in some weapons it’s not a problem and in others it is,” he said, explaining that the lower receiver’s internal parts need “some machining and or grinding to slightly modify the internal components.”
“When they do that, it fixes the problem … and when they have done it and repeated it, they have been able to correct the problem in weapons showing the issue,” he added.
The receiver of a former M4 carbine shows laser etching to reflect it is now an M4A1 capable of firing on full-auto.
(U.S. Army photo)
Most failures occurred in M4A1s. The M4A1s that had been converted from M4s suffered 2,070 failures out of 23,000 inspected, a 9 percent failure rate. Out of about 16,000 original M4A1s inspected, 960 suffered failures, a 6 percent failure rate.
Less than one percent of the 4,000 M4s checked failed the updated functions check. And less than one percent of the 8,500 M16A2s checked failed the test as well.
About 500 M16A4s were also checked, but no failures were reported.
The Marine Corps also uses the M4 carbine, but the service said in June 2018 that its weapons were passing the new functions check.
The glitch-testing started when a Fort Knox soldier’s M4A1 selector switch became stuck in-between the semi and auto settings. When the soldier pulled the trigger, the weapon failed to fire. The soldier then moved the selector switch and the weapon fired, the TACOM message states.
The M4A1 is now the Army’s primary individual weapon. The service is converting M4 carbines to M4A1s through the M4 Product Improvement program. The M4A1 has been used by special operations forces for about two decades. It features a heavier barrel and a full-automatic setting instead of the three-round burst setting on standard M4s.
The Army said that all new M4A1s being issued are being checked for the selector glitch and corrected as needed, Walters said.
“Anybody who has gotten a new weapon in the last month or two has gotten weapons free of this error,” he said. “It’s not a small number; it’s like several thousand. It has already been implemented in the supply chain.”
It’s unclear if TACOM will have unit armorers fix the weapons that showed the glitch or if TACOM technicians will do the work, Walters said. He added that “this is still pre-decisional.”
TACOM officials also could not explain why the glitch had not shown up in the past.
“It was just a weird fluke,” Walters said. “In the number of rounds that have gone through those models in the number of years those models have been available, it’s like a winning-the-lottery kind of fluke. And the fact that we discovered it is just one of those things.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Pennsylvania State Rep. Rick Saccone’s bill that would make it a misdemeanor for someone to benefit from lying about military service or receiving decorations or medals unanimously passed the state Senate on June 20th and now heads to Gov. Tom Wolfs desk to be signed into law.
House Bill 168, introduced by Saccone, R-Elizabeth Township, in January, bans anyone from economically benefiting from lying about their service or decorations. Violators could be charged with a third-degree misdemeanor for doing so.
“Our men and women of the armed forces and their families deserve the utmost respect and praise, and criminals who disguise themselves as illegitimate veterans demean our true American heroes,” Saccone said.
Some people have actually tried to make money by falsely claiming veteran status, said Saccone, an Air Force veteran and a 2018 US Senate candidate. They will now be brought to account.
Saccone said lying about military service or medals to make money is truly an insult and discredit to the men and women who have selflessly sacrifices their lives on the battlefield.
Saccone introduced the same legislation in May 2016, calling it the Stolen Valor Act. It unanimously passed the state House in June 2016, but did not advance out of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
When the new legislative session started in January, Saccone re-introduced his bill and it passed the House 190-0 in April.
In 2013, Congress passed the federal Stolen Valor Act, which addressed those who might lie about having military decorations and medals, such as the Congressional Medal of Honor or Purple Heart, in order to obtain benefits.
Those convicted of violating the federal law can face fines and up to a year in jail.
Army Private John R. McKinney was resting after a shift on guard duty in the Luzon area of the Philippines in May 1945 when his position was attacked by some 100 Japanese soldiers at a full run. McKinney, who was part of his unit’s perimeter defense, was cut in the ear with an enemy saber as he rested in his tent that night.
As the other men in McKinney’s machine gun squad worked to get the weapon ready, McKinney grabbed his service rifle and beat his attacker with it. He then shot another enemy soldier who tried to interrupt that beating.
Unfortunately, one of the machine gunners was injured in the attack and the other tried to carry him to safety. Private McKinney was now alone – and ten Japanese infantrymen were turning the machine gun around. McKinney jumped into the gun’s position and shot seven of those ten enemy troops at point blank range. He then clubbed the three others with the butt of his rifle.
Unfortunately for him, when McKinney took control of the machine gun, he found the weapon was inoperative. And there were more Japanese troops coming – a lot more. They were lobbing grenades and mortar shells onto his position. So, he did what any combat-hardened Army private would do: he switched positions.
His new position had ammo in it. Lots of ammo.
For 36 minutes, McKinney reloaded his service rifle and repeatedly picked up others as waves of oncoming Japanese troops attempted to swarm and overrun him. He fired almost nonstop into the charge. When he couldn’t fire anymore, he flipped his rifle around and began to club them to death or engage in brutal hand-to-hand combat.
When all was said and done, 40 Japanese soldiers of the 100 who attacked McKinney lay dead, including the two mortarmen… who were 45 yards away. He protected the fellow members of his company as they slept, killing one enemy soldier every 56 seconds for the duration of the attack.
Not only did he repel the Japanese assault, but he was still alive and in complete control of the area. John R. McKinney died in 1997, at the ripe old age of 76.
During the Vietnam War, the Republic F-105 Thunderchief — affectionately known as the “Thud” — was one of the U.S. Air Force’s primary strike aircraft. But amidst mounting losses from North Vietnamese surface-to-air missiles and anti-aircraft artillery, the Thud took on a new role — the Wild Weasel.
The Wild Weasels of the United States Air Force were some of the most courageous pilots in Vietnam. In a deadly game of cat and mouse, they flew fighter jets like the F-100, F-105 and F-4s deep into hostile airspace to coax the enemy into opening fire with their surface-to-air missiles. Once the Weasels located the site, other fighter bombers were called in to destroy the installations. In this episode of Warriors in their Own Words, Jerry Hoblit, Bill Sparks, Mike Gilroy, and Tom Wilson tell dramatic stories of their days as Wild Weasels.
F-105s take off on a mission to bomb North Vietnam, 1966.
A history of the Wild Weasels
The F-105 was originally conceived as a single-seat, tactical nuclear strike-fighter. In the early days of the war, these single-seat variants, F-105D’s, flew strike missions with Combat Air Patrol provided by F-100s to defend against MiG fighters.
However, during Operation Rolling Thunder in 1965, North Vietnamese air defenses improved with the addition of Soviet-made SA-2 Guideline missiles.
As American losses mounted from North Vietnamese SAMs and AAA, the decision was made to employ specialized F-100F two-seat fighters in a suppression role code-named “Wild Weasel.”
When the idea of flying directly into enemy air defenses was first briefed to the men flying the mission, an Electronic Warfare Officer gave the Wild Weasels their first motto by exclaiming,
“You gotta be sh*ttin’ me!”
After heavy losses in just seven weeks, it quickly became apparent that the F-100 was an insufficient aircraft to carry out the missions. The first Wild Weasel unit flying F-100’s was declared combat ineffective.
As luck would have it, Republic had produced two-seat trainer variants of the F-105 shortly before the end of the production run in 1964. These were quickly modified as the F-105F and rushed into the Wild Weasel role.
The newest Thud was also equipped to carry the first ever anti-radiation missile, the AGM-45 Shrike. These initial aircraft were designated Wild Weasel II.
Even with the improved F-105F, the tactics often remained the same as with the F-100. Using hunter-killer teams, a Wild Weasel aircraft would guide a flight of Thuds loaded with bombs and rockets to find the SAM sites and destroy them.
The Wild Weasel was essentially the bait.
Using their advanced radars and warning devices — or sometimes good ol’ drawing enemy fire — the Wild Weasels would “ferret out” the SAM sites, which then allowed the Thuds to come in and pulverize the position. This was often accomplished by simply following the missile’s smoke trail back to its launch site.
As the F-105F models were upgraded to G-models, known as Wild Weasel III, the Air Force began to change the tactics employed. The Wild Weasels would fly in ahead of a strike package to clear the area of SAMs, stay over the target during the bombing raid in order to attack any other SAMs or AAA that appeared, and then maintain their position until the bombers left the area, at which time they themselves would head for home as well.
This led to incredibly long, dangerous missions for the Wild Weasel crews–often three to five hours of intense flying in hostile air space. It also led to another motto for the Wild Weasels: “First In, Last Out.”
The Wild Weasel mission was exceedingly dangerous, but there was no shortage of brave, if not slightly crazy, volunteers willing to carry it out. Two Wild Weasel Thud pilots would be awarded the Medal of Honor for their gallantry in the air.
As his flight entered the target area, the lead engaged in a duel with a SAM site but was shot down while his wingman, Lincoln 02, was put out of action by flak. This left Dethlefsen and his wingman, Lincoln 04, to deal with the SAMs in the area. As Dethlefsen dove for an attack on the SAM site, he was jumped by two MiG-21 fighters.
Dodging two enemy missiles, he fled for cover in the enemy’s flak zone, betting that his pursuers wouldn’t follow. He again pressed the attack on the SAM and was again driven off by the fighters, his Thud absorbing several 37mm cannon shells.
As the strike package egressed from the area Dethlefsen decided to try one more time to destroy the SAM site. Leading his wingman in, he fired his AGM-45 and destroyed the radar. With the defenses down, the two Thuds pummeled the site with their bomb loads.
For good measure Dethlefsen rolled over and strafed the site with his 20mm cannon.
The second Medal of Honor was awarded to Lt. Col. Leo Thorsness for his actions on April 19, 1967. While leading a Wild Weasel mission of F-105’s, Thorsness and his wingman attacked and destroyed a SAM with missiles. Spotting another SAM, they proceeded to move in and destroy it with their bomb loads.
However, Thorsness’ wingman was shot down in the attack. The two crewmen bailed out and as they descended, Thorsness circled them to provide protection and maintain sight for the inbound rescue crews. As he did this, a MiG-17 approached.
Thorsness quickly responded and blasted the MiG with his 20mm cannon, sending it to the ground. As the rescue crews approached the scene, Thorsness peeled off to refuel; however, hearing of more MiG-17’s in the area, he quickly returned to the fight. Seeing the enemy fighters attempting a wagon wheel maneuver, he drove straight in and raked a MiG as it crossed his path.
Thorsness bugged out on afterburners at low-level to avoid the pursuing fighters. Eventually Thorsness was forced to return to base, almost out of fuel. He put his plane into a “glide” and landed at a forward air base with empty tanks.
Eventually high losses and improving technology would see many F-105’s replaced by the newer F-4 Phantom II in the Wild Weasel and strike roles, though F-105G’s continued to operate as Wild Weasels through the end of the war.
Being promoted within the US military’s noncommissioned officer rank is a special occasion in a service member’s career, after which they are entrusted by their commanders to lead junior enlisted service members and are assigned more responsibilities.
One Marine marked the special occasion with what appeared to be his 3-year-old son.
In a video posted online last year, a newly minted Marine sergeant marches to the front of a formation for his promotion ceremony, standing at attention as a senior Marine reads out a commander’s order outlining his new responsibilities.
“As a sergeant of Marines, you must set the example for others to emulate,” the senior Marine says. “You are responsible for the accomplishment of your assigned mission, and for the safety, professional development, and well-being of the Marines of your charge.”
After the order was read out, a child approaches the formation and says, quietly, “good afternoon, gentlemen,” before the promoted Marine kneels so the child can remove his chevrons and pin on the emblems of his new rank.
The two share an embrace before the son scurries away.
Now, you can bring that magic to bedtime. Whether it’s for you, your little one, a grandchild or just that Disney lover in your life, calling for a bedtime message is easy, fun, and best of all, it’s free.
The author’s daughter sound asleep at Disney. Photo/Tessa Robinson
For a limited time (until April 30), ShopDisney.com is offering bedtime messages from some of our favorite Disney characters. Callers can choose a special goodnight greeting from Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy or Goofy. The messages are so endearing, tucking your little one in for the night and telling them to have sweet dreams.
Even though spring break trips are canceled and the legendary theme parks have shut down all over the world in response to COVID-19, we all could use a little Disney magic.
When you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are Anything your heart desires will come to you If your heart is in your dream, no request is too extreme When you wish upon a star as dreamers do.
Master Sgt. Mike Iaukea, 14th Air Force Combined Force Space Component Command special missions division manager, enjoys an afternoon of fly fishing Oct. 24, 2019, near Wall beach at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. Iaukea takes advantage of the coastline a few times a week to fish to unwind from his day-to-day life, which helps maintain his comprehensive health. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Aubree Milks)
Fishing takes an insane amount of patience, but it should be spent waiting for the perfect catch, not used solely on managing your line.
The Gerber LineDriver Fishing MultiTool is a game changer, and no, we’re not getting paid to say that.
The compact, dual ended LineDriver has six essential functions, really everything you could possibly need to simplify line management. The spinning hook vise securely clamps onto a hook or lure, spinning the line as you tie the knot. An eyelet clearing spike cleans out debris and old line, making it much easier to thread new line. The dual serrated scissors can function as unlocked full range or pull-through blades when locked. A split shot crimper is housed at the tip of the snips scissors for added utility. And, it clips on your belt and has a built in lanyard hole.
One reviewer who gave the tool five out of five stars, said, “The linedriver is a breakthrough tool for anglers. I’ve never used a tool that does so many things well while being so light and taking up little space. This tool should be in everyone’s kit.”
While the tool makes it easier for any angler, this could be a complete game changer for our veterans who have lost a hand or an arm. One of Gerber’s reviewers, John Mestlin, posted on the site, “I recently purchased the linedriver and it is truly amazing. I don’t have a right hand and forearm so to tie a hook or barrel swivel on was very difficult. I was always asking for help. I am able to tie everything myself now because of this tool. To the developer of this tool you are truly a blessing to me, now when I’m on the water I have my independence. Thank you so much.”
Fishing has long been viewed as an outstanding activity for veterans to find their center, their calm and to connect with both nature and themselves. As any fisherman can attest, there’s a tranquility the quiet of the water brings. If you’re not ready to take the leap yourself, Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing, Inc (PHWFF) was founded to help wounded military find that peace.
PHWFF began in 2005 serving wounded military service members at Walter Reed Army Medical Center returning from combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. Since then, PHWFF has expanded nationwide, establishing its highly successful program in Department of Defense hospitals, Warrior Transition Units, and Veterans Affairs Medical Centers and clinics.
Project Healing Waters brings a high-quality, full-spectrum fly fishing program to an ever-expanding number of disabled active military service personnel across the Veterans Affairs Healthcare System, in Military Hospitals and the Warrior Transition Command. PHWFF has become recognized as an innovative leader and model in the field of therapeutic outdoor recreation for the disabled, through its successful application of the sport of fly fishing as a rehabilitation tool.
One program participant commented, “”You all saved my life. And I don’t say that lightly. This program has turned my life around and I want to be part of life again. I found hope on the river.” An SFC, Army Medic added, “This program has done more for me than all the years of therapy the military has thrown my way. Counselling and therapy are great, but what PHWFF has done for me is literally life-saving.”
Whether you buy the Gerber LineDriver Fishing MultiTool or join PHWCC, it’s time to find your peace on the water.
Military doctrine identifies five domains of warfare — land, sea, air, space, and information. While borders and barriers define the four natural domains, the fifth dimension, with the advancements of artificial intelligence, is rapidly expanding with the potential to destabilize free and open international order.
Nations like China and Russia are making significant investments in AI for military purposes, potentially threatening world norms and human rights.
This year the Defense Department, in support of the National Defense Strategy, launched its Artificial Intelligence Strategy in concert with the White House executive order creating the American Artificial Intelligence Strategy.
The DoD AI strategy states the U.S., together with its allies and partners, must adopt AI to maintain its strategic position, prevail on future battlefields and safeguard order.
“The (executive order) is paramount for our country to remain a leader in AI, and it will not only increase the prosperity of our nation but also enhance our national security,” said Dana Deasy, DoD chief information officer.
Deasy also launched the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center in February 2019 to transform the DoD by accelerating the delivery and adoption of AI to achieve mission impact at scale. The goal is to use AI to solve large and complex problem sets that span multiple services; then, ensure the services and components have real-time access to ever-improving libraries of data sets and tools.
Col. Jason M. Brown is the Air Force Lead at the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center believes developing robust artificial intelligence capability is necessary to stay inside a potential adversaries decision making loop.
“The United States needs to drive the development of AI otherwise our adversaries will and we can’t rely that certain adversaries or rivals out there won’t develop AI that meets our standards when it comes to ethics, safety and surety,” said Col. Jason M. Brown, the Air Force lead for the JAIC.
For the DoD that also means working hand in hand with partners and industry leaders in technology and innovation to get smarter, faster.
At the 2019 Air Warfare Symposium, Mark Cuban, renowned entrepreneur and investor, spoke about the world industry competition in AI.
“It’s scary,” Cuban said. “AI is not just important — it’s everything. That’s how the battles (of the future) will be fought.”
Cuban explained China has a huge advantage because they are doing things the U.S. won’t and they have made AI a national focus over the last couple of years.
Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force, Gen. Stephen Wilson discusses the need for developing artificial intelligence capabilities with Mark Cuban at the Air Force Association Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando. Fla. in Feb. 2019.
(U.S. Air Force)
“In order to do AI it’s not just about capturing data, which is important, it’s not about algorithms and research into AI; it’s how fast can you process,” Cuban said. “If there’s somebody that has a (fabrication facility) in China that’s building more advanced processors that’s just as important as keeping track of warheads.”
Brown believes AI deterrence will soon be on par with the mission of nuclear deterrence.
“If our adversaries see us moving at a speed and scale because it’s enabled by AI, that will clearly get their attention,” Brown said. “I’d much rather be in the driver seat as we develop these capabilities than to play catch up.”
This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.
Tiffany Marquis is no stranger to serving her community through volunteerism. Together with her active neighborhood, she’s turned quarantine walks into decorative art treasure hunts with sidewalk chalk displays, massive egg hunts, and even painted sign photo ops.
When Marquis learned from another Family Readiness Group leader that troops were seeking resources for incoming troops facing quarantine after deployment, she quickly pulled resources together.
“Another FRG leader had seen my spouse of the year Facebook page and thought I might be able to help her and reached out. We had never met before, but this is just what you do. We are all here for the same mission, the same cause,” said Marquis.
All returning soldiers were facing a 14-day quarantine in the barracks no matter what their living or marital status was.
“You want them to be comfortable. You want to make what they are going through easier if you can,” Marquis said.
Marquis called upon her contact at NC Packs 4 Patriots, a nonprofit organization supporting service members and families out of North Carolina through care and comfort item donations.
“I met the organization at a back to school drive years earlier. Immediately you get the understanding that they are there to help, to show up. When I called them, they were immediately on board asking me what I needed,” Marquis said, who volunteers her time at the organization whenever possible.
Marquis didn’t stop at calling upon just one organization; she put the ask out to her community Facebook page where the group has regularly shown up for each other throughout the pandemic.
“People were excited to help however they could. Within a few days I had over 15 packs of toilet paper and facial tissue.” While these items may seem obvious on the list of comfort, given the scarcity of local stockpiles nationwide, it speaks volumes to the love and selflessness of those contributing to the project.
“Not only did we get hygiene kits, but we had plenty of favorite snack items donated as well,” she explained. Snacks represent normalcy in America for soldiers. Receiving the comforts of home upon arrival is one small way to help with the reintegration process.
The efforts of Marquis and her neighborhood throughout this tough season is a prime example of how capable and strong the military community is no matter what obstacle they are facing. “We weren’t going to let this pandemic stop us from supporting each other,” stated Marquis confidently.
“The FRG overall is a team. As a leader your goal is to support the unit however you can throughout deployments, homecomings, or with fundraisers.” Marquis and the FRG leader who reached out for support are now mutually invested in the success of each other and their missions, exchanging help and resources to rise to meet the need.
In uncertain times and with plenty of units across all service branches facing similar situations, the example set here is one to follow.
“It starts with one person,” Marquis shared. “One person to form a team and the team then moving forward in the right direction.”
The brotherhood of an infantry squad is hard to match. No matter where you go after you leave, you’ll struggle to find that same type of camaraderie. Sure, there are civilian jobs out there that offer something similar, but let’s face it — nothing will ever rival getting sh*tfaced in the barracks on the weekend with your best buds after a long week of putting up with your command’s bullsh*t.
That’s why we love watching shows like Sons of Anarchy.
The fictional motorcycle club happens to embody a lot of the things we loved about “being with the homies” in our squads. The way they interact with each other and their overall lifestyle runs eerily parallel to the way grunts conduct themselves.
If you’ve watched the show, this won’t come as a surprise but, in case you haven’t, these are the ways Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club, Redwood Original are a lot like your infantry squad:
Nothing else compares…
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. A. J. Van Fredenberg)
SAMCRO is all about the brotherhood. They’re always looking out for each other and going to extreme lengths to help one another. It’s not just about your duty, it’s about the love you have for the people with whom you serve. Being in an infantry squad helps you develop this mentality.
And sh*t like this will suck less.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. William Chockey)
Oftentimes, you won’t have to be asked to do things because you’ll want to do them without being asked. You know that your actions are for the betterment of the squad. The guys to your left and right depend on you and you them. This loyalty will be a driving desire in everything you do.
Even working out is something that benefits your squad mates.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. A. J. Van Fredenberg)
You go beyond “for the club”
After you get used to your squad and you’ve established your loyalty and brotherhood, you’ll begin to go beyond what’s required of you to help out the squad. You might even start taking MarineNet courses you’re interested in to help boost your squad’s effectiveness.
At the end of the day, SAMCRO members make choices and do things because of their love and loyalty to the club.
You’ll do anything for your squad.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo)
Dedication to one another
When one of your brothers is going through a rough time, you’ll feel a drive to do whatever you can to help them out. If someone hurts your squad mate in one way or another, no matter what it is, you’ll be out for blood. This is honestly one of the things that makes the Sons of Anarchy such an interesting group of people to watch.
A US Air Force F-16 assigned to Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada crashed outside of Las Vegas on the morning of April 4, 2018, in the third aircraft crash in two days.
The pilot was killed in the crash, the Air Force confirmed in a statement. He was a member of the Air Force Thunderbirds demonstration squadron.
The F-16 crashed around 10:30 a.m. during a “routine aerial demonstration training flight,” and the cause of the crash is under investigation, according to the Air Force statement.
On the afternoon of April 3, 2018, a Marine Corps CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter crashed around El Centro, California, during a routine training mission. Four crew members aboard the helicopter were killed.
Additionally, a Marine Corps AV-8B Harrier jet crashed during a training exercise in Djibouti, east Africa on April 3, 2018. The pilot ejected and was being treated at a hospital.
Congress and the military have come under scrutiny amid the spate of aircraft crashes. Military leaders have long argued for an increased budget to combat a “readiness crisis” as foreign adversaries have gained momentum in other areas of the world.
Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Steven Rudder, the Corps’ deputy commandant for aviation, said in November 2017, that although pilot and aircraft readiness was steadily improving, the Corps was still dealing with the effects of “the minimum requirement for tactical proficiency.”
“Newly winged aviators … [are] the foundation of the future of aviation,” a prepared statement from Rudder said, according to Military.com. “When I compare these 2017 ‘graduates’ of their first fleet tour to the 2007 ‘class,’ those pilots today have averaged 20% less flight hours over their three-year tour than the same group in 2007.”
U.S. military disaster relief assistance to Puerto Rico is delaying the deployment of additional troops to Afghanistan, Joint Staff Director Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr. told Pentagon reporters October 5th.
McKenzie cited the logistical challenge of moving large amounts of supplies and personnel to Puerto Rico and the requirement for transport aircraft. The Pentagon only has a limited amount of transport aircraft, which are also used to move U.S. troops to Afghanistan.
The U.S. has approximately 11,000 military personnel on Puerto Rico but still faces a dire recovery effort. Only 8.6 percent of the island now has electricity and 47 percent of the population has drinking water, the Pentagon noted in a statement October 5.
Pentagon Chief Spokesman Dana White clarified that the delay was only “slight,” adding that “there are still troops flowing in.” Secretary of Defense James Mattis ordered approximately 3,000 troops to Afghanistan in late August after President Donald Trump green-lit a new strategy for the U.S. in Afghanistan.
Mattis previewed the new strategy before Congress on Tuesday calling it “R4+S” which stands for “regionalize, realign, reinforce, reconcile, and sustain.” The strategy hits upon larger themes of President Donald Trump’s Aug. 21 address to the American people in which he pledged to adopt a conditions-based approach for withdrawal from Afghanistan — one that focuses on pressuring Pakistan to crack down on terror safe havens.
The ultimate goal of the strategy is “reconciliation,” which entails “convincing our foes that the coalition is committed to a conditions-based outcome, we intend to drive fence-sitters and those who will see that we’re not quitting this fight to reconcile with the Afghan National Government.”
It’s 1 a.m. again, and I’m wearily crawling into bed hours after my partner.
This is the effect of “Apex Legends” on my life — the latest major Battle Royale game to demand the attention of tens of millions of players. Since “Apex Legends” arrived in early February 2019, it’s become the standard background game in my life.
Unlike “Fortnite” or “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds,” “Apex Legends” has its hooks in me deep and I don’t foresee them letting go anytime soon. Here’s why:
There are ziplines in “Apex Legends” that defy the laws of physics in delightful ways.
1. “Apex Legends” feels better to play, from gunplay to movement to strategy, than any other Battle Royale game available.
Everything about the act of playing “Apex Legends” feels good, and the more I dig into the game, the more I find to love.
The simple act of moving around is so thoroughly, thoughtfully detailed that it bears praising.
Here’s a very basic overview: Every character moves at the same speed, whether walking or running. While running, you can push the crouch button to slide — this offers you a minor speed boost if you’re on flat or sloping ground. Every character can jump, and if you hold jump while leaping into a wall you’ll clamber up the wall.
It’s a very simple set of rules, but the way that “Apex Legends” makes all movement feel so fluid and smooth is remarkable. It’s perhaps the most impressive aspect of “Apex Legends”: The game simply feels good to move around in. The same can’t be said for any other Battle Royale game.
2. It’s a tremendously detailed game, despite being straightforward and accessible to anyone.
Allow me an example: For the first few weeks, I rarely used hip-fire (shooting without aiming down the sights). Why would I do that if I could aim more carefully by aiming with a sight?
It turns out there’s a massive benefit to using hip-fire shooting in “Apex Legends,” and blending your shooting between aimed shots and hip-fire is a crucial component to successful play. Due to the relatively accurate spread of fire, hip-firing is critical for winning close-quarter fights with most weapons in “Apex Legends.”
That’s one tiny detail of myriad tiny details that make every little thing you do in “Apex Legends” feel so good. It’s actually my favorite component of the game: I’m still learning finer nuances of each specific weapon, of how to move through the environment more swiftly, of how to reach a place I didn’t know I could.
It’s a game that still feels remarkably fresh to me even after dozens of hours played.
The full “Apex Legends” island.
(“Apex Legends”/Electronic Arts)
3. The way players can interact with the extremely detailed world in “Apex Legends” is a testament to its excellent world design.
On our way to the next circle, my friend pinged a location for me to see — a tiny little hole he’d discovered that could be used to sneakily get away in a desperate Skull Town fight.
It was the most recent discovery he’d made after over 100 hours spent running, sliding, and shooting through the single map in “Apex Legends.”
There are dozens of these little quirks to the map, and it’s clear that an absurd amount of attention was given to exactly how each area of the map was laid out. There are always more angles to take, or ways to flank enemies, or a carefully placed boulder that’ll have to serve as cover — the hands of the game’s development team are all over the map if you look close enough.
“Fortnite” recently added a bus that acts a lot like the Respawn Beacons in “Apex Legends.”
4. “Apex Legends” is the evolution of Battle Royale — every other game in the genre feels old by comparison.
Watching a video recently of a popular Twitch streamer playing “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds,” I was struck by how stiff it was. Movement had no sense of weight to it, and the sound of the player running made it look like they were tiptoe-running across a field.
Frankly, it looked outdated and unpolished compared to “Apex Legends.”
The closest any Battle Royale game gets, in terms of movement and gunplay and feel, is “Call of Duty: Blackout.” It’s quick, and has solid gunplay, and there are some interesting gameplay twists that make it unique. But it is inherently a “Call of Duty” Battle Royale mode, with all the baggage that comes with — movement isn’t very fluid, and guns mostly sound like toys.
And that’s before we start talking about the respawn system, or ziplines, or the pinging system, or dropships, or care packages, or the jumpmaster system, or any of the other dozen innovations that “Apex Legends” brings to the Battle Royale genre. It adds so much new stuff that it feels like a full step forward past every other game in the genre.
Level 1 Shield here!
5. The ping system!
It’s hard to overstate how impressive the ping system is in “Apex Legends.” It should be the number one takeaway for any game developer working on a new multiplayer shooter.
The idea is simple: See an enemy? Tap the right bumper on your gamepad, and your character will call out those enemies and even mark their last movement for your teammates. See ammo your teammate needs? Tap the right bumper! It’s a brilliant, robust system for “spotting” various things — from items to enemies.
Smarter still, that system is contextual. If you’re looking at a level-three helmet and “spot” it, your character shouts out, “Level-three helmet here!” and marks it for your teammates. It’s this system that enables teammates to communicate a wealth of information without having to literally speak to strangers.
The spotting system cannot be overstated in its importance — it’s such a smart innovation that I outright expect it to show up in most multiplayer shooters going forward. It better!
Even with a sight, shooting someone from this distance with an Alternator is a tricky proposition.
6. It’s the best shooter of any Battle Royale game — shooting specifically.
The team behind “Apex Legends” has a serious pedigree behind it, having created the “Call of Duty” series and the “Titanfall” series.
It’s no surprise, then, that the shooting in “Apex Legends” feels so good — it’s from developers who more or less set the standard in video-game shooting.
To this end, bullets fall appropriately over a distance. Gunshot sounds are directional. Headshots feel substantial, and submachine guns feel like high-powered BB guns.
The shooting looks, feels, and sounds as good or better than the best shooting games, from the latest “Call of Duty” to “Destiny 2.”
This may sound obvious but, in the most popular Battle Royale games, the shooting is pretty terrible. “Fortnite” has notoriously lackluster shooting mechanics. The only great Battle Royale shooter is “Call of Duty: Blackout,” and that shooting is held back by the relatively stiff movement of the game.
7. Since each Legend has their own abilities, learning how to mix those abilities with your friends is a blast.
In “Fortnite,” every character you play as has the same abilities. It’s a third-person shooter with building mechanics, and every avatar — visuals aside — is identical.
The same can be said for “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds” and the Battle Royale mode in “Call of Duty: Black Ops 4.”
But in “Apex Legends,” each player has unique abilities. There are various “classes” of characters — soldiers, tanks, healers, etc. — and various specialties within each class. In this way, “Apex Legends” is more similar to “Overwatch” than its direct competition.
And blending those characters into a team made up of complementary players is part of the delight of “Apex Legends.” Better yet: The game’s developer, Respawn Entertainment, has already added one new character, Octane. And more are promised for the future.
So, what are these powers? They range from the ability to conjure a healing drone that can heal multiple teammates at once, to a grappling hook for reaching high places, to the ability to deploy noxious-gas containers. Using Bangalore’s smoke grenade combined with Gibraltar’s air strike ultimate is one combination I’ve been particularly enjoying.
Since it’s still early days for “Apex Legends,” many of the best ways to use various abilities are still shaking out. And that’s thrilling! There’s a “meta” to “Apex Legends” that is deeper and smarter than games like “Fortnite.” It feels like there are many ways to win, with a variety of different team setups, rather than a “best” way to win. And that leads to the kind of experimentation that keeps the game fresh.
Picking up wins with friends is absolutely delightful.
8. Playing with friends is critical, and makes the game so much more enjoyable.
I’ve had lots of good matches of “Apex Legends” with total strangers. I’ve won many games where my teammates and I never spoke a word, using only the in-game pinging system to communicate while moving from fight to fight. It is entirely possible to play this game with strangers and have a blast.
But nothing is better than playing with friends, using both your voice and the game’s pinging system to detail your words. Saying “Enemies right here” and pinging the location at the same time is a great way to immediately convey complex information to your teammates. Even better is the tactical planning you convey to each other afterward as you head into battle. “I’ll take left flank,” for instance, or “Getting height” — common refrains while sneaking up on an opposing squad.
Better still, you learn each other’s strengths and compliment each other’s chosen character. You laugh at each other’s faults and call out items you know friends are looking for — yes, I’m always looking for an R-301. Thank you for remembering!
It’s why I’ve been staying up way past my normal bedtime almost every day to play more “Apex Legends.” It’s the best game that’s come out this year by a longshot, and by far the best Battle Royale game available.