When someone has diabetes, there’s a constant stream of questions. Did you check your blood sugar? Are you exercising and keeping a good diet? Do you have your insulin handy?
Mary Julius, a program manager for the diabetes self-management education and training at Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center, wants to help educate veterans and their families about how to self-manage diabetes.
Julius broke down the differences between Type I and Type II diabetes.
Persons with Type I diabetes produce little or no insulin.
Persons with Type II diabetes make insulin but there is a resistance to the insulin.
According to Julius, diabetes awareness and education are increasingly important for veterans and their families; “25% of veterans receiving VA care have been diagnosed with diabetes.” Without awareness and education, people diagnosed with diabetes put their health at risk. Thus, veterans who have been diagnosed with diabetes should work closely with their primary provider, but, she emphasizes, veterans and their family also need the tools and education to apply self-management techniques.
Finally, Julius shares how VA has been working on creating a virtual medical learning center for veterans and their families to learn more about diabetes and related topics. Veterans and their families can access this learning site at VAVMC.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
“The boards were charged with reviewing [Global War on Terrorism] Air Force Cross and Silver Star nominations for possible upgrade,” she said in an email. “Specifically, [the] Air Force Cross Review Board reviewed all Air Force Cross nominations [and] Silver Star Review Board reviewed all Silver Star nominations.”
The recommendations have been forwarded to Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James for further action.
Another service spokesman, Maj. Bryan Lewis, said he couldn’t disclose how many of the recommendations were upgraded from Silver Star to Air Force Cross and from Air Force Cross to Medal of Honor — the highest military award for combat action.
The service’s review was part of the Defense Department’s push to audit more than 1,100 post-9/11 valor citations to determine if they warrant a higher award such as the Medal of Honor, officials announced last year.
The Air Force review of awards continues and is expected to be completed this spring, Lewis told Military.com in December. “We are reviewing 147 cases, which consists of 135 Silver Stars and 12 Air Force Crosses,” he said at the time.
The Air Force is also continuing to review additional cases in which airmen were recommended for but didn’t ultimately receive a Silver Star, he said. It wasn’t immediately clear how many airmen may be upgraded to the third-highest valor award.
Simultaneously, the Army is reviewing 785 Silver Star and Distinguished Service Cross awards; and the Navy, including the Marine Corps, is looking at 425 Navy Cross and Silver Star medals.
In 2014, then-Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered a review of all decorations and awards programs “to ensure that after 13 years of combat the awards system appropriately recognizes the service, sacrifices and action of our service members,” officials told USA Today at the time.
Military.com this week asked the service if James would announce additional upgrades after Marine Corps officials revealed on Wednesday that her counterpart, outgoing Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, would present four Marines and a sailor with upgraded awards for their service.
Most recently — but separate from the Air Force review — Airman First Class Benjamin Hutchins, a tactical air control party airman supporting the 82nd Airborne Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team, was approved for the Silver Star in April. Hutchins received his award Nov. 4 during a ceremony at the 18th Air Support Operations Group at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
The Air Force previously said Hutchins had been submitted for the Bronze Star Medal with Valor. However, the service later clarified Hutchins had instead been submitted for two Bronze Star Medals for his actions, which instead were combined into one Silver Star award.
Army Apaches are using a new technology in Afghanistan which enables the attack helicopter crews to view real-time video feeds from nearby drones, control the drones’ flight path and therefore more effectively destroy enemy targets, service officials told Scout Warrior.
Manned-Unmanned Teaming, or MUM-T, gives AH-64E Apache attack helicopters an ability to control the flight path and sensor payload of Army Shadow and Gray Eagle drones. Army officials say the combination of the Apache’s lethal weapons and the drones’ sensors enable helicopter crews to find and go after dynamic or fast-moving targets from further ranges.
For instance, looking at real-time Electro-Optical/Infra-red images from drone cameras in the Apache cockpit gives crews an increased ability to, for instance, more effectively destroy groups of enemy fighters on the move in pick-up trucks or attack insurgents hiding near a known U.S. Army convoy route planning to launch an ambush.
Manned-Unmanned Teaming was recently used with great success in Afghanistan by the 1-229th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, Army officials said.
“Now before the unit even deploys out of the Forward Arming Refueling Point, or FARP, they can actually bring up the UAS (drone) feed, look through the sensors and see the target they are going to attack up to 50 or 60 miles away,” Apache Program Manager Col. Jeff Hager told Scout Warrior in an interview.
Hager also explained that maintaining drone sensors on targets which can move and change gives the Apache crew an opportunity to make adjustments while en-route to a target location.
“They have full situational awareness on that target as they fly inbound and do not lose any data on that target on the way,” Hager added. “They don’t go into a situation where they are surprised.”
Apache pilots in Afghanistan are now flying upgraded AH-64E-model helicopters which give the platform increased speed and performance. In development for many years and now part of the operational force, the AH-64E models use a stronger 701D helicopter engine, composite rotor blades and next-generation communications technology and avionics.
“The additional power and capability that the aircraft brings actually changes the face of the battlefield. Now they can close, maintain and assume contact activities with the enemy at a much faster rate. The enemy could time the amount of time it was going to take the Delta (“D” model Apache) models to get to them. We completely threw that out the window and they (the “E” model Apache crews) can get there much faster,” Hager explained.
The ‘E” model is able to transport a larger amount of ammunitions and fuel in what is described as “high-hot” conditions at altitudes of 6,000 feet and temperatures of 95-degrees or above. The innovations built into the “E” model give the helicopter all of the technological advantages of its predecessor “D” model – yet at a lighter weight making it more maneuverable and effective.
The AH-64E Apache is also 20 knots faster than the previous model and can reach speeds of 164 knots.
The current “D” model Longbow Apache is heavier than the original “A” model helicopter; it carries the Longbow radar and significantly improved targeting and sensing technologies, however it lacks the transmission-to-power ratio and hard-landing ability of the initial “A” model. The AH-64E is engineered such that an advanced, high-tech aircraft the weight of the previous “D” model can have the power, performance and landing abilities of an original “A” model with a much lighter weight.
“One of the biggest values of the aircraft (“E” model) itself is the increased performance that we put back into the airframes, specifically from the composite rotor blades. We increased the power of the engines and improved the transmission. That gives the aircraft and Alpha (“A”-model”)-like performance that we have not seen in years,” Hager explained. “The aircraft is faster and more lethal.”
In total, the Army plans to acquire 690 AH-64Es by 2025. The helicopters can carry 16 Hellfire missiles, 70 2.75mm rockets and 1,200 30mm chain gun rounds, service officials said.
“We are getting super feedback from what they were doing over in combat. MUM-T has really changed the state of the battlefield,” Hager added.
The AH-64E is highly mobile, lethal and can destroy armor, personnel and material targets in an obscured battlefield conditions at ranges out to 8-kilometers, an Army statement said.
The “E” model also keep the millimeter wave fire control, radar frequency interferometer and targeting sensors engineered into previous Apache version, the statement continued.
The AH-64E, which is manufactured by Boeing, was also praised by Boeing officials who report hearing favorable feedback from Army pilots who flew the helicopter in combat.
“Its performance in ‘high-hot’ conditions made it able to go from point to point to the target where it was going, as opposed to having to go longer and down into a valley or up into a higher peak” said Kim Smith, Vice President of Attack Helicopters, Boeing.
Smith also said that Apache crews say the composite rotor blades make for a smoother flight.
In theater, improvisation — or simply “improv” — is the art of spontaneously performing an unscripted scene. Performers might have props and/or prompts to work from, but the point is for an actor or comedian to build confidence and courage on the stage by figuring it out as they go.
We do the same thing in everyday life, reacting to and overcoming unexpected or unforeseen circumstances using the tools we have at our disposal. And the more we improvise in small ways, the more confident and comfortable we become in our ability to make quick decisions and problem solve when the situation turns serious.
Richard Dean Anderson as Macgyver.
(Photo courtesy of Paramount Television)
What would you do if your life — or the life of a loved one — was at stake and you didn’t have a weapon? The answer: channel your inner MacGyver and improvise. Utilizing an improvised weapon should never be the primary choice in self-defense; carrying a firearm along with appropriate defensive handgun training is a much more reliable option.
However, there are times when you may be without your primary defensive weapon and need to get creative. Traveling by air to a shady location and can’t take a gun or knife? Grab a cup of hot coffee from a gas station — it can be thrown in an attacker’s face should the need arise. The goal of an improvised weapon is to create distance or break contact and get away.
For some of us, the closest we’ll ever get to an improvised self-defense situation is using a shoe to squash a sinister and suspicious spider. But there are bad people in the world who are intent to do harm, and there’s no guarantee that you’ll never be a target. Confidence in utilizing improvised weapons requires the right mindset. Some would argue this is paranoia, but paranoia is a state of worry or fear — the opposite of a confident and prepared state of mind.
To gain a deeper perspective, we sought out the experts.
Clint Emerson is a former U.S. Navy SEAL and author of “100 Deadly Skills.”
(Photo courtesy of Clint Emerson)
In addition to being a retired U.S. Navy SEAL with over 20 years of experience, Clint Emerson is also the author of “100 Deadly Skills: The SEAL Operative’s Guide to Eluding Pursuers, Evading Capture, and Surviving Any Dangerous Situation.”
Emerson explained that self-defense is based on your environment and what you have access to. What you might be able to use to defend yourself at home, work, and other frequented locations should be thought about ahead of time, not mid-crisis.
“If you’re to the point that you’re reaching for anything around you to use as an improvised weapon while a threat is on you, it’s gone too far,” Emerson said during a recent phone interview with Coffee or Die. “They’re already too close, and that’s a bad day.
“You always want distance,” he continued. “If you have to pick up a baseball bat or you’re down to using your hands, things went wrong and you’re too close.”
If you don’t have a firearm in your home, Emerson suggests utilizing wasp spray or oven spray. Wasp spray can shoot a stream up to 30 feet and has the chemical strength to stop a threat long enough to allow you to escape. While oven cleaner is similar, it doesn’t provide the distance. Emerson said that the chemical agents are not natural and are therefore stronger than mace spray. He cautions, however, that this is for the home only. Carrying these as a form of self-defense outside the home could result in serious legal consequences.
In the case of close-quarter threats, Emerson recommends a pen made by Zebra, model F701, which can be found at most office supply stores. The stainless steel pen features a pointed tip and can be taken anywhere, even on an airplane. Its design and durability make it an ideal improvised weapon. Emerson said it’s important to practice your grip and defensive motions with it to better prepare yourself in case you’d ever need to use it. A solid grip combined with proper placement lend good puncture capability and can cause serious damage. Remember that the goal is to break contact and get away.
“It’s a mindset, a daily mindset that needs to become a natural part of us,” Emerson said. “We put our seatbelts on without even thinking about it — we just do it. Creating good habits now is better than being caught off guard in a bad situation or natural disaster. Staying prepared helps eliminate the element of surprise and that increases our chance of survival exponentially.”
Jeff Kirkham was a U.S. Army Green Beret who now runs ReadyMan, an organization focused on survival skills. Kirkham is also the inventor of the Rapid Application Tourniquet (RATS).
(Photo courtesy of Jeff Kirkham)
Jeff Kirkham served almost 29 years in the U.S. Army as a Green Beret. He’s also the leader of ReadyMan, an online resource for information, training, skills, and products to equip people for life, survival, emergency, and tactical situations. ReadyMan focuses on mindset, situational awareness, kidnap avoidance, escape restraints, and more.
Kirkham’s strongest piece of advice is to avoid — do everything in your power to be aware and not be a targeted victim — and the best way to do that is through training.
“The key to successful self-defense training is finding something that inspires you,” Kirkham said. “There are many great instructors out there and when it comes to training, something is better than nothing.”
In close-encounter situations, Kirkham said the best weapons are the ones we always have with us: hands, feet, knees, and elbows. Training to utilize the weapons we were born with will provide the confidence to engage the threat. Outside of that, anything in your hands can be a weapon — a pen, a book, a laptop case. It doesn’t have to be amazing, you just need to think and do whatever it takes to get away.
Everything is fair game when it comes to saving your life or avoiding injury. Kirkham classifies fingernails and teeth as secondary weapons and advised not to underestimate their power or be timid in their use. A dog can be another important asset, Kirkham said. Whether you obtain a trained protection dog or have one for a pet, man’s best friend can be a valuable protection source. Even a small dog can be enough of a distraction to buy time to escape.
To find out where you rate on the scale of preparedness, ReadyMan offers a Plan 2 Survive self-assessment. It encompasses everything from financial stability to survival situations and natural disasters and is a great way to evaluate yourself and become better prepared.
Fred Mastison is an international firearms instructor and expert in the fields of defensive tactics, firearms, and executive protection.
(Photo courtesy of Fred Mastison)
Rounding out the expert panel is Fred Mastison of Force Options USA. Mastison is an Army veteran and professional instructor in the fields of defensive tactics, firearms, executive protection, and close-quarter combatives. He also holds a seventh-degree black belt in Aikijitsu. Mastison trains law enforcement and civilians internationally.
Mastison echoed Emerson’s sentiment that when it comes down to being close enough to have to utilize an improvised weapon, things have gone too far. Situational awareness, avoidance, and distance are vital. However, when things get sideways, violence of action is key.
“If you can utilize a sharp object, like a pen, you would want to strike the face,” Mastison said. “The eyes and the bridge of the nose are very sensitive areas — if all you have are your hands, gouge the eyes or bite. The key is to do it with intent and force to break contact and escape.”
The common thread among this panel of experts is clear: situational awareness is vital. The proper mindset, training, and a clear understanding of your surroundings can help you avoid becoming a target. There are a variety of classes available for developing physical and mental self-defense tactics — seek them out. Being prepared and vigilant is crucial to our survival, whether it’s a human threat or natural disaster. It is up to each of us individually to be proactive and prepared, to be ready to protect ourselves instead of relying on someone else to save us.
This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.
It’s the mission of all branches of the U.S. military to protect all citizens, defend liberty and uphold the Constitution. Being a good citizen entails giving back to each branch in every way we can.
The Green Berets, founded in 1952 by John F. Kennedy, are celebrating their 68th birthday today. Take a moment to honor some special members of the “warrior-diplomat” ranks as they continue to protect and honor our country.
Look to the heroic acts of Sergeant Matthew Williams, who took heroic action to save the lives of his fellow soldiers in the Battle of Shok Valley, which took place in Afghanistan in 2008.
According to other Berets who had been in Williams’ regimen, Williams helped to evacuate two soldiers who had been shot from the battle. Williams saved the soldiers’ lives and endured minimal casualties.
Williams had been deployed multiple times, serving in Afghanistan and in other areas of need. Trump upgraded Williams’ Silver Star, which he earned in 2008, to a Medal of Honor on October 3, 2019.
Regarding Williams’ actions, Trump noted that, “Matt’s incredible heroism helped ensure that not a single American soldier died in the battle of Shok Valley.” Further, he noted that,””Matt is without question and without reservation one of the bravest soldiers and people I have ever met. He’s a brave guy. And he’s a great guy.”
Williams added, “”I hope I can wear the Medal with honor and distinction and represent something that’s much bigger than myself, which is what it means to be on a team of brothers, and what it means to be an elite Special Forces soldier.”
Ronald J. Shurer
Additionally, another Special Forces Soldier who fought in the same battle was also awarded a Medal of Honor: Ronald J. Shurer. Shurer, a medic, ran through open fire to aid a soldier who had shrapnel stuck in his neck. In total, Shurer aided four wounded soldiers despite suffering gunshot wounds himself.
The deep moral dedication needed to selflessly aid others in the face of a surprise attack by 200 soldiers is astounding and something to be proud of.
Humbert Roque “Rocky” Versace
The valor of the Green Berets stretches back to their inception. Humbert Roque Versace (nicknamed “Rocky” by his colleagues) joined the Armed Forces in Norfolk in 1937, and was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor by President Bush for his heroic actions as a prisoner of War in Vietnam.
In addition to his prestigious Medal of Honor, Versace was honored in the Pentagon Hall of Heroes by Secretary of the Army Thomas E. White and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric K. Shinseki.
Like Versace, a number of Green Berets have been awarded a Medal of Honor for heroic action in Vietnam. However, soldier Melvin Morris was awarded a MOH not for heroic action as a prisoner of war, but for retrieving the body of a fallen sergeant after pushing back enemy lines single handedly with a bag of grenades. The Beret even was able to free his battalion from the enemy forces that oppressed it in this crusade.
Morris was shot three times in the endeavor but survived after being rushed to medical care. He was awarded a MOH by President Obama in 2014 and was later indicted into the Hall of Heroes.
The Green Berets are not only heroes – they are also innovators. 10th Group Special Forces soldier Kyle Daniels was tired of seeing the American Flag burned in times of trial, such as the ones we’re in now, and invented a flag that physically won’t burn. The Firebrand Flag Company now proudly boasts fireproof flags, a symbol of the America we know and love. Fire and oppression won’t bring us down.
Each member of the U.S. Armed Forces, before being indicted to the military, pledges to:
“Support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; [that I will] bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and [that I will] obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me.”
President Kennedy established the Green Berets with the promise that the elite unit of the military would be, “A symbol of excellence, a badge of courage, a mark of distinction in the fight for freedom.” The Green Berets are not just capable of their mission, they are excellent in upholding their duty to our country.
Honor any Green Berets you may know, today and any other day. It’s all too easy to forget that the life of an American soldier is dedicated to the well-being of our country, something which, in good conscience, should not be forgotten and honored in every way possible.
The Air Force is tossing out formal performance evaluations for its least experienced airmen.
The service announced January 4 that Enlisted Performance Reports are no longer required for all active-duty airmen until they reach the rank of senior airman or have served for 36 months, regardless of grade. For reservists, EPRs will be required for senior airmen and above. The change is effective immediately.
The move is part of a larger effort by Air Force senior leaders to reduce the administrative burden on airmen and give them more time to focus on the mission, officials said.
“While the Air Force values the contributions of all enlisted personnel, the requirement to document performance in a formal evaluation prior to the grade of senior airman is not necessary,” Lt. Gen. Gina Grosso, deputy chief of staff for Manpower, Personnel and Services, said in a statement.
The removal of EPRs before promotion to senior airman will give airmen more time to learn their primary skills and duties before their performance is formally documented, Grosso said.
Under the policy change, commanders still have the option to document substandard performance for airmen first class and below after the 20-month-in-service mark.
The Air Force didn’t say how many evaluation reports the policy change would eliminate. Airmen previously were required to get their first evaluation after at least 20 months in uniform.
Thursday’s announcement brings to fruition a plan that Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth Wright had talked about this fall at the Air Force Association’s annual conference.
Wright said at the time that he was working with senior leadership and the Air Force Personnel Center to reduce the burden enlisted performance reports have on schedules, particularly in the maintenance squadrons, according to Air Force Magazine.
The Air Force uses EPRs to evaluate the performance of enlisted personnel both on and off duty, typically on an annual basis. The reports, normally written by the member’s supervisor with input from other unit leaders, are often time-consuming and cumbersome to complete.
Under the change, all active-duty airmen will receive their initial evaluation upon reaching their first March 31 static close-out date after either promotion to senior airman, or after completion of a minimum of 36 months’ time-in-service, regardless of grade, whichever occurs first, officials said.
Enlisted reservists will receive their initial evaluations as a senior airman.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is calling for the eventual creation of a European army, echoing a suggestion by French President Emmanuel Macron that recently angered the U.S. president.
“What is really important, if we look at the developments of the past year, is that we have to work on a vision of one day creating a real, true European army,” Merkel said in a speech before the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Nov. 13, 2018.
“A common European army would show the world that there will never again be war between European countries,” she said.
Merkel said she envisioned a European army that would function in parallel with NATO and come under a European Security Council, centralizing the continent’s defense structure.
“Europe must take our fate into our own hands if we want to protect our community,” Merkel said.
Her comments came a week after Macron called for a European army that would give Europe greater independence from the United States as well as defend the continent against such possible aggressors as Russia and China.
His comments provoked an angry response from U.S. President Donald Trump and prompted Trump to step up calls on European countries to increase their contributions to NATO.
President Donald J. Trump visits Suresnes American Cemetery to honor the centennial of Armistice Day, Paris, France, Nov. 11, 2018.
(Photo by Cpl. Kevin Payne)
On Nov. 13, 2018, after returning from a visit to France where his clash with Macron featured prominently, Trump tweeted again on the subject.
“Emmanuel Macron suggests building its own army to protect Europe against the U.S., China, and Russia. But it was Germany in World Wars One Two — How did that work out for France? They were starting to learn German in Paris before the U.S. came along. Pay for NATO or not!” Trump wrote.
Macron did not publicly respond to Trump’s latest tweet. But former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry noted that France helped the fledgling United States win its war of independence against Britain in the 18th century and criticized Trump for “insulting our oldest ally.”
“Stop tweeting! America needs some friends,” Kerry said.
The French and German proposals to create a European army are controversial within NATO and the EU, where many member states are reluctant to give up national sovereignty on defense issues.
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg has said “more European efforts on defense is great, but it should never undermine the strength of the transatlantic bond.”
That sentiment was echoed by U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Nov. 13, 2018.
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.
“We see NATO as the cornerstone for the protection of Europe in the security realm and we fully support nations doing more to carry the load,” Mattis said.
France has proposed the initial launch of a European intervention force backed by a small group of member states to handle crises in regions such as Africa, which could later be expanded into a European army.
Germany is critical of that proposal, however, as Macron would like to establish the new force outside the EU framework so as to involve the soon-to-depart Britain, which is a defense heavyweight within NATO.
The EU already has so-called battle groups to respond in crisis situations, though they have never been deployed.
Merkel’s speech came days after she announced that she will step down as chancellor when her current term ends.
The EU stands at a critical juncture, with Britain preparing to leave the bloc in March while populist, anti-EU forces are on the rise.
As head of the EU’s largest economy, Merkel has wielded considerable influence in the bloc during her nearly 13 years as chancellor.
But political wrangling at home has diminished her powers. Following months of infighting in her three-way coalition government and two disastrous state elections, Merkel announced on Oct. 29, 2018, that her current term as chancellor would be her last.
American ground fighters must overmatch any potential adversary, now and in the future, the leaders of the Close Combat Lethality Task Force said April 11, 2018.
Robert Wilkie, the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, and retired Army Maj. Gen. Robert Scales, who serves on the task force’s advisory board, spoke about the effort at the Association of the United States Army’s Sullivan Center. The effort looks to improve the lethality of Army, Marine Corps and special operations light infantry units, and it is personally being pushed by Defense Secretary James N. Mattis.
Scales said the reason behind the task force comes down to three numbers: Ninety, four, and one. Ninety percent of Americans killed in combat are infantry, he noted. “They constitute four percent of uniformed personnel and receive just one percent of the DOD budget for training and equipping,” Scales said.
The United States maintains combat overmatch in every other portion of the battlefield — air, sea and space — yet the small infantry unit, the unit most likely to be under fire, is the one that comes closest to a fair fight with an enemy, Scales said. Success in ground combat “lies not just with technical superiority, but with the human dimension,” Wilkie said.
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Matt Hecht)
“There is nothing more important than focusing our energies now on developing and nurturing the unique capabilities of human performance,” he added. “That means bringing fresh vigor, renewing our sense of urgency and enhancing the lethality of our front-line Army and Marine Corps units.”
Success comes from repetition, training
The task force will look at how the services select the right people for this crucial job, and what the services need to do to retain them. It also will examine how the services judge fitness and provide fitness. “Finally,” Wilkie said, “do we understand, as do our greatest athletic leaders, that success comes with constant repetition and training?”
Some aspects do not require legislation or extra money. Willke said the Army personnel system can be changed to keep units together and allow infantry personnel to bond with their unit mates. Programs can also be put in place so soldiers and Marines are actually training with their units and not performing an ancillary duty.
“Every plane and ship we purchase comes with sophisticated simulators to train personnel to overcome every conceivable contingency,” Wilkie said. “We would not buy a plane of a ship that was not packaged along with that technology. But we don’t do that for our ground forces.”
But it can be done, he added, and when combined with exercises at Fort Irwin’s National Training Center, the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in California, or at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, Louisiana, this training can be invaluable with keeping infantry alive.
Wilkie and Scales said the task force will also look at weapons, protective systems, communications gear, unmanned tactical systems, doctrine and many other issues as it continues its work.
And all this will be done quickly, both men said, noting that Mattis is intensely interested in seeing this program succeed.
Suspected Taliban insurgents attacked a US-operated base in Afghanistan’s eastern province of Khost April 24, officials said, but gave few immediate details of an assault that coincided with a visit to Kabul by US Secretary of Defense James Mattis.
The attackers had detonated a car bomb at an entrance to Camp Chapman, a secretive facility manned by US forces and private military contractors, said Mubarez Mohammad Zadran, a spokesman for the provincial governor.
But he had little immediate information on any damage or casualties.
“I am aware of a car bomb attack at one of the gates in the US base, but we are not allowed there to get more details,” the spokesman said.
A spokesman for the US military in Afghanistan, Capt. William Salvin, confirmed the car bomb attack. He said there appeared to be a number of Afghan casualties but none among US or coalition personnel at the base.
The attack came just three days after more than 140 Afghan soldiers were killed in an attack on their base by Taliban fighters disguised in military uniforms.
For people living on remote islands across the Pacific, Christmas is the sound of C-130s roaring overhead as boxes of food, clothing, toys, and more parachuted from the holds drop down from the sky.
Here’s what it looked like this year.
The patch of Operation Christmas Drop 2018 rests on the flight suit of a pilot from the 374th Airlift Wing as he and his crew delivers Coastal Humanitarian Air Drops to the island of Nama, Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), Dec. 10, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Matthew Gilmore)
Operation Christmas Drop, which began during the holiday season in 1952 as a spur-of-the-moment decision by a B-29 Superfortress crew, is the Department of Defense’s longest-running humanitarian airlift operation.
U.S. Air Force 1st. Lt. Emery Gumapas, a pilot assigned to the 36th Airlift Squadron at Yokota Air Base, Japan, looks out the flight deck window of a C-130J Super Hercules aircraft during Operation Christmas Drop 2018 en route to the island of Nama, Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), Dec. 10, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Matthew Gilmore)
Now in its 67th year, the OCD mission is supported by the US Air Force, Navy, and Coast Guard, as well as members of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force and Royal Australian Air Force. It serves over 50 remote islands in the Pacific.
Three villages await Operation Christmas Drop on Fais Island, Federated States of Micronesia, Dec. 10, 2018. A C-130J Super Hercules from the 36th Airlift Squadron, Yokota Air Base, Japan, delivered more than 1000 pounds of agricultural equipment, food, clothing, educational and medical supplies to the inhabitants of Fais during Operation Christmas Drop 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Donald Hudson)
The first drop all those years ago began with a B-29 crew dropping supplies to waving locals on Kapingamarangi island. The program now helps tens of thousands of people living on 56 islands across an area of 1.8 million square nautical miles annually.
A C-130J Super Hercules with the 36th Airlift Squadron drops three Low-Cost Low-Altitude bundles filled with humanitarian aid supplies during Operation Christmas Drop, Dec. 10, 2018, on Fais Island, Federated States of Micronesia.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Donald Hudson)
US military C-130J Super Hercules aircrews conduct low-cost, low-altitude drops, with parachuted packages touching down on land or at sea, the latter sometimes being necessary to avoid unintended damage to the environment or property.
Islanders carry a box of humanitarian supplies from the air-drop site to their village center during Operation Christmas Drop, Dec. 10, 2018, on Fais Island, Federated States of Micronesia.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Donald Hudson)
“My father experienced this drop when he was a little kid back in ’77, I believe, and in that drop, he got his first pair of shoes,” airman Brandon Phillip recently said. “I get to give back to my dad’s island while serving my country. It just makes it all special.”
Island children wait and watch while their village chiefs sort and divide humanitarian supplies for equal distribution during Operation Christmas Drop, Dec. 10, 2018, on Fais Island, Federated States of Micronesia.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Donald Hudson)
The islanders use every part of the delivery, including the parachutes and parachute cords. They reportedly use the parachutes to make boat sails.
Island children wait and watch while their village chiefs sort and divide humanitarian supplies for equal distribution during Operation Christmas Drop, Dec. 10, 2018, on Fais Island, Federated States of Micronesia.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Donald Hudson)
“This is what Christmas is for,” Bruce Best, who has been part of the OCD mission for four decades, told Stars and Stripes. “When they hear the rumble of the plane engines, that’s Christmas.”
Chinese President Xi Jinping has ordered the military to put an end to paid service activities once and for all and focus on combat readiness as the commander-in-chief attempts to build a world-class fighting force by mid-century.
In an effort to fulfill a pledge first made three years ago, Xi instructed the armed services on July 31, 2018, to halt all commercial activities, such as “kindergarten education, publishing services, and real estate rentals,” before the year’s end, Bloomberg News reported on Aug. 1, 2018, citing China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency.
Xi called for the cessation of practices that have led troops and officers to become “mercenaries for hire,” the Asia Times reported , citing the PLA Daily, the main newspaper of the Chinese armed services. He reportedly stressed that the move is intended to improve the military by allowing it to “focus on its main mission of battle readiness” through concentrated efforts to strengthen war preparation and fighting ability.
Short on funds, the Chinese military began engaging in commercial activities after the reform and opening up period in the 1970s, but such activities were, with certain exceptions, prohibited by 1998. The Chinese president’s new directive “allows no exception, discount or makeshift compromise,” Xinhua explained, noting that the aim is to purify the military and reduce corruption by eliminating commercial perks and moonlighting opportunities for members of the armed services.
Chinese President Xi Jinping
(Photo by Michel Temer)
“Paid services can sometimes encourage corruption and the military should focus on national defense,” National Defense University professor Gong Fangbin told the Chinese state-affiliated outlet Global Times in March 2016 when Xi first announced plans to eliminate the military’s paid services activities. At that time, he argued that ending paid services would enhance “the military’s combat capability.”
The Chinese military had put an end to 106,000 paid service programs by June 30, 2018, according to the China Daily.
The Chinese president’s announcement on July 31, 2018, came on the eve of China’s Army Day celebrations, when the Chinese People’s Liberation Army turned 91.
Xi, as the leader of China and head of the Communist Party of China’s Central Military Commission, stressed his goal of building a world-class military that can win wars in any theater of combat by 2050 in his speech before the 19th Communist Party Congress in October 2017, stating, “China’s dream of a strong national army will be realized” with mechanization completed by 2020 and modernization finished by 2035.
While the Chinese military has grown stronger, especially with the development of new military technologies and systems, expert observers like Adam Ni, a visiting fellow at the Strategic and Defense Studies Center at Australian National University, argue that China’s military continues to struggle to overcome certain lingering problems, including a lack of combat experience, extensive corruption, limited discipline, and nascent power projection capabilities.
Other countries, the US in particular, are watching carefully as China strives to bolster its national military power. “Great power competition, not terrorism, is now the primary focus of US national security,” Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis stated when the 2018 National Defense Strategy was released, highlighting the threat posed by “revisionist” powers like China and Russia.
Prior to his departure as head of what is now Indo-Pacific Command, then-Adm. Harry Harris reiterated that China is the greatest challenge facing the US. “China remains our biggest long-term challenge. Without focused involvement and engagement by the United States and our allies and partners, China will realize its dream of hegemony in Asia,” he said in May 2018.
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Infantry soldiers often carry an array of supplies and gear that together can weigh anywhere from 60 to 120 pounds, said Capt. Erika Hanson, the assistant product manager for the Squad Multipurpose Equipment Transport.
But the SMET vehicle, which the Army expects to field in just under three years, “is designed to take the load off the soldier,” Hanson said. “Our directed requirement is to carry 1,000 pounds of the soldier load.”
That 1,000 pounds is not just for one soldier, of course, but for an entire Infantry squad — typically about nine soldiers.
Late May 2018, during a “Close Combat Lethality Tech Day” in the courtyard of the Pentagon, Hanson had with her on display the contenders for the Army’s SMET program: four small vehicles, each designed to follow along behind a squad of infantry soldiers and carry most or all their gear for them, so they can move to where they need to be without being exhausted upon arrival.
“I’m not an infantry soldier,” Hanson said. “But I’ve carried a rucksack — and I can tell you I can move a lot faster without out a rucksack on my back. Not having to carry this load will make the soldier more mobile and more lethal in a deployed environment.”
The four contender vehicles on display at the Pentagon were the MRZR-X system from Polaris Industries Inc., Applied Research Associates Inc. and Neya Systems LLC; the Multi-Utility Tactical Transport from General Dynamics Land Systems; the Hunter Wolf from HDT Global; and the RS2-H1 system from Howe and Howe Technologies. Each was loaded down with gear representative of what they would be expected to carry when one of them is actually fielded to the Army.
(U.S. Army photos)
“Nine ruck sacks, six boxes of MREs and four water cans,” Hanson said. “This is about the equivalent of what a long-range mission for a light Infantry unit would need to carry.”
Hanson said that for actual testing and evaluation purposes, the simulated combat load also includes fuel cans and ammo cans as well, though these items weren’t included in the display at the Pentagon.
These small vehicles, Hanson said, are expected to follow along with a squad of soldiers as they walk to wherever it is they have been directed to go. The requirement for the vehicles is that they be able to travel up to 60 miles over the course of 72 hours, she said.
Three of the vehicles are “pivot steered,” Hanson said, to make it easier for them to maneuver in off-road environments, so that they can follow soldiers even when there isn’t a trail.
One of the contenders for SMET has a steering wheel, with both a driver’s seat and a passenger seat. So if a soldier wanted to drive that vehicle, he could, Hanson said. Still, the Army requirement is that the SMET be able to operate unmanned, and all four vehicles provide that unmanned capability.
All four contenders include a small, simplistic kind of remote control that a soldier can hand-carry to control the vehicle. One of those remotes was just a light-weight hand grip with a tiny thumb-controlled joystick on top. A soldier on patrol could carry the light-weight controller at his side.
More advanced control options are also available for the SMET as well, Hanson said.
“All can be operated with an operator control unit,” she said. “It’s a tele-operation where you have a screen and you can operate the system non-line-of-site via the cameras on the system.”
When soldiers on patrol want the SMET to follow along with them, they can use the very simple controller that puts a low cognitive load on the Soldier. When they want the SMET to operate in locations where they won’t be able to see it, they can use the more advanced controller with the video screen.
Hanson said the Army envisions soldiers might one day use the SMET to do things besides carry a Soldier’s bags.
“It’s for use in operations where some of the payloads are like re-trans and recon payloads in the future,” she said. “In that situation, it would be better for a soldier at a distance to be able to tele-operate the SMET into position.”
(U.S. Army photo by C. Todd Lopez)
The “re-trans” mission, she said, would involve putting radio gear onto the SMET and then using a remote control to put the vehicle out at the farthest edge of where radio communications are able to reach. By doing so, she said, the SMET could then be part of extending that communications range farther onto the battlefield.
One of the vehicles even has an option for a soldier to clip one end of a rope to his belt and the other end to the vehicle — and then the vehicle will just follow him wherever he walks. That’s the tethered “follow-me” option, Hanson said.
In addition to carrying gear for soldiers, the SMET is also expected to provide electric power to soldiers on patrol. She said while the vehicle is moving, for instance, it is required to provide 1 kilowatt of power, and when it’s standing still, it must provide 3 kW.
That power, she said, could be piped into the Army’s “Universal Battery Charger,” which can charge a variety of batteries currently used in soldier products. Vendors of the SMET have each been provided with a UBC so they can figure out how best to incorporate the device into their SMET submissions.
Hanson said the Army hopes that the SMET could include, in some cases, up to five UBCs on board to ensure that no soldier in an Infantry squad is ever without mobile power.
In November 2017, the Army held a “fly-off” at Fort Benning, Georgia, where 10 contenders for the SMET competed with each other. Only the developers of the vehicles were involved in the fly-off.
“From those, we down-selected to these four, based on their performance,” Hanson said.
To make its choice for the down-select, she said the Army looked at things like mobility and durability of the systems.
Now, the Army will do a technology demonstration to down-select to just one vehicle, from the remaining four. To do that, Hanson said, the Army will first provide copies of the competing SMET vehicles to two Army Infantry units, one at Fort Drum, New York, and one at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Additionally, Marines at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, will also get a set of the vehicles.
“Over the course of the tech demo, we’ll be getting feedback from the soldiers and the Marines on what systems best fill the need for the infantryman,” she said.
The technology demonstration, she said, will last just one year. And when it’s complete, feedback from soldiers and Marines will be used to down-select to just one system that will then become an Army program of record.
“I think the best part of the program is the innovative approach the team is taking to field them to soldiers before they select the program of record,” Hanson said. “That way, it’s the soldier feedback that drives the requirement, not the other way around.”
Hanson said she expects the program of record to begin in the first quarter of fiscal year 2020, after which the Army will go into low-rate initial production on the SMET. By the second or third quarter of FY 2021, she said, the first Army unit can expect to have the new vehicle fielded to them.
Hanson said the Army has set a base price of $100,000 for the SMET.
It can be a bit disheartening to pop out your military ID and ask “you guys offer a military discount?” only to have the cashier shake their head no and then ask you a couple awkward questions about your service before giving you your Slim Jim and 6 pack. Thankfully, we’ve wrangled up 10 solid military discounts all in one place!
Avis better have a deep stock of blacked-out Dodge chargers and unnecessarily lifted Ford F150s on hand–because they offer up to 25% total discounts for all military members and their families. Boots can use that little bit of extra savings and get a model with heated seats for that Tinder date they’re going to propose to in 3 months. Toss in a sunroof too, so the Oakley sunglasses eternally perched on your baseball hat can finally block something from the sun.
Most military members don’t know this, but Jiffy Lube actually offers a 25% discount off most services. There are a couple of reasons why many troops don’t know this. For one thing, most folks in the military know how to change their own oil. For another—some might think that “Jiffy Lube” is just slang for finding 2 minutes of, ahem, private time in the barracks.
As of April 2019, Kohl’s recently instated a 15% military discount. There’s a catch with this one—you can’t use it in addition to a pre-existing discount, or with select brands such as Levi’s, Uggs, Columbia, or Timberland. But it works with gift cards, so you’ll really be able to stretch that unused birthday present your aunt gave you in 2014.
Ahh Home Depot—home to the mysteriously intoxicating scent of sawdust and mulch. Home Depot gives 10% discounts to all veterans and active duty servicemen. This applies to anything in store, so go ahead and load up on a whole bunch of parts for that project you are (never going to finish) working on.
Verify your military service through SheerID (which you should do anyway–tons of savings on there) and Foot Locker will give you 20% off all products in store. Walk around pensively holding a pair of Nike basketball kicks, knowing full well you’re just gonna buy another pair of grey Vans with those savings.
Sirius XM offers a very significant 25% off their subscription price for all military vets, reservists, and active duty servicemen. This gives you the opportunity to listen to Howard Stern on the 4-minute drive from the base to the bar.
Disneyland & Disney World
Disneyland offers a 3-day reservation for only 8 or 4 days for 8 for military members. That’s a pretty solid discount that gives you plenty of savings to spend on the sweetest treat west of the Mississippi— Disneyland churros.
Microsoft offers 30% off its office software for all military members and their families. Use the excel spreadsheets to track how much money you lost playing Spades on deployment this year. Or use the word processor to type up a couple college essays. Or use powerpoint to fall asleep.
This online sneaker juggernaut offers 20% off via SheerID. They’ve got a pretty slick selection of sneakers, and an even better selection of athletic gear and cleats. So you can finally look like a total badass while losing your co-ed intramural basketball game by 30 points.
NFL Shop offers a cool 15% discount to all military members, veterans, spouses, and immediate family members. The online store is very convenient, as it gives Bills fans a chance to google who their quarterback is on the day they purchase a jersey.