Bad discipline forced the Army to redesign basic training - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Bad discipline forced the Army to redesign basic training

The U.S. Army will soon launch a redesign of Basic Combat Training intended to build more discipline after many commanders complained that new soldiers often show up to their first units with a sloppy appearance and undisciplined attitudes.


By early summer, new recruits will go through Army BCT that’s designed to instill strict discipline and esprit de corps by placing a new emphasis in drill and ceremony, inspections, pride in military history while increasing the focus on critical training such as physical fitness, marksmanship, communications, and battlefield first aid skills.

The program will also feature three new field training exercises that place a greater emphasis on forcing recruits to demonstrate Warrior Tasks and Battle Drills, the list of key skills all soldiers are taught to survive in combat.

The new program of instruction is the result of surveys taken from thousands of leaders who have observed a trend of new soldiers fresh out of training displaying a lack of obedience and poor work ethic as well as being careless with equipment, uniform, and appearance, Maj. Gen. Malcolm Frost, commanding general of the U.S. Army Center of Initial Military Training, told defense reporters on Feb. 9.

Bad discipline forced the Army to redesign basic training
A drill sergeant posing before his company (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

‘A sense of entitlement’

“What leaders have observed in general is they believe that there is too much of a sense of entitlement, questioning of lawful orders, not listening to instruction, too much of a buddy mentality with NCOs and officers, and a lot of tardiness being late to formation and duties,” Frost said. “These are trends that they see as increasing that they think are part of the discipline aspect that is missing and that they would like to see in the trainees that become soldiers that come to them as their first unit of assignment.”

As commanding general of IET, Frost was tasked with increasing the quality of training and reducing new soldier attrition.

After compiling the data from surveys of about 27,000 commissioned officers, warrant officers, and non-commissioned officers, the message was very clear, Frost said.

“The number-one thing that was asked for five-fold or five times as much as any of the other categories was discipline,” Frost said.

“First-unit-of-assignment leaders want Initial Entry Training to deliver disciplined, physically-fit new soldiers who are willing to learn, they are mentally tough, professional and are proud to serve in the United States Army.”

In addition to discipline and physical fitness, leaders also wanted technical and tactical proficiency in warrior tasks and battle drills.

Be a soldier

After working out the details in a pilot at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, the Army has approved a new POI that Frost hopes will better instill into recruits exactly what it means to be a soldier.

“We really tried to attack it by getting after more discipline and esprit de corps,” Frost said.

One new aspect features a series of history vignettes of major battles that the Army has fought in, from Valley Forge in the Revolutionary War all the way to Iraq in Baghdad, Frost said.

“We highlighted those battles; we tied them to Army Values and the Soldier’s Creed and highlighted an individual who received the Medal of Honor or other valor award for actions during each battle,” Frost said.

“So soldiers will learn across all of Basic Combat Training at all the Army training centers what it means to be a soldier, the history of the United States Army through the battles and the campaign streamers and the wars that we have fought and they will be able to look to and emulate a soldier who executed a valorous act during that war.”

The new standardized booklet will be given to each recruit along with their Blue Book at the beginning of training.

Bad discipline forced the Army to redesign basic training
Reception in the Army, where new recruits receive their books. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

Recruits will also learn discipline by doing more practice at a skill that may be as old as soldiering itself — drill and ceremony.

Drill and ceremony

When the war began after the attacks of 9/11, the Army decreased its focus on DC, inspections and other skills that stress attention to detail to make more time for combat skill training.

“There are a lot of folks that say ‘we need to go back to the drill and ceremony because we have lost a lot of the discipline aspect of what it means to be a United States Army soldier,'” Frost said.

“It’s not like they are going to be sitting out there just doing DC all the time. The drill and ceremony is going to be interwoven into when they move to and from places … so the movements won’t just be lollygagging, non-tactical movements, they will be actually executing some team drill and ceremony as they move to and from the chow hall and move to and from the barracks.”

But the new BCT isn’t all about spit and polish, Frost said.

Hammer, anvil, forge

“The other big piece we are doing in Basic Combat Training that helps with the esprit de corps and the discipline aspect and also lends a measure of grit and resilience to [BCT] is we have three major field training exercises that we are going to do now. We are calling them the Hammer, the Anvil, and the Forge,” Frost said, describing how the final Forge FTX is an homage to the Army’s historic ties to Valley Forge.

“That is going to be a culminating FTX which is a graduation requirement. It will be an 81-hour field training exercise with about 40 miles of tactical road marching that is conducted through a series of tactical events and mini field training exercises.”

Also Read: This is why the Army is taking a fresh look at basic training

The Forge will include a night infiltration course and a medical evacuation mass casualty exercise. There will be ethical dilemmas soldiers have to negotiate as well as a battle march and shoot, a resupply mission which involves moving supplies, ammo, water to a link-up point, patrol base activities, combat patrols as well as an obstacle course, Frost said.

“If you succeed in making it through the 81-hour FTX … then what will happen is you will earn the right to become a soldier,” Frost said. “You will earn your beret, you will earn a ‘soldier for life’ certificate, you will get your National Defense Service Medal and your uniform will look exactly like a United States Army soldier.”

‘Get after the basics’

The new BCT POI weeded out “a lot of redundant areas and areas that have crept in that did not get after the basics” — shoot, move, communicate and protect or survive, Frost said.

For weapons qualification, recruits will be required to qualify with backup iron sights instead of just on close-combat optic sights.

Physical fitness standards will also be increased, requiring each soldier to score at least 60 points on all three events of the Army Physical Fitness Test instead of 50 points on each as a graduation standard.

Each recruit will also receive 33 hours of combatives training instead of 22 hours, Frost said.

Recruits will receive an increased amount of tactical combat casualty care training such as basic combat lifesaver.

The course will also teach “some of the basics that we had kind of lost with respect to communications such as basic hand and arm signals, and we have doubled the amount of basic reporting on the radio communications” such as MEDEVAC and similar requests, Frost said.

Some qualifications nixed

The new BCT does, however, do away with hand grenade qualification and land navigation course qualification as graduation requirements.

“What we have found is it is taking far, far too much time. It’s taking three to four times as much time … just to qualify folks on the hand grenade course than we had designated so what is happening is it is taking away from other aspects of training,” Frost said.

“We are finding that there are a large number of trainees that come in that quite frankly just physically don’t have the capacity to throw a hand grenade 20 to 25 to 30 meters. In 10 weeks, we are on a 48-hour period; you are just not going to be able to teach someone how to throw if they haven’t thrown growing up.”

Recruits will still receive the same amount of training in these areas, Frost said.

Bad discipline forced the Army to redesign basic training
Weapons qual in Army basic training. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

“Just because we took it off as a graduation requirement does not mean they won’t be conducting hand grenade or land navigation training,” Frost said. “They are going to learn all the technical aspects of the hand grenade, and they are going to learn tactical employment and they will throw a live hand grenade.

“With land navigation, it’s the same thing they are still going to conduct land navigation training; they are still going to conduct the day course they are still going to conduct the night course.”

The new changes to BCT, Frost said, will hopefully make new soldiers better prepared for their advanced individual training, first unit of assignment and result in a lower, new-soldier attrition rate

“If we can get a more physically fit, better prepared, more-disciplined soldier in Basic Combat Training, AIT and [One-Station Unit Training] then we believe we will have less attrition in first unit of assignment,” Frost said.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Special Operators receive Silver Stars for valor in Afghanistan

Three Silver Stars were earned during a hard fight in Afghanistan last year. Two Army Special Forces soldiers and one Air Force Pararescueman received the nation’s third-highest award for extreme valor while under fire in Afghanistan.


The 7th Special Forces Group team fought against what Army officials described as an elite Taliban unit, which they encountered by accident in a small Afghan village. During the ensuing eight-hour engagement, the American team lost its contact with its supporting element, which operated the vehicles, and had to walk for almost a mile while under constant enemy fire before reaching relative safety. The three commandos who received the Silver Stars were pivotal in saving the lives of their teammates during the firefight.

The three Silver Stars weren’t the only medals awarded. Troops from the 7th SFG’s 1st Battalion also received six Bronze Stars for Valor, three Army Commendation Medals with Valor devices, and four Purple Hearts. The Battalion itself received the Meritorious Unit Citation for its contribution in the fight against the Taliban during that six-month deployment (July 2019-January 2020).

Command Sergeant Major Brock Buddies, the senior enlisted leader of 1st Battalion, said that “the event is humbling. Every year we remember the men and women of this formation, their legacy and acts of heroism.”
Bad discipline forced the Army to redesign basic training

Lt. Gen. Francis Beaudette, commander of U.S. Army Special Operations Command, pins a medal on an unnamed member of 1st Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne), during a memorial and awards ceremony at 7th Group’s compound on Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., on Friday, Aug. 21, 2020. (US Army).

Congress established the Silver Star in the closing months of the First World War.

Don’t be surprised that and Air Force Pararescueman was on an Army Special Forces team. After Pararescuemen finish their selection and training pipeline – a more than two-years affair – they get assigned to either a Guardian Angel or Special Tactics/Warfare squadron. Guardian Angel squadrons primarily focus on combat search and rescue (CSAR) and personnel recovery (PR). Indeed, PJs are the only unit in the Department of Defense to be specifically trained and equipped for those mission sets. On the other hand, Pararescuemen who get assigned to a Special Tactics/Warfare squadron are often individually attached to other Special Operations units. PJs, being world-class combat medics, often fill out or complement the combat medic spot on Navy SEAL platoon, Ranger platoon, or, as in the case of this action, a Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha (ODA).

Bad discipline forced the Army to redesign basic training

A Special Forces ODA getting ready to go outside the wire in Afghanistan (US Army).

The past year had been quite tough on the 7th SFG. In February, an ODA from the 7th SFG was ambushed, suffering two killed in action and several wounded. The action took place a few weeks before the signing of the peace treaty with the Taliban.

Lieutenant General Francis Beaudette, the commanding officer of the United States Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) presented the awards.

“The actions of the warriors we are recognizing today speak volumes about them as individuals,” he said during the ceremony. “They also clearly reflect the families and communities that shaped these men,” he was quoted saying during the closed event. “Even if they cannot be here physically — thank you for what your families do to support you every day.”

The 7th SFG operates mainly in Central and South America. Green Berets assigned to the “Red Legion,” the nickname of the unit, become experts in the cultures and countries of their area of operations. This is key to mission success since Special Forces soldiers work with and through their partner forces.

Each Special Forces group, there are seven, is focused on a region. 1st SFG is responsible for East Asia; 3rd SFG is focused mainly on Africa; 5th SFG on the Middle East, Horn of Africa, and Central Asia; 7th SFG is dedicated on Latin America; 10th SFG is concentrated primarily on Europe; and the 19th SFG and 20th SFG, which are National Guard units, complement their active-duty counterparts around the world.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.


MIGHTY TACTICAL

The F-35 can now act as the eyes of the fleet

The F-35 Lightning II, designed to be a stealthy sensor platform that can fly and fight nearly anywhere in the world, can now feed its targeting data back to Navy ships, allowing the task force to engage dozens of targets without the F-35 having to fire its own weapons and break stealth.


Bad discipline forced the Army to redesign basic training

A Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II takes off from the HMS Queen Elizabeth on October 9, 2018, with inert GBU-12 Paveway II laser-guided bombs.

The change comes thanks to an upgrade on the ship side, not on the Lightning II. Basically, the Navy has a communications system known as the Ship Self Defense System. SSDS is typically built into carrier strike groups and the larger amphibious ships, like Landing Helicopter Assault and Landing Helicopter Dock ships.

So, basically anything that an F-35 can take off from. But now, the SSDS on the USS Wasp can accept communications from the F-35’s Link 16 Digital Air Control. This allows the F-35 to directly feed its sensor data into the fleet’s communications.

The most important application of this capability is that commanders can now see what the Lightning II sees and order surface ships to engage targets with missiles, other aircraft, or even naval artillery if it’s in range.

Bad discipline forced the Army to redesign basic training

The amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1) steams through the Mediterranean Sea.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Ryan G. Coleman)

This will be a huge boost for the F-35 in a war. F-35s and F-22 Raptors can’t carry many missiles and bombs while remaining stealthy, and firing their weapons can give away their positions.

Additionally, the fleet has many more missiles than the planes can carry — and that can be key during a complex fight. If Marines are landing ashore, they don’t want to hear that their air support is running low on missiles. They want to hear that there’s an endless rain of effects coming their way, and that all of them are going to be digitally targeted against the most dangerous threats.

While the digital communications upgrade is currently only placed on the USS Wasp, the rest of the carrier and LHA/LHD groups will receive it in the near future.

Bad discipline forced the Army to redesign basic training

U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Michael Lippert, test pilot with the F-35 Pax River Integrated Test Force, continues First of Class Flight Trials (Fixed Wing) developmental test flights aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth on Sept. 30, 2018.

(U.S. Navy photo by Dane Wiedmann)

In addition to passing targeting data, the F-35 sends back its status information, like fuel and weapon inventories, while receiving information from the mission commander, like assignment information.

The F-35 has been America’s single-most expensive weapons system in history, but senior generals have insisted for years that the troubled program would be worth it when it came to fruition. As setbacks, costs, and technological failures mounted, it seemed like the platform would never live up to its hype. And that would’ve been a huge deal since the plane is expected to fly until 2070 and to cost id=”listicle-2616611399″.5 trillion over the program’s lifetime.

But the Thunderbolt II has matured in the last few years, and breakthroughs like this one will continue to improve the F-35’s public image.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

This USAF veteran and physician exposes what’s really happening to our nation’s ER staff

Emergency physician Emily (who asked us to not use her last name) was knee-deep in flu season in Texas when the initial reports of coronavirus began surfacing.

“I was highly skeptical. It sounded very similar to the flu,” the 36-year-old Air Force veteran shared with We Are The Mighty. “Information out of China was obviously pretty filtered and somewhat difficult to interpret. Once I began hearing reports from physicians in Italy, this was probably late February, I started to become a bit alarmed. This was not the flu. It was much, much worse. It was going to be bad.”
Bad discipline forced the Army to redesign basic training

Emily at work.

In early March, Texas hospitals began preparations for the anticipated surge of COVID patients.

“PPE [personal protective equipment] shortages were rapidly apparent, and the supply seemed to change daily, making our personnel protection protocols constant moving targets,” Emily explained. “Testing capabilities also fluctuated wildly, again making for daily — sometimes hourly — changes in how we performed testing. Going into work was a completely different experience every day. We had to quickly adapt to being comfortable with extreme flexibility.”

As the days passed, extreme flexibility would be crucial.

“When shelter-in-place orders took effect in our area [and] as people began staying home and elective hospital procedures were cancelled, emergency department volumes plummeted, as did hospital revenues,” she explained. “This led to drastic changes in how emergency departments were staffed. Down-staffing was warranted, because there just weren’t as many patients to see, but it was – and is – still having significant effects on the pay for these frontline workers.”

Emily, who works in three different hospitals across three different healthcare systems on a PRN [as needed] basis, typically works “at least full-time, some months even more so.” With low emergency room volumes, she expressed feeling underutilized.

“The PRN employees have been the first to go,” she shared. “My shifts have been cut back drastically. I have cherished the extra time with my family and my children, even as I am itching to go back to work. To have the skills to be of use and not have the opportunity to use them has been an unusual form of torture.”

Bad discipline forced the Army to redesign basic training

Emily with her family.

She adds that COVID-19 has put a spotlight on the state of the U.S. healthcare system.

“Our healthcare system has been teetering on the verge of collapse for a long time,” she said. “The people who profit from our for-profit healthcare system are neither the doctors nor the patients. As I saw our system straining under the weight of COVID, I had hoped that it might finally break and give way to real and lasting reform. Instead, I have seen physicians losing their jobs for speaking out about their lack of PPE. I have seen physicians experiencing pay cuts, even as they work more, work harder, and in a more dangerous environment. When administrators who sit behind a desk feel empowered to dictate to their healthcare workers how often they have to reuse PPE, all the while handing out pay cuts to those exposing themselves to the greatest degree of risk, we have a serious problem.”

Through it all, and despite the gravity of the situation, Emily shares that coronavirus has provided her with professional clarity.

“COVID has been something of a crucible, reinforcing for me that emergency medicine is more of a calling than a job,” she said. “I have been fearful for my own personal safety as I have heard accounts of physicians falling ill, and even dying from complications of coronavirus. As a combat veteran, facing peril while in the line of duty is not foreign to me, but COVID has felt different — I never expected to be in danger while working in a stateside ER as a civilian. Despite the risk, I have felt an undeniable pull toward the Emergency Department, to use the skills I have spent years developing and the expertise I have gained from thousands of patient encounters to try and do some good. It has been good to feel like I can be of some use.”

Like Pat Sheehan in Louisiana, Emily stated that in the ER, healthcare workers are always on the front lines.

“The only difference now is that the world is finally paying attention.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

NASA is gonna try to ‘land’ on the Sun

Hours before the rise of the very star it will study, NASA’s Parker Solar Probe launched from Florida on Aug. 12, 2018, to begin its journey to the Sun, where it will undertake a landmark mission. The spacecraft will transmit its first science observations in December, beginning a revolution in our understanding of the star that makes life on Earth possible.

Roughly the size of a small car, the spacecraft lifted off at 3:31 a.m. EDT on a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket from Space Launch Complex-37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. At 5:33 a.m., the mission operations manager reported that the spacecraft was healthy and operating normally.


The mission’s findings will help researchers improve their forecasts of space weather events, which have the potential to damage satellites and harm astronauts on orbit, disrupt radio communications and, at their most severe, overwhelm power grids.

“This mission truly marks humanity’s first visit to a star that will have implications not just here on Earth, but how we better understand our universe,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. “We’ve accomplished something that decades ago, lived solely in the realm of science fiction.”

Bad discipline forced the Army to redesign basic training

The United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket launches NASA’s Parker Solar Probe to touch the Sun.

(NASA / Bill Ingalls)

During the first week of its journey, the spacecraft will deploy its high-gain antenna and magnetometer boom. It also will perform the first of a two-part deployment of its electric field antennas. Instrument testing will begin in early September 2018 and last approximately four weeks, after which Parker Solar Probe can begin science operations.

“Today’s launch was the culmination of six decades of scientific study and millions of hours of effort,” said project manager Andy Driesman, of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland. “Now, Parker Solar Probe is operating normally and on its way to begin a seven-year mission of extreme science.”

Over the next two months, Parker Solar Probe will fly towards Venus, performing its first Venus gravity assist in early October 2018 – a maneuver a bit like a handbrake turn – that whips the spacecraft around the planet, using Venus’s gravity to trim the spacecraft’s orbit tighter around the Sun. This first flyby will place Parker Solar Probe in position in early November 2018 to fly as close as 15 million miles from the Sun – within the blazing solar atmosphere, known as the corona – closer than anything made by humanity has ever gone before.

Throughout its seven-year mission, Parker Solar Probe will make six more Venus flybys and 24 total passes by the Sun, journeying steadily closer to the Sun until it makes its closest approach at 3.8 million miles. At this point, the probe will be moving at roughly 430,000 miles per hour, setting the record for the fastest-moving object made by humanity.

Parker Solar Probe will set its sights on the corona to solve long-standing, foundational mysteries of our Sun. What is the secret of the scorching corona, which is more than 300 times hotter than the Sun’s surface, thousands of miles below? What drives the supersonic solar wind – the constant stream of solar material that blows through the entire solar system? And finally, what accelerates solar energetic particles, which can reach speeds up to more than half the speed of light as they rocket away from the Sun?

Bad discipline forced the Army to redesign basic training

Renowned physicist Eugene Parker watches the launch of the spacecraft that bears his name – NASA’s Parker Solar Probe – early in the morning on Aug. 12, 2018, from Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

(NASA / Glenn Benson)

Scientists have sought these answers for more than 60 years, but the investigation requires sending a probe right through the unrelenting heat of the corona. Today, this is finally possible with cutting-edge thermal engineering advances that can protect the mission on its daring journey.

“Exploring the Sun’s corona with a spacecraft has been one of the hardest challenges for space exploration,” said Nicola Fox, project scientist at APL. “We’re finally going to be able to answer questions about the corona and solar wind raised by Gene Parker in 1958 – using a spacecraft that bears his name – and I can’t wait to find out what discoveries we make. The science will be remarkable.”

Parker Solar Probe carries four instrument suites designed to study magnetic fields, plasma and energetic particles, and capture images of the solar wind. The University of California, Berkeley, U.S. Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and Princeton University in New Jersey lead these investigations.

Parker Solar Probe is part of NASA’s Living with a Star program to explore aspects of the Sun-Earth system that directly affect life and society. The Living with a Star program is managed by the agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. APL designed and built, and operates the spacecraft.

The mission is named for Eugene Parker, the physicist who first theorized the existence of the solar wind in 1958. It’s the first NASA mission to be named for a living researcher.

A plaque dedicating the mission to Parker was attached to the spacecraft in May 2018. It includes a quote from the renowned physicist – “Let’s see what lies ahead.” It also holds a memory card containing more than 1.1 million names submitted by the public to travel with the spacecraft to the Sun.

www.youtube.com

For more information on Parker Solar Probe, go to:

https://www.nasa.gov/solarprobe

This article originally appeared on NASA. Follow @NASA on Twitter.

Lists

5 secrets to shopping at the Commissary with the kids

Shopping in any grocery store with children (young or old) can be a real pain. Add in going to the commissary on payday and it’s a recipe for disaster.

Maybe you’ve already tried all of the tricks for navigating shopping with kids in tow. Or are you are new to the whole grocery with kids game? Either way, try these five parent-tested secrets for making it through the experience without losing your mind.


1. Do it in the car

No list? No plan? Before you jump out of the car, write down must-have items and meal ideas, then prep any necessary items before you unleash the munchkins. Refresh your mind on coupons, write down any necessary purchases you remembered on your way there, and make sure you have any distraction items for the baby. It’s better to do this now than before you get in the store.

2. Get Attached

If they are little enough, the best place to have your kids is hanging out on you in a carrier. You can talk to them while you go to shelves and they aren’t climbing out of the cart and getting hurt. If they are at the in-between age where they want to run around, make holding onto the cart a game. “If you hold on through this aisle, you can pick out the cereal.” Or, if they sit still in the cart, say they can have a slice of cheese at the deli or bring a healthy treat along to get them through a rough spot. Make the reward something that can be given sooner rather than later.

3. Create a game

Involve you kids in the process and they’ll look at the grocery store as a fun place to be. Can they spy something orange in the fruit section? Find things that begin with “A”? See if they can locate the can of tomatoes you always buy first. How many uniforms can they count in the store? Don’t be afraid of looking a little silly. The commissary is a little crazy on payday anyway!

4. Give them a job

Oh, how kids love to help! But often it is the kind of help that gets them in trouble. Instead of letting them pick and choose their role, give your little helper a job each time you go. “You are in charge of crossing things off of the list.” Be sure to bring a clipboard. Or maybe they can get the items off of the low shelves. Can they help you pick out apples while sitting in the shopping cart? The more involved you make them on your terms, the less they will be on the receiving end of a reprimand.

5. Acknowledge and avoid their triggers

Kids feed off of your anxiety and the more amped up you are the crazier they feel. If you know you have a big shopping trip, don’t make it 20 minutes before lunchtime. Everyone will be hungry and grumpy, and you’ll have to rush through the store. If naptime is at noon, avoid bumping up against it and opt to go afterwards. If you know your child is going to flip in the cereal aisle, distract him as you grab the Cheerios. You know what has made shopping a miserable experience every trip before so create a battle plan that will keep you and your shopping buddy happy right to the checkout.

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US Navy’s carrier-based F-35s may not be ready for combat after all

The US Navy has declared its F-35Cs ready for combat, but the service’s own testing data says the stealth fighters designed to take off and land on aircraft carriers are nowhere close to ready, an independent nonpartisan watchdog reports.

“The F-35C is ready for operations, ready for combat and ready to win,” Vice Adm. DeWolfe Miller, commander of Naval Air Forces, said in February 2019 as the Navy announced that the fighter had achieved initial operating capability. “We are adding an incredible weapon system into the arsenal of our Carrier Strike Groups that significantly enhances the capability of the joint force.”


But the Project on Government Oversight, a nonprofit government-accountability group, warned March 19, 2019, that despite these claims, the F-35C, like the other variants, “continues to dramatically underperform in crucial areas including availability and reliability, cybervulnerability testing, and life-expectancy testing.”

Bad discipline forced the Army to redesign basic training

An F-35C Lightning II carrier variant joint strike fighter.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Eli K. Buguey)

While still secretary of defense, Jim Mattis demanded last fall that the Navy and the Air Force strive to achieve a fleet-wide mission-capable rate of 80% for their fighters by October 2019. The Navy’s carrier-capable F-35 variant is apparently nowhere close to that target, having consistently achieved unacceptably low fully mission-capable rates.

The mission-capable rates for the Navy’s F-35Cs dropped from 12% in October 2016 to zero in December 2017, with figures remaining in the single digits throughout 2018, the oversight group reported, citing Navy documents. The US Navy, according to Military.com, also has only 27 of the required 273 F-35Cs, and the mission-capable rates do not apply to aircraft in testing, training, or depot.

“The fully mission capable rate for the full fleet is likely far below” the target set by Mattis, the watchdog concluded.

It said the Navy had opted to move forward with the aircraft “in spite of evidence that it is not ready for combat” and that it could “put at risk missions, as well as the troops who depend on it to get to the fight.”

The group’s analysis follows the release of a disconcerting report from the Defense Department’s director of operational, test, and evaluation in January that called attention to F-35 readiness issues, such as life expectancy, cybersecurity, and stagnant aircraft availability.

Bad discipline forced the Army to redesign basic training

Two F-35C Lightning II aircraft.

(U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Shannon E. Renfroe)

“Fleet-wide average availability is below program target value of 60% and well below planned 80% needed,” the official report said. “The trend in fleet availability has been flat over the past three years; the program’s reliability improvement initiatives are still not translating into improved availability.”

The F-35 Joint Program Office responded to that report, saying the problems presented in the report were being “aggressively addressed.”

The JPO told Business Insider that as of January 2019, the mission capable rate for the Navy’s F-35C was 56 percent. “The Program Office has identified the enablers to increase our mission capability rates,” a JPO spokesman explained.

“We will continue to learn and improve ways to maintain and sustain F-35C as we prepare for first deployment,” the Joint Strike Fighter Wing commodore, Capt. Max McCoy, said as the Navy’s carrier-capable variant was declared “ready for combat” February 2019. “The addition of F-35C to existing Carrier Air Wing capability ensures that we can fight and win in contested battlespace now and well into the future.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The US Navy just threw a birthday cruise for its 222-year-old warship

A 222nd birthday is quite a milestone, and the USS Constitution celebrated in style on Oct. 18, 2019. A cruise through Boston Harbor showed off Old Ironsides, the oldest commissioned ship in the Navy, according to the National Parks Service.

Although the ship isn’t engaged in warfighting anymore, it hosts visitors as an historic site, along with the USS Constitution Museum in Charlestown, Massachusetts.

Read on to learn more about the USS Constitution’s history.


Bad discipline forced the Army to redesign basic training

USS Constitution is tugged through the Boston harbor during Constitution’s birthday cruise.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Alec Kramer)

The Constitution started construction in 1794, and first set sail Oct. 21, 1797.

She was built in Boston as one of the US Navy’s first six warfighting ships after the United States gained independence. The Constitution was first engaged during a dispute between the US and France called the Quasi-War, which took place between 1798 and 1800, according to the US Historian.

Bad discipline forced the Army to redesign basic training

USS Constitution is tugged through the Boston harbor during Constitution’s birthday cruise.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Alec Kramer)

It wasn’t until the War of 1812 that she earned her nickname.

The War of 1812 involved the US in a trade dispute between Britain and France, which later spiraled into a conflict over national sovereignty, territorial control, and westward expansion by the US.

But during the conflict, the Constitution’s hull was apparently so strong — like iron — that enemy fire couldn’t penetrate, earning the nickname “Old Ironsides.”

Bad discipline forced the Army to redesign basic training

The Constitution got underway to celebrate the ship’s 222nd birthday and the Navy’s 244th Birthday.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Casey Scoular)

The Constitution still has a full crew, which maintains the ship.

The ship maintains an active-duty commander and crew, who keep the vessel and its gear ship-shape and give tours to members of the public.

Source: US Navy

Bad discipline forced the Army to redesign basic training

The USS Constitution celebrates its 222nd birthday.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Casey Scoular)

The Constitution attempted to launch into Boston Harbor twice — and failed — before it succeeded on October 21, 1797.

Source: USS Constitution Museum

Bad discipline forced the Army to redesign basic training

The USS Constitution celebrates its 222nd birthday.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Casey Scoular)

After her lengthy service and legendary survivability in the War of 1812, rumors began to circulate in the 1830s that Old Ironsides would be retired.

Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote the poem “Old Ironsides” to stir public sentiment to save her, according to the USS Constitution Museum. She remained in service until 1853, and was converted into a naval school ship between 1857 and 1860.

Bad discipline forced the Army to redesign basic training

USS Constitution is tugged through the Boston harbor during Constitution’s birthday cruise.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Casey Scoular)

In 1925, US school children raised 4,000 to restore the Constitution.

Source: USS Constitution Museum

Bad discipline forced the Army to redesign basic training

The Constitution cruised around Boston Harbor on October 18, 2019.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Joshua Samoluk)

She was designated the US’s Ship of State in 2010 by former President Barack Obama.

Source: USS Constitution Museum

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

Articles

These are the Coast Guard’s special operations forces

After the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, it was pretty clear everybody in the government had to get into the anti-terrorism game.


From the formation of the Department of Homeland Security out of a host of separate law enforcement and police agencies, to a more robust role for Joint Special Operations Command in the hunt for terrorist leaders, the American government mobilized to make sure another al Qaeda attack would never happen again on U.S. soil.

For years, the Coast Guard had occupied a quasi-military role in the U.S. government, particularly after the “war on drugs” morphed its domestic law enforcement job into a much more expeditionary, anti-drug one.

But with the World Trade Center in rubble, the Coast Guard knew it had to get into the game.

That’s why in 2007 the Deployable Operations Group was formerly established within the Coast Guard to be a sort of domestic maritime counter-and-anti-terrorism force to address threats to the homeland and abroad. As part of SOCOM, the DOG trained and equipped Coast Guardsmen to do everything from take down a terrorist-captured ship to detecting and recovering dirty nukes.

For six years, the DOG executed several missions across the globe and prepared for security duties in the U.S., including deploying for the 2010 earthquake in Haiti and helping with anti-piracy missions off the African coast (think Maersk Alabama). The DOG even sent two officers to SEAL training who later became frogmen in the teams.

But in 2013, then-Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Robert Papp disbanded the DOG and spread its component organizations across the Coast Guard. And though they’re not operating as part of SOCOM missions anymore, the Coast Guard commandos are still on the job with a mandate to conduct “Ports, Waterways and Coastal Security” missions in the maritime domain.

“The PWCS mission entails the protection of the U.S. Maritime Domain and the U.S. Marine Transportation System and those who live, work or recreate near them; the prevention and disruption of terrorist attacks, sabotage, espionage, or subversive acts; and response to and recovery from those that do occur,” the Coast Guard says. “Conducting PWCS deters terrorists from using or exploiting the MTS as a means for attacks on U.S. territory, population centers, vessels, critical infrastructure, and key resources.”

The primary units that make up the Coast Guard’s commandos include:

1. Port Security Units

Bad discipline forced the Army to redesign basic training
Boat crews from Coast Guard Port Security Unit 313in Everett, Wash., conduct high-speed boat maneuvers and safety zone drills during an exercise at Naval Station Everett July 22, 2015. The exercise was held in an effort to fine tune their capabilities in constructing and running entry control points, establishing perimeter security, and maintaining waterside security and safety zones. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Zac Crawford)

These Coast Guard teams patrol in small boats to make sure no funny stuff is going on where marine vessels are parked. The PSU teams work to secure areas around major events on the coast or bordering waterways, including United Nations meetings in New York and high-profile meetings and visits by foreign dignitaries in cities like Miami.

2. Tactical Law Enforcement Teams

Bad discipline forced the Army to redesign basic training
Tactical Law Enforcement Team South members participate in a Law Enforcement Active Shooter Emergency Response class at the Miami Police Department Training Center, July 20, 2012. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Anderson).

These Coast Guard teams are an extension and formalization of the service’s counter drug operations. The TACLETs also execute the same kinds of missions as SWAT teams, responding to active shooter situations and arresting suspects. These teams also participated in counter-piracy missions in the Gulf of Aden and in the Suez Canal.

3. Maritime Safety Security Teams

Bad discipline forced the Army to redesign basic training
U.S. Coast Guard Maritime Safety and Security Team (MSST) 91114 patrols the coastline of Guantanamo Bay, Jan. 14. MSST 91114 provides maritime anti-terrorism and force protection for Joint Task Force Guantanamo. (photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Elisha Dawkins)

When the security situation goes up a notch — beyond a couple minimally-armed pirates or a deranged shooter — that’s when they call the Coast Guard’s Maritime Safety Security Teams. Think of these guys as the FBI Hostage Rescue or LA SWAT team of the Coast Guard. They can take down a better armed ship full of pirates, can guard sensitive installations like the Guantanamo Bay terrorist prison or keep looters in check after Hurricane Sandy.

4. Maritime Security Response Team

Bad discipline forced the Army to redesign basic training
Tosca and her Maritime Security Response Team canine officer sweep the deck of Mississippi Canyon Block 582, Medusa Platform during a joint exercise May 21, 2014. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Robert Nash)

The Maritime Security Response Teams are about as close to Navy SEALs as the Coast Guard gets (and many of them are trained by SEAL instructors). The MSRT includes snipers, dog handlers and explosive ordnance disposal technicians who are so highly trained they can detect and dispose of a chemical, biological or radiological weapon.

MSRT Coast Guardsmen are the counter-terrorism force within the service (as opposed to an “anti-terrorism” which is primarily defensive in nature), with missions to take down terrorist-infested ships, hit bad guys from helicopters and assault objectives like Rangers or SEALs. The force is also trained to recover high-value terrorists or free captured innocents.

“It’s important to know that the MSRT is scalable in the size of their response to an event or mission,” said a top Maritime Security Response Team commander. “Depending on the scope of the mission or the event, will determine how many team members are needed to deploy and their areas of expertise, in order to effectively complete the mission.”

 

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why you actually want Skynet (and maybe John Connor)

Remember that movie Stealth? It’s the one where Jamie Foxx, Jessica Biel, and the other sexy pilots are forced to fly with a plane that has a computer pilot and, turns out, computer pilots are bad because lightning can strike them and drive them crazy and then they murder all the people?


No? Well certainly you’ve seen or heard of the Terminator movies. You know, the ones where plucky humans and their hacked robot bodybuilder are forced to fight other robots in order to prevent a future apocalypse ordered by military AI?

They’re great films, but they imply that any future where computers are controlling the weapons of war is dystopian AF. In reality, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls are guarded by men with guns. It would be much better if the U.S. could guard those walls with robots with guns controlled by men.

The Genesis of Skynet [Terminator 2]

www.youtube.com

This would provide two advantages. First, if the guards on the walls are robots — not fleshy humans — then people shooting at the walls can only destroy hardware, not kill men and women. But perhaps the bigger factor is that artificial intelligence is enabling robots to become better at some jobs than their human controllers.

In 2016, we wrote about a University of Cincinnati project where a retired colonel and fighter pilot were advising on an artificial intelligence project. The AI was just supposed to control a Red Team well enough to allow fighter pilots to get better experience in simulations, but tweaks to the system made it start winning. And then it beat the general. And then it beat the general even when he was directly piloting one of the aircraft.

Bad discipline forced the Army to redesign basic training

​ALPHA AI was developed with a team from University of Cincinnati. It can run on a cheap computer but has defeated skilled fighter pilots in simulations.

(Journal of Defense Management)

The adviser, Retired Air Force Col. Gene “Geno” Lee, told the researchers that AI was “the most aggressive, responsive, dynamic and credible AI [he’s] seen-to-date.”

And that AI, known as ALPHA, ran on a Raspberry Pi computer that can be picked up for under . So, for , plus probably ,000 or so in retrofitting charged by manufacturers, we could make 4th generation planes do their jobs perfectly while flying in support of a fifth-generation, human pilot who’s calling the shots.

Bad discipline forced the Army to redesign basic training

Stealth‘s artificial intelligence can pilot fighter jets, but, for some reason, needs a special sensor that looks like a robotic eye instead of just using, you know, its radar or even just normal cameras.

(YouTube/MovieClips)

This may sound familiar to people for one or both of two reasons. First, the Air Force is actively pursuing this as the wingman concept. But second, Skynet in the Terminator movies got its start piloting stealth bombers where it achieved a “perfect operational record,” according to Schwarzenegger’s character.

Is this so bad? I mean, sure, we should stop short of handing strategic control of the nuclear weapons to Skynet, but that was never a realistic plot premise. Remember, even during the height of the Cold War, it was rare for launch approval for nuclear weapons to be handed down past the president. If we don’t trust generals to make nuclear decisions without the president approving it, why would we ever let a computer have full control?

So, if we develop Skynet and don’t give it access to the nukes — if we create safe AI — we’re left with a completely new version of warfare where we don’t have to risk our own troops at nearly the same level as we currently do. Doesn’t sound so horrible now, does it?

And, if the other side gets AI, that’s still better for humanity as a whole. Remember when the RAND Corporation anticipated that, by 2025, war with China would be bloody and unwinnable? No? We’re the only people who actually read RAND reports? Alright, then.

Here’s the thing: World War I was so horrible because it was a nearly unwinnable war for both sides. Once nations committed to the conflict, they poured blood and treasure into a never-ending pit of carnage. Millions died and little was gained for anybody.

AI wouldn’t make unwinnable wars winnable — at least not if both sides have it — but it could make them much less bloody, which is still a step in the right direction.

Bad discipline forced the Army to redesign basic training

You know what would be even better than sending F-35s up with human pilots to detect enemy air defenses and suppress them? Sending them up with a bunch of fighters that are basically robots with AI. So, if they do get in a fight, they don’t need to take the hits.

(U.S. Air National Guard Master Sgt. Joshua C. Allmaras)

So, what about poor John Connor, an excellent small-team leader? What’s he going to do when he isn’t allowed to kill Skynet but, instead, Skynet is controlling most of the planes and tanks and ships? Well, he’ll lead small teams or infantry units on the ground while A Few Good Men‘s Col. Jessup gives the marching orders. AI can’t replace all decision-making at the front, and calm heads under fire will be needed to authorize strikes and targets.

So, yes, we all secretly want Skynet on the wall, even more so than we want Col. Jessup up there. But we also need John Connor, as long as we can keep Jessup, Connor, and Skynet from murdering one another.

Articles

How war memorabilia serves as a window to the past

Many children grow up with parents in the military. It usually means frequent moves, a parent being gone for long periods of time. And there is the possibility that some day an officer and chaplain might turn up, bearing bad news.


Whether the parent is a Green Beret, constantly deploying to a foreign country on missions they can’t talk about, or someone who pushed papers at a desk in a building at a military installation – they all served, and they all knew that there was some measure of risk. And when the parents pass on, what’s left behind are medals, uniforms, photos, and in some cases, films.

Bad discipline forced the Army to redesign basic training
Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina on a patrol during World War II. (US Navy photo)

In this clip, Fred Linden discusses the memorabilia left behind by his late father, Navy Lieutenant Commander Frederick “Bud” Linden, of his service during World War II. His dad flew a Consolidated PBY Catalina – one of the famous “Black Cats” that made the life of many Japanese sailors miserable during the fighting in the Pacific.

Linden’s memorabilia included a map showing the route his father took to the theater he served in, as well as medals.

The two rolls of 16mm color film included in the memorabilia collection showed a wide variety of events during his father’s tour, including bombing raids. The film was preserved through the involvement of Film Corps, an outreach organization that seeks to preserve records like Linden’s.

Bad discipline forced the Army to redesign basic training
PBY Catalinas flying in formation during World War II. (Youtube Screenshot)

“The stuff – the medals and so forth – is not something he’d care about, but he would love to be able to sit down in front of that movie and point out the names of the guys and what they did and things he remembered about them, what happened at the time with the people he was with,” he says. “That would be the most important thing for him”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Treaty fight threatens a more important nuclear agreement

At the time, the treaty was landmark, deemed a new cornerstone of strategic stability.

The 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) agreement for the first time eliminated an entire class of missiles and set up an unprecedented system of arms control inspections — all hailed as stabilizing the rivalry between the keepers of the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals.

Now, that treaty between Washington and Moscow, known as the INF, is on the rocks, with U.S. President Donald Trump announcing plans to abandon the accord, and national-security adviser John Bolton saying in Moscow on Oct. 23, 2018, that the United States will be filing a formal notification of its withdrawal.


What’s next may be the demise of an even bigger, more comprehensive bilateral arms treaty called New START. And experts suggest that if that deal were to become obsolete, it would all but guarantee a new arms race.

“If the [INF] treaty collapses, then the first new START treaty (signed in 2010) and the follow-on New START treaty will probably follow it into the dustbin of history,” Aleksei Arbatov, a negotiator of the 1994 START I treaty, said in a commentary for the Carnegie Moscow Center.

Signed in 2010 in Prague by U.S. President Barack Obama and then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, New START built on the original START I by effectively halving the number of strategic nuclear warheads and launchers the two countries could possess. In February, each country announced it was in compliance.

Bad discipline forced the Army to redesign basic training

U.S. President Barack Obama (left) and his Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev, sign the New START treaty in Prague on April 8, 2010.

Though the treaty is due to expire in 2021, the two sides could agree to extend it for another five years.

From Moscow’s side, there is interest. During their meeting in July 2018, President Vladimir Putin suggested to Trump that they extend the pact. From Washington’s side, it’s unclear if there is any interest in doing so.

“If the INF treaty goes under, as appears likely, and New START is allowed to expire with nothing to replace it, there will no verifiable limits on U.S. and Russian nuclear forces for the first time since the early 1970s,” says Kingston Reif, a nuclear analyst at the Arms Control Association, a Washington think tank. “The risk of unconstrained U.S.-Russian nuclear competition, and even more fraught relations, would grow.”

After simmering quietly in classified intelligence discussions, the INF dispute moved to the front burner in 2014 when the U.S. State Department formally accused Russia of violating the treaty by developing a ground-launched cruise missile with a range that exceeded treaty limits.

Russia denied the accusations, even as Washington officials stepped up their accusations in 2017, accusing Moscow of deploying the missile.

In November of that year, Christopher Ford, then a top White House arms control official, for the first time publicly identified the Russian missile in question as the 9M729.

Trump has pushed the line that, if Russia is not adhering to the INF, then the U.S. won’t either.

Ahead of Bolton’s meeting with Putin on Oct. 23, 2018, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied that Russia had violated the INF, saying that “Russia was and remains committed to this treaty’s provisions.”

Following Bolton’s meeting with the Russian president amid two days of talks with Russian officials, the U.S. national-security adviser downplayed suggestions that the demise of the INF treaty would undermine global stability. He pointed to the U.S. decision in 2002 to withdraw from another important arms control agreement: the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, also known as the ABM.

As a top arms control official in President George W. Bush’s administration, Bolton was a vocal advocate for pulling out of the ABM treaty.

Bad discipline forced the Army to redesign basic training

National-security adviser John Bolton.

“The reality is that the treaty is outmoded, outdated, and being ignored by other countries,” Bolton said, referring to the INF agreement. “And that means exactly one country was constrained by the treaty” — the United States.

In an interview with the newspaper Kommersant published ahead of his arrival in Moscow, Bolton suggested that Trump administration officials didn’t see any urgency in deciding New START’s fate.

“I’m a veteran arms control negotiator myself, and I can tell you that many, many of the key decisions are made late in the negotiations anyway, so I don’t feel that we’re pressed for time,” Bolton said.

“One of the points we thought was important was to resolve the INF issue first, so we knew what the lay of the land was on the strategic-weapon side. So, we’re talking about it internally…. We’re trying to be open about different aspects of looking at New START and other arms control issues as well,” he said.

All indications to date are that the Trump administration is lukewarm at best on the need to extend New START. When the administration in February2018 released its Nuclear Posture Review—- a policy-planning document laying out the circumstances under which the United States would use its nuclear arsenal — there was no mention of extending the treaty until 2026.

In testimony September 2018 before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, David Trachtenberg, the deputy U.S. undersecretary of defense for policy, said the administration’s review of whether to extend New START was ongoing.

Matthew Bunn, who oversees the Project On Managing the Atom at Harvard University’s Kennedy School, suggests that instead of pulling out of the INF, the Trump administration should push for a bigger deal that includes not only dismantling the Russian missile in question but also extending New START and ensuring it covers the new generation of Russian weaponry under development.

“Letting the whole structure of nuclear arms control collapse would bring the world closer to the nuclear brink, roil U.S. alliances, and undermine the global effort to stem the spread of nuclear weapons,” he said.

“Both sides are now complying with New START and benefit mutually from its limits, verification and the predictability — all the more so while the viability of INF is in question,” Ernest Moniz, U.S. energy secretary under Obama, and Sam Nunn, a former Republican senator and arms control advocate, wrote in an op-ed article. “Losing either one of these agreements would be highly detrimental; without both, there will be no arms control constraints on nuclear forces, which will exacerbate today’s already high risks.”

Ford and other U.S. officials had already signaled that the United States was moving more aggressively to push back on the alleged Russian missile deployment.

Asked whether Washington planned to develop and deploy its own intermediate-range missiles — similar to what happened in the 1980s before the INF treaty was signed — Bolton said the Trump administration “was a long way” from that point.

Still, the prospect prompted the European Union’s foreign office to release a statement that criticized both Washington and Moscow.

“The world doesn’t need a new arms race that would benefit no one and on the contrary would bring even more instability,” it said.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

A World Trade Center survivor left an amazing goodbye to his family

As the Director of West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center, I have the good fortune of exposing cadets at the U.S. Military Academy to a number of experiences that shape their worldviews about terrorism and counterterrorism. Sometimes we even get a special opportunity to shape their worldviews on life in general.


One of the most rewarding and life-changing experiences for cadets and faculty is our annual Fall trip to New York City. Surprisingly, we have not always done this, but we started an annual trip in 2014 with the intent of showing cadets the efforts to counter terrorism in the greatest city on the planet, just 50 miles south of West Point.

In addition to visiting with partners such as the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, NYPD, and the FDNY, we always spend the entire morning at the National 9/11 Museum and Memorial.

Regardless of whether it is your first time or your 100th time, it is guaranteed to be a moving experience. I learn something new every time I am there. If you have not visited it, you should make it a priority to do so. Many cadets say it is one of the most rewarding experiences of their West Point career, and almost every cadet wishes we could spend more time there.

If you do intend to visit, don’t plan on spending an hour or two. You really should carve out the whole day. No matter how many hours you spend in this sacred place, it won’t be enough.

On this last trip, I somehow spent more time in a lesser-known section of the memorial dedicated to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. On that cold February day, there was a guy caught in an elevator shaft. Thinking it was his final hour due to the heavy smoke that came pouring in, he wrote a hand-written letter to his wife and kids. He thought he was going to die. Thankfully he survived, but his letter is in the museum for all to see, and I’m so glad it was included.

It is beautiful, jarring, inspirational, and emotional. It got me thinking about what I would write in that situation. It also made me think why we don’t articulate these kinds of thoughts to the people we love while we have the opportunity to do so (e.g. not waiting until we are in an elevator shaft filling with smoke, thinking we’re going to die).

Here it is:

*************************************************

To my family, from Dad

12:40PM smoking elevator 66, 2/26/93

A few thoughts if I am fated to leave you now.

I love you very much. Be good people. Do wonderful things in your life.

Barbara – I’ve always loved you, and showed you as much as I could.

Debbie – my beautiful girl, with wonderful bear hugs and kisses. Do good.

Jeff – What a terrific person, stay well, make good decisions, help people.

Doug – My boy. Discover secrets to cure lots of the world’s problems.

I’m so proud of my children – they’re each so wonderful.

I love and cherish – ideas, people, Cooper Union (Alumnus of the Year!!), my work, my family, doing the best I could. Nothing more to say. 

Love,

Dad

12:59 very smoky

**************************************************

It is a simple letter, but I love the themes he wrote about:

“Be good people.”

“Do wonderful things.”

“Do good.”

“Help people.”

“Cure lots of the world’s problems.”

I also love that beyond his family, the first things that came to mind when he thought about things he loved were ideas, people, his alma mater, and doing the best he could.

Also Read: This was how the military reacted after terrorists attacked on Sept. 11

So in the aftermath of a seemingly never-ending political season, where we still have to sit and watch negative messages that are intended to divide us, I like to focus instead on the wise words of someone forced to maximize what little time he had left on this earth. This is what is important. Whether you are black, white, or purple, straight or gay, native-born or an immigrant, everyone can relate to this letter. When you strip everything else away, we want our families to know we loved them and to inspire them to do good in the world.

After you read it, please tell the people in your life what they mean to you, and do it as if you were in an elevator shaft filling with smoke and you thought you weren’t going to make it.

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