Blind Army vet inspires as Summer Sports ambassador - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY SPORTS

Blind Army vet inspires as Summer Sports ambassador

“It was a long walk into darkness … “

That’s how Chuck Miller describes his maddening descent into blindness — something he refused to accept as his world slipped away, little by little.

The Army veteran, who gets care at the Gainesville VA Medical Center, is the first blind veteran sailor certified by the American Sailing Association. He’s also an ambassador at the National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic, where he connects with others to help them adjust to different disabilities.

The clinic brings blind, amputee and paralyzed veterans, and those living with post-traumatic stress, to San Diego, Calif., Sept. 15 to 20, for adaptive surfing, sailing, cycling and kayaking.


“One of the most difficult things about being disabled is acceptance. That to me is one of the biggest struggles veterans have…”

Miller stops and cries for a moment.

“You know, something significant changes in their lives and they try to ignore it. That’s what I did. I was a proud soldier. Being a soldier was everything to me.”

Blind Army vet inspires as Summer Sports ambassador

Chuck Miller, a totally blind Army Veteran, has been an ambassador at the Summer Sports Clinic the last three years.

Going blind

Miller, a single dad with full custody of his son, was first diagnosed with spots on his retina in 1984.

“They just said, ‘You have something wrong with your eyes. They weren’t sure,” he said.

In 1990, his doctor diagnosed him with Retinitis Pigmentosa, a rare, genetic disorder that breaks down cells and creates scar tissue on the retinas.

“The retinas become so damaged, they’re basically dead,” Miller said. “The only problem I was having was night vision problems and some depth perception. It was difficult to accept. It went on for another 15 years and wasn’t at the point I couldn’t function. I was still driving, still doing normal work. It didn’t register at the time. I just thought, ‘Well, I got an eye problem.'”

By 2005, a doctor leveled with him. “You need to quit driving. You’re going to kill somebody if you don’t.”

“I still didn’t listen until I T-boned somebody in my car,” Miller said.

By 2009, he was blind, only seeing light but nothing else.

“I remember when I realized I was going blind, how terrified I was,” he said. “Just like every veteran, I went through a dark period. I drank, I did drugs, I wanted to kill myself. Thought I’m not worthy as a father, which is one of the most important things in my life. I literally pushed every single person away from me. I lost every friend I had as a sighted person.”

Fighting rehabilitation

Miller’s turning point came when he went to the Blind Rehabilitation Center at the Birmingham VA Medical Center.

“Don’t leave,” he told his friend who drove him there. “I’m not staying. I’m going back home. It’s not for me.”

His friend left anyway.

“That’s where you have to learn to be that disability,” he said. “You have to face it. That’s when you have to say, ‘Damn, I’m blind,’ or, “Damn, I’m this,’ or whatever,” Miller said.

He fought against instructors and struggled to learn skills needed to live in his sightless world. Instructors paired him with a roommate who was blinded at 18 in Vietnam, in hopes he could learn to accept it.

Blind Army vet inspires as Summer Sports ambassador

Chuck Miller chats with James Byrne, the deputy secretary of VA, while sailing with him at the Summer Sports Clinic.

“I was pretty angry,” Miller said. “The first couple of days, he’d lay in his bed, and he’d pray out loud to God, thanking him for his day, thanking God for being blind, and I’m thinking, ‘What the hell is wrong with you? How could you be so thankful for being disabled?'”

“Man, this is a gift, you just don’t know it yet,” his roommate said. “I get to see things different. I get to see how people are on the inside.”

Miller remembers one day in class, trying in frustration to put together a leather belt kit. The next day, his instructor gave him glasses that blocked out light.

“And I put that thing together in less than an hour,” he said. “I started to see through my fingers.”

Miller gave in, and his world without sight came into focus.

“They start taking me places. Up and down stairs, escalators, crossing four-lane roads. Before that, I wouldn’t go out without holding onto anybody. I learned braille. Found out I’m a natural. I’m sick, I actually took algebra in braille.”

Summer Sports Clinic

He put on a brave face at his first Summer Sports Clinic in 2015.

“I was talking all kinds of junk, but inside I was afraid,” he said. “It’s easy to picture doing this stuff in your mind, but doing it is scary. My first day was surfing, and I was pretty scared to go out there. I don’t know where the beach is at, I can’t see the water. At the end of the day, I was the last one out. I start thinking, ‘This is pretty freaking cool!’

“I had never sailed before in my life. You’re overwhelmed in that first year because there’s so much to take in, but from there I did a five-day sailing clinic in St. Petersburg, Florida, and they put me on a boat with a paraplegic in a wheelchair and a coach. And I’m thinking, ‘We’re screwed.’ But it’s all about exposure.”

Miller fell in love with sailing so much he got his American Sailing Certification with a score of 95 out of 100. He sails with a sighted coach, but does the work himself — untying ropes, hoisting the mast, trimming the sail to catch the wind, and steering.

“When I’m on the water,” he said, “I feel the wind blowing, the birds, the sounds of the ocean, the sun on my face. I enjoy it in a way that a sighted person can’t experience.”

Cory Kapes, who runs Warrior Sail at the clinic, said Miller sets the example. Kapes even let him steer the boat as he came into shore one day, where other boats were only 20 feet away.

Blind Army vet inspires as Summer Sports ambassador

Chuck Miller talks to a class of new sailing participants at this year’s Summer Sports Clinic.

“If these people knew I was blind, they’d have a heart attack,” Miller said.

“Just keep smiling and waving,” Kapes said with a laugh.

“It just shows you the impact this clinic can have,” Kapes said. “He never sailed a boat before he came here. He brought it home. That’s what we want other vets to do — bring it home, go kayaking, be committed, make it part of your active lifestyle.”

Ambassador

For the last three years as an ambassador, Miller traveled from Florida to San Diego by himself. When needed, he has a special pair of glasses with a built-in camera that connects him to a live agent to help him navigate. But more often than not, he uses his blind guiding cane.

Most veterans find Miller by his bright pink, volunteer T-shirt, cutting up and telling jokes.

“Hey nice to see you! Well, not really, but you get the idea … ” he tells one veteran.

“I’m Blind Chuck! Would it help if I take off my glasses?” he tells another. “Look, I take off my glasses, I don’t look blind. I put the glasses on, blind! I can look at you, but you know I can’t see you, right?”

He took the deputy secretary of Veterans Affairs on the water, making jokes and cutting up about everyone’s military branch while sailing.

Fellow veteran Michelle Marie Smith, who gets her care at the Sacramento VA, said listening to Miller at the sailing class was a highlight.

“Oh yeah,” she said. “It definitely puts everything in perspective. If I had any doubt, I don’t after listening to him.”

Miller said that’s what it’s all about.

“What I’ve learned from this clinic here – and this is important for veterans to understand – not only can you do things as a disabled person, get to know these volunteers, therapists and team leaders. The only thing they care about is teaching you how to do these sports. They want you to succeed and you just have to trust them.”

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Watch this soldier pull off the ultimate homecoming surprise at the State of the Union

We’ve all seen the surprise homecomings at baseball games, school gymnasiums and countless other places. But never before have we seen one like this: a Fort Bragg soldier surprised his family at the State of the Union address, and President Trump was in on it.


President Trump remarked, “War places a heavy burden on our Nation’s extraordinary military families, especially spouses like Amy Williams from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and her two children: 6-year-old Elliana and 3-year-old Rowan.” Amy, seated next to First Lady Melania Trump, stood up with her kids to be recognized as President Trump continued.

“Amy works full time and volunteers countless hours helping other military families,” he explained. “For the past seven months, she has done it all while her husband, Sgt. 1st Class Townsend Williams, is in Afghanistan on his fourth deployment to the Middle East.”

“Amy’s kids haven’t seen their father’s face in many months. Amy, your family’s sacrifice makes it possible for all of our families to live in safety and in peace and we want to thank you. Thank you, Amy.”

Amy was immediately given a standing ovation while she looked as though she was simply trying to hold it all together. And just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, President Trump said, “But Amy, there is one more thing.”

Watch the ultimate homecoming surprise:

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY TRENDING

Congress takes action to deter Russian threats

U.S. Republican and Democratic senators have introduced legislation threatening tough sanctions to discourage Russia from meddling in U.S. elections, Reuters reports.

The Deter Act is intended to sanction Russia’s banking, energy, and defense industries, and sovereign debt for election interference.

The legislation was introduced on April 3, 2019, by Senators Chris Van Hollen (Democrat-Maryland) and Marco Rubio (Republican-Florida).


The two legislators offered a similar bipartisan measure in 2018, which was never brought up for a vote by the Senate’s Republican leaders, who have close ties to President Donald Trump.

Such an approach is thought to have better prospects this year, because control of the House of Representatives is in the hands of Democrats.

Blind Army vet inspires as Summer Sports ambassador

Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland.

Reuters reports that the measure would require the U.S. Director of National Intelligence to determine, within 30 days of any federal election, if Russia or other foreign actors had engaged in election interference.

If such interference is detected, the act would require that mandatory sanctions be imposed within 10 days on Russian banks and energy companies among others.

The act would provide for sanctions to be imposed on two or more of the following Russian banks: Sberbank, VTB Bank, Gazprombank, Vnesheconombank, and Rosselkhozbank.

It also would ban all transactions subject to U.S. jurisdiction in Russian sovereign debt, Russian government bonds, and the debt of any entity owned or controlled by Russia’s government.

Moscow has denied trying to influence U.S. elections. But U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies have established that Moscow sought to interfere with the 2016 poll to boost Trump’s chances of winning the White House.

The Deter Act is aimed at Russia but notes that China, Iran, and North Korea are other major foreign government cyberthreats.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why the president invited these 3 troops to the State of the Union Address

Marine blinded by an improvised explosive device, an Army sergeant who rescued a sailor wounded by an IED, and a Coast Guard technician who did rescue work in the hurricanes will be among the special guests at the State of the Union address Tuesday.


In announcing the list of First Lady Melania Trump’s 11 special guests, the White House said among them would be retired Cpl. Matthew Bradford, who was blinded and lost both legs when he stepped on an IED in Iraq in 2007.

After multiple surgeries and therapies, Bradford became the first Marine with such severe injuries ever to re-enlist, the White House said. Bradford re-enlisted in 2010 and has since retired.

Blind Army vet inspires as Summer Sports ambassador
Matthew Bradford. (Facebook image)

Bradford, now 30, originally from Winchester, Kentucky, was assigned to work with other wounded Marines at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, when he re-enlisted.

Joining Bradford in the First Lady’s section in the House balcony for President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress will be Staff Sgt. Justin Peck, who has served eight years in the Army.

In November 2017, Peck was part of a team with Navy Chief Petty Officer Kenton Stacy that was clearing IEDs in Raqqa in eastern Syria, the so-called capital of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) that had been retaken by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces.

Stacy was severely wounded by an IED while clearing the second floor of a hospital building. Ignoring the threat from other IEDs, Peck rushed into the building, applied a tourniquet, put in an endotracheal tube and was “directly responsible for saving Chief Petty Officer Stacy’s life,” the White House said.

Also Read: How one US amputee is making his way back into an elite fighting force

Another special guest will be Coast Guard Aviation Electronics Technician 2nd Class Ashlee Leppert. While working out of the Coast Guard Air Station New Orleans last year, Leppert helped to rescue “dozens of Americans imperiled during the devastating hurricane season,” the White House said.

In announcing the list, White House Press Secretary said the three service members and the other eight special guests “represent the unbreakable American spirit” that Trump will cite as being a major factor in U.S. successes at home and abroad.

Articles

These American units will be first on the scene if World War III erupts

It seems like every week brings another potential flashpoint for global conflict. North Korea acts like it wants to go 12 rounds over its nuclear program. China threatens war to protect its control of Taiwan and the South China Sea. Russia stages major exercises near NATO borders and is currently occupying two regions of Ukraine.


And that’s without touching the cluster that is the ongoing conflicts in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

But Americans can still sleep soundly because its military keeps teams ready to deploy at a moments notice, projecting power to any part of the globe within hours.

Related video:

These are the U.S. military units who, in conjunction with NATO and other allies, would be in charge of drawing first blood in a knockdown fight. We modeled the conflict based on the war in Syria erupting into something larger, but the scenario would play out similarly in other regions of the world.

Listen to the author and other vets discuss this World War III scenario on the WATM podcast.

Subscribe: iTunes | Google Play | Stitcher

1. U.S. Air Force’s first move is to achieve air superiority.

Blind Army vet inspires as Summer Sports ambassador
The F-22 Raptor. Photo by: US Air Force Senior Airman Brittany A. Chase

The Air Force is likely going to find itself the first one in the ring. Strikes in Syria fall under U.S. Central Command, but command and control for a conflict that spills into Turkey would shift to U.S. European Command.

As USEUCOM began coordinating the other military branches, the Air Force in Europe would defend itself and allied air forces. The six F-16s temporarily based in Turkey would likely be the first to fire. As they begin intercepting Russian jets, the Air Force would likely send in some of the other F-16s stationed around Europe and the four F-22s deployed there in order to achieve air superiority over Turkey.

Blind Army vet inspires as Summer Sports ambassador
F-16s. Photo: US Air force Staff Sgt. Siuta B. Ika

Within 24 hours, the Air Force would dispatch 1-2 “Rapid Raptor” teams. Each consists of four F-22s that can refuel in the air as they race to any spot on the planet in 24 hours. Their support crew and additional equipment follow them in a C-17. The rest of the planes in each squadron would come later.

And of course, the Air Force would support necessary ground operations. In Jul., A-10 pilots practiced operating from an abandoned Warsaw Pact Airfield in Poland and proved they could fly from nearly anywhere.

2. The Navy moves to protect major ships from submarine attack and push Russian assets back in the Mediterranean.

Blind Army vet inspires as Summer Sports ambassador
Photo: US Navy Patty Officer 2nd Class Evan Kenny

The U.S. Navy 6th Fleet covers the Mediterranean and Black Seas and would find itself in a fierce fight if it suddenly had to secure itself from a full spectrum attack by Russia.

Putin commands an impressive fleet of extremely quiet submarines and the surface vessels of Russia’s Black Sea fleet are also impressive.

But the 6th Fleet has been preparing for these possibilities, training with allied navies with a focus on anti-submarine warfare. The destroyers of 6th Fleet have been conducting patrols through the Mediterranean and training to operate in the Black Sea.

Blind Army vet inspires as Summer Sports ambassador
Photo: US Navy Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Brien Aho

Currently, the 6th Fleet has no aircraft carrier or Marine expeditionary unit, but the USS Harry S. Truman is on its way to 5th Fleet and could be sent through the Suez Canal to 6th Fleet if necessary. Until the actual carrier arrived, the planes could fly missions supporting 6th Fleet by launching from the Truman and grabbing gas from a tanker over the Middle East on their way to the Mediterranean.

Also, other ships could surge from the U.S. into the fight if required. The USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) recently left the Arabian Sea and could be sent back if necessary. The USS H. W. Bush (CVN 77) is in Norfolk going through training exercises.

3. Marines quickly secure U.S. nationals and evacuate embassies while preparing for a massive fight.

Blind Army vet inspires as Summer Sports ambassador
Photo: US Marine Corps Staff. Sgt. Robert L. Fisher III

Marines stationed at vulnerable embassies throughout eastern Europe would quickly evacuate embassy personnel and destroy classified information. Obviously, the Moscow embassy would face the shortest timeline.

Deploying to back these Marines up, recover downed aircrews, and evacuate civilians as required is the Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response–Africa. SPMAGTFCR-AF recently trained on how to work with regional allies and quickly deploy their 500 troops, six Mv-22s, and two KC-130Js.

Blind Army vet inspires as Summer Sports ambassador
Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Rebekah Adler

Marines deployed to the Black Sea Rotational Force in Romania would provide expertise and assist in defending Romania’s coast from potential attacks by Russia’s Black Sea Fleet. Marines across the rest of the continent would prepare to repulse a land invasion from Moscow.

4. The Army looks to hold the line across over 750 miles of border.

Blind Army vet inspires as Summer Sports ambassador
Photo: US Army

U.S. Army Europe has units across the continent, but most of the major unit headquarters are in Germany. USAREUR soldiers would rapidly deploy from there to plus up smaller garrisons. This deployment would include the paratroopers of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, the Strykers of the 2nd Cavalry Regiment, and the helicopters of the rotational aviation task force in Europe.

They would be backed up by the Global Response Force from the 82nd Airborne Division in Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

5. Supporting all of this activity would be the special operators of Special Operations Command Europe.

Blind Army vet inspires as Summer Sports ambassador
Photo: US Army Spc. Travis Jones

Special Operations Command Europe has operators from the Army, Navy, and Air Force. The Army fields its oldest Special Forces group, the 10th, in Europe. Navy Special Warfare Unit 2 mostly supports forward deployed SEAL platoons but could also pivot missions to leading a Naval Special Warfare Task Unit that would support U.S. European Command.

Meanwhile, the Airmen of the 352nd Special Operations Group would plan the complex air missions supporting these other operators. The Air Force special operators from the 321st Special Tactics Squadron would provide pararescue, air traffic control, and reconnaissance capabilities.

As the fight progressed past the opening salvos, the branches and their subordinate units would slip into the NATO command structure with many U.S. troops deploying as part of NATO’s Rapid Deployable Corps.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why Greece and Macedonia argued about ‘Macedonia’ for 30 years

Leaders from Greece and Macedonia say they will meet in Switzerland this week as they continue to seek a solution to a nearly three-decade-old name dispute.


A Greek government spokesman said on Jan. 22 that Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras will meet his Macedonian counterpart, Zoran Zaev, on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Jan. 25.

Athens says the use of the name Macedonia suggests Skopje has territorial claims to Greece’s northern region of Macedonia, which includes the port city of Thessaloniki.

Blind Army vet inspires as Summer Sports ambassador
Updated map from the CIA Factbook, 20 Mar 08 (Image Wikipedia)

Greece’s objections to Skopje’s use of the name Macedonia since the country’s independence in 1991 have complicated the bids by the ex-Yugoslav republic to join the Europe Union and NATO.

Authorities from both Greece and Macedonia have said that they want to settle the issue this year.

U.N.-mediated talks between the two countries’ chief negotiators in New York on Jan. 17 did not produce concrete results but some name suggestions were put forward for negotiation, according to media reports.

Greece wants Macedonia to change its name — adding a modifier like “New” or “North” — to clarify that it has no claim on the neighboring Greek province of Macedonia.

However, many Greeks disagree with such a solution.

Also Read: That time the Greeks sent ammo to the enemy so they’d stop stripping the Parthenon

Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki on Janu. 21 to show they were against the use of the word “Macedonia” in any solution to the row.

At the U.N., Macedonia is formally known as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).

However, the Security Council has agreed that it is a provisional name.

Macedonia also has been admitted to the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund under the FYROM moniker.

Most countries, including Russia and the United States, recognize the country’s constitutional title, the Republic of Macedonia.

MIGHTY TRENDING

President Ford’s clumsiness is now enshrined forever

Gerald Ford had a reputation for being clumsy.


As we learned during our tour of the new USS Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier, the former president’s clumsiness almost cost him his life as a young sailor.

During World War II, Ford served as a navigation officer on the USS Monterey.

Related: These photos show what our veteran presidents looked like in uniform

At one point, a large wave almost washed Ford overboard the Monterey, but his foot got caught on a drain, preventing him from going over, US Navy spokesman Corey Todd Jones told Business Insider.

Blind Army vet inspires as Summer Sports ambassador
Lt. Cmdr. Gerald R. Ford. (Gerald Ford Presidential Library and Museum.)

There’s now a statue immortalizing that moment in the hangar bay of the USS Ford, which even features the drain that saved his life.

The statue, however, is removed when the ship is deployed.

One of the president’s most famous falls came on a rainy day in December 1975. Ford was walking down the stairs of Air Force One when he slipped and fell down the remaining steps.

Also read: Search gerald ford That time Gerald Ford promoted George Washington to six-star general

Unfortunately for Ford, who was actually a decorated college football player, that wasn’t the only stumble he made as president.

He also once tripped going up the stairs of Air Force One, and reportedly fell while skiing.

Chevy Chase routinely mocked him on Saturday Night Live, and there was even apparently a running joke at the time that Ford’s vice-president was just a banana peel away from the presidency.

Here’s the infamous slip:

MIGHTY TRENDING

Angry frustrated veteran shot in VA clinic altercation

A man said to be a military veteran seeking mental health care was shot by a security officer at a Veterans Affairs clinic in southern Oregon on Jan. 25 after an admissions area altercation in which authorities said the man became combative.


The man was flown to a hospital after the shooting in the southwestern community of White City with injuries that did not appear to be life-threatening, the Jackson County sheriff’s office said in a statement.

Shawn Quall, an Army veteran of the first Gulf War who is from Bend, Oregon, said he heard the man shouting before the situation escalated.

“I was walking down the main hallway when I overheard a veteran yelling at intake people that he was here for the fifth time trying to get healthcare, and was upset at what he thought was a runaround,” Quall told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

Blind Army vet inspires as Summer Sports ambassador
United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin (right) has been steadily working to reform the VA.

Quall kept walking down the hall, but when the yelling got louder, he started running back and heard someone yell, “He’s got a knife!”

“Then boom, a loud shot. I saw the guy holding his stomach and then fall to the ground,” Quall said. An officer told onlookers to leave, saying there was nothing to see.

Sgt. Julie Denney of the sheriff’s office said she could not confirm that a knife was involved.

“The details of the events leading to the shooting are still under investigation,” she said in a text message.

Also Read: VA watchdog is reviewing Shulkin’s 10-day trip to Europe where he attended Wimbledon, went on cruise

VA police responded “after reports of a combative patient in the admissions area. An altercation ensued between the man and VA Police officers, resulting in the discharge of a firearm,” the sheriff’s office statement said. The man and the officers involved were not identified.

Veterans at the clinic receiving treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder and other issues expressed shock about the shooting.

Blind Army vet inspires as Summer Sports ambassador
Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a consequence of a traumatic experience. It consists of normal responses and reactions to a life-threatening event that persisted beyond what is deemed the normal period of recovery from the event. (USAF photo by Tech. Sgt. Nadine Barclay)

Outpatient Joel Setzer, a U.S. Army veteran who also served in Operation Desert Storm in the Gulf, said, “this is the type of incident that should have never happened out there.”

The VA Southern Oregon Rehabilitation Center Clinics says on its website that it “offers a variety of health services to meet the needs of our nation’s Veterans.”

Quall said it’s not unusual to hear veterans arguing with the center’s staff.

“Often you hear guys yelling,” he said. “It’s dealing with the federal government, and it is frustrating at times.”

A spokeswoman for the clinic did not return telephone messages seeking comment.

MIGHTY TRENDING

China’s Navy flexed its muscle in a very stupid way

Featured Image: Satellite photo dated March 26, 2018, shows Chinese ships south of Hainan, China. (Planet Labs)


Beijing put on a massive show of force on March 26, 2018, with more than 40 of its navy’s ships sailing in formation with its sole operational aircraft carrier for one of the first times ever in the South China Sea, but a close look at the exercise shows something way off.

Satellite imagery of the event, provided by Planet Labs, shows the incredible scale of the exercise, which mostly consisted of rows of two ships lined up neatly.

Also read: Beijing vows ‘stern measures’ after US ship sails near South China Sea islands

The formation makes a good photo opportunity, but it’s not practical for battle.

China showed off frigates, destroyers, aircraft, submarines, and an aircraft carrier, but a few US bombers could likely smoke the whole formation in a single pass.

“While impressive view, they would be a rich target pool for four B-1s bombers with 96 newly fielded long-range anti-ship cruise missiles,” Hans Kristensen, a military expert and the Director of the Nuclear Information Project tweeted, referring to the US’s B-1B Lancer bomber.

Blind Army vet inspires as Summer Sports ambassador
An Air Force B-1B Lancer aircraft (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Andy Dunaway)

The ships were not in a usual combat formation and left exposed to air attacks that could devastate a large portion of the force outright in a battle.

Related: This US warship just teased Beijing in latest South China Sea maneuvers

Though the huge formation “highlights an extensive ability to deploy, we are still left to guess at the [Chinese Navy’s] combat readiness,” Collin Koh, a security expert at Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, told Reuters.

China has worked hard to improve the practicality and capability of its navy in recent years, but as a force with virtually no combat experience, it still lags a long way behind the US Navy and other tested forces.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Flying aircraft carriers are totally possible (and sort of crazy)

As the United States shifts its posture away from ongoing counter-terror operations and back toward great power competition with nations like China, the U.S. is being forced to reassess it’s aircraft carrier force projection strategy. If U.S. carriers find themselves on the sideline for such a conflict, it may be worth revisiting the idea of a different kind of aircraft carrier: the flying kind.

China’s arsenal of hypersonic anti-ship missiles have created an area denial bubble that would prevent American carriers from sailing close enough to Chinese shores to launch sorties, effectively neutering America’s ability to conduct offensive operations against the Chinese mainland. Without the ability to leverage the U.S. Navy’s attack aircraft, combat operations in the Pacific would be extremely difficult. It is, however, possible (though potentially impractical) to develop and deploy flying aircraft carriers for such a conflict–the United States has even experimented with the concept a number of times in the past, and is continuing to pursue the idea today.


Blind Army vet inspires as Summer Sports ambassador
Gremlins air vehicle during a flight test at Dugway Proving Ground, Utah, November 2019 (DARPA)

DARPA’s Gremlins Program

The most recent iteration of a flying aircraft carrier comes from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, and has seen testing successes as recently as January of this year.

In January, DARPA successfully launched a Dynetics’ X-61A Gremlin UAV from the bay of a Lockheed Martin C-130A cargo aircraft. The program is aiming to demonstrate the efficacy of low-cost combat-capable drones that can be both deployed and recovered from cargo planes. DARPA envisions using cargo planes like the C-130 to deploy these drones while still outside of enemy air defenses; allowing the drones to go on and engage targets before returning to the airspace around the “mother ship” to be recaptured and carried home for service or repairs.

Blind Army vet inspires as Summer Sports ambassador
(DARPA)

 

The test showed that a drone could be deployed by the C-130, but the drone itself was ultimately destroyed when its parachute failed to open after the completion of an hour-and-a-half flight. A subsequent test that would include drone capture was slated for the spring of this year, but has likely been delayed to due to the outbreak of COVID-19.

Between the success of this test and other drone wingman programs like Skyborg, the concept of a flying aircraft carrier has seen a resurgence in recent years, and may potentially finally become a common facet of America’s air power.

Blind Army vet inspires as Summer Sports ambassador

The plan to turn a Boeing 747 into a flying aircraft carrier

The Boeing 747 has already secured its place in the pantheon of great aircraft, from its immense success as a passenger plane to its varied governmental uses like being a taxi for the Space Shuttle or as a cargo aircraft. The 747 has proven itself to be an extremely capable aircraft for a wide variety of applications, so it seemed logical when, in the 1970s, the U.S. Air Force began experimenting with the idea of converting one of these large aircraft into a flying aircraft carrier full of “parasite” fighters that could be deployed, and even recovered, in mid-air.

Blind Army vet inspires as Summer Sports ambassador
Boeing AAC design sketch

 

Initial plans called for using the massive cargo aircraft Lockeed C-5 Galaxy, but as Boeing pointed out at the time, the 747 actually offered superior range and endurance when flying with a full payload. According to Boeing’s proposal, the 747 could be properly equipped to carry as much as 883,000 pounds.

Blind Army vet inspires as Summer Sports ambassador
Sketch of a micro-fighter inside the 747 fuselage.

 

The idea behind the Boeing 747 AAC (Airborne Aircraft Carrier) was simple in theory, but incredibly complex in practice. Boeing would specially design and build fighter aircraft that were small enough to be housed within the 747, along with an apparatus that would allow the large plane to carry the fighters a long distance, drop them where they were needed to fight, and then recover them once again.

Blind Army vet inspires as Summer Sports ambassador
This graphic from Boeing’s proposal shows different potential flying aircraft carrier platforms and their respective ranges. (Boeing)

 

Boeing’s 60-page proposal discusses the ways such a program could be executed, but lagging questions remained regarding the fuel range of a 747 carrying such a heavy payload and about how the fighters would fare in a combat environment. Previous flying aircraft carrier concepts showed that the immense turbulence from large aircraft (and their jet engines) made it extremely difficult to manage the fighters they would drop, especially as they attempted to return to the aircraft after a mission.

Blind Army vet inspires as Summer Sports ambassador
Potential “micro-fighter” design (Boeing)

 

Further concerns revolved around how well these miniature “parasite” fighters would fare against the top-of-the-line Soviet fighters they would conceivable be squaring off with.

Ultimately, the proposal never made it off the page — but it did establish one important point for further discussion on this topic. According to the report, Boeing found the concept of a flying aircraft carrier to be “technically feasible” using early 1970’s technology. Technically feasible, it’s important to note, however, is not the same as financially feasible.

Blind Army vet inspires as Summer Sports ambassador
(Concept illustration)

 

The insane Lockheed CL-1201: A massive, nuclear-powered flying aircraft carrier

The Skunkworks at Lockheed Martin have been responsible for some of the most incredible aircraft ever to take flight, from the high-flying U-2 Spy Plane to the fastest military jet ever, the SR-71. But even those incredible aircraft seem downright plain in comparison to Lockheed’s proposal to build an absolutely massive, nuclear powered, flying aircraft carrier–the CL-1201.

The proposal called for an aircraft that weighed 5,265 tons. In order to get that much weight aloft, the design included a 1,120 foot wingspan, with a fuselage that would measure 560 feet (or about two and a half times that of a 747). It would have been 153 feet high, making it stand as tall as a 14-story building. According to Lockheed, they could put this massive bird in the sky using just four huge turbofan engines which would be powered by regular jet fuel under 16,000 feet, where it would then switch to nuclear power courtesy of its on-board reactor. The flying aircraft carrier could then stay aloft without refueling for as long as 41 days, even while maintaining a high subsonic cruising speed of Mach 0.8 at around 30,000 feet.

The giant aircraft would carry a crew of 845 and would be able to deploy 22 multirole fighters from docking pylons installed on the wings. It also would maintain a small internal hangar bay for repairs and aircraft service while flying. Unsurprisingly, this design didn’t make it past the proposal stage, but the concept itself stands as a historical anomaly that continues to inspire renewed attention to this day.

Blind Army vet inspires as Summer Sports ambassador
Convair GRB-36F in flight with Republic YRF-84F (S/N 49-2430). (U.S. Air Force photo)

 

The B-36 Peacemaker

This massive bomber weighed in at an astonishing 410,000 pounds when fully loaded with fuel and ordnance (thanks to its large fuel reserves and 86,000 weapon capacity). Development of the B-36 began in 1941, thanks to a call for an aircraft that was capable of taking off from the U.S., bombing Berlin with conventional or atomic ordnance, and returning without having to refuel. By the time the B-36 made it into the air, however, World War II had already been over for more than a year.

The B-36 had a massive wingspan. At 230 feet, the wings of the Peacemaker dwarf even the B-52’s 185-foot wingspan. In its day, it was one of the largest aircraft ever to take to the sky. Despite it’s incredible capabilities, the B-36 never once flew an operational mission, but the massive size and range of the platform prompted the Air Force to consider its use as a flying aircraft carrier, using Republic YRF-84F Ficon “parasitic” fighters as the bomber’s payload.

Blind Army vet inspires as Summer Sports ambassador
The YRF-84F flying underneath its B-36 carrier aircraft. FICON modifications included installing a hook in front of the cockpit and turning down the horizontal tail so it could partially fit into the B-36 bomb bay. (U.S. Air Force photo)

 

The idea was similar to that of the later proposal from Boeing, carrying the fighters internally to extend their operational range and then deploying them via a lowering boom, where they could serve as protection for the bomber, reconnaissance assets, or even execute offensive operations of their own before returning to the B-36 for recovery.

Blind Army vet inspires as Summer Sports ambassador
View of the YRF-84F from inside the B-36 — the pilot could enter and exit the cockpit from within the bomber. (U.S. Air Force photo)

 

The U.S. Air Force ultimately did away with the concept thanks to the advent of mid-air refueling, which dramatically increased the operational range of all varieties of aircraft and made a flying aircraft carrier concept a less cost effective solution.

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USS Macon (ZRS-5) Flying over New York Harbor, circa Summer 1933. (U.S. Navy)

 

Using rigid airships as flying aircraft carriers

Although we very rarely see rigid inflatable airships in service to national militaries today, things were much different in the early 20th century. Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin’s airships (dubbed “Zeppelins”) were proving themselves to be a useful military platform thanks to their fuel efficiency, range, and heavy payload capabilities. These massive airships were not only cost-effective, their gargantuan size also offered an added military benefit: their vast looming presence could be extremely intimidating to the enemy.

However, as you may have already guessed, it was that vast presence that also created the rigid airship’s massive weakness: it was susceptible to being shot down by even the simplest of enemy aircraft. England was the first nation to try to offset this weakness by building an apparatus that could carry and deploy three Sopwith Camel biplanes beneath the ship’s hull. They ultimately built four of these 23-class Vickers rigid airships, but all were decommissioned by the 1920s. The U. S. Navy’s Bureau of Aeronautics took notice of the concept, however, and set about construction on its own inflatable airships, with both the USS Akron (ZRS-4) and USS Macon (ZRS-5) serving as flying aircraft carriers.

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The USS Akron in flight, November 1931 (U.S. Navy)

 

The airships were built with an apparatus that could not only deploy F9C-2 Curtiss Sparrowhawk biplanes, they could also recover them once again mid-flight. The airships and aircraft fell under the Navy’s banner, and the intent was to use the attached bi-planes for both reconnaissance (ship spotting) and defense, but not necessarily for offensive operations.

Blind Army vet inspires as Summer Sports ambassador
USS Akron (ZRS-4) Launches a Consolidated N2Y-1 training plane (Bureau # A8604) during flight tests near Naval Air Station Lakehurst, New Jersey, 4 May 1932. (U.S. Navy)

 

The biplanes were stored in hangars on the airship that measured approximately 75′ long x 60′ wide x 16′ high — or big enough to service 5 biplanes internally.

Blind Army vet inspires as Summer Sports ambassador
Sparrowhawk scout/fighter aircraft on its exterior rigging (U.S. Navy)

 

After lackluster performance in a series of Naval exercises, the Akron would crash on April 4, 1933, killing all 76 people on board. Just weeks later, on April 21, its sister ship, the USS Macon, would take its first flight. Two years later, it too would crash, though only two of its 83 crew members would die.

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

 

MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch the Air Force Academy’s top commander tell racists ‘to get out’

The head of the Air Force Academy stood all his 4,000 cadets at attention Sept. 28 to deliver a message on racial slurs found written on message boards at the academy’s preparatory school.


Chins in and chests out, the cadets were flanked by 1,500 officers, sergeants, athletic coaches, and civilian professors inside cavernous Mitchell Hall. Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria told them to take out their smartphones and record his words.

“If you can’t treat someone with dignity and respect, then get out,” he said.

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Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria. USAF photo by Tech. Sgt. Julius Delos Reyes.

Silveria spoke as investigators interviewed cadet candidates at the prep school, where five black students woke up Sept. 26 to find “Go Home” followed by the epithet scrawled on message boards outside their rooms.

Sources at the academy said there appeared to be a single vandal involved, judging by the handwriting.

“Security Forces are looking into the matter,” Lt. Col. Allen Herritage said in an email. “We’re unable to release any additional information at this time due to the ongoing investigation.”

The preparatory school gives cadet candidates a year of rigorous tutoring so they can meet the academy’s strict academic standards. Traditionally, more than half of the students at the prep school are recruited athletes.

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More than 1,300 basic cadets salute June 26 during their first reveille formation at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo. USAF photo by Mike Kaplan.

Racial slurs are legal in the rest of society, but not in the military, where their use is the kind of conduct that can be court-martialed. Those who wrote the slurs could face charges of violating orders and conduct unbecoming an officer.

Silveria, who took command at the school in August, has told cadets and staff repeatedly that his highest priority is ensuring a climate of “dignity and respect.” He called that a “red line” that can’t be crossed without severe repercussions.

After the speech, he said the Sept. 28 gathering, which drew nearly all of the academy’s personnel, was not mandatory.

The general said having the school’s officers take time to come to the speech showed their dedication to stamping out racism at the school, where about a third of cadets are minorities.

Blind Army vet inspires as Summer Sports ambassador
Cadets march toward Stillman Parade Field Sept. 2, 2016 at the U.S. Air Force Academy. USAF photo by Jason Gutierrez.

“The most important message there was not from me,” he said.

Silveria wants his cadets and other troops angry about what happened at the preparatory school.

“You should be outraged,” he told them.

He said the Sept. 28 show of opposition to racism should counter any impact on recruiting minority cadets.

“I’m not worried at all after what we demonstrated today,” he said.

 

The public display Sept. 28 is in contrast to how the academy has dealt with controversy in recent years, with probes into a variety of issues from sexual assault to an on-campus death dealt with behind a veil of secrecy.

After the speech, Silveria said he thinks dealing with the racial slurs in public is important.

“I wanted to make it clear, this is not something I am keeping from anyone,” he said. “We have to talk about what that means.”

The academy in recent weeks has worked to address the racially-charged state of America. This week, academy dean Brig. Gen. Andy Armacost hosted a campus-wide discussion about white supremacist incidents that accompanied an August “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va.

Blind Army vet inspires as Summer Sports ambassador
Brig. Gen. Andy Armacost. Photo courtesy of USAF.

In his speech, Silveria said discussions about race are important.

“We should have a civil discourse, that’s a better idea,” he said.

But talking about racial issues and tolerating racism are different, he said.

“If you demean someone in any way, you need to get out,” he told the cadets.

The military has stood as a beacon of relative racial harmony since President Harry Truman issued a 1948 order that ended racial bias in the ranks.

Blind Army vet inspires as Summer Sports ambassador
President Harry Truman. Image from United States Library of Congress.

Since then, the military has been a leader in accepting homosexuals and transgender troops. The transgender issue was brought back into play this summer when President Donald Trump tweeted his intent to ban transgender service. The Pentagon has put the presidential proposal under study but hasn’t discharged transgender troops.

The general on Sept. 28 called the families of the five cadet candidates who were targeted in the slur incident.

He said recent events that have highlighted racial issues, from NFL players taking a knee during the national anthem to fights over confederate statues, have weighed on his mind lately.

“My point is we can’t pretend that doesn’t impact us,” he said.

But the academy can fall back on an unshakable foundation when racial incidents arise, he said.

“No one can write on a board and take away our ideals,” he said.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Borne the Battle: Benefits breakdown

In episode 157, we spoke with Army veteran Ursula Draper about her role in the development of an Assistive Technology (AT) program. In this week’s Benefits Breakdown, we take a deeper dive into how this program works and who is able to access it.

The AT program will sound familiar to those who know Darwin’s Theory of Adaptation. The adaptation theory — also known as survival theory, or survival of the fittest — is an organism’s ability to adapt to changes in its environment and adjust accordingly. The Assistive Technology program helps veterans to do just that.


The AT program, which began in 2008, aims to improve the lives of disabled veterans by allowing them to maintain independence by completing everyday tasks. It helps veterans with computer use and accessibility, voice activated technologies, drive control for wheelchairs, and even giving them the ability to turn lights on and off.

Helping Veterans Become Whole

www.youtube.com

VA created four main hubs for instructing those granted into the program: Minneapolis, MN; Tampa, Fl; Richmond, VA; and Palo Alto, CA.

In this episode we look at:

  • How the program started.
  • How a Veteran can apply to the program.
  • Some Examples of the technology being developed.

Enjoy.

#BtBattle Veteran of the Week: Marine Corps veteran Meredith Keirn.

Check out the full episode.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

Articles

How the US Navy plans to fix the F-35’s most troubling problem

In January, a report from Inside Defense broke the news that the US Navy’s F-35 variant, the most expensive in the Joint Strike Fighter family, had an issue with the nose gear that made takeoffs untenably rough and the aircraft unsuited for carrier launches.


The Navy’s F-35C has a history of problems with its development as it attempts to master the tricky art of catapult launches from aircraft carriers, but the nose-gear issue could set back the F-35C into the 2020s if an innovative solution is not found quickly.

Business Insider has uncovered footage that appears to show the problem:

Essentially, the takeoff in the F-35C is too rough, jostling the pilots so they can’t read flight-critical data on their $400,000 helmet-mounted displays.

Also read: Here’s when the F-35 will use stealth mode vs. ‘beast mode’

“This is a very stiff airplane, even though the oscillations about the same magnitude as you would see in a Super Hornet. It beats the pilot up pretty good,” US Air Force Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan told reporters at the McAleese/Credit Suisse defense conference earlier this month, US Naval Institute News reported.

F-35C pilots are “hurting after doing three or four of these [launches] and in some instances even banging his half-a-million-dollar helmet on the canopy,” Bogdan said. “That’s not good for the canopy or the helmet. So we knew we had an issue there.”

Testing at a land-based US Navy catapult system showed that instead of a costly and lengthy redesign of the F-35C’s nose section, some smaller adjustments may suffice.

Jeff Babione, the general manager of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 program, echoed that sentiment at the company’s office in the Washington, DC, area, telling reporters the company had worked on a few simple changes that seemed to yield results. Babione said Lockheed Martin changed the way the pilot straps in and their head and arm positions, as well as reduced the “holdback,” or stress on the plane, in the moments before launch.

“The initial indication is some of those techniques improved” the F-35C’s launches, Babione said. He conceded that the real testing would be done by the Navy aboard carriers “to see whether or not those changes were successful.”

The make-or-break tests of the launch will take place at sea later this year.

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