Despite Demi Moore’s depiction in G.I. Jane, many people may be surprised to learn that buzz cuts are not authorized for female soldiers under AR 670-1, Wear and Appearance of Army Uniforms and Insignia. However, more akin to Moore’s appearance, female soldiers like Captains Shaye Lynne Haver and Kristen Griest were required to sport buzz cuts to attend Ranger School at Fort Benning, Georgia. “When female soldiers go through training, such as Special Forces or Ranger, they shave their heads…and when they come out of the course, they’re out of regulation,” said Sgt. Maj. Brian Sanders. “As of right now, the current standard does not allow female soldiers to have their hair lower than a quarter of an inch.” However, new changes are slated to be implemented in AR 670-1 including allowing female soldiers to shave their heads outside of specialized training.
Conversely, women will also be allowed to wear long ponytails during training. The tight buns currently required can make it more difficult for women to properly wear the Army Combat Helmet and can damage the scalp. Regardless of gender, soldiers will be authorized to sport highlights that blend with uniform colors. Men will be authorized to wear clear nail polish and terminology in the regulation that may be offensive like Mohawk, Fu Manchu and dreadlocks, will be replaced with alternative words to make for more inclusive standards.
The changes are the result of a 17-soldier panel that was brought together from different commands to promote diversity and inclusion in the Army. Suggestions were made from across the service and voted on by panel members. According to the Army, the panel consisted of 10 Black women, four white women, one Hispanic woman, one Hispanic man and one Black man.
“Some people don’t like change but that’s just how the world is,” said Sergeant Major of the Army Michael Grinston during a call with the press. “It changes over time and we need to change with it. I’m not going to go into who voted and who said what, but this panel represented our force from all walks of life, and we brought in experts.” In addition to the panel of soldiers, the Army consulted with dermatologists and psychologists to generate the new standard changes. “These things are always going to be hard, and that’s why it was really important for me to get the panel right and trust that they would represent the Army to look at things appropriately, and I think they did,” Grinston added.
The Army is also implementing smaller changes to the standards. Women will be authorized to wear earrings in the Army Combat Uniform, except in field environments where hygiene levels are lower compared to in garrison. Additionally, women will be authorized to wear lipsticks that aren’t “extreme” shades (such as blue, gold or hot pink). “We have soldiers from all walks of life, all 50 states plus the territories, and we have to represent them,” said Lt. Gen. Gary Brito, the Army’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel Issues. “Inclusive grooming standards help to foster our ability to recruit and retain the best talent, whether that’s a new private or an officer coming in.”
In addition to revising potentially offensive wording, the Army is clarifying the standards. Subjective phrases like “at the discretion of the commander” and “professional appearance” were deemed too subjective. They will be replaced with more specific wording like “visual representations, color swatches, and familiarity of hair styles and textures.” The revised version of AR 670-1 will come into effect on February 26, 2021.
What do you think of the new standards? As long as your haircut doesn’t look like these, you’ll probably be fine.
One of the biggest drawbacks of being in the combat arms is a perceived lack of post-service opportunities out here in the civilian world. A recently released grunt might take a look through job listings, see a laundry list of requirements, become convinced that applying is a pointless effort, and send themselves into a downward spiral. We’ve seen it happen too many times — we all know a brother- or sister-in-arms who has fallen down this hole.
This misconception couldn’t be further from the truth. The truth is, there really isn’t much of advantage to being a former POG over being former infantry when it comes time to find a job. Unless that guy who was a computer analyst in the Army is specifically going into a civilian computer analyst job, you’re both on even footing.
In fact, when you cut away the military jargon from your resume and translate your skills into something a civilian employer can read, the grunts actually have the upper hand, based solely on the day-to-day lifestyle of combat arms troops.
This article isn’t meant to discredit a support troop’s career path. All troops can pull useful information out of this article, but it’s intended mostly for the grunts who don’t realize their true potential.
It’s best if you let your resume do the talking…
(Meme via Valhalla Wear)
Your awards are proof for all the “fluff” in your resume
Let’s be honest; everyone is going to add some decorative fluff their resume. Employers expect this and have to weed through said fluff to get the heart of the issue. Even if you don’t embellish a little on your resume, prospective employers will assume you’re fluffing it up. It’s just how these things go.
Typically, grunts don’t have awards tossed to them like candy, so when they get one, it means something. So, if you’ve got it, flaunt it. Go ahead and mention why you were given the award; that’s the real impressive part.
Deployment stories usually do well with civilians who have no idea what life in the military is actually like.
(Meme via Pop Smoke)
Your deployment history can solidify your communication skills
Writing about your deployment history is, in a word, complicated. Unfortunately, there’s a stigma associated with veterans of combat zones. Some employers unjustly see veterans as unqualified because they assume we all have post-traumatic stress and are difficult to work with — despite the fact that that’s discrimination clearly forbidden by the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Still, civilian employers, no matter the industry, are looking for three key traits in an employee: Communication skills, leadership potential, and management ability. There’s no question that a deployment checks these three boxes. If you’ve deployed, then you have a proven ability to “communicate with a team and higher-ups under extremely stressful conditions.”
They don’t need to know about your salty attitude until you’ve been on board for several months.
(Meme via CONUS Battle Drills)
Your leadership skills are needed for promotion in civilian workplace
Employers want a new hire for one of two reasons: They’re either looking to fill a vacancy to complete a specific task or they’re trying to bring someone on for the long-haul, someone who will rise within the ranks and remain loyal to the employer.
Support guys, like that Army computer analyst from the earlier example, might be a shoe-in for that one entry-level position, but it’s the grunt they’ll be looking at for the long-term. Grunts take on leadership roles from the first moment they’re assigned a boot private to babysit watch over. What the civilian employer wants to hear is that you “oversaw and aided in the growth of subordinates over the course of several years.”
Civilians won’t know that you were volun-told or needed to make rank. It just sounds extremely impressive to the uninformed.
(Meme via The Salty Soldier)
Your military schooling is tangible proof of management skills
In every complete resume, the final portion is reserved for educational history. Typically, this is where an applicant lists their high school diploma and college degrees, but it’s also used for technical schools and any kind of additional education. Good news, grunts: this is also where you put those random schools you were sent to.
Officer Candidate School and NCO Academies definitely count. Put those on there. Plus, most NCO schools are given overly “hooah” names. Go ahead and tell me what sounds better: “Warrior Leader Course” or “Los Angeles City College?”
Follow wherever your heart takes you. You’ll find someone out there willing to pay you money to do it.
(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)
Your college degree will cover down on anything else missing on the resume
At the end of the day, your military experience looks good and it makes for a great topic of discussion during the interview, but you can’t expect anything more than a foot in the door if you don’t meet the required qualifications.
Thankfully, using that GI Bill that you earned can help boost your odds in any field you’re pursuing. Once you’ve finished your degree, the job market is ripe for the picking, and your military service will give you an edge over the competition.
For further instruction on how to best translate your military history into a fantastic civilian resume, please check out this article by the folks over at Zety. They’re professionals who dedicate themselves to this very subject. It’s a great read.
Life without orders is like staring into the abyss — of choices. We all know finding a new groove is essential to success after the military, but which habits should die-hard, and which should you begrudgingly hang onto?
While it may seem like pulling a complete 180 is you “sticking it to the man,” he actually gave you a few good pointers.
Cursing – kick it
Swearing like a sailor may be the language of choice across all branches of the military, but average America is not ready to wade through the sea of f-bombs to catch your intended meaning. They also, sadly, don’t see the value in violent bluntness or the off-the-cuff nickname you would love to metaphorically slap them with.
While it would be abso-bleeping-lutely great if everyone could just cipher through like the rest of us, one slip up from the old….mouth and you can kiss that job or promotion goodbye.
Stay training- for something that matters – stick with it
The military is always training to achieve a specific goal or purpose. Your skills are constantly being sharpened, forcing you to become better than the day before. The discipline of living within a constant training cycle is a pace that throws many veterans for a loop after service.
As a civilian, you can pick what to train for, but the key to connecting who you are now to what you were before, could be remaining diligent in your training. Learn to cook like a chef or get a black belt; just do it with a clear date to make the cut.
Wake up and grind – stick with it
We’re melding two habits into one here – keeping up with PT and waking up early. There are clearly more hours in the day and zero chances for your pants to stop fitting if you keep with the military way of working out.
No one loves frosty morning runs, but no one hates the endorphins high that you get before breakfast, either. Take comfort, and a feeling of camaraderie in the fact that you’re in the best company before dawn, powering through PT like a warrior.
Living paycheck to paycheck – kick it
While there are many things to complain about in terms of military pay, there is one thing – a reliable paycheck, to count on. It would be great to believe that anyone past PFC would have a solid grasp on finances, that’s not the case.
Getting smart about not just how you’re spending, but what you actually need in terms of salary to support your lifestyle, is a requirement for success. Civilian life doesn’t come with BAS, BAH, and plenty of other little perks you don’t realize you have.
Take a hard look at your Leave and Earnings Statement well before you get out. If it looks like the grid of confusion, stroll yourself into one of the many free financial programs on post or online open to the military community.
Contingency plans – stick with it
No one takes over a compound without a plan b, so why tackle an entire second career without one? If your squad leader didn’t drill it into your head hard enough, they’re important, and you must be prepared to activate the next on the list when or if things go south.
Waiting for orders – kick it
Every day that you served, orders were waiting for you. The simplicity of a highly scheduled life is difficult to replicate, and after a short vacation from it turns out to be something most veterans miss.
Luckily, the military taught you what to do. Taking initiative in the absence of orders is battlefield common sense. Creating the mission (see above) and executing a series of orders, which, if followed, will achieve success, is how you make it one day at a time.
Flying thousands of feet in the sky and zooming sensors in on enemy movement below, the Air Force manned Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System has been using advanced technology to gather and share combat-relevant information, circle above military operations and share key intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance data with service command and control.
Since its combat missions during the Gulf War in the early 1990s, JSTARS has been an indispensable asset to combat operations, as it covers a wide swath of terrain across geographically diverse areas to scan for actionable intelligence and pertinent enemy activity.
JSTARS is able to acquire and disseminate graphic digital map displays, force tracking information, and – perhaps of greatest significance – detect enemy activity; information obtained can be transmitted via various data-links to ground command and control centers and, in many instances, connected or integrated with nearby drone operations.
The Northrop E-8C surveillance aircraft can identify an area of interest for drones to zero in on with a more narrow or “soda-straw” sensor view of significant areas below. JSTARS can detect enemy convoys, troop movements, or concentrations and pinpoint structures in need of further ISR attention.
The JSTARS mission is of such significance that the Air Force is now evaluating multiple industry proposals to recapitalize the mission with a new, high-tech, next-generation JSTARS plane to serve for decades into the future.
“We have been able to extend the life of some of the legacy ones, but this does not change the fact that we need new platforms as quickly as we can,” Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch, Military Deputy, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force, Acquisition, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
The Air Force plans for new JSTARS to be operational in 2024.
JSTARS is a critical airborne extension of the Theater Air Control System and provides Ground Moving Target Indicator data to the ISR Enterprise, Air Force official Capt. Emily Grabowski told Scout Warrior.
Ground Moving Target Indicator, GMTI, is another essential element of JSTARS technology which can identify enemy movements below.
“Combatant Commanders require unique command and control, and near real-time ISR capabilities to track the movement of enemy ground and surface forces,” she explained.
Grabowski emphasized that the JSTARS recap will be a commercial derivative aircraft designed to keep pace with rapid technological changes and reduce life-cycle costs for the service.
JSTARS uses Synthetic Aperture Radar to bounce an electromagnetic “ping” off of the ground and analyze the return signal to obtain a “rendering” or picture of activity below. Since the electronic signals travel at the speed of light – which is a known entity – an algorithm can then calculate the time of travel to determine the distance, size, shape, and movement of an object or enemy threat of high value.
JSTARS planes, which have been very active supporting combat operations in Afghanistan, have flown 130,000 combat mission hours since 9/11.
Although initially constructed as a Cold War technology to monitor Soviet Union tank movements in Eastern Europe, the JSTARS has proven very helpful in key areas such as near North Korea, Iraq, and Afghanistan. The platform has also succeeded in performing maritime missions in the pacific theater, Southcom, and Central Command areas of responsibility.
The JSTARS has been able to help meet the fast-expanding maritime demand for ISR and command and control due to an upgrade of its radar to Enhanced Land/Maritime Mode, Air Force officials said.
The current JSTARS is based on a four-engine Boeing 707. Of the 16 JSTARS currently in the Air Force inventory, 11 of them are operational. The JSTARS is the only platform technically able to simultaneously perform command and control as well as ISR, Air Force developers describe.
The crew of an existing JSTARS, which can go up to 21 people or more, includes a navigator, combat systems operator, intelligence officers, technicians, and battle management officers. However, technology has advanced to the point wherein a smaller crew size will now be able to accomplish more missions with less equipment and a lower hardware footprint. Advanced computer processing speeds and smaller components, when compared with previous technologies, are able to perform more missions with less hardware.
Northrop Grumman is offering a Gulfstream G550 jet engineered with a common software baseline to allow for rapid integration of emerging commercial technologies. By building their aircraft with a set of standardized IP protocol, the aircraft is designed to accommodate new software and hardware as it becomes available.
Sized smaller than other offerings, the G550 is intended to fly at higher altitudes and operate with less fuel, Northrop developers said.
“Our G550 business jet can fly higher and see more to prosecute more targets without any added cost. Its agility and size allows it to be closer to the fight because it can base at two times the number of bases that heavy aircraft can fit in,” Alan Metzger, Vice President, Next-Generation Surveillance and Targeting, Northrop Grumman, told Scout Warrior.
Higher altitude missions can widen the aperture of a sensor’s field-of-view, therefore reaching wider areas to surveil.
Northrop’s G550 JSTARS have flown 500 hours and gone through simulated inflight refueling behind KC-135 and KC-10 tanker aircraft. Developers say the aircraft has all-weather performance ability, provides VHF/UFH radio operations and optimizes radar performance with a layout creating no blockage from engine cowlings or wings.
The G55O is compliant to wide area surveillance common open architecture radar processing system requirements, Northrop officials said. Along with General Dynamics-owned Gulfstream, L3 is also partnering with Northrop on the JSTARS recap.
Lockheed’s Bombardier business jet, built by Sierra Nevada, offers a modified Global 600 aircraft with Raytheon-built battle management systems.
The aircraft is 94-feet long and can operate with a 100,000-pound take off gross weight; Lockheed developers claim the Global 6000, which currently flies in the Air Force inventory as the E-11A, can reach a range of 6,000 nautical miles and altitudes of 51,000 feet.
Lockheed also emphasizes that their offering places a premium on common standards and open architecture.
“Rather than using unique or customized hardware and software approaches adapted to an open systems architecture environment, our architecture is truly open and free of proprietary interfaces. This allows us to leverage state-of-the-art commercial technology to expedite integration of capabilities and minimize cost,” a Lockheed statement said.
Boeing’s JSTARS uses a 110-foot 737 able to reach altitudes of 41,000-feet. Developers say it can cruise at speeds of 445 knots and carry a maximum payload of 50,000-pounds. Like other offerings, Boeing’s jet claims to accomplish an optimal size, weight, power and cooling ratio.
The Russian military announced on Jan. 10 that Turkish-backed rebels attacked its Hmeimim air base and Tartus naval facility in Syria over the weekend with 13 drones.
“The recent drone attack on Russian bases in Syria was launched from an area near Idlib, which is controlled by Turkish-backed rebel forces,” according to RT, adding that Moscow complained to Turkey about the incident. The drone attack reportedly took place overnight from Jan. 5 to Jan. 6.
The Russian military said that the attack originated from the village of Muazzara, which is located in the Idlib region of Syria.
Russian and Syrian bombing runs have increased in Idlib in the last week, resulting in the deaths of many civilians, according to the Syrian Observatory For Human Rights. ISIS has also recently retaken portions of Idlib, despite Russian President Vladimir Putin’s declaration of victory in Syria late last year.
It is curious that Russia would blame Turkey, given that the two countries have improved relations over the last year.
“We often overestimate how much governments in capitals have control over the rebel groups they sponsor,” Dmitry Gorenburg, a senior research scientist at CNA, told Business Insider.
“Given Turkey’s deteriorating relationship with the U.S., it [would be odd] for Turkey to lash out at Russia,” Gorenburg said.
Russia shifts the blame from U.S. to Turkey
The development comes one day after the Russian Ministry of Defense implied that the U.S. had helped coordinate the drone attacks on Hmeimim air base and Tartus naval facility.
The MoD also said that a U.S. spy plane flew over Syria around the time of the attack, which helped the rebels target the drones.
“Any suggestion the U.S., the Coalition or our partnered forces played a role in an attack on a Russian base is without any basis in fact and utterly irresponsible,” Defense Department spokesman Eric Pahon told Business Insider in an email, adding over the phone that the insinuation is “absolute bonkers.”
“This was not a super sophisticated attack,” Gorenburg said, adding that the rebels could have easily launched and targeted the bases themselves.
Russia has released pictures of the drones, which were made of wood, taped together, and equipped with low-tech bombs.
“My hunch is that [Russia] was embarrassed by the attack,” Gorenburg said, and that the MoD needed to attribute such an attack to “a major power.”
A US patrol ship fired warning shots at an Iranian boat in the Persian Gulf July 25 after it came startlingly close to to the vessel.
The USS Thunderbolt, a Cyclone class patrol ship, was forced to fire warning shots from its .50 caliber machine gun after the Iranian boat closed to 150 yards, ignoring radio calls and warning flares along the way, according to Fox News’ Lucas Tomlinson.
The Thunderbolt fired five short bursts into the water due to concerns that there may be a collision, according to a CNN report. The ship ceased its actions but stayed in the area for several hours.
Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps forces are believed to have operated the vessel. The IRGC is Iran’s paramilitary wing that is known to have close ties to the country’s extremist, conservative theocratic leadership. It is primarily responsible for Iran’s operation in the Persian Gulf area and is known to act with hostility toward US forces.
Encounters with Iranian vessels have become commonplace for US forces patrolling in the Persian Gulf.
“Unfortunately, par for the course with Iran,” said Michael Singh, former senior director at the National Security Council and current managing director at the Washington Institute, in a tweet July 25.
Similar close encounters with Iranian vessels have taken an upswing in recent months, but the July 25 confrontation was one of the closer calls.
An ammo depot in the Krasnoyarsk region of Siberia has been the scene of a series of large explosions over the past two weeks, killing one Russian soldier and injuring at least 32 other people thus far.
The first massive explosion occurred last Monday, killing one and injuring at least 10 others. Then, two more large explosions tore through the facility on Friday, reportedly as a result of lightning due to the facility’s lightning management apparatus being destroyed in the previous explosions. Multiple smaller explosions have also been reported at the facility during the intervening days, resulting in more than 16,000 people being evacuated from nearby communities.
MASSIVE Explosions at Ammunition Depot – Achinsk, Russia – Aug. 5, 2019
Soldiers assigned to Russia’s “74008 military unit,” as officials called them, were ordered to take cover in bomb shelters until the explosions stopped.
According to Russian state media, the facility housed thousands of artillery shells and propellant bags filled with explosive material used to launch the artillery. While Russian authorities have not offered any detailed explanation as to what may have caused the incident, at least one Russian Defense Ministry official cited “human error” as the preliminary cause of the first explosion, pending a more thorough investigation.
The local governor’s office offered only slightly more detail, explaining that the first explosion took place during “shell clearing” operations. That, combined with reports of two “disposal sights” that are still burning, suggests that the munitions involved in the explosion may have been old and awaiting disposal. This possibility is bolstered by the fact that the site of the explosion is among Russia’s oldest existing munition storage and logistic sites, dating back to its use by the Soviet Union. The entire facility is slated for demolition in 2022.
Russia’s Uran-14 Robot can supposedly fight fires and clear mines. Two have been deployed to Achinsk.
(Russian Ministry of Defense via WikiMedia Commons)
Russian firefighting efforts, which are already largely taxed by a series of large wildfires in the Siberian forest, are reportedly being bolstered by Uran-14 firefighting robots that, according to Russian state media, can spray water a distance of up to 180 feet and move up to 10 tons of debris.
These claims, however, should be taken with a grain of salt, as Russia also once claimed their Uran-6 infantry robot had successfully participated in combat operations in Syria, only for it to be revealed months later that the robot had actually been a dismal failure.
Unfortunately for the Russian military, these explosions are not the highest-profile incident to occur last week, with another explosion at a missile test site that seems to have involved Russia’s much-touted nuclear-powered cruise missile claiming the lives of at least five and injuring a number of others.
Some 18.5 million honorably discharged veterans now have a lifetime benefit enabling them to shop online at ShopMyExchange.com, marking the first expansion of military exchange privileges since 1990.
“The Exchange is honored to open its virtual doors to millions of deserving veterans,” said Tom Shull, the Army and Air Force Exchange Service‘s director and CEO, a Vietnam-era Army veteran.
“There are many generations of service members who have not been properly recognized,” he added. “This new benefit acknowledges their service and welcomes them home. This is something veterans can enjoy the rest of their lives.”
Purchases Improve Quality of Military Life
Every purchase veterans make online will help to improve the quality of life for those who wear the uniform today, Shull noted, as exchange earnings support programs such as combat uniforms below cost, fitness centers, child development centers and youth programs on Army garrisons, Air Force outdoor recreation programs, school lunches for warfighters’ children overseas and more.
“This is a virtuous cycle,” he said. “As a veteran myself, it is an honor to pay forward support to active-duty service members and their families.”
Excitement for the new benefit has been building for months, AAFES officials said, thanks to social media shout-outs from Mark Wahlberg and Marcus Luttrell, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Richard Rawlings and other celebrities. As a result, they said, more than 255,000 veterans verified their eligibility for the benefit before its official Nov. 11 launch.
An old Turkish proverb notes that “coffee should be black as hell, strong as death, and sweet as love.” One possible interpretation for this is that you should enjoy your coffee under any circumstance.
Even fighting the Islamic State.
Turkish special forces troops are said to be taking this to the extreme, opening a sort of coffee house on a rooftop overlooking the Syrian city of Al-Bab. The Turks sent their special operators into the area in December, and now the city is said to be surrounded by Turkish forces.
Reddit user “bopollo” posted a few photos of Turkish troops near a sniper overwatch position. While there’s no concrete evidence the photo was taken in Al-Bab, the writing is on the wall.
Bopollo is a frequent commenter and contributor on operations and developments of the Syrian Civil War. The photo above shows directions to both Al-Bab and Kabbasin, both towns in Syria still held by ISIS.
The road between the two cities is also held by the terror organization. It’s fairly common for troops to write graffiti on the walls of buildings they captured and held. It turns out Turkish special operators are no different.
While it’s entirely unlikely that special forces troops opened an actual functioning business, the building is more likely just an area secured by the Su Altı Taarruz, Turkey’s Navy SEALs (you can see the flag with the SAT logo on it above).
But because Turkish people are funny and there are at least 106 Starbucks locations in Istanbul, it’s likely some troops are living it up as best they can on the front lines against ISIS.
The US Marine Corps called off its search for five missing Marines on Dec 10, 2018, after a F/A-18 Hornet fighter and C-130 Hercules cargo plane collided during a refueling exercise 200 miles off the coast of Japan on Dec 6, 2018.
“I have made the determination to end the search and rescue operations for the crew of our KC-130J aircraft, which was involved in a mishap off the southern coast of Japan and to declare that these Marine warriors are deceased,” 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force commander Lt. Gen. Eric Smith said in a statement.
“Every possible effort was made to recover our crew and I hope the families of these selfless Americans will find comfort in the incredible efforts made by US, Japanese, and Australian forces during the search,” Smith said.
The service members’ next-of-kin have been notified.
“Our most valued asset is the individual Marine,” Smith added. “We remain faithful to our Marines and their families as we support them through this difficult time.”
US Navy F/A-18E Super Hornets from Strike Fighter Squadron 115, Marine Corps Air Station, Iwakuni, during Valiant Shield 18 out of Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, Sept. 17, 2018.
(US Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Roger Parsons)
The incident is still under investigation. The Marine Corps pointed to the missing KC-130’s flight data and cockpit voice recorders, and said it was “premature to speculate about wreckage recovery.”
The accident, which involved seven crew-members, occurred around 2 a.m. local time on Dec. 6, 2018. One of the seven missing was rescued alive in “fair condition,” and another Marine, 28-year-old pilot Capt. Jahmar Resilard, was found dead around 60 miles from Shikoku island.
President Donald Trump tweeted his condolences after the collision and thanked Japan, who assisted in the search-and-rescue efforts
“My thoughts and prayers are with the @USMC (U.S. Marine Corps) crew members who were involved in a mid-air collision off the coast of Japan,” Trump tweeted. “Thank you to @USForcesJapan for their immediate response and rescue efforts. Whatever you need, we are here for you.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The opening scenes of Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn introduce viewers to a charismatic and devoted father deep in the joys of parenthood. Crawling on the floor, swimming and blowing out birthday candles with his toddler and infant sons, he is right where he should be. Until the day he isn’t. Through interviews, reports and a thoroughly researched investigation, the filmmaker poses some incriminating questions.
Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? Was it the mechanic who told him his helicopter was cleared for flight two hours before it slammed tail-first into the ocean? Was it the manufacturer who produced the faulty wiring blamed for the explosion? Was it the upper ranks of the Navy who disregarded multiple letters of concern purportedly choosing flight hours over safety? How about the Congressional and Executive branches of our government that teamed up with arms manufacturers and focused on new bloated defense contracts instead of investing in the people and machinery already in place?
Van Dorn’s wife, Nicole, living in the shadow of her husband’s unnecessary death, is on a mission to find out. Catalyzed by her and others’ search for answers, this gripping 2018 documentary investigates events leading up to Navy lieutenant J. Wesley Van Dorn’s death one month before his 30th birthday. His untimely demise occurred during a training exercise when an explosion killing three of the five crewmen aboard caused the crash-prone helicopter to fall from the sky into frigid waters below. Van Dorn was not the only one who had expressed concerns about the safety of this aircraft, nor was he the only one to die in it as a result of misguided leadership and mechanical failure.
Written, directed, and narrated by Zachary Stauffer as his first feature documentary, this film offers a sobering look into chronic institutional failings that have resulted in 132 arguably preventable deaths. Diving unforgivably into one family’s agonizing loss, Stauffer invites us to ponder heavy questions while constructing a wall of outrage in his viewers. What is the price of a life? How many lives does it take before change takes place? When will avarice and the “just get ‘er done” attitude stop undermining the American defense establishment?
Built by Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin subsidiary, the MH-53E Sea Dragon is the Navy’s nearly identical version of the Marine Corps’ CH-53-E Super Stallion. Since entering service in 1986, it has never succumbed to enemy fire but holds the worst safety record in the Navy’s fleet making it the deadliest aircraft in military history. The 53-E is a powerful machine used by the Navy for dragging heavy equipment through water to sweep for mines while the Marine version is used for transporting people and gear.
Stauffer explains that due to issues with these aircraft that cropped up even in their initial test flights at the manufacturer and in training missions, the Navy tried to get away with using less powerful helicopters and alternate minesweeping tactics but nothing was as effective as the relic Sea Dragon. Since they were fated to be replaced at some point, the higher ranks avoided investing too much into them so funding for spare parts and maintenance was lean. Members of Congress allegedly chose the path of greed and corruption when defense contractors offered them flashy new weaponry and vehicles as well as comfortable retirement packages. The upper echelons flourished while those training, fighting, and dying on the ground, as well as the American taxpayers, suffered needlessly as top-down decision makers claimed their hands were tied.
With fewer and fewer resources, those maintaining the Sea Dragon had to do more with less. They began cutting corners and developing bad habits. When voicing their worries in person or through over a dozen letters and memos to the upper ranks, they were “belittled, humiliated and cut down,” as one pilot explained. More than 30 years before Van Dorn’s crash, Sikorsky recommended replacing the faulty Kapton wires on all Navy aircraft. This was suggested not once, not twice, but three times before the Navy decided to start looking into the issue. Eventually they named Kapton as the highest ranked safety risk in the fleet and devised a long-term plan to replace it in phases but claimed to never have enough funding to refit all the wiring in the 53s. Only months prior to Van Dorn’s crash the Pentagon re-budgeted funding away from this critical project. Thus, problems that had been escalating over decades while the issue was known and actively overlooked perpetuated, yet the birds were still allowed to fly.
By the time Van Dorn signed on the dotted line in 2010, the run-down helicopters that required about 40 hours of maintenance for a single hour of flight time should have been retired. He and his wife made the decision together to request a spot in the squadron flying 53s because others told them it was an ideal position for a family man who wanted to be home for dinner every night.
Van Dorn was one of those who voiced his opinions about the safety of this aircraft. In an ominous voice recording foreshadowing his own death, he stated “If anyone should care about what’s happening on that aircraft, it should be me and the other pilots, I think. It makes sense to me, because I’m the one who’s going to get in it and have something terrible happen if it doesn’t go right.” His wife Nicole later explained that, “He felt that no matter what he said or what he wrote or who he complained to, nothing was changing.”
On a particularly cold morning in January 2014, Van Dorn’s own portentous sentiments were realized 18 nautical miles off the coast of Virginia Beach. Chafing from a single nylon zip tie exposed naked wiring to a fine spray of fuel causing it to arc, sending a blast of fire into the cockpit. Hours later Nicole lay on her husband’s chest just before they pronounced him dead.
Dylan Boone, a Naval aircrewman and one of two survivors of the wreck declared, “You don’t expect to give up your life for this country because you were given faulty equipment.”
Dynamic cinematography combined with a subtly haunting score by composer William Ryan Fritch creates the backdrop for this solid investigative report. Crisp and flowing visuals paired with thrilling military footage complement the feelings portrayed by those interviewed. These primary sources include Van Dorn’s mother, wife, friends, and fellow airmen as well as a mechanic, pilots, a general, a Pentagon Analyst and a military reporter. Throughout the documentary they and the narrator explain the multifaceted issues connected to Van Dorn’s death and the trouble with the 53s from a variety of angles.
Woven skillfully together, a poignant story is told of decades of negligence that continues to result in tragedy. Wholesome home movies of a young involved father raising two sons with his lovely wife are contrasted with the aching void ripped into the Van Dorn family’s home after his death. Stirring visions of military life ignite the urge to join in viewers who have ever felt compelled to do so, whereas the deep frustration of stifled dreams and a scarred body and soul are almost tangible to someone who has been there before as hard truths are drawn out throughout the film.
Centering on the death of a handsome, beloved father, husband and seaman who was liked by all humanized an issue that might have otherwise been unrelatable. Utilizing the audience’s heartstrings as a focal point was a powerful way to bring attention to a predicament that could have been swept under the rug. Despite the fact that the C-53 airframes experienced serious accidents more than twice as often as the average aircraft and that internal investigations were performed with alarming results, the Navy continues to risk its servicemembers’ life and limb to keep these helicopters performing their critical mission in the air. With this in mind, this documentary might just put enough pressure on the Navy to make the changes necessary to save an untold number of lives.
Winner of the Audience Award in Active Cinema at the 2018 Mill Valley Film Festival, Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn is an intriguing and effective piece of military reporting presented in comprehensible terms for the layman. It is a successful examination of not only the serious failings of a controversial aircraft and the misled priorities keeping it aloft, but also hints toward the fact that anyone who brings up the disturbing issue of safety of these helicopters will be forced out of service. I would recommend this professional-level documentary, especially to anyone with interests in the military or national defense.
The Navy, the Pentagon, Sikorsky and Lockheed Martin declined to participate in this well-researched film. Major funding to make this documentary possible was provided by supporters of the Investigative Reporting Program at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism and Investigative Studios.
After viewing this film, you can decide for yourself who killed Lt. Van Dorn. Regardless of the answer, his unwarranted death will not have been completely in vain if it successfully carries out his final mission: righting the deep and longstanding problems with the CH-53 helicopters, thus preventing the death and destruction of countless others just as it ultimately took him.
The Trump administration believes Russia’s Su-57 stealth fighter and Tupolev PAK-DA stealth bomber will be developmental nuclear strike aircrafts.
The administration listed the two aircrafts as developmental nuclear strike aircrafts in its Nuclear Posture Review, a 100-page report released the first week of February 2018 laying out the U.S.’s nuclear policies.
The report took a harsh stance against Russia, saying that it “will pose insurmountable difficulties to any Russian strategy of aggression against the United States, its allies, or partners and ensure the credible prospect of unacceptably dire costs to the Russian leadership if it were to choose aggression.”
The Su-57 first flew in 2010, but has yet to be mass produced.
Moscow announced on Feb. 7, 2018, that it would purchase about a dozen Su-57s this year, and receive two of those in 2019, according to TASS.
“We are taking the Su-57 for experimental and combat operation, and the state tests for the first stage are over,” Russia’s Deputy Defense Minister Yury Borisov told reporters, according to RIA Novosti.
The first batch of 12 will only be equipped with Saturn AL-41F1 engines — the same engines on the Su-35 — and not the new Izdelie-30 engines, which have only recently begun testing.
Russia’s newly upgraded long-range bomber, the Tu-160M2, first flew January 2018, but the PAK-DA stealth bomber has yet to be built.
As such, Russia’s main nuclear strike aircraft is currently the Su-34 Fullback, according to The National Interest.
“[Russia] has nuclear bombs for tactical aircraft and air launched tactical nuclear missiles as well. And there are ALCMs [air-launched cruise missiles] under development that will be used by tactical aircraft,” Vasily Kashin, a fellow at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics, told The National Interest.
“But I do not remember Su-57 being specifically mentioned,” Kashin said, adding that it’s possible that X-50 cruise missiles could fit into the Su-57’s weapons bays. Russia, he said, has not confirmed anything.
The status of the PAK-DA is even more up in the air.
Assuming Moscow builds the PAK-DA, it won’t enter Russian service until the 2030s at the earliest, The National Interest reported.
The PAK-DA will probably be able to drop nuclear gravity bombs, according to The National Interest’s David Majumdar. The aircraft will likely be primarily used as a strategic missile carrier — much like the upgraded Tu-160M2.
The Pentagon did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.
An amphibious vehicle hit a gas line sparking a fire that injured 14 Marines and a sailor during a training exercise at a California base earlier this week, a US military official said Sept. 15.
The vehicle got stuck and as it tried to get free, it hit the gas line, said the official who was not authorized to discuss the incident publicly so spoke on condition of anonymity.
The Marines from the 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, and 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion and a Navy corpsman were conducting a combat readiness evaluation as part of their battalion training at about 9:30 a.m. Sept. 13 when the amphibious vehicle ignited in an inland area of Camp Pendleton, north of San Diego, said Marine 1st Lt. Paul Gainey.
The troops were sent to area hospitals, including eight who were rushed to a burn center. On Sept. 13, five were listed in critical condition. The Marine Corps has declined to release information on their conditions since then, citing privacy concerns.
The command is investigating the cause of the incident. Gainey said he had no further information to release.
The armored vehicle is used to carry troops and their equipment from Navy ships onto land. It resembles a tank and travels through water before coming ashore. It has been used in the Marine Corps since the 1970s.
In 2013, a 21-year-old Camp Pendleton Marine died and four others were injured when ordnance ignited an amphibious assault vehicle during a training exercise at Marine Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, in the California desert.
The Marine Corps has since developed a safer mine clearing system for its amphibious assault vehicles.