Bill Withers died earlier in the week from complications from heart disease at age 81. Withers was known for his amazing vocals, soulful songs and was one of the best soul singers of all time. He was also a veteran of the United States Navy.
His death has resulted in an outpouring of mourning and grief from singers, artists and fans cross the world.
Regarded as one of the best songwriters of his generation, his influence has been seen in multiple genres of music and generations of artists. Withers gave us such classics as ‘Lean On Me,’ ‘Ain’t No Sunshine,’ ‘Grandma’s Hands,’ ‘Just the Two of Us’ and ‘Lovely Day.’
But there is one song that really resonates with veterans. In 1973, Withers released a song he had written while America was still involved in Vietnam.
Withers was born July 4, 1938, in Slab Fork, West Virginia. He was afflicted with a stutter from the time he was a child. He enlisted in the Navy at 18 where he served as an aircraft mechanic. He had good reason for wanting that field.
Withers told Rolling Stone, “My first goal was, I didn’t want to be a cook or a steward. So I went to aircraft-mechanic school. I still had to prove to people that thought I was genetically inferior that I wasn’t too stupid to drain the oil out of an airplane.”
While he was in the Navy, he was able to do speech therapy so he could stop stuttering. In fact, he stayed in the Navy as long as he could so he could work on his speech. He overcame his stutter using various techniques while also developing an interest in singing and songwriting. After nine years of service, he was discharged in 1965 and moved to Los Angeles to try and break into the music business. Withers worked for the aviation industry during the day while playing local night clubs at night trying to get noticed. His hard work paid off, when in 1970, he was signed to a record contract. His first album came out a year later and his career took off shortly thereafter.
After a couple of years of hits, Withers would write and perform a song that would be hailed as one of the most poignant songs about veterans and the war in Vietnam.
“I Can’t Write Left-Handed” was written from the perspective of a wounded warrior. It wasn’t a political statement, it wasn’t self-righteous, it wasn’t inflammatory. It was simply what he thought Vietnam Veterans went through and what they were going to go through. It was one of the first songs to touch on the mental anguish and post traumatic stress many Vietnam Veterans experienced in the years after the war.
Withers opened the song with a spoken intro….
“We recorded this song on October the 6th. Since then the war’s been declared over. If you’re like me you’ll remember it like anybody remembers any war: one big drag. Lot of people write songs about wars and government … Very social things. But I think about young guys who were like I was when I was young. I had no more idea about any government, or political things or anything. And I think about those kind of young guys now who all of a sudden somebody comes up, and they’re very law-abiding, so if somebody says go they don’t ask any questions they just go. And I can remember not too long ago seeing a young guy with his right arm gone. Just got back. And I asked him how he was doing. He said he was doing all right now but he had thought he was gonna die. He said getting shot at didn’t bother him, it was getting shot that shook him up. And I tried to put myself in his position. Maybe he cried, maybe he said…”
The lyrics then tell us the story of the man with a missing right arm.
I can’t write left handed
Would you please write a letter to my mother Tell her to tell the family lawyer Try to get a deferment for my younger brother
Tell the Reverend Harris to pray for me, lord, lord, lord I ain’t gonna live, I don’t believe I’m going to live to get much older Strange little man over here in Vietnam, I ain’t never Bless his heart I ain’t never done nothin’ to, he done shot me in my shoulder
Boot camp we had classes You know we talked about fightin’, fightin’ everyday And lookin’ through rosy, rosy colored glasses I must admit it seemed exciting anyway But something that day overlooked to tell me Bullet look better I must say Rather when they comin’ at you. But go without the other way
And please call up the Reverend Harris And tell him to ask the lord to do some good things for me Tell him, I ain’t gonna live, I ain’t gonna live, I ain’t gonna live to get much older Strange little man over here in Vietnam, I ain’t never seen, bless his heart I Ain’t never done nothing to, he done shot me in my shoulder
After a long career with many hits, Withers withdrew from the music industry. He felt that he was too old and that touring and performing were a young man’s game. Withers will go down as one of the true icons of soul and one of the best vocalists of his generation. Let us also remember him for his service to our country as well as using his talent to give a voice to those who served in Vietnam. Rest in peace, Sir.
Many Soldiers seek Air Assault School as a simple way to get a skill badge for gloating rights. It’s only two weeks of sliding down ropes — how hard could it be? Kinda difficult, actually, if you’re not prepared.
Being a dope-on-a-rope is the fun part, but cocky and unprepared soldiers will often get dropped before they reach that point. To get the opportunity to really learn what rotor wash is, you’re going to have to do a lot of work. There’s a lot more to the school than you might think. Here’s what you need to know if you want to make it through.
I honestly don’t know if that guy was planted there by the instructors, but we all got the message. There’s no messing around at this school.
(Photo by Army Spc. Brian Smith-Dutton)
If you’re at the Sabalauski Air Assault School, for the love of all that is holy, don’t sh*t-talk the 101st Airborne
If you’re stationed at Fort Campbell, home of the Sabalauski Air Assault School, you’re more than likely going to be voluntold to attend. The 101st is pretty fond of their Air Assault status and almost everyone at the school is rocking their Old Abe.
If you’re not in the 101st and are attending on TDY, it’s ill-advised to sport an 82nd patch or Airborne wings. You might get pestered if you do, but won’t get kicked out or anything. All of that goes out the window, however, if you mouth off about the divisional rivalry.
Just how easy is it to get kicked? Here’s a fun, true story: A guy standing next to me on Day Zero couldn’t hold his tongue. He told the instructor, who kept his composure throughout, that “if you choking chickens can do this, so can I.” The instructor just opened the fool’s canteen, poured some water out, shook it near his ear, and told the idiot that he was a no-go before he could set foot on the obstacle course.
Get as much time on obstacle courses as you can before attending
The Day-Zero obstacle course isn’t that physically demanding. Every obstacle is designed so that everyone from the biggest gym rat to the smallest dude can pass. It’s more of a thought exercise than a physical exam.
The challenge that gets the most people is the rope climb. You can climb a rope with almost no effort if you carefully use your feet to create temporary anchors as you work your way up. Check out the video below for a visual example.
The “Air Assault” that will forever play in your head will remind you why your knees are blown out at 25.
(Photo by Master Sgt. Matthew Hecht)
Get used to saying “Air Assault” at least 7000 times a day
“When that left foot hits the ground, all I want to hear is that Air Assault sound.” This literally means you’ll be saying, “Air Assault” every single time your left foot hits the ground while you’re at the school. It’s not very pleasant considering it’s a three-syllable phrase and you’ll be uttering it every other second.
The answer to every question is “Air Assault.” Every movement is “Air Assault.” You’ll probably start mumbling the phrase after a while, but don’t let the instructors catch you doing it.
Also, don’t sleep in class. That’s a shortcut to getting kicked.
(Photo by Army Spc. Brian Smith-Dutton)
There’s actually a lot of math
After you’re done with the obstacle course, the first phase is all about the helicopters. You’ll be expected to memorize every specification of every single helicopter in the Army’s roster.
And, yes, you’ll need to brush up on your basic math skills to plot out how far apart each helicopter should be given their size and area of landing. But don’t worry, you’ll get to the fun stuff soon enough.
Another heads up: That yellow stick thing is super important. You don’t want to learn the hard way why you have to poke the helicopter with it.
(Photo by Pfc. Alexes Anderson)
Expect to do more sling-load operations than fast roping
Oh, you thought Air Assault was all about jumping out of helicopters and quickly touching on what it takes to be a Pathfinder? That’s hilarious. You’re now going to be qualified for a detail that will almost always come up when you’re deployed: sling-loading gear to the bottom of helicopters.
The math skills and carrying capacities you crammed into your brain will ensure that you’re the go-to guy whenever a sling-load mission comes up. It’s only after that test that you move onto the repelling phase. This is when things gets fun.
Do units still do blood wings? Probably not. It’s not that bad, really.
(Photo by Sgt. Mickey Miller)
Make sure your 12-mile ruck march is up to speed
If you’re in a combat arms unit, making a 12-mile ruck march in under three hours isn’t asking much. That’s just one mile every fifteen minutes if you pace yourself properly. The ruck is the absolute last thing you’ll be doing at Air Assault School, just moments before graduation. And yet, people still fail.
If your unit came to cheer you on and give you your blood wings and you can’t complete the elementary ruck march at the end, you’ll never live down the fact that you failed while everyone was finding parking.
As a veteran with service-connected musculoskeletal injuries, let me start right off by saying I love Kill Cliff CBD beverages. For me personally, it reduces pain without any side effects like cognitive impairment or drowsiness. So you better believe I perked up when I heard Kill Cliff was expanding their CBD line.
Founded by a Navy SEAL with the spirit of giving back, Kill Cliff makes clean energy drinks with the intention of supporting the military community. The company’s team includes accomplished military veterans and it honors the dedication and sacrifice made by these warriors and their families by donating a portion of the proceeds through their official partnership with the Navy SEAL Foundation.
And now they’ve teamed up with Joe Rogan to create The Flaming Joe, a fiery pineapple fusion that contains B-vitamins, electrolytes, plant extracts, and 25mg of CBD derived from broad-spectrum hemp. As with all Kill Cliff drinks, there is no sugar or artificial ingredients.
CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) are cannabinoids found in both marijuana and hemp but they affect the human body in different ways. THC is the main psychoactive compound in marijuana, which gives people the feeling of “being high.”
CBD, especially hemp-derived CBD, doesn’t cause that “high” feeling — instead, it has medicinal properties that reportedly help reduce conditions like pain and anxiety.
Rogan, a popular podcaster, is a longtime advocate of CBD for mental and physical well-being. It is a regular topic on his podcast and a shared interest with a multitude of celebrity guests ranging from Mike Tyson and Miley Cyrus to military veterans like Andy Stumpf.
“It’s amazing how much good you can get out of a 24-kilogram kettlebell and a can of Kill Cliff CBD,” observed Rogan, who became an instant fan when he tasted one of the original CBD flavors. Much of Rogan’s brand involves sports and martial arts, so recovery beverages are a big part of his health regiment.
Since entering the CBD market last year, Kill Cliff has pioneered the industry, gaining massive distribution, accelerating brand engagement and attracting top athletes and high-profile celebrities. In fact, earlier this year, John Brenkus, the six-time Emmy Award winning creator and host and producer of ESPN’s Sport Science, joined Kill Cliff as Chief Marketing Officer.
“People are more concerned than ever with what they put in their bodies. Kill Cliff is by far the best tasting and healthiest energy drink available, Brenkus said. “I’m honored to be part of the clean energy drink company that is literally disrupting the industry.”
If you are looking to drop alcohol from your lifestyle, CBD Cocktails are worth exploring. Check out some mocktails courtesy of the Kill Cliff Team:
SPICY PINA COLADA
2 PARTS KILL CLIFF CBD FLAMING JOE
1 PART COCONUT CREAM
1 PART PINEAPPLE
GARNISH W/ PINEAPPLE
1 PART KILL CLIFF CBD FLAMING JOE
1/4 OZ FRESH LIME JUICE
1/4 CUP ORANGE JUICE
GARNISH W/ JALAPENO + PINEAPPLE
RIM WITH CAYENNE
The new Flaming Joe is available to order now at killcliffcbd.com. You’re warmly invited to crush your cravings with all the Kill Cliff CBD flavors including Flaming Joe, Strawberry Daze, Mango Tango (my personal favorite), The G.O.A.T, and Orange Kush. Check out Kill Cliff’s clean energy drinks at killcliff.com.
In 1979, American Vela Hotel satellites detected a bright double flash near the Prince Edward Islands of Antarctica. A double-flash is a clear indication of a nuclear explosion in the atmosphere, as all 41 of the previous double flashes turned out to be. The only thing was this time, no one was claiming this unannounced nuclear test.
A Soviet spy later announced the flashes were caused by a joint Israeli-South African nuclear test.
The South Africans had been researching atomic energy since at least 1965, with the delivery of a U.S.-made nuclear research reactor and a supply of highly enriched uranium fuel. The country soon began to pour its resources into its own uranium enrichment programs and by 1969, was able to produce weapons-grade uranium on its own. By the 1970s, South Africa was developing nuclear explosions for use in mining, but that program quickly became a weapons development program. By the 1980s, South Africa was a nuclear weapons state.
In the 1980s, South Africa was also developing missiles that could be used with the six warheads they constructed, based on the Israeli designs for its Shavit rockets.
Israel’s Shavit rockets delivers satellites into space for the Jewish state.
It’s important to note that during this entire process, South Africa was fighting a prolonged border insurrection with its breakaway state of South West Africa and its allies in Angola and Cuba. Between 1966 and 1989, the Cold War raged hot in the southern tip of the continent as the South West African People’s Organisation wrested control of the region against the South African Defence Forces. At the same time, the South Africans were fighting Angolan and Cuban intervention, as well as insurgent groups from nearby Zambia, especially the People’s Liberation Army of Namibia.
The extended fighting at their borders gave South Africa a big incentive to develop nuclear weapons to bring leverage to their position at the negotiating table. When the Western powers and the Soviet Union got wind of potential South African nuclear tests in the late 80s, they were horrified and pressured the South Africans to abort the test. But South Africa never had any intention of putting warheads on the missiles; they didn’t fit anyway. South Africa wanted the world to think they did, however.
A South African armored column in Ohangwena, Ovamboland in the 1970s.
Instead, the South Africans did the opposite. They signed a peace accord with all the belligerents they had been fighting for more than 20 years, withdrew their troops from South West Africa, and allowed the region to declare its independence as the new country of Namibia. The very next year, South Africa ended its nuclear program. Since then, it helped establish the African Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone and became party to the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, ending more than 40 years of nuclear weapons research.
The U.S. military is awash in regulations, laws, and official traditions. How troops march and salute, what uniform to wear to what event, or what you are supposed to say when greeting a superior are all examples of “on-the-books” behaviors expected of service members.
And then there are the “off-the-books” traditions. They are the unwritten rules: traditions that go back way before the books were printed. These activities — especially the ones involving hazing — are often frowned upon, but still continue to happen, usually without any official recognition.
Here are eight examples.
1. Fighter pilots (or members of flight crew) get hosed down after their final flight.
The “fighter pilot mafia” is definitely a thing in the Air Force and Navy, which is the nickname for the pilot sub-culture within each service. Soon after aviators get to a new unit they will go through an unofficial ceremony of receiving their callsigns, and they usually are not very flattering.
On the flip side is the final flight. Much like a football coach gets a giant cooler of Gatorade dumped over their head at the end of a game, pilots sometimes will get hosed down with water by their comrades. In some cases, they’ll be doused with champagne.
In the case of Maj. Vecchione (shown below), his peers also threw string cheese, flour, and mayonnaise on him. Personally, I would’ve thrown in some ketchup and mustard, but hell, I wasn’t there.
2. At a military wedding with a sword detail, the wife gets a sword-tap to her booty to “welcome her” to the family.
Nothing like a little tradition that allows some dude to tap your brand new wife on the butt. When a service member wants to go through the pageantry of having a “military wedding” — wearing their uniform at the altar and bringing along a sword detail — they can expect that at the end of it all, some random dude will be sexually harassing his wife for the sake of tradition.
It goes like this: On the way out right after the ceremony, the couple passes over an arch of swords on both sides. They go through, kiss, go through, kiss, then they get to the last one. Once they reach the final two and pass, one of the detail will lower their sword, tap the bride, and say “welcome to the Army [or Marine Corps, etc]!”
Here’s the Navy version:
3. When a Navy ship crosses the equator, sailors perform the “crossing the line” ceremony, which frankly, involves a lot of really weird stuff.
The Crossing the Line ceremony goes far back to the days of wooden ships. According to this Navy public affairs story, sailors were put through this hazing ritual designed to test whether they could endure their first time out at sea.
These days, sailors crossing the line for the first time — called Pollywogs or Wogs for short — can expect an initiation into the club of those who have done it before, referred to as Shellbacks. During the two-day event, the “Court of Neptune” inducts the Wogs into “the mysteries of the deep” with activities like having men dress up as women, drink stuff like a wonderful mix of hot sauce and aftershave, or make them crawl on their hands and knees in deference to King Neptune. I swear I’m not making any of this up.
In the modern military that is decidedly against hazing rituals, the events have toned down quite a bit. In 1972 a sailor may have expected to be kissing the “Royal Baby’s belly button,” which again, is totally a real thing.
Nowadays however, there’s much less of that sort of thing, and the Navy stresses that it’s all completely voluntary (ask any sailor, however, and they’ll probably tell you it’s “voluntary” with big air quotes).
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
4. Before going on deployment, Marine infantrymen who have never deployed need to shave their heads.
Don’t ask me where this unwritten rule came from or why — other than to distinguish who the total boots in the platoon were — but Marine grunts who have never done a deployment are often told to shave their heads before they move out.
Again, this is one of those “voluntary” you-don’t-have-to-do-this-if-you-don’t-want-to kind of things, but there were 3 guys in my platoon who decided to keep their hair before deploying to Okinawa in 2003. Interestingly enough, they were put on plenty of cleanup details and other not-so-fun jobs as a result.
5. When achieving the next rank or earning parachute wings or other insignia, a service member may get “blood-pinned,” though it’s rare these days.
Soldiers who get through five successful jumps at Airborne School in the past could expect to get “blood wings,” but that practice has died down in recent years as the public has learned of it. After a superior pinned their wings on, a soldier would get their new badge slammed into their chest, which often draws blood.
This kind of thing is frowned upon — and prohibited under military regulations — but it still sometimes happens. In some cases, it’s considered a rite of passage and kind of an honor. I personally endured pinning ceremonies that I volunteered for when I picked up the ranks of lance corporal and corporal.
6. Some units have mustache-growing contests in training or on deployment to see who can achieve the most terrible-looking ‘stache.
The military regulations on facial hair offer little in the way of good looking when it comes to shaves. Most men are not allowed to grow beards (except for some special operators) and although they are allowed, mustaches are generally frowned upon. Why they are frowned upon usually comes down to how terrible they often look.
Don’t expect any mustache greatness ala Rollie Fingers; troops usually have to keep the mustache neatly trimmed within the corners of their mouth. Those regulations give way to the terribleness derived from the “CAX ‘stache,” which is what Marines refer to as the weird-looking Hitler-like mustache they’ll grow out while training at 29 Palms.
These contests sometimes extend overseas, especially when junior troops are away from the watchful eyes of their senior enlisted leaders. But whenever the sergeant major is around, you might want to police that moostache.
7. First-year West Point cadets have a giant pillow fight to blow off steam after the summer is over.
Before they become the gun-toting leaders of men within the United States Army, first year cadets are beating the crap out of each with pillows in the school’s main courtyard. The annual event is organized by the students and has occurred since at least 1897, according to The New York Times.
While it’s supposed to be a light-hearted event featuring fluffy pillows filled with things that are, you know, soft, some [blue falcon] cadets have decided to turn the event bloody in recent years. One first-year cadet told The Times in September: “The goal was to have fun, and it ended up some guys just chose to hurt people.”
That quote came from a story that broke months ago after the “fun” pillow fight ended with at least 30 cadets requiring medical attention, 24 of which were concussions.
8. Naval Academy midshipmen climb a lard-covered monument for a hat.
Around the same time that first-year West Point cadets are beating each other and causing concussions, 1,000 screaming Navy midshipmen are charging toward a 21-foot monument covered in lard with a hat on top. The goal: Retrieve the first-year “plebe” hat and replace it with an upperclassmen hat, a task which signifies their transition to their next year at the Academy.
Beforehand, upperclassmen hook up the plebes with about 200 pounds of greasy lard slapped on the sides of the Herndon Monument, making their task a bit more difficult. They need to use teamwork and dedication to climb their way to the top, which can take anywhere from minutes to over four hours (Class of 1995 has the longest time 4 hours, 5 minutes).
According to the Academy’s website, the tradition is that the first guy to make it to the top will likely rise to the rank of admiral first. That is if he or she doesn’t get themselves fired first.
Nothing says Thanksgiving like football in the backyard, family gathered around the table, and, of course, a nice hunk of meat. For many of us, this means turkey or chicken, but if you’re seeking a good, old-fashioned red meat this holiday season (or just looking to change things up), consider a cold-brew marinated steak.
This meal may seem jarring if you think coffee is only for drinking. But for those of us who have experimented with coffee rubs during grilling season, we know it can infuse a rich nutty flavor and make the meat super tender. This is due to the coffee’s high acidity levels, which help break down tough proteins in the meat. Allowing meat to marinate in a coffee brine for a few hours further assists the softening process, leaving the meat tender and with a smoky flavor.
This cold-brew marinated ribeye is a great way to shake things up for Thanksgiving dinner.
(Photo by Lacey Whitehouse/Coffee or Die)
We’ll be using cold-brew coffee as the base for our marinade. This is a great opportunity to finish up the last batch of concentrate you brewed — or make some fresh to use in other seasonal beverages during the holidays.
It’s important to note that cold brew is not simply iced coffee — it’s a completely different process. While iced coffee is brewed hot and brought to room temperature before being served over ice, cold brew utilizes room temperature water and coffee grounds to create a concentrate. Typically, the coffee is ground coarsely and left to brew in temperate water for six to 12 hours. The result is a smooth concentrate that is three times stronger than traditionally brewed coffee and can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
(Photo by Lacey Whitehouse/Coffee or Die)
To mitigate the risk of the meat hardening, we’ll be combining the cold brew with other acid-rich ingredients to make the juiciest possible steak. For our marinade, we’ll be using cold brew, apple cider vinegar, olive oil, garlic cloves, onion powder, parsley, dried oregano, salt, and molasses. The apple cider vinegar cuts the fats and natural sweetness of the steak to help round out its overall flavor. Combined with molasses, we’ll achieve a wonderfully delicate balance between the savoriness of the meat and the tang of the marinade.
The holiday season is a time to show your love, and there’s no better way to do that than with a good cut of meat. Enjoy your steak with fries or your favorite holiday sides.
Recipe by Brittany Ramjattan/Coffee or Die.
(Photo by Lacey Whitehouse/Coffee or Die. Graphic by Erik Campbell/Coffee or Die.)
Army acquisition leaders and weapons developers are increasing their thinking about how future enemies might attack —and looking for weaknesses and vulnerabilities in their platforms and technologies earlier in the developmental process, senior service leaders told Scout Warrior.
The idea is to think like an enemy trying to defeat and/or out-maneuver U.S. Army weapons, vehicles, sensors and protective technologies in order to better determine how these systems might be vulnerable when employed, Mary Miller, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Research and Technology, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
The goal of this thinking, she explained, is to identify “fixes” or design alternatives to further harden a weapons system before it is fielded and faces contact with an enemy.
“We have taken it upon ourselves to look at early developmental systems for potential vulnerabilities. As we understand where we might have shortfalls or weaknesses in emerging programs, we can fix them before things go to production,” Miller added.
The Army is already conducting what it calls “Red Teaming” wherein groups of threat assessment experts explore the realm of potential enemy activity to include the types of weapons, tactics and strategies they might be expected to employ.
“Red Teams” essentially act like an enemy and use as much ingenuity as possible to examine effective ways of attacking U.S. forces. These exercises often yield extremely valuable results when it comes to training and preparing soldiers for combat and finding weaknesses in U.S. strategies or weapons platforms.
This recent push, within the Army acquisition world, involves a studied emphasis on “Red Teaming” emerging technologies much earlier in the acquisition process to engineer solutions that counter threats in the most effective manner well before equipment is fully developed, produced or worst case, deployed.
Miller explained that this strategic push to search for problems, vulnerabilities and weaknesses within weapons systems very early in the acquisition process was designed to keep the Army in front of enemies.
A key concept is, of course, to avoid a circumstance wherein soldiers in combat are using weapons and technologies which have “fixable” problems or deficiencies which could have been identified and successfully addressed at a much earlier point in the developmental process.
As a result, weapons developers in the Army acquisition world and Science and Technology (ST) experts spend a lot of time envisioning potential future conflict scenarios with next-generation weapons and technologies.
Miller emphasized how the Army is increasingly working to develop an ability to operate, fight and win in contested environments. This could include facing enemies using long range sensors and missiles, cyber attacks, electronic warfare, laser weapons and even anti-satellite technologies designed to deny U.S. soldiers the use of GPS navigation and mapping, among other things.
As a result, Army engineers, acquisition professionals and weapons developers are working now to ensure that tomorrow’s systems are as effective and as impenetrable as possible.
“We need to better understand vulnerabilities before we design something for our soldiers. We need to see if they have inherent glitches. We now face potential adversaries that are becoming technically on par with us,” Miller said. “We are asking the ST enterprise to think ahead to a scenario where our enemies might be using our technologies against ourselves,” Miller said.
One recent example which advanced the Army acquisition community’s strategy to look for and address vulnerabilities early in the developmental process involved an assessment of Forward Operating Base, or FOB, protection technologies used in Afghanistan.
The “Deployable Force Protection” program focused on protection systems including sensors, towers and weapons systems designed to identify and destroy approaching threats to the FOB. These systems were being urgently deployed to Afghanistan in a rapid effort to better protect soldiers. The Army performed useful assessments of these technologies, integrating them into realistic, relevant scenarios in order to discern where there may be vulnerabilities, Miller explained.
Teams of Warfighters, weapons experts, engineers and acquisition professionals tried to think about how enemy fighters might try to attack FOBs protected with Deployable Force Protection technologies. They looked for gaps in the sensors’ field of view, angles of possible attack and searched for performance limitations when integrated into a system of FOB protection technologies. They examined small arms attacks, mortar and rocket attacks and ways groups of enemy fighters might seek to approach a FOB. The result of the process led to some worthwhile design changes and enhancements to force protection equipment, Miller explained.
“We have focused on small bases in Afghanistan and did Red Teaming here (in the U.S.) to make sure the system was robust. We’ve taken that whole mindset and now merged it into a new program concept,” Miller said.
The United States Postal Service said it would suspend mail delivery in some states on Jan. 30, 2019, because of extreme cold from a polar vortex in much of the country this week that has sent temperatures plunging well into negative degrees.
“Weather forecasters are warning of dangerously cold conditions in parts of the nation,” the agency said in a press release on Jan. 29, 2019. “Some places could see wind chill readings as low as 60 below zero.”
It added that “due to this arctic outbreak and concerns for the safety of USPS employees, the Postal Service is suspending delivery” on Jan. 30, 2019, in several three-digit ZIP code locations:
More than 220 million Americans will be forced to contend with below-freezing temperatures. The temperature in Chicago on Jan. 30, 2019, was about 20 degrees below zero, according to the National Weather Service, with the windchill extending even more into the negatives.
“You’re talking about frostbite and hypothermia issues very quickly, like in a matter of minutes, maybe seconds,” Brian Hurley, a meteorologist with the Weather Prediction Center, told The Associated Press.
“This allows the aircraft to identify a threat and actively prosecute that threat through avoidance, deception or jamming techniques,” Mike Gibbons, Vice President of the Boeing F-15 program, told Scout Warrior in an interview a few months ago.
These updated EW capabilities replace the Tactical Electronic Warfare Suite, which has been used since the 1980s, not long after the F-15 first deployed. The service plans to operate the fleet until the mid-2040’s, so an overhaul of the Eagle’s electronic systems helps maintain U.S. air supremacy, the contract announcement said.
Boeing won the initial contract for the EPAWSS project last year and hired BAE Systems as the primary subcontractor.
Overall, the US Air Force is vigorously upgrading the 1980s-era F-15 fighter by giving new weapons and sensors in the hope of maintaining air-to-air superiority over the Chinese J-10 equivalent.
The multi-pronged effort not only includes the current addition of electronic warfare technology but also extends to super-fast high-speed computers, infrared search and track enemy targeting systems, increased networking ability and upgraded weapons-firing capability, Air Force and Boeing officials said.
“The Air Force plans to keep the F-15 fleet in service until the mid-2040’s. Many of the F-15 systems date back to the 1970’s and must be upgraded if the aircraft is to remain operationally effective. Various upgrades will be complete as early as 2021 for the F-15C AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) radar and as late as 2032 for the various EW (electronic warfare) upgrades,” Air Force spokesman Maj. Rob Leese told Scout Warrior a few months ago.
The Air Force currently operates roughly 400 F-15C, D and E variants. A key impetus for the upgrade was well articulate in a Congressional report on the US and China in 2014. (US-China Economic and Security Review Commission —www.uscc.gov). Among other things, the report cited rapid Chinese technological progress and explained that the US margin of superiority has massively decreased since the 1980s.
As an example, the report said that in the 1980s, the US F-15 was vastly superior to the Chinese equivalent – the J-10. However, Chinese technical advances in recent years have considerably narrowed that gap to the point where the Chinese J-10 is now roughly comparable to the US F-15, the report explained.
Air Force and Boeing developers maintain that ongoing upgrades to the F-15 will ensure that this equivalence is not the case and that, instead, they will ensure the superiority of the F-15.
Among the upgrades is an ongoing effort to equip the F-15 with the fastest jet-computer processer in the world, called the Advanced Display Core Processor, or ADCPII.
“It is capable of processing 87 billion instructions per second of computing throughput, translating into faster and more reliable mission processing capability for an aircrew,” Boeing spokesman Randy Jackson told Scout Warrior.
High tech targeting and tracking technology is also being integrated onto the F-15, Gibbons added. This includes the addition of a passive long-range sensor called Infrared Search and Track, or IRST.
The technology is also being engineered into the Navy F-18 Super Hornet. The technology can detect the heat signature, often called infrared emissions, of enemy aircraft.
“The system can simultaneously track multiple targets and provide a highly effective air-to-air targeting capability, even when encountering advanced threats equipped with radar-jamming technology,” Navy officials said.
IRST also provides an alternate air-to-air targeting system in a high threat electronic attack environment, Navy, Air Force and industry developers said.
The F-15 is also being engineered for additional speed and range, along with weapons-firing ability. The weapons-carrying ability is being increased from 8 up to 16 weapons; this includes an ability to fire an AIM-9x or AIM-120 missile. In addition, upgrades to the aircraft include adding an increased ability to integrate or accommodate new emerging weapons systems as they become available. This is being done through both hardware and software-oriented “open standards” IP protocol and architecture.
The aircraft is also getting a “fly-by-wire” automated flight control system.
“Fly by wire means when the pilot provides the input – straight to a computer than then determines how to have the aircraft perform the way it wants – provides electrical signals for the more quickly and more safely move from point to point as opposed to using a mechanical controls stick,” Gibbons explained.
Along with these weapons upgrades and other modifications, the F-15 is also getting upgrades to the pilot’s digital helmet and some radar signature reducing, or stealthy characteristics.
However, at the same time, the F-15 is not a stealthy aircraft and is expected to be used in combat environments in what is called “less contested” environments where the Air Force already has a margin of air superiority over advanced enemy air defenses.
For this reason, the F-15 will also be increasing networked so as to better support existing 5th-generation platforms such as the F-22 and F-35, Air Force officials said.
The intent of these F-15 upgrades is to effectively perform the missions assigned to the F-15 fleet, which are to support the F-22 in providing air superiority and the F-35 in providing precision attack capabilities, Leese said.
“While these upgrades will not make these aircraft equivalent to 5th generation fighters, they will allow the F-15 to support 5th generation fighters in performing their missions, and will also allow F-15s to assume missions in more permissive environments where capabilities of 5th generation fighters are not required,” Leese added.
Gibbons added that the upgrades to the F-15 will ensure that the fighter aircraft remains superior to its Chinese equivalent.
“The F-15 as a vital platform that still has a capability that cannot be matched in terms of ability to fly high, fly fast, go very far carry a lot. It is an air dominance machine,” Gibbons explained.
He wanted to sit in the cockpit as a pilot, but a failed depth perception test found him sitting underneath the plane as a ball turret gunner on the B-17 Flying Fortress.
But while his view of the ground may have changed, his view of the bomber never waivered.
“The B-17 was the best airplane ever built, ’cause it brought you home,'” he said. “We’ve come home on a wing and a prayer, sometimes you come in on two engines, sometimes two engines and a half of a wing, but you got home.”
Many never did, however, as between 1942 and 1945 flying bombing missions for the “Mighty 8th” proved to be the most dangerous occupation in the U.S. Army Air Forces. Airmen were asked to complete a 25-mission quota at a time when the life expectancy of a crew didn’t surpass six missions. Casualty rates for heavy bomber crews also reached as high as 89 percent.
During his time at RAF Ridgewell, England from 1943 – 1945 Perrone flew 32 missions with the 533rd Bomb Squadron at the height of the aerial campaigns against the Third Reich. He is credited with 3.5 kills from the ball turret.
“You’re by yourself and it’s an odd feeling (shooting someone down). It’s been so long ago, I can’t think of all the ins and outs. I prayed a lot, I can tell you that,” said Perrone. “War, it’s a young man’s game.”
“War, it’s a young man’s game.”
According to Perrone, the amount of bombers in the air during missions was mind-boggling. Most missions involved hundreds of B-17 and B-24 Liberator bombers targeting ball-bearing plants, rail yards, oil production facilities and aircraft manufacturing factories.
Nighttime area bombing attacks by the RAF complimented the daytime precision bombing raids by the U.S. Army Air Force. The bombers wreaked havoc on the German war machine, but allied casualties began to mount due to German 88mm anti-aircraft gun shells, commonly described as “flak,” and the vulnerability of the bombers to be attacked head-on by the Luftwaffe or German air force.
Bomber losses rapidly increased to a rate the Eighth could not withstand.
On Sept. 6, 1943, Perrone’s crew joined a raid on a German ball bearing production plant. Of the 400 Flying Fortresses launched for the mission, 60 were shot down and 600 Airmen were lost.
“The flak was so thick you could walk on it,” said Perrone. “During the ins and outs of the cities, through flak, was the only time I was scared. I always wanted to see those puffs of flak clouds below me, way below me.”
“When the Germans look up to see all our bombers, better them than us, believe me when I tell you, it had to be tough on them, and as the war went along, we became stronger and stronger and stronger,” said Perrone. “There were some towns and cities in Germany we leveled. We broke the Germans’ backs. The British softened them and then we really gave it to them.”
The strength was provided by the long-range escort of P-38 Lightning and P-47 Thunderbolt aircraft outfitted with extra fuel drop tanks. Eventually, the employment of the P-51 Mustang allowed fighter escorts to reach Berlin.
The bombers and fighters together destroyed the Luftwaffe and air supremacy was gained over western Germany.
“My favorite memory; my last mission. I knew I was done and everything was okay,” said Perrone. “I was more scared on my last mission than my first.”
Perrone considers himself lucky, only one in five aircrew members of the 8th AF made the quota to end their tour of duty.
At the end of the war in Europe USAAF shifted focus to Japan with the deployment of the most technologically advanced aircraft, and the last bomber of World War II, the B-29 Superfortress.
The B-29 was designed as a high-altitude strategic bomber, but it was primarily used as a low-altitude night bomber in the Pacific theater. It was equipped with a pressurized cabin and had a central fire system of remotely controlled gun turrets each armed with .50 caliber machine guns.
The Superfortress also became the first nuclear capable aircraft.
On Aug. 6, 1945, a B-29 named the “Enola Gay” deployed the world’s first atomic weapon on Hiroshima, Japan. Three days later a second B-29, “Bockscar,” dropped another atomic bomb on Nagasaki.
Six days later Japan surrendered, the war was over and the era of nuclear deterrence began.
With the advent of the nuclear weapon, bombers became the first vehicle to deliver apocalyptic devastation. Today’s strategic bombers provide one of the three delivery components of the nuclear triad along with land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles and submarine-launched ballistic missiles, which make up our nation’s nuclear deterrence strategy.
“The capabilities of our nuclear deterrence are the bedrock of everything we do as a military,” said Gen. John E. Hyten, commander of U.S. Strategic Command at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska. “It’s the thing that keeps our adversaries from taking a step too far. Nuclear deterrence keeps the great power conflicts down and the horrible death and destruction, like what was seen during World War II, away from the world.”
In its infancy, the Air Force, then dubbed the Army Air Corps, lacked strategic bombing support while under Army control. The Army wasn’t convinced airplanes should be used for strategic bombing, but advocates like Brig. Gen. Billy Mitchell argued bombers could replace traditional land and naval tactics as a dominant form by striking an enemy nation’s industrial complex and crippling its economic ability to fight. The Army’s prevailing view of the airplane, however, was as a reconnaissance and tactical bombing vehicle supporting ground troops on the front lines.
Despite the debate, the American bomber was born in 1934 and shepherded in a new era of aerial combat.
Alexander is a second-generation “bomber crew dog” of the Eighth Air Force. His grandfather, Bill Alexander was a co-pilot on a B-24 for the 489th Bombardment Group out of RAF Halesworth, England.
“I can’t imagine what he and his crew went through,” said Alexander of his grandfather. “You are basically in a flying unpressurized beer can with a couple engines strapped onto it, a few guns and about 8,000 pounds of bombs. There’s no GPS, no inertial navigation system, it’s charts and a protractor getting you across the English Channel through clouds of German flak. It’s noisy and freezing 20 degrees below zero. Oh, and there’s like a 0.06 percent chance of survival over the course of 25 missions.”
“They were truly our greatest generation”
Alexander said the basics of bombing doctrine were established in World War II, but with a myriad of sensors helping deploy munitions with absolute precision, landing within inches from the target, the B-52, B-1 Lancer and B-2 Spirit have certainly come a long way.
Alexander explained what happened in the skies of Europe was absolutely instrumental. The losses were catastrophic, but at the time the USAAF had to launch 70 aircraft to take out a facility in the hopes one got lucky to peer through the clouds and strike a target. Nowadays one B-52 can take out that same facility, but from 1,000 miles away.
“They laid down the absolute fundamentals of what air power brings to the picture in terms of complete destruction of enemy objectives,” said Alexander. “We provide the same thing today in a much more non-contested environment.”
Alexander said the 8th AF is in demand by combatant commanders around the world. The strategic importance of bombers is even more important today than ever in terms of our posturing, projecting power, nuclear deterrence and assuring our allies.
GRAPHIC BY CHRIS DESROCHER // ANIMATION BY MAUREEN STEWART
“Strategic bombers are also incredibly important to the nuclear triad. You have your intercontinental ballistic missiles and they stay in the ground all day. You have submarines, but it’s their job for you to not see them. The difference with the nuclear bomber is the visibility,” said Alexander. “If there’s a nuclear bomber in your yard, you know it’s there. It’s the most visible part of the triad.”
Alexander stated another importance of the bombers is their recall ability. The president has the ability to recall the aircraft before weapons are launched. It’s the flexibility the bomber brings to the triad.
“Strategic posturing sometimes is a greater deterrence,” said Alexander of what the nuclear bombers bring to the fight. “You can have the B-1s in Guam, but when the B-52 shows up it’s a different message … it’s the big stick. When that happens the tone does change. No one wants to go to war. Deterrence, that’s what we will be focusing on.”
Alexander said when he walks the halls of the Mighty 8th AF and sees the black and white photos of the bomber crews of World War II, he sees the pride and spirit of our crews today, a bond and dependence of each other knowing the guy or gal on the left or right of you would die for you to protect our freedoms.
“There is a great sense of camaraderie with bomber crews, because we have to work more as a team,” said Alexander. “Thanks to the Army Air Corps we have the most powerful and devastating Air Force the world has ever seen.”
Perrone isn’t too sure about all that. All he does know is he made his mission quota and did what he was asked to do.
Now he meets every Wednesday for lunch with a fellow World War II and Mighty 8th veteran Jack Goldstein. The two were stationed on the same base in England, but never met.
“I was only there for the last six months of the war, but I completed my missions and we all went home together in 1945,” said Goldstein.
It took 40 years for Goldstein to open up and talk about the war. He now shares these stories with fellow veterans, but his family is unaware.
The pictures and documents stuffed away for decades in the back of his closet are now proudly displayed in his home.
“I now feel proud now when people come and thank us for our service,” said Goldstein. “There’s not too many of us kids left.”
Each of them outlived their crews, and most World War II veterans are the last remaining of a dying breed … a breed that helped shape the importance of aerial warfare and set the stage for the bomber crews of today.
The battle against explosives and stemming civilian casualties in Afghanistan remains a top priority for U.S. forces there.
“For more than 40 years, Afghanistan has been bombed, shelled and mined,” according to the Alun Hill video below. “Old Soviet mines and shells still litter the countryside.”
Insurgents use these dangerous relics, innocuous household items and other explosive materials smuggled in from Pakistan to make improvised explosive devices (IEDs), which they use against American forces. Explosives that are undetonated can remain dormant for years before being uncovered by unsuspecting civilians. Most of the casualties now in Afghanistan come from these items, said Conventional Weapons Destruction (CWD) Manager Hukum Khan Rasooly.
Watch how these dangerous weapons are made and destroyed:
Well. It seems this “acclimatize the troops to Iraq” heat wave is sweeping the globe and I think it’s a very proper time to mention the silver bullet is very much real and that sick, sadistic medic in your unit has been dying to test it out.
For those of you who aren’t up to speed, it’s a shiny thumb-sized thermometer that is brought out specifically for heat casualties and is, well, inserted rectally. Why they do this is beyond me. I would assume the standard under-the-tongue thermometers would work just fine, but I’m not a medic. Although, I guess that one doesn’t terrify the troops into drinking plenty of water for the ruck march.
So go ahead, high speed. Try drinking all night and wake up to a Monster energy drink for this run. See what happens. I guarantee you that you won’t make this same mistake twice.
To the rest of you smart enough to know how to properly identify pee charts and drink water accordingly, here’s some memes.
Growing trust between the local community and U.S. service members, and fostering good relationships with the government in the area surrounding a new base increases the chance of local support for airmen deployed there in an effort to bring stability to the region.
The U.S. Army’s 411th Civil Affairs Battalion are experts in nurturing relationships in host countries. Partnering with local community groups and base groups, civil affairs specialists have donated food, supplies, built classrooms and built solar powered wells in the communities surrounding Air Base 201 in Agadez, Niger. They also trained technicians on how to maintain the solar panels.
This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.