When The Hunt for Red October came out in 1984, and with it the invention of the techno-thriller genre (author Tom Clancy’s claim to literary greatness), one of the stars was a modified Typhoon-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine (SSBN). That novel, of course, was adapted to film in 1990.
The book and the film featured two different versions of the silent drive. The book used impellors, while the film used magneto-hydrodynamic propulsion. Now, something that is somewhat similar to the latter version of the Red October’s silent drive could be a reality… thanks to the People’s Liberation Army Navy.
Permanent magnet motors run much more quietly than conventional types currently in use on submarines. This is due to their “brushless” nature, which also means they can be smaller, taking up less volume on submarines (which are notoriously cramped) and increasing their reliability and also improving their endurance.
According to GlobalSecurity.org, China has a small number of nuclear submarines at present, roughly a half-dozen attack subs and four ballistic missile submarines. While greatly outnumbered by those of the United States, China is planning to build many more nuclear-powered subs by 2030, including versions more modern than the Shang and Jin classes that are their current state of the art.
The United States is not standing still. Reportedly, the new Columbia-class SSBNs will also be using a magnetic-drive technology. That said, it should be noted that in both the book and movie versions of Hunt for Red October, the United States Navy was able to track the titular submarine.
All Americans welcome the return of remains from the Korean War.
The July 27, 2018, honorable carry ceremony at Osan Air Base, South Korea, transferred 55 boxes of remains covered by the United Nations flag. Now the work of identification begins.
These remains are presumed to be American, but many other nations fought in the Korean War, and it’s possible the remains may come from one of those nations.
The 1950-1953 Korean War was incredibly violent, with 36,940 Americans killed and another 92,134 wounded. Some 7,699 American service members are listed as unaccounted-for from the conflict.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Lance Alan Schroeder)
The remains will be examined at the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, and experts there will be responsible for identifying the remains. The agency is relatively new — coming into existence in 2015 after the merger of the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command and the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office.
Many of the fallen service members died in North Korea and were buried by their comrades where they fell. Other U.S. service members were captured and placed in prisoner-of-war camps, where many succumbed to starvation, exposure and torture. Outside those camps are graves of Americans.
The DPAA Laboratory at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, is the first U.S. stop for the recently returned remains. The lab is the largest and most diverse skeletal identification laboratory in the world and is staffed by more than 30 anthropologists, archaeologists and forensic odonatologists, United Nations Command release.
Those experts will sort and examine the remains. In the past, North Korea turned over commingled remains.
The lab experts are painstaking in their examination. The age of the remains — at least 65 years old — will complicate the process. The North Koreans collected the remains, and U.S. investigators will have to do the examination without the forensic information they normally would have, such as the approximate place of the burial and the conditions around it.
Examination of dental charts and mitochondrial DNA will be key technologies used to identifying the remains, and the process may take years to complete, DoD officials said.
Featured image: United Nations Command returned 55 cases of remains from North Korea to Osan Air Base, South Korea, July 27, 2018.
Mainland China made a video of its fighter jets flying around Taiwan, so Taiwan returned fire with a video of its forces preparing to a repel a Chinese invasion.
The People’s Liberation Army Air Force released a music video titled “My War Eagles Are Flying Around The Treasured Island” on Feb. 3, 2019. The upbeat video released ahead of the Chinese New Year calls for reunification with Taiwan, a priority for the Chinese military.
Taiwan has formally protested. “This approach aims at reunifying Taiwan with force and will only have counterproductive results as Taiwanese will find it repulsive and distasteful,” Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council argued in a statement on the matter.
In addition to the sharp rebuke, Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense released its own video, a 90-second video named “Freedom Isn’t Free” that features clips from 2018’s military exercises.
“Many men and women serving in the armed forces will miss New Year’s Eve dinners with their families, but they will not be absent from standing on guards to protect the country,” the ministry said in its statement on Facebook.
“Our resolve to protect every inch of the nation’s territory has never wavered, our constant efforts to strengthen the military’s combat ability has never changed.”
In an earlier address, Chinese President Xi Jinping refused to rule out the use of force to secure the reunification of Taiwan. Shortly thereafter, a Chinese general warned a top US admiral that “if anyone wants to separate Taiwan from China, the Chinese military will safeguard the national unity at all costs so as to protect China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
The Chinese military regularly conducts so-called “encirclement drills” around Taiwan, a self-ruled democratic territory that Beijing perceives as a renegade province.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The 100th Maintenance Squadron’s aircraft metals technology technicians aim to achieve the highest levels of precision when grinding, welding, fabricating or repairing parts for Team Mildenhall aircraft.
For the airmen of the aircraft metals technology section, it’s their job to ensure that Team Mildenhall has the tools and parts needed to accomplish the mission.
“Metals technology repairs, modifies and manufactures aircraft and ground equipment parts or anything needed to accomplish the mission,” said Senior Airman Samuel Muncrief, 100th MXS aircraft metals technician journeyman.
“We also fabricate tools for other shops; there are parts on our aircraft that they no longer make tools for, so we make the new part and the tool to remove the old one.”
Staff Sgt. Brandon Telles, 100th Maintenance Squadron aircraft metals technician craftsman, uses a tungsten inert gas welder on a fire inlet door at RAF Mildenhall, England, January 7, 2020.
(US Air Force/Senior Airman Benjamin Cooper)
When it comes to welding, grinding or fabricating, the airmen of metals technology have a reputation for excellence, and it’s well deserved.
“Every day we are dealing with tight tolerances, or how much we can be over or under on the dimensions of a part,” said Staff Sgt. Brandon Telles, 100th MXS aircraft metals technician craftsman. “Usually, we are dealing with tolerances the size of a strand of hair: I enjoy the challenge, it forces you to pay close attention to your work.”
Staff Sgt. Brandon Telles, 100th Maintenance Squadron aircraft metals technician craftsman, welds a fire inlet door at RAF Mildenhall, England, January 7, 2020.
(US Air Force/Senior Airman Benjamin Cooper)
In a profession with such exacting standards, it’s important to continue to learn and improve.
“We are constantly learning, and we start by studying the basic concepts in training, and when we arrive at our shop, we begin to master our craft,” Telles explained. “We have 16-year veterans who still learn something new every day.”
US Air Force Senior Airman Austin Good, 100th Maintenance Squadron electrical and environmental systems journeyman, weighs a carbon dioxide bottle for aircraft life support systems at RAF Mildenhall, England, May 20, 2019.
(US Air Force/Senior Airman Luke Milano)
In addition to their primary job, the aircraft metals shop helps save Team Mildenhall thousands of dollars.
“Today we worked on a part which could be outsourced to the civilian sector for ,000,” Telles said. “We’ve already completed eight of those parts and we will complete two more; it adds up to a considerable sum.”
Senior Airman Samuel Muncrief, 100th Maintenance Squadron aircraft metals technician journeyman, uses a pencil grinder on a part at RAF Mildenhall, England, January 7, 2020.
(US Air Force/Senior Airman Benjamin Cooper)
Innovation and creative solutions are also key for aircraft metals technicians, sometimes leading them to gather insight outside of their shop.
“We speak with engineers and gather information from blue prints to get exact dimensions and determine what a part needs to be made of,” Telles said. “Occasionally, the blueprints don’t match the aircraft perfectly and we have to go out to the aircraft and measure; it’s a lot of precision work.”
Senior Airman Samuel Muncrief, 100th Maintenance Squadron aircraft metals technician journeyman, uses a pneumatic grinder to modify a part at RAF Mildenhall, England, January 7, 2020.
(US Air Force/Senior Airman Benjamin Cooper)
The metals technology shop has a considerable impact on the mission, but for them its just business as usual.
“In a way we are the last line of defense. When a crew chief finds something that needs to be fixed it comes to us,” Telles said. “At that point, we have to fix it, weld it or replace it and if we don’t get it done the plane doesn’t fly.”
This article originally appeared on United States Air Force. Follow @USAF on Twitter.
After placing fifth at the Rogue Invitational in Columbus, Ohio, an armor officer and member of the Army Warrior Fitness Team has stamped his ticket to the CrossFit Games starting Thursday in Madison, Wisconsin.
During the four-day competition, Capt. Chandler Smith said he looks forward to sharing his Army story at one of the largest fitness contests in the world.
“My goals at the CrossFit Games are reflective of my Army career goals as a whole,” Smith said. “My efforts there could potentially [bring in] a Soldier that will help educate my [future] son or daughter when they decide to join the Army.
Capt. Chandler Smith stamped his ticket to the CrossFit Games Aug. 1-4, 2019, in Madison, Wisc., after placing fifth at the Rogue Invitational in Columbus, Ohio. Smith, an armor officer and member of the Army Warrior Fitness Team looks forward to sharing his Army story at one of the largest fitness contests in the world.
(Photo Credit: U.S. Army Recruiting Command)
“I want to do something at the games that [helps] the Army, and the world, become a better place,” he added. “If someone sees my positivity and chooses to reflect that in their daily life — that is a win.”
Smith was born in Gainesville, Florida. His father, Cedric, was a former NFL fullback and currently works as a strength and conditioning coach in the league. As an aspiring young athlete, Smith had ample opportunity to interact with many players and coaches, which taught him to remain humble, he said.
During high school, Smith decided to get into wrestling. His coach, Nage Damas, was a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, and a three-year letter winner on its wrestling team. Through their interaction, Smith decided to enroll in the academy.
“I am the person who is big on discipline,” Smith said. “West Point presented the hardest road … and presented the biggest challenge in comparison to the other academies.”
At the time the Army was highly involved in Iraq and Afghanistan. Smith believed the Army provided the best opportunity for applied leadership.
“Those were conflicts I saw myself in. As an aspiring leader, you want to place yourself at points of friction,” he said.
As both a cadet and wrestler, Smith worked hard to exceed West Point’s academic, physical and military performance standards, he said. He strived to be a positive example for all of his teammates and peers.
“I have been given some gifts in the physical realm,” Smith said. “It is something that the Army has helped me foster by putting me around similarly-minded [people].
“I’m big on putting a focused effort toward whatever it is that I am in charge of doing,” he added. “Anything less than my best would be to sacrifice my gift — that’s how I see it.”
The Army goes to great lengths to support competitive athletes. Here, Capt. Brian Harris completes the half Murph on the Assault AirRunner during the U.S. Army Warrior Fitness Team Tryouts.
(U.S. Army image by Lara Poirrier)
A NEW PATH
Smith’s respect for CrossFit started long before his time at West Point, he said.
“I wanted to do all the cool guy stuff that you see on TV. [CrossFit] helped me out with wrestling during high school and college,” he said.
After Smith graduated in 2015, CrossFit presented the most natural transition to help “stoke that competitive fire,” he added. In between his duties as a new lieutenant, Smith would spend hours in the gym. He was determined to make the CrossFit Games by 2020.
However, Smith’s fitness career almost derailed in February 2016. During an Army exercise, Smith sustained an injury, which broke his left ring finger in two places and sliced off the tip.
The injury happened a day before the CrossFit Open, the first qualifying stage for the CrossFit Games. The year prior, Smith placed 174th overall out of 273,000 total participants, according to CrossFit officials.
Smith took some time to recover and had to learn to operate with his new hand. He took a step back and started to reevaluate his ability to compete.
I didn’t realize that grip strength is a weakness of mine until I had something that affected my ability to grip. I began to specialize in the type of fitness my musculature can naturally support,” he said. “It ended up being a case of traumatic growth as this setback led to greater results.”
Through it all, Smith continued to move up in the ranks. He placed 128th overall in 2018 in the CrossFit standings. Coming into this year’s CrossFit Games, he is ranked 40th overall, according to program officials.
“I’ve gotten a chance to work out with [Smith],” said Master Sgt. Glenn Grabs, the first sergeant of the Army Recruiting Command’s outreach and recruiting company. “He speeds up as the workout gets longer, which makes him such a great competitor. Even though he’s maybe suffering inside, he’s just so positive and never backs down.”
As an overall athlete, Smith is relentless and the true embodiment of the warrior spirit, Grabs added.
“Captain Chandler Smith is not only a great Soldier, but he is a great person,” he said. “When I see him interact with people at competitions or in public, he goes the extra step to connect with people. That’s just who he is as a person and what makes him so remarkable.”
Army Strong: Capt. Kasandra “Kaci” Clark completing the half Murch on the Assault AirRunner during the U.S. Army Warrior Fitness Team Tryouts.
(U.S. Army image by Lara Poirrier)
As a Soldier, Smith looks forward to more milestones he hopes to accomplish in his career. He was recently selected to lead an infantry platoon as an armor officer, which ended up being one of his crowning achievements thus far, he said.
“That’s not something that happens too often. We went over to Bulgaria for nine months as part of the Operation Atlantic Resolve,” he said. “Knowing that my command trusted me enough to take on a role that I wasn’t necessarily trained for — it empowered me a lot.”
For the most part, Smith has not experienced a lot of difficulties while balancing his fitness goals and Army career, he said. However, anything that falls outside those two priorities is sometimes pushed aside.
“I think I am overly focused on doing my nine to five at work. I also take my fitness hobby very seriously. It doesn’t leave much time for anything else,” he said. “I haven’t done too much vacationing or maybe spent as much time with my family as I would have liked to.”
These sacrifices were necessary to keep him relevant in the Army and fitness community, he said.
“[Making the CrossFit Games] is a goal that I’ve had in mind since 2012, and I’ve been in the Army the whole time,” he said. “So figuring out a way to do this all while balancing my Army requirements was going to be a challenge, but I wouldn’t have it in any other way.
“I’m super happy that it has paid off with a trip to the games this year.”
Awh yeah! It’s Army-Navy Game time, folks! You’d think troops would hate the game, but we f*cking love it! Any other day of the year and you’d be hard-pressed to find a single troop who’d actively give a damn about a bunch of academy soon-to-be butter bars who finally show up for some sports PT. But nope! It’s about branch pride this weekend!
Even the Marines full-heartedly accept they’re apart of the Navy for one afternoon. That entirely depends on if they win, of course. Vegas odds put the Midshipmen at a slightly better chance of winning after the Army went on that five-game losing streak, but they’ve come back from worse odds.
If Navy does win, they get the Commander-in-Chief Trophy back at Annapolis. If Army wins, they retain the trophy because the wins are spread out like it’s a “Rock, Paper, Scissors” style match-up since Army already lost to Air Force… Wait a second…
That was almost six weeks ago? Huh. Even when the Army is having a sh*tty year, we all kind of forget about the Air Force Academy… Anyways, here are some memes.
(Meme via US Army WTF Moments Memes)
(Meme via Army as F*ck)
(Meme via On The Minute Memes)
(Meme via Call for Fire)
(Meme via Team Non-Rec)
(Meme via Not CID)
(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)
(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)
(Meme via Valhalla Wear)
For everyone crying out “but what about your pro-mask seals?” I’d like to politely ask you when was the last time you saw anyone actually carry a pro-mask with them out on patrol in an accessible position and not in the bottom of a ruck (or in the vehicle) for any reason other than the TOCroach LT randomly tagging along.
(Meme via Private News Network)
(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)
(Meme via Pop Smoke)
(Meme via @CollegeGameDay Twitter)
Go Army, Beat Navy!
It’s technically a photo from last year but since it’s still relevant and I’ve held onto it since then, so it makes it in. Bite me.
Secretary of Defense James Mattis said September 18th that he’s going to look into the possibility that the military’s “can do” attitude may be responsible for the recent spate of deadly training accidents.
Almost 100 service members have been killed in training accidents since June, which reflects a definite spike in recent years, and Mattis said he’s examining whether military leaders have pushed troops beyond what they’re able because of a desire to always say “yes” to operational demands.
“I would say, having some association with the U.S. military, we’re almost hardwired to say “Can do.” That is the way we’re brought up,” Mattis said. “Routinely, in combat, that’s exactly what you do, even at the risk of your troops and equipment and all. But there comes a point in peacetime where you have to make certain you’re not always saying, ‘We’re going to do more with less, or you’re going to do the same with less.'”
Mattis noted, however, that the military applauds people who decline to continue training precisely because they feel their troops aren’t prepared.
“But my point is that we always look for this and we reward people for raising their hand and saying, ‘No more. I’ve got to stop.’ We’ve had people actually stop training where they thought their troops needed to rehearse before they went forward,” Mattis said. “And that’s not that unusual, tell you the truth. So I am not concerned right now that we’re rewarding the wrong behavior.”
So far, in response to the collisions involving the destroyers USS John S. McCain and USS Fitzgerald, the Navy has relieved six senior officers of duties, including the commander of the 7th Fleet, which is located in Japan. The Navy stated that the 7th Fleet commander was removed because of a loss of confidence in command ability.
Mattis was similarly noncommittal about whether there was a direct line from sequestration and budget cuts to training accidents, but pledged to look into that possibility.
On Jun. 17, 2018, Chippewa Valley Regional Airport in Eau Claire, WI hosted an airshow that included the display of the Air Combat Command’s F-16 Viper Demo Team.
Piloted by Maj. John “Rain” Waters, an operational F-16 pilot assigned to the 20th Operations Group, Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina and the United States Air Force F-16 Viper Demonstration Team commander, the F-16 performs an aerobatic display whose aim is to demonstrate demonstrate the unique capabilities by one of the Air Force’s premier multi-role fighters, the F-16 Fighting Falcon, better known as “Viper” in the pilot community.
The F-16 Viper Demo always starts with a take-off followed by a low, high-g turn. The maneuver was filmed from a privileged position (the slow motion effect contributes to the stunning results):
Mysterious incidents affecting the health of American diplomats in Cuba continued as recently as August, the United States said Sept. 1, despite earlier US assessments that the attacks had long stopped. The US increased its tally of government personnel affected to 19.
The new US disclosures came the same day that the union representing American diplomats said mild traumatic brain injury was among the diagnoses given to diplomats victimized in the attacks. In the most detailed account of the symptoms to date, the American Foreign Service Association said permanent hearing loss was another diagnosis, and that additional symptoms had included brain swelling, severe headaches, loss of balance, and “cognitive disruption.”
At the State Department, spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the US was continually revising its assessments of the scope of the attacks as new information was obtained. She said the investigation had not been completed.
“We can confirm another incident which occurred last month and is now part of the investigation,” Nauert said.
US officials had previously said that the attacks, initially believed to be caused by a potential covert sonic device, had started in fall 2016 and continued until spring 2017. Last week, Nauert had said at least 16 Americans associated with the US Embassy in Havana had been affected, but that the “incidents” were no longer occurring.
The evolving US assessment indicated investigators were still far off from any thorough understanding of what transpired in the attacks, described by the US as unprecedented. As the bizarre saga has unfolded, the US has encouraged its diplomats to report any strange physical sensations. So it’s unclear whether some symptoms being attributed to the attacks might actually be unrelated.
Still, the fact there was an incident as recently as August suggested the attacks likely continued long after the US government became aware of them and ostensibly raised the issue with the Cuban government, creating even more uncertainty about the timeline and who was responsible.
Notably, the US has avoided accusing Cuba’s government of being behind the attacks. The US did expel two Cuban diplomats, but the State Department emphasized that was in protest of the Cubans’ failure to protect the safety of American diplomats while on their soil, not an indication the US felt that Havana masterminded it.
US investigators have been searching to identify a device that could have harmed the health of the diplomats, believed to have been attacked in their homes in Havana, but officials have said no device had been found.
One of the diplomats affected had arrived over the summer of 2017 to work at the US Embassy and was later diagnosed with concussion-like symptoms, said a US official, who declined to specify the symptoms that led the diplomat to report the situation.
And in Canada, a government official said that the Canadian government had first learned in March 2017 that one of its citizens was affected. Ottawa had previously confirmed that at least one Canadian diplomat was involved, but had not revealed any timeline for when it occurred or came to light.
Both the US and Canadian officials demanded anonymity because they weren’t authorized to comment publicly.
It’s unclear whether Canadians were intentionally targeted or whether there could have been collateral damage from an attack aimed at Americans, given that diplomats from various countries often live in the same areas of a foreign capital. US officials have said the Americans were targeted in their homes in Havana, not in the Embassy.
Canadian officials have been actively working with US and Cuban authorities to ascertain the cause. A Cuban attack deliberately targeting Canadians would be even more confounding, given that Canada — unlike the US — has long had friendly ties to Cuba.
The American Foreign Service Association, in describing the damage to diplomats’ health, said it had met with or spoken to 10 diplomats affected, but did not specify how many of the 10 had been diagnosed with hearing loss or with mild traumatic brain injury, commonly called a concussion.
Yet the confirmation that at least some diplomats suffered brain injury suggested the attacks caused more serious damage than the hearing-related complaints that were initially reported.
“We can’t rule out new cases as medical professionals continue to evaluate members of the embassy community,” Nauert said. She added that the embassy has a medical officer and has been consistently providing care to those who have reported incidents.
Asked for further details about what the US had learned about the cause or culprit in the attacks, the State Department said it had no more information to share.
Traumatic brain injury, or TBI, typically results from a bump, jolt, or other external force that disrupts normal brain functioning, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Short- and long-term effects can include changes to memory and reasoning, sight and balance, language abilities, and emotions.
Not all traumatic brain injuries are the same. Doctors evaluate patients using various clinical metrics such as the Glasgow Coma Scale, in which a numerical score is used to classify TBIs as mild, moderate, or severe.
“AFSA strongly encourages the Department of State and the US Government to do everything possible to provide appropriate care for those affected, and to work to ensure that these incidents cease and are not repeated,” the union said in a statement.
Soldiers from conventional and special operations units recently got the chance to test the Army’s new M17 Modular Handgun System.
Most soldiers who tested the MHS at Fort Bragg’s Range 29 on Aug. 27 were assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, said OTC’s Col. Brian McHugh in a recent Army press release.
Testers were pulled from across the military, including soldiers of the Special Operations Aviation Regiment, based in Kentucky, and of the 3rd Infantry Division, based in Georgia. Some of the military occupational specialties involved include police, pilots, infantry and crew chiefs.
“We wanted to make sure that we have a huge sample to make sure that we’ve got this right — that the Army has it right,” said McHugh.
Modular Handgun System test for the U.S. Army Operational Test Command, conducted at Fort Bragg, Aug. 27.
The Army awarded Sig Sauer a contract worth up to $580 million Jan. 19 to make the service’s new sidearm. Sig Sauer beat out Glock Inc., FN America and Beretta USA, maker of the current M9 9mm service pistol, in the MHS competition.
Army weapons officials have selected the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) at Fort Campbell, Kentucky as the first unit to receive the 9mm M17 MHS this fall.
Various service members will be at Fort Bragg over the next few weeks for testing of the MHS, which is based on the Sig Sauer P320, for the U.S. Army Operational Test Command, or OTC, based at Fort Hood, Texas, according to the press release. Testing will also be conducted by Sailors, Airmen and Marines.
Capt. Christina Smith with the Army’s Product Manager Individual Weapons, has traveled to different testing sites to ensure the system’s quality.
“It’s worth it to make sure you get the right product to the right soldiers,” she said.
Maj. Mindy Brown, test officer for OTC, said it is important to bring the test to Fort Bragg because the installation has the ranges to support realistic conditions.
“You are using real soldiers in a realistic environment,” Brown said. “These are the soldiers who would be using the weapon every day, so getting their feedback on the pistol is really what is important for operational testing.”
Sgt. 1st Class Kevin Custer, of 160th SOAR, appreciated being able to participate in MHS testing.
“It’s good. We don’t really get the opportunity to test the equipment in the unit we’re in,” he said.
What’s interesting about the release is it makes it sound like the Army is still not certain about the M17 MHS.
“If fielded, according to officials, the new modular handgun system, also known as MHS, will offer improved durability and adjustability over the current M9, as well as performance improvements.”
Program Executive Office Soldier officials, however, told Military.com that MHS is being fielded beginning in October.
When Private First Class Ethan T. Ford first thought about joining the military, he immediately had his hopes set on being a combat photographer.
“Joining the military has given me a lot of options and I’ve done a lot of things I would have never had the option to do before. I wouldn’t have traveled to Korea, cover historical events, or be in a movie,” Ford said.
As a 25V Combat documentation/production specialist, Ford is his unit’s official videographer, tasked with shooting and editing footage and capturing every moment of garrison operations.
Like all soldiers, Army photographers get trained on basic combat skills and learn how to operate weapons, expertly engage in hand-to-hand combat and administer basic first-aid.
Army photographer Private First Class Ethan Ford practices photography techniques while on assignment in Seoul, South Korea.
(Photo by Private First Class Ethan T. Ford)
But being an Army photographer requires dedication and resilience. When the rest of the unit goes home or finishes the mission, the Army photographers get to work to upload their photos and videos and create products for the historical record.
When his friends in Oregon ask him what it’s like to be in the Army, he says he gives them the honest truth.
“Being in the Army is not hard, at times it can be mentally draining, but anyone who is physically capable can do it.”
This is not a typical assignment, according to his supervisor, Staff. Sgt. Pedro Santos, noncommissioned officer in charge of the Yongsan Visual Information Support Center.
His team is made up of creative types who strive on challenges.
Army photographers have to be able to quickly react to any situation in any environment. You have to make sure you’re ready and that your equipment is in good shape and your batteries are charged.
Dancers perform traditional acts during a community relations event at US Army Garrison Yongsan in Seoul, Korea.
(Photo by Private First Class Ethan T. Ford)
Between assignments, the soldiers are back in the office learning new skills, teaching each other new tips and critiquing each other.
Other parts of the job include handshake photos and designing PowerPoint slides, which isn’t the most inspiring for the truly passionate photographers like Ford, but meeting expectations is important.
One of the advantages to enlisting as a combat photographer, according to Santos, is that the experience and education you gain is unmatched.
“When it comes to someone who is passionate about something and they want to pursue that in the military as well I sometimes you get lucky and you get someone like Ford who is passionate about it,” Santos said.
Army photographer Private First Class Ethan T. Ford reflects on his various assignments while stationed in Seoul, South Korea.
(US Army photo)
Santos encourages his team to speak to the customer, usually a senior leader like a first sergeant or commander and find out what their goals are, what type of video or photography they would like and then you have to be creative and find out what kind of angles you are going to take the shot from and how you are going to prepare for it.
Some assignments can take up to one month of preparation and rehearsal.
“One thing you can’t really reach combat photographers is post editing, from my experience, you can take an amazing photo and be done with it, but when someone takes the time to perfect their work, it is impressive and it shows,” Santos said.
“You are in a great area, one of the biggest cities in the world. There is inspiration everywhere.”
Army photographer Private First Class Ethan T. Ford captures a nature scene near his hometown of McMinnville, Oregon.
(Photo by Private First Class Ethan T. Ford)
On weekends, Ford goes out on his own on the weekend and practices different techniques and works on improving his craft. His favorite style of photography is capturing candid moments and doing street photography.
One of the highlights of his tour in South Korea was a special assignment in October 2018 when Ford witnessed history in the making and was the only photographer allowed in a meeting between North Koreans and South Koreans in the blue building at the Joint Security Area. The event was one of the first steps in a negotiation that is expected to result in officially ending the war between the two countries.
Outside of photography, Ford is a movie buff. He loves war movies and his favorite movies include Saving Private Ryan, Band of Brothers, andHacksaw Ridge to name a few.
A river photographed near McMinnville, Oregon, the hometown of Army photographer Private First Class Ethan T. Ford.
(Photo by Private First Class Ethan T. Ford)
Early 2019, Ford got to skip his normal routine of morning physical training, chow and VISC photography duties and was granted a two-day pass to play a movie extra in a Korean War film set in 1950 with actors Megan Fox and George Eads.
“Playing a movie extra was a lot like being in the military,” Ford said, “It was a hurry up and wait situation. It took several hours to drive there and several more to get dressed.”
One of the best parts of the experience was getting one-on-one acting advice and mentorship from actor George Eads, who plays MacGyver on TV.
Although the Department of Defense does not keep track of the numbers of service members who appear in television and film projects, there are many opportunities to play extras in movies because It is it is incredibly difficult for civilian actors to realistically portray the discipline of the U.S. warfighter without having served, according to Brian Chung, a military advisor to big Korean production studios in Seoul and in Los Angeles.
Private First Class Ethan T. Ford cast as an officer in a movie shot in Seoul, South Korea.
(US Army photo)
In fact, 90 percent of DOD-supported projects, including documentaries and reality television programs are unscripted, according to Master Sgt. Adora Gonzalez, a U.S. Army Film and TV Entertainment Liaison in Los Angeles.
“All service members have been trained since basic training to stand, walk and talk a certain way on duty,” Chung said.
Chung is a former U.S. Army Captain and was previously stationed in Yongsan as a military police company commander.
He understands how challenging it can be for soldiers stationed in Korea to be working long hours while displaced into a new culture, which is why he reached out to leaders at United States Forces Korea to get approval for the soldiers to be part of the movie.
(Photo by Private First Class Ethan T. Ford)
“It was personally satisfying as a U.S. Army veteran of Korean decent, to honor the warriors of the Korean War with authentic portrayals that could only have been achieved by their successors serving on the same peninsula that they sacrificed so much to protect. Seeing the look of excitement on the young troops’ faces as they hustled around set from wardrobe, to the make up chair, to an authentic 1950’s set was an amazing icing on the cake,” Chung said.
The movie will be released around the same time that his tour ends in June 2019, when he will report to duty at his new assignment at Fort Meade, Maryland.
“I’m going to miss going out and eating in Itaewon, especially the fried chicken and ramen,” Ford said. “It’s some of the best food I’ve ever had in my life. You won’t find anything like it in the U.S.”
After his time in the Army, Ford plans on taking more advanced courses and going back to Oregon and becoming a professional photographer.
“The Army is what you make of it. You can make it be miserable or make it be the best time of your life,” Ford said.
It is not Iron Man. It isn’t even Iron Fist. Lockheed Martin’s newest exoskeleton is more like Iron Leg. But for a soldier humping his weapons, ammo and body armor up a mountain in Afghanistan or a high-rise building in a future urban battle, a device to take the load off would be welcome. And, unlike science fiction supersuits, we can build it now.
Exoskeletons are part of the Pentagon’s Third Offset Strategy, which seeks to use robotics and artificial intelligence to enhance humans on the battlefield, rather than to replace them. There’s no area where the need is more acute than in the infantry, which takes the vast majority of casualties.
One particularly persistent problem: weight. US foot troops have been overburdened since at least D-Day, where some men drowned in shallow water under their heavy packs. The problem has become especially acute since 9/11, with US troops in body armor laboring to chase Taliban in flip-flops. The military is constantly looking at ways to make equipment lighter, but those improvements are mainly on the margins, a pound shaved here or there. It’s also experimenting with wheeled or tracked robots that can carry some of a squad’s equipment, but these robotic mules can’t yet keep up with nimble infantrymen over rough terrain.
So if you can’t lighten the soldier’s load, and you can’t take it off him, can you make him stronger? Nowadays, the answer is yes: We have the technology.
How It Works
The Lockheed exoskeleton’s full and unwieldly designation is FORTIS Knee-Stress Relief Device (K-SRD), which makes it sounds like a piece of molded plastic your insurance would refuse to cover. In fact, it’s a sophisticated synthesis of multiple technologies:
a rigid load-bearing framework to transfer weight off the wearer to the ground; compact actuators at the knee to increase strength (future models may add actuators at the hip as well); soft materials that buffer between the human being and the rigid frame, helping translate analog human movements into digital signals to the actuators; and an artificial intelligence that adjusts the machinery to move seamlessly with the wearer — unlike past earlier exoskeletons that often resisted the body’s natural movements.
In tests, elite Tier One special operators wearing K-SRD found they could do twice as many squats lifting 185 pounds of weight, going from an average of 20-25 reps to over 50. There were similar improvements climbing stairs carrying a 185-lb simulated casualty, said Lockheed product manager Keith Maxwell, a former Navy and “Other Government Agency” operator himself. “It literally pushes you up flights of stairs,” he told me. “(You) do it faster, with much less fatigue.”
However, the gains are greatest with vertical movement and least on level ground, Maxwell emphasized. On a 15-degree slope, he said, the device reduces the human’s energy expenditure — the “net metabolic cost” — by only about 9 percent. On level ground, it doesn’t save any energy, he said. Why? Humans evolved over millions of years for long-distance chases across the savannah: The theory of persistence hunting suggests our ancestors, lacking bows and arrows, simply ran after prey until it collapsed from exhaustion. Nothing modern technology can make is likely to improve on human performance over level ground, at least any time soon.
With K-SRD on level ground, said Maxwell, “what we’re able to do is break even” — which is a marked improvement over past exoskeletons. Lockheed spent years on an 85-lb rigid exoskeleton called HULC (Human Universal Load Carrier), which was good at carrying heavy weights but lousy at matching human movements. “The problem was that terrain is irregular and human gait is infinitely variable,” Maxwell said, so HULC’s computer kept misunderstanding what the wearer wanted to do and moving the wrong way. Overall, Maxwell said, walking around in a HULC actually cost 15 to 25 percent more energy than having no exoskeletal “help” at all.
Lockheed moved on to the less ambitious FORTIS, essentially a rigid support frame — it doesn’t require electricity because it doesn’t have actuators — that could help factory and shipyard workers handle heavy tools without fatigue. The wearer has enough mobility to relocate, tools in hand, to another worksite within 100 yards, but the industrial FORTIS far too awkward for the battlefield.
The FORTIS K-SRD, by contrast, uses its mix of rigid and flexible components, and a much more sophisticated set of algorithms than HULC, to move with the wearer’s body. Testers were able to operate it with only 15 minutes of training, Maxwell said, and some of the special operators didn’t bother with the training at all.
“They can run, they can climb, they can squat,” Maxwell said. They can hit the dirt, take cover, and crawl, then jump up and dash forward and take cover again. They can even walk along a balance beam although for such precision movements he recommends turning the strength-magnifying actuators off, done with a simple thumb movement on the controls. One tester even found his K-SRD comfortable enough to sleep with it on.
The Case Against Iron Man
After decades of exoskeleton development, Lockheed wants to get this device out into the field soon. The K-SRD team is working mostly closely with the Army’s Soldier Systems Center in Natick, Mass., which they expect to buy a number of K-SRDs for test purposes and institute a Cooperative Research Development Agreement (CRADA) in the next 30-60 days. Other partners include the Army’s Rapid Equipping Force and the Marine Expeditionary Rifle Squad initiative. Lockheed is even working with theDepartment of Homeland Security and some foreign fire departments on potential firefighting and rescue applications, since those also involve heavily burdened humans climbing up and down with life and death and stake.
Maxwell did not mention Special Operations Command, whose TALOS program envisions a full-body suit of mechanical armor able to resist point-blank gunshots — what then-SOCOM chief Adm. William McRaven compared to Iron Man’s suit.
Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) relies on the JARVIS artificial intelligence to help pilot his Iron Man suit — the kind of “human-machine teaming” that increasingly intrigues the Pentagon. (Marvel Comics/Paramount Pictures)
“Can we have an up-armored solution that’s capable of breaching and entering and being relatively invulnerable to 7.62 AP (armor piercing) bullets at point-blank range? Yeah, we can do that,” said Maxwell. That said, it’d probably be heavy and slow, far from the flight-capable suit in the comics.
“Iron Man has…hurt exoskeleton development,” Maxwell said, because it’s created impossible expectations — literally impossible, since the CGI suit in the movies routinely violates the laws of physics. When Iron Man drops from the sky to a neat three-point landing, in particular, the sudden deceleration would liquefy Tony Stark inside the suit.
Nevertheless, Maxwell said, while real-world exoskeletons may not copy the comic books, they’re still a marvel. When our best troops put them on, he said, “they become something more than human.” They become something more than mere machines, as well, he said: “The man in the machine will beat the machine (by itself) every time.”
That’s the so-called centaur model of human-machine teaming at the heart of the Pentagon’s Third Offset Strategy. It’s the synergy of a human imagination and agility controlling the strength and speed of a machine, like the mythical centaur combining rider and horse into a single being.
“As long as there’s judgment (required) in situations in which the person is going to have to make a call, we’re going to want a human in the loop. Eventually, if we can get machines to do that for us…we’ll just make these robots,” Maxwell told me. “Until then…you take the absolute best human beings and combine them with the absolute best in machines.”
A tank unit deployed to the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, for a training exercise had a big surprise when they were ordered to carry out an assault. Their movement was halted not by artillery and missiles, but by ones and zeros. They had been hacked.
According to a report by DefenseSystems.com, the assault was thwarted by cyber weapons. While the exact nature of the hacking wasn’t disclosed, the report did state that it targeted the radios and wireless communication systems on the tanks.
“These tanks had to stop, dismount, get out of their protection, reduce their mobility,” Capt. George Puryear told DefenseSystems.com. The need to do so resulted in their “defeat” in the training exercise.
Other electronic warfare and cyber warfare capabilities were also tested at Fort Irwin. In one of the tests, hackers were able to infiltrate into a network and provide false data to the commanders. The potential mischief that can be wreaked with that capability is endless – to include “tricking” a force into friendly-fire incidents.
The implications of these exercises have not been ignored. The Army’s Rapid Capabilities Office and United States Cyber Command have been working on technology to protect American battlefield networks from hackers. One of the systems being applied is a kit that can either be carried by troops or mounted on armored vehicles.
The kits, said to be more capable than the jammers used by aircraft to combat enemy air defenses, have the ability to recognize and analyze electronic signals. During combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, electronic warfare planes like the EA-6B Prowler and EA-18 Growler were used to scramble enemy communications, but in combat against a country like Iran or North Korea, not to mention Russia, those planes may be needed for other mission.
The kits are slated to be tested during a NATO exercise known as Saber Guardian that will take place in Bulgaria, Hungary, and Romania. The Army is also looking at alternatives to the Global Positioning System, including the Adaptive Navigation System, which uses software algorithms to measure not only a cloud of atoms in the system, but also to analyze radio, TV, and even lightning strikes to generate accurate positions. The Army is also developing the Spatial, Temporal and Orientation Information in Contested Environments program, using long-range signals, data sharing, and self-sufficient tactical clocks to overcome jamming.
Those two systems and as many as five others could begin testing in 2018, according to Maj. Gen. Wilson A. Shoffner, the Rapid Capability Office’s director of operation, in hopes of preventing future hacking incidents.