China's military aviation is quickly getting stronger - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

China’s military aviation is quickly getting stronger

China continues to emerge as the most dynamic region for defense program development and introductions among the superpowers. In October 2018, photos of their aircraft carrier development and preparations for ongoing sea trials have surfaced; their advanced interceptor claiming to have low-observable capability has reemerged with a new camouflage scheme in an operational unit; they have flown a new long range flying boat amphibious aircraft and shown a new armed, long range remotely piloted aircraft. There are even frequent reports (some of those have been denied already) of a new low-observable strategic heavy bomber ahead of the U.S. unveiling of their new B-21 Raider long range stealth bomber.

All of this new development continues the conversation about China expanding military ambitions beyond their borders in regions such as Africa, the Middle East, and even South and Central America. These ambitions add to their ongoing power projection in the Taiwan Strait and South China Sea.


Perhaps the most significant development is the potential return to a strategic nuclear role for the PLAAF, China’s air force. China’s air delivered nuclear capability has reportedly advanced recently after it was abandoned in the 1980s when China only had air delivered nuclear gravity bombs.

In a Sept. 6, 2018 feature on TheDiplomat.com, analysts Ankit Panda and Prashanth Parameswaran reported that, “The PLAAF once again has a nuclear mission, although we don’t know what that is”. The analysts suggested that an air launched ballistic missile may be an emerging technology China is developing. The missile, thought to be a new version of the CJ-20K long range cruise missile, currently has the capability to strike targets at a range of 1,080 nautical miles (2,000 kilometers) with a conventional warhead after being launched from China’s legacy Xian H-6K heavy bomber.

For the first time ever in early May 2018, the PLAAF flew Xian H-6K heavy bombers to the disputed Woody Island in the Paracel archipelago. The Paracel archipelago, also called “Xisha” by the Chinese, is a disputed chain of low-lying islands in the South China Sea. Although China has maintained a military presence there since 1974 when they forcibly evicted Vietnam, the Taiwanese and Vietnamese both still lay claim to the islands. A Pentagon statement from U.S. Pacific Command spokesman Lt. Col. Christopher Logan said the May landing of Chinese heavy bombers in the island chain is evidence of “China’s continued militarization of disputed features in the South China Sea.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=662hEb84goE
China’s Navy Deploys New H 6J Anti Ship Cruise Missile Carrying Bombers

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The 2018 edition of China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition in Zhuhai, Guangdong, will take place from Nov. 6-11, 2018. Photographers already at the show venue have shared a feast of interesting images in social media including photos of the Chengdu J-20A “Mighty Dragon” in a completely new operational camouflage scheme.

The Chengdu J-20As seen at the show are claimed “fifth generation” twin engine, single seat air superiority fighters with a distinctive canard, delta wing and twin tail configuration. They are reported to be operated by the172th Brigade based at the FTTB (Airbase) at Cangzhou according to expert analyst Andreas Rupprecht who maintains the Modern Chinese Warplanes page on Facebook and publishes a series of authoritative reference guides about Chinese military aircraft (and many others) through Harpia Publishing.

China’s military aviation is quickly getting stronger

Several J-20A Mighty Dragons arrived ahead of the Zhuhai Airshow with brand new paint schemes.

(Hunter Chen Photos via Twitter and Facebook)

Rupprecht noted that two of the J-20A aircraft wore serial numbers 78231 and 78232. He also pointed out that the aircraft previously had an angular “splinter” style camouflage scheme but now have a new, rounded pattern camouflage livery.

In conjunction with the timing of the Zhuhai Airshow, Rupprecht’s Harpia Publishing has just released their latest reference book, “Modern Chinese Warplanes: Chinese Air Force – Aircraft and Units”.

Other unique aircraft photographed arriving at Zhuhai for the 2018 China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition include a unique J-10B prototype aircraft number ‘1034’ modified to with a special thrust vectoring engine nozzle. The modification is likely a test version according the Andreas Rupprecht that has been retrofitted onto the existing WS-10 jet engine.

China’s military aviation is quickly getting stronger

A unique new version of the J-10B with thrust vectoring arrived at Zhuhai Airshow early this week.

(Modern Chinese Warplanes on Facebook photos)

China’s naval aviation program also arcs forward into a rapidly developing and ambitious future with their aircraft carriers. On Oct. 28, 2018, the new, unnamed Type 002 aircraft carrier sailed away from its construction and maintenance facility at Dalian, China for its third sea trial. Andreas Rupprecht observed on his Modern Chinese Warplanes page on Facebook (Author’s note: this page is worth “Liking”) that the ship’s flight deck had been cleaned and possibly prepared for flight deck trials during this current shakedown cruise.

Of equal interest is a photo that surfaced on Google Earth that is only a few weeks old, taken on Sept. 22, 2018, showing the two Chinese aircraft carriers sitting side-by-side in their maintenance and construction yard in Dalian. Dalian is a modern, rapidly growing port city on the Liaodong Peninsula, at the southern tip of China’s Liaoning Province.

China’s military aviation is quickly getting stronger

Two Chinese carriers in the Dalian Shipyard.

(Modern Chinese Warplanes on Facebook photos)

Video of the new AVIC AG600 Kunlong flying boat making its first ever waterborne take-off and landing were posted to YouTube on Oct. 20, 2018. The impressive four-engine turboprop aircraft is intended for the long range maritime patrol, reconnaissance, search and rescue mission. It is said to be capable of operating in sea state 3 conditions, or waves as high as 6.6-feet (2 meters). With its projected range of 2,796 miles (4,500 km), the AG600 flying boat can reach the contested islands in the outlying regions of China’s sea.

Aerial view: China’s AG600 amphibious aircraft makes maiden flight from water

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In addition to global power projection in their own interests, an aim of China’s emerging new military aviation push is the export market. In early October 2018, the sale of 48 new Wing Loong II armed, remotely piloted aircraft to Pakistan was announced.

According to analyst Shaurya Karanbir Gurung of India’s Economic Times in a story published on Oct. 10, 2018, “The Wing Loong II is an improved version of the Wing Loong 1 Unmanned Aerial Vehicle. Falling in the category of Medium Altitude Long Endurance, it is manufactured by the Chengdu Aircraft Industrial (Group) Company. The UAV has been developed primarily for People’s Liberation Army Air Force and export. The concept of the Wing Loong II was unveiled at the Aviation Expo China in Beijing in September 2015.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KV2BILlhtJ8
All About Wing Loong II: Pakistan’s New Drone From China | Urdu | Hindi |

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And finally, and perhaps most interestingly, news about an entirely new, long range low observable Chinese heavy bomber has surfaced. According to some reports, the program is claimed to be significantly advanced in its development. The Hong-20 is tipped as China’s new long-range strategic stealth bomber. Official Chinese media has released concept images of the aircraft after teasing shapes earlier in the year in what appeared to be a direct parody of a video touting the upcoming U.S. bomber, the B-21 Raider.

China’s military aviation is quickly getting stronger

A rendering of what China claims is the new Hong-20 low-observable long range bomber.

(Modern Chinese Warplanes on Facebook photos)

Defense World.net reported that, “The Hong-20 official unveiling could be slated for next month’s Zhuhai Air show though there is no confirmation of it as yet.” The report went on to reveal that Russian media outlet Rossiyskaya Gazeta claimed the Hong-20 bomber has been under development at the Shanghai Aircraft Design and Research Institute in China since 2008.

China’s military aviation is quickly getting stronger

Conceptual artwork from earlier this year of new Hong-20 low-observable long range bomber.

(Andreas Rupprecht/Rupprecht_A on Twitter)

Many casual observers of China’s defense and aviation programs have been cynical of China’s ability to produce truly advanced high-end, reliable new military technologies that may compete with western technology. Because of lingering dogma about China’s mass manufacturing being comprised largely of knock-offs from western technology mimicked quickly at lower cost and lower quality by legions of near-slave laborers, this mistaken stereotype has lingered. Anyone who has visited China recently knows this country has vaulted into a new era of economic, technological and now, military development. Given that China is the country that invented gunpowder and revolutionized warfare, any country that underestimates China’s new capabilities does so at their own peril.

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

Articles

SOCOM plans to test Iron Man suit by 2018

The top weapons buyer for U.S. Special Operations Command said Wednesday that the so-called Iron Man suit being developed for elite commandos may not end up being the exoskeleton armored ensemble popular in adventure movies.


It’s been four years since SOCOM leaders challenged the defense industry to come up with ideas for the Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit, or TALOS — an ensemble that would provide operators with “more-efficient, full-body ballistics protection and beyond-optimal human performance” as well as embedded sensors and communications tech for heightened situational awareness.

Related: 5 awesome new technologies coming to the US military

Program officials are about “a year and a half” away from having a TALOS prototype that’s ready to put in the hands of operators for testing, James “Hondo” Geurts, acquisition executive and director for SOF ATl at USSOCOM, told an audience at the National Defense Industrial Association’s Annual Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict Symposium.

China’s military aviation is quickly getting stronger
Photo: Youtube.com

When the program began, it captured the public’s imagination and conjured images of high-tech ensembles worn in movies such as “Man of Steel,” “Pacific Rim” and “Starship Troopers.”

“We are on our fifth prototype,” Geurts said. “Will we get everything we want? Probably not. That was never the intent.”

SOCOM officials envisioned TALOS would feature integrated heaters and coolers to regulate the temperature inside the suit. Embedded sensors would monitor the operator’s core body temperature, skin temperature, heart rate, body position and hydration levels. In the event that the operator is wounded, the suit could feasibly start administering the first life-saving oxygen or hemorrhage controls.

This is not the first time the U.S. military has embarked on an effort to perfect smart-soldier technology. The Army is now equipping combat units with a secure, smartphone-based kit — known as Nett Warrior — that allows a leader to track subordinates’ locations in relation to his own position via icons on a digital map. The unit leaders can view satellite imagery and send text messages.

The technology has seen combat and given leaders a precise view of their tactical environment, empowering units to operate more decisively than ever before.

But the program’s success did not come easily. Land Warrior, the first generation of this computerized command-and-control ensemble, was plagued by failure. From its launch in 1996, the Army spent $500 million on three major contract awards before the system’s reliability problems were solved in 2006.

China’s military aviation is quickly getting stronger
US Army photo

When TALOS began, SOCOM said it planned to funnel $80 million into research and development over a four-year timeline. Geurts did not say how much money SOCOM has spent so far on TALOS.

One of the biggest challenges is powering the suit, but also a type of control theory and deep learning, Geurts said.

In just walking, “we take for granted that when we put our arm out, that our foot is behind us to balance it,” he said.

Geurts said the program has had “tremendous hurdles” working with these technologies, but said the effort will likely result in spin-off technologies that can be fielded to operators before TALOS is operationally ready.

“So in TALOS, don’t just think exoskeleton and armor — think of the whole equation,” he said. “Survivability is part of what armor you are carrying, but it’s also a big part of whatever information you have, what is your situational awareness, how do you communicate. So as we are going down all those paths, we can leverage quickly some of the stuff that is ready to go right now.”

Articles

The 13 funniest military memes of the week

Back to standard two-day weekends. Oh well. At least Independence Day weekend was fun while it lasted.


1. Really, really fun (via Sh*t My LPO Says).

China’s military aviation is quickly getting stronger
Hopefully, this guy wasn’t in your unit.

2. If you want logistics join the Army (via Terminal Lance)

China’s military aviation is quickly getting stronger
If you want robots, join DARPA.

SEE ALSO: 5 insane military projects that almost happened

3. Your medicine will be ready when it’s ready … (via Sh*t My LPO Says)

China’s military aviation is quickly getting stronger
… which will be sometime next Thursday.

4. Congratulations on your contract (via Sh*t My LPO Says).

China’s military aviation is quickly getting stronger
It’s a bummer when your family celebrates that they’ll only see you half the time for the next few years.

5. Budget cuts are taking a toll (via Air Force Memes and Humor)

China’s military aviation is quickly getting stronger
But at least everyone’s spirits are up.

6. Profiles, chits, doctors’ notes, it’s all shamming.

China’s military aviation is quickly getting stronger
Not sure which service lets you spend your light duty drinking beer in a recliner though. Pretty good reenlistment incentive.

7. You know that even Unsolved Mysteries couldn’t answer that question, right? (via Team Non-Rec)

China’s military aviation is quickly getting stronger
Warrant Officer’s are like reflective belts. The brass insist they work and everyone else just goes along with it.

8. I want to see these three guys shark attack some young private (via Sh*t My LPO Says).

China’s military aviation is quickly getting stronger
It’s always great when lieutenants explain the military to senior enlisted.

9. It gets real out there (via Team Non-Rec)

China’s military aviation is quickly getting stronger
I mean, they don’t even have napkins for their pizza.

10. Patriotic duty

China’s military aviation is quickly getting stronger
Say your pledges, protect America, see peace in our time.

11. They specialize in anti-oxidation operations and haze grey proliferation.

China’s military aviation is quickly getting stronger
That’s a fancy way of saying they scrape rust and spread paint.

12. Never forget (via Air Force Memes and Humor)

China’s military aviation is quickly getting stronger
Clearly, this man behind the stick of an F/A-18 is a good idea.

13. You want their attention? Better have some Oakleys and cigarettes that “fell off a truck.”

China’s military aviation is quickly getting stronger
This is also what the E4 promotion board looks like.

NOW: The 6 most shocking military impostors ever

WATCH: Vet On The Street

Articles

5 things the US Military should ban forever

The U.S. military does a lot of good around the world, but it also maintains a few quirks. Usually stemming from the mindset of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” some items common to the military experience don’t make much sense. These are those items.


1. The Navy’s blue camouflage uniform

UPDATE: This change is already in the works. We take full credit.

Here is how this went down: The Navy was wearing its completely blue working uniform, and then the Marine Corps and Army went to new and improved digital patterns. The admirals got together and thought of how to best to spend the budget.

They got into a big room with presentations about cool laser beams that can destroy an entire terrorist compound, missiles for fighter jets that can travel 300 miles, and new GPS navigation systems that can tell you where you are with pinpoint accuracy and you can hit one button to call in naval gunfire. And then they decided to spend a bunch of money on uniforms that make no sense.

China’s military aviation is quickly getting stronger

2. Wearing reflective belts everywhere

Yeah, we know. They reflect light from car headlights so that you don’t get flattened like a pancake when you’re on your run. So maybe that makes sense. But they are overused to the point of absurdity. You need to wrap a reflective belt around your pack on this hike, because drivers may not notice the 900+ people around you with flashlights and making lots of noise.

Make sure you also wear your reflective belt around your forward operating base so that Johnny Taliban can make that mortar fire more effective.

China’s military aviation is quickly getting stronger

3. Those brown dive shorts that only Navy SEALs wear

The UDT SEAL swim shorts come in khaki, have an included belt, and are short enough to show how terribly untanned your legs are. According to NavySEALs.com, the shorts were issued to the original frogmen of World War II, and now all SEALs are issued them as part of that tradition.

China’s military aviation is quickly getting stronger
Photo Credit: Valet Mag

Holding to traditions is important, but we’re talking 1940s-era fashion here. SEALs aren’t shooting at Taliban fighters with M1 Garands, because times, trends, and technology has changed. Which leads us to …

4. Marine Corps “silkies” physical training shorts

We can officially conclude that the military has a serious problem with short shorts. The worst offender is the U.S. Marine Corps, with their “silkies.” While Marines have been issued updated physical training uniforms, the silkie shorts that looked like they were stolen from Larry Bird’s locker room still prevail. And sadly, there’s always at least one weird guy in your platoon who actually enjoys wearing them.

China’s military aviation is quickly getting stronger

5. PowerPoint

There’s a reason Gen. Mattis banned the use of Powerpoint briefings when he was in charge at CENTCOM. Creating slideshows are boring, huge wastes of time, and as he so famously said, they “make you stupid.”

China’s military aviation is quickly getting stronger

We’re absolutely certain there are other things out there. What can you think of? Add it to the comments.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This therapy dog is a hero to veterans

Hercules, in classical mythology, is a hero and god famous for his strength, travels, and adventures.

At the James A. Haley VA Medical Center in Tampa, a black lab, appropriately named Hercules, is a hero to veterans, visitors, and VA staff. He’s their resident rock star and therapy dog, and he’s about to celebrate his third birthday.

Robert Lynch is a Marine, the Tampa VA Veterans Experience Officer, and proud dad to Hercules. As a service-connected veteran, Lynch is upfront and open discussing his physical and mental health needs, including mobility, depression and anxiety.


In 2017, Lynch applied for a therapy dog to help with his own overall health, but after further thought wanted to expand the role of his potential new best friend. He talked with Tampa VA Director Joe Battle about having a therapy dog as a VA staff member.

China’s military aviation is quickly getting stronger

Battle loved the idea of a full-time canine on staff, as did other leadership and they created a hospital policy defining what would be the role of their new employee.

Southeastern Guide Dogs, a non-profit group that trains guide and service and therapy dogs, brought a few furry friends to meet Robert. Once Lynch met Hercules, he knew they had a special bond. The trainer from Southeastern saw it too, saying they were “surprised at how fast the two connected.”

To this day, Hercules doesn’t want Lynch out of his sight. While working at the Tampa VA, Hercules and Lynch do spend some time apart as Hercules goes with other trained handlers to visit different areas of the hospital. Hercules puts in about 50 hours a week, rotating visits to various clinics and care units.

A work day for Hercules can range from playing fetch with veterans in physical therapy, painting with veterans in a creative arts class, or playing a role in a Final Salute–a ceremony held inside the VA to honor a veteran who has passed. Hercules carries the flag and seeks out those who may need some emotional support.

Hercules Saves the Day

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Lynch received a call one day with a special request. A veteran in the hospice unit wanted to visit with Hercules again. Hercules was not scheduled to visit that part of the hospital that day, so Lynch made arrangements and took the intuitive black lab to see the patient as quickly as possible.

Hercules got in bed and snuggled the gentleman as he reminisced about his boyhood pup named Shadow and how Hercules reminded him of his beloved dog.

Lynch and Hercules spent about 45 minutes with the patient and then went back to their regular schedule. A short time later, Lynch received a call. “It was for a Final Salute. The same man that wanted to see Hercules in hospice had passed and they wanted us to be a part of the Final Salute.”

Director Joe Battle consoled Lynch by telling him, “You gave that man, that veteran, his last wish, there’s no better way to honor him.”

China’s military aviation is quickly getting stronger

Hercules shakes with Medal of Honor recipient Woody Williams at the VA Patient Experience Symposium.

As VA staff come in to start their day, several make sure to stop by Lynch’s office and get a hug from Hercules. Lynch knows the importance of this seemingly small gesture. “It’s just as important to enhance the staff experience as it is the veteran experience when they come to VA,” he said. “Something positive sets the tone for the work day and happier employees means happier customers.”

What does Hercules do to unwind and have fun? He takes breaks during the day and will lay at Lynch’s feet to rest and recharge. On the weekends, Lynch and his family take Hercules fishing and to his favorite spot–the dog beach.

“Sometimes I think he’s kinda bummed out that he’s not at the hospital every day. He likes to play with other dogs, but he really loves to be around people,” Lynch said. “He’s so devoted. I still have my own issues. I love to see him make others happy.”

Tampa VA will be celebrating Hercules’ 3rd birthday with a Barkday party, June 26, 2019, at 1pm. For details, visit the James A. Haley VA Medical Center’s Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/VATampa/.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia now claims the US is interfering in their elections

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov says that Moscow believes a hotly anticipated U.S. list of rich Russians seen as close to President Vladimir Putin is an attempt to meddle in the country’s March 18 2017 election.


Peskov made the remarks on Jan. 29, 2018, ahead of the expected release by the U.S. Treasury Department of what is known as the “Kremlin Report.”

“We really do believe that this is a direct and obvious attempt to time some steps to coincide with the election in order to exert influence on it,” Peskov told journalists.

The report was mandated by Congress in a law aimed to increase pressure on Russia after the U.S. intelligence community said that Putin ordered a concerted hacking-and-propaganda campaign aimed to influence the U.S. presidential election in 2016.

China’s military aviation is quickly getting stronger
The Kremlin in Russia. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

President Donald Trump, who called for warmer ties with Russia during the campaign, reluctantly signed the bill into law in August 2017.

It gave the Treasury Department, the State Department, and intelligence agencies 180 days to identify people by “their closeness to the Russian regime and their net worth.”

Also read: Trump’s strategy to prepare the US for power war with Russia and China

Russian business leaders and others named on the list — part of which may be kept classified — will not immediately be hit with sanctions but could face them in the future.

The expected release of the report has caused concern in the Russian elite, according to U.S. officials and U.S. advisers to Russian business leaders.

Peskov shrugged it off, however, saying that “we are convinced that it will have no influence” on the Russian election.

With the Kremlin controlling the levers of political power nationwide after years of steps to suppress dissent and marginalize political opponents, the election is virtually certain to hand Putin a new six-year term.

Related: Russia’s elite are nervous about new US sanctions

Political commentators say Putin, 65, is eager for a high turnout to strengthen his mandate in what could be his last stint in the Kremlin, as he would be constitutionally barred from seeking a third straight term in 2024.

U.S. Justice Department Special Counsel Robert Mueller and three congressional panels are separately investigating alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election and any potential ties between the Trump campaign and the Russians.

Trump denies there was any collusion, and Putin has denied that Russia interfered in the U.S. election process, despite what U.S. officials say is substantial evidence.

popular

Unidentified flying object buzzes American Airlines flight

On Sunday, February 21st, at approximately 1:19 PM CST, the pilot of American Airlines Flight 2292 was added to the ranks of those who have had an encounter with an unidentified flying object, or as they tend to be known today, an Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon (UAP).

The pilot, nearing the end of a flight from Cincinnati to Phoenix, witnessed a “cylindrical object” fly over his Airbus A320 near Clayton, New Mexico. He radioed air traffic control in Albuquerque with this message:

“Do you have any targets up here?  We just had something go right over the top of us – I hate to say this but it looked like a long cylindrical object that almost looked like a cruise missile type of thing – moving really fast right over the top of us.”

The transmission was recorded by Steve Douglass, an investigative journalist, photographer and “self-avowed Stealth Chaser,” as his blog, Deep Black Horizon describes. Douglass has a room full of monitoring equipment that would be the envy of most small airports, as can be seen in his interview with KVII out of Amarillo. Douglass actually found the 20-second transmission while searching for audio of a mayday call from a Denver flight that had an engine catch on fire.

“It was a pure coincidence,” Douglass told The Arizona Republic. “I was just as surprised as everybody else was.”

He said a bit of excitement and elevation in the pilot’s voice caught his attention. Listen to the audio here:

China’s military aviation is quickly getting stronger

American Airlines was initially dismissive of the claims about the intercepted message after an inquiry by Tyler Rogoway of The War Zone, but then confirmed the incident about 48 hours later with a brief statement:

Following a debrief with our Flight Crew and additional information received, we can confirm this radio transmission was from American Airlines Flight 2292 on Feb. 21. For any additional questions on this, we encourage you to reach out to the FBI.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) followed that up on Wednesday:

A pilot reported seeing an object over New Mexico shortly after noon local time on Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021. FAA air traffic controllers did not see any object in the area on their radarscopes.

China’s military aviation is quickly getting stronger
(Wikimedia Commons)

While the parties involved are predictably tight-lipped after such a dangerous event at 36,000 feet, these statements do tell us a couple of things, as noted by Rogoway. The FAA’s statement indicates that this isn’t simply a mishap where two aircraft ended up in the same airspace, and American Airlines referring questions to the FBI adds quite a bit of intrigue, suggesting the need for an investigation beyond the resources of the FAA.

So what was it? For what it’s worth, the spokespeople for all military bases in the area (White Sands Missile Range, Holloman AFB, and Kirtland AFB) have no explanation for what happened. No missile tests and no military flights were in the area according to the military, and Douglass has a log of all activity on Deep Black Horizon that confirms this. The FAA also having nothing on radar pushes this into UFO territory. The Southwest United States is obviously no stranger to bizarre occurrences and unexplained aircraft. A very similar unsolved air mystery was witnessed by multiple pilots over the Sonoran Desert in southern Arizona almost three years ago to the day.

Go back a few more years, to five Navy F/A-18 pilots who told the New York Times about mysterious objects that had “no visible engine or infrared exhaust plumes, but that they could reach 30,000 feet and hypersonic speeds,” as reported in the 2019 article. One encounter nearly resulted in a collision and prompted an after-action report from an unnamed pilot.

“These things would be out there all day,” Lt. Ryan Graves, one of the Super Hornet pilots, told the Times. “Keeping an aircraft in the air requires a significant amount of energy. With the speeds we observed, 12 hours in the air is 11 hours longer than we’d expect.”

China’s military aviation is quickly getting stronger
Radar of the unidentified flying object

The videos above were released by the Pentagon last year to “clear up any misconceptions by the public on whether or not the footage that has been circulating was real,” but that seems to have only whetted the appetite of UFO enthusiasts more. Fortunately, a bill that was introduced by Florida Senator Marco Rubio, the Intelligence Authorization Act, was passed last July and includes provisions for the Department of Defense to reveal what they know to Congress about unidentified flying objects by this summer. It is anyone’s guess how much might be revealed, but it definitely bears watching.

While the American Airlines pilot’s description of what he saw is very brief, it is plausible that the “long, cylindrical object” he saw was the same as these “Tic-Tac-shaped” vehicle that these other pilots have described. That said, more details are definitely needed, and there still may be a much more reasonable explanation for the incursion. Let the debate begin as to whether this is extra-terrestrial life, a military smokescreen, or a completely separate scientific phenomenon. Regardless, it is another fascinating event that’s added to the catalogue of the unexplained, and another potential piece of the UFO puzzle that might be closer to being solved soon.

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

Articles

The nice old man in the popular military meme is actually operator AF

If you follow us on Facebook or popular military pages like Terminal Lance, Duffel Blog, and others, chances are you’ve come across the meme of Sgt. Maj. Mike Vining.


You know, the soldier in his Army dress uniform with the smug, nice looking grandfather face wearing a huge fruit salad on his chest and massive spectacles.

China’s military aviation is quickly getting stronger
Sergeant Maj. Mike Vining as a popular military meme

Yes, that one. After noticing the comments under one of our articles shared on Awesome Sh*t My Drill Sergeant Said mentioning his badassery, we looked Vining up.

Turns out, he’s operator as f-ck! While some may say, “duh, just look at his ribbons,” it’s easy to be dismissive with that Mr. Rodgers look — it just doesn’t fit.

Related: A rare glimpse of life as a Delta Force operator

Vining’s full list of military accolades, including his DD-214, career timeline, and pictures of him serving, are included in his Together We Served profile.

Most noticeably, Vining was a 1st SFOD-D — Delta Force — operator during his three decade Army career. Under the “Reflections on SGM Vining’s US Army Service” section he comments about his decision to join Delta Force:

In 1978, I decided I wanted something more challenging, so I volunteered to join a new unit that was forming up at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. They wanted people with an EOD background. The unit was 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment – Delta (Airborne). I spent the next 21 years in Delta and Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), except for a year in a EOD unit in Alaska. In 1988, I transferred from EOD to Infantry. I figured I stood a better chance making Sergeant Major in Infantry, which worked out for me.

Like most who served, he also had unforgettable buddies. When asked to recount a particular incident from his service that may or may not have been funny at the time — but still makes him laugh — he said:

It would be SFC Donald L. “Don” Briere. At times he reminded me of the cartoon character Wiley Coyote. We were in New Zealand in 1980 on a joint-country special operations exercise. We were on a recon mission to scout out a target site. It was just Don and I on the recon team. We had a tall steep muddy embankment that we needed to negotiate. I looked at it and thought, no way. Don thought we could do it. As he moved across it, you could see his hands and feet sliding down. He clawed up and slid down some more. Finally he slid all the way down the slope into the water. I was rolling with laughter and said, “You want me to follow you?” I found another way around the obstacle.

Vining continues to be involved with the military and veteran community, he’s a member of several organizations, including the VFW, National EOD Association, and others, according to his profile.

After exploring his incredible career, Vining is someone we’d definitely love to have a drink with.

MIGHTY FIT

How to actually use that back extension machine

It’s in a dark and wet corner of the gym. Half the gym-goers ignore it altogether. The other half use it to torture their spine as if it owes them money.

The back extension machine can be a valuable tool for your training progression. It could also be the reason you’re spending more time at the physical therapist than making gains. This article is going to set you on the path to a strong, resilient, and pain-free posterior chain.


China’s military aviation is quickly getting stronger

Don’t write a check your back can’t cash…

(media.giphy.com)

When you look at a back extension machine, is your first thought to lay face down/ass up, or face up/ass down? If you’re ass up, you’re working ass, and if you’re abs up, you’re working abs.

Using the back extension machine to work abs

Though the machine is intended for the back extension exercise (abs down), it is much more commonly used to train abs, and often unsafely and ineffectively.

Here’s the proper way to train your abs on the machine.

The key is to not over-extend the back when doing your “sit-ups” on the back extension machine. This probably runs counter to every single person you’ve ever seen doing this exercise, including many of the athletes at the Crossfit Games. The below video is a great example of proper form.

The GHD Sit-Up

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Using the machine for your posterior chain

When used as intended, lying belly down, the back extension machine trains your hamstrings, glutes, and low back. Back extensions are a great supplemental exercise to the squat and the deadlift for developing your posterior chain. The key to all exercises on the back extension machine is to keep a straight (neutral) spine.

Your spinal erectors–those muscles on either side of your lower spine–are designed to work mainly isometrically in these movements. That’s when a muscle contracts to maintain position, rather than to move a part of the body–think planks, not crunches.

In all of the movements that are possible on the back extension machine, the primary purpose is not to actually put the back into extension. If taken literally, the machine is poorly named.

It should be called the hip extension machine, because that’s what you are primarily doing: extending your hips.

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The muscles of the back extension.

(@weighttrainingguide)

The back extension works your spinal erectors in the same way that the squat or deadlift does. You are using the spinal erectors to maintain your spinal integrity.

The way to target different levels of your posterior chain is conquered in the setup. Set yourself up for success by properly setting the machine to target the muscles you want. This is where the pad should hit your legs to properly train different muscle groups.

  • Hamstring focused: low balance point (around mid-thigh)
  • Glutes focused: middle balance point (just below hip-flexors)
  • Low back focused: high balance point (hip-flexors on the pad) (not recommended)

Let’s take a look at these three setups.

All About Back Extensions

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Hamstring-focused back extensions

In truth, the back extension is not the exercise you actually want to be doing to target your hamstrings specifically. To use the back extension machine for glutes, you want to be doing the glute ham raise. It’s a leg curl using your entire body as the counterweight rather than a machine. It has the benefit of including your glutes and back in the movement as well, which is completely neglected when doing the same movement in a leg-curl machine.

Glute-Ham Raise

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Pick your profession wisely.

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Glutes-focused back extensions

To focus your back extension on the glutes, start by finding the sweet spot on the back extension machine where:

  • Your hips aren’t too high above the pad.
  • Your hips aren’t covered by the pad (too low). This forces rounding in the back and takes the glutes out of the equation.
  • Your feet are splayed out at 45 degrees or further and separated as wide as possible (think the same stance as Parade Rest in drill).

Bret Contreras is the global authority on all things glutes. The guy literally has a Ph.D. in butts (see, kids, you really can be whatever you want to be when you grow up…even an assman.) Below, he takes you through the optimal setup and cadence for the glutes-focused back extension.

Back Extension Instructional Video

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Back-focused back extensions

As previously mentioned, the back extension machine’s name is a misnomer. You do not want to actually target your low back through repeated flexion and extension of the lumbar (low) spine.

Think of your back like a paper clip. When it is in a neutral position, it’s strong and can easily hold together the first draft of your romance mystery novel. But if you bend it back and forth repeatedly, eventually the stress will cause the paperclip to snap, and your novel will scatter to the winds.

Likewise, repeated unnecessary extension and flexion of the spine can cause similar damage.

Lift with your back.

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Before you claim fear mongering think of it like this…

Sure, we have muscles that can flex and extend the spine, but we also have complex joints like the hips, knees, and ankles that have the strongest and largest muscles of the body attached to them, that provide better range of motion and function than a bent spine ever could.

Why would you want to train a muscle group to do something it is designed to do as a fail safe (extend and flex the spine) when you could instead train the spine to isometrically hold strong while huge and powerful muscles like the glutes and hamstrings allow you to pull a truck, lift a pool table, or deadlift 400 lbs with ease.

Allow reason to prevail.

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China’s military aviation is quickly getting stronger
MIGHTY HISTORY

Historic Iwo Jima footage shows individual Marines amid the larger battle

When most Americans think of the World War II battle for Iwo Jima – if they think of it at all, 75 years later – they think of one image: Marines raising the U.S. flag atop Mount Suribachi, the island’s highest point.


That moment, captured in black and white by Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal and as a color film by Marine Sergeant William Genaust, is powerful, embodying the spirit of the Marine Corps.

But these pictures are far from the only images of the bloodiest fight in the Marines’ history. A larger library of film, and the men captured on them, is similarly emotionally affecting. It can even bring Americans alive today closer to a war that ended in the middle of the last century.

Take for instance, just one scene: Two Marines kneel with a dog before a grave marker. It is in the final frames of a film documenting the dedication of one of the three cemeteries on the island. Those two Marines are among hundreds present to remember the more than 6,000 Americans killed on the island in over a month of fighting. The sequence is intentionally framed by the cinematographer, who was clearly looking for the right image to end the roll of film in his camera.

I came across this film clip in my work as a curator of a collection of motion picture films shot by Marine Corps photographers from World War II through the 1970s. In a partnership between the History Division of the Marine Corps and the University of South Carolina, where I work, we are digitizing these films, seeking to provide direct public access to the video and expand historical understanding of the Marine Corps’ role in society.

Over the past two years of scanning, I have come to realize that our work also enables a more powerful relationship with the past by fostering individual connections with videos, something that the digitizing of the large quantity of footage makes possible.

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The campaign within the battle

Iwo Jima, an island in the western Pacific less than 1,000 miles south of Tokyo, was considered a key potential stepping stone toward an invasion of Japan itself.

During the battle to take the island from the Japanese, more than 70,000 Marines and attached Army and Navy personnel set foot on Iwo Jima. That included combat soldiers, but also medical corpsmen, chaplains, service and supply soldiers and others. More than 6,800 Americans were killed on the island and on ships and landing craft aiding in the attack; more than 19,200 were wounded.

More than 50 Marine combat cameramen operated across the eight square miles of Iwo Jima during the battle, which stretched from Feb. 19 to March 26, 1945. Many shot still images, but at least 26 shot motion pictures. Three of these Marine cinematographers were killed in action.

Even before the battle began, Marine Corps leaders knew they wanted a comprehensive visual account of the battle. Beyond a historical record, combat photography from Iwo Jima would assist in planning and training for the invasion of the Japanese main islands. Some Marine cameramen were assigned to the front lines of individual units, and others to specific activities, like engineering and medical operations.

Most of the cameramen on Iwo Jima used 100-foot film reels that could capture about two and a half minutes of film. Sgt. Genaust, who shot the color sequence atop Suribachi, shot at least 25 reels – just over an hour of film – before he was killed, roughly halfway through the campaign.

Other cameramen who survived the entire battle produced significantly more. Sgt. Francis Cockrell was assigned to document the work of the 5th Division’s medical activities. Shooting at least 89 reels, he probably produced almost four hours of film.

Sgt. Louis L. Louft fought with the 13th Marines, an artillery regiment; his more than 100 film reels likely resulted in more than four hours of content. Landing on the beach with engineers of the 4th Division on Feb. 25, 1945, Pfc. Angelo S. Abramo compiled over three hours of material in the month of fighting he witnessed.

Even taking a conservative average of an hour of film from each of the 26 combat cameramen, that suggests there was at least 24 hours of unique film from the battle. Many surviving elements of this record are now part of the film library of the Marine Corps History Division, which we’re working with. The remainder are cataloged by the National Archives and Records Administration.

While military historians visiting the History Division in the past have used this large library, the bulk of its films have not been readily available to the public, something that mass digitization is finally making possible.

For many decades, the visual records made by Marines have been seen by the public only piecemeal, often with selected portions used as mere stock footage in films, documentaries and news programs, chosen because a shot has action, not because of the historical context of the imagery.

Even when they are used responsibly by documentary filmmakers, the editing and selection of scenes imposes the filmmaker’s interpretation on the images. As a historian and archivist, though, I believe it is important for people to directly engage with historical sources of all types, including the films from Iwo Jima.

The ‘highest and purest’ form

After the battle, the Americans buried their dead in temporary cemeteries, awaiting transportation back to the U.S. The film segment just before the graveside scene shows a service honoring the Americans of all backgrounds who had bled and died together.

At that service, Rabbi Roland B. Gittelsohn, the Marines’ first-ever Jewish chaplain, gave a eulogy that has become one of the Marine Corps’ most treasured texts. Noting the diversity of the dead, Gittelsohn said, “Here lie officers and men, Negroes and whites, rich men and poor … together. Here are Protestants, Catholics, and Jews together. Here no man prefers another because of his faith or despises him because of his color.”

Gittelsohn called their collective sacrifice “the highest and purest democracy.”

Connecting to the present

After the dedication ceremonies, Marines walked the 5th Division cemetery, looking for familiar names. The photographers were there, and one recorded the footage of the two Marines – names not known – and the dog, at a grave with only the number 322 as a visible marking.

The image stood out. The two Marines looking directly at the camera seemed to reach across the decades to compel a response. Researchers at the History Division identified the Marine beneath marker 322 as Pfc. Ernest Langbeen from Chicago. It felt appropriate and important to add his name to the online description for that film, so I did.

I then located members of the Langbeen family, and told them that this part of their family’s history existed in the History Division’s collections and was now preserved and available online after more than seven decades.

Speaking with the family, I learned more about the Marine in grave 322. One of the two Marines in the picture may well be his best friend from before the war, a friend who joined the Corps with him. They asked to serve together and were assigned to the same unit, the 13th Regiment.

Now, family members who never knew this Marine have a new connection to their history and the country’s history. More connections will come for others. The digital archive we’re building will make it easier for researchers and the public at large to explore the military and personal history in each frame of every film.

The visual library of more than 80 online videos from Iwo Jima carries in it countless Pfc. Langbeens, ordinary Americans whose lives were disrupted by a global war. Each film holds traces of lives cut short or otherwise irrevocably altered.

The films are a reminder that, 75 years after World War II, all Americans remain tied to Iwo Jima, as well as battlegrounds across the world like Monte Cassino, Peleliu, Bataan and Colleville-sur-mer. Americans may find their relatives in this footage, or they may not. But what they will find is evidence of the sacrifices made by those fighting on their behalf, sacrifices that connect each and every American to the battle of Iwo Jima.

This article originally appeared on Real Clear Defense. Follow @RCDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The medieval weapon so frightening Scots surrendered at first sight

There’s not a lot about the 1995 movie Braveheart we can call “historically accurate.” William Wallace never knocked up Isabella, he wasn’t all that successful as a military leader, and the movie leaves out a lot of boring (but important) trade negotiations and diplomatic meetings in Europe.

What the movie gets right, however, is that King Edward I of England really, really hated Scots.


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TFW Someone brings up Scotland.

As a matter of fact, “Longshanks” wasn’t his only nickname. He also earned the moniker “Hammer of the Scots” for reasons that will be obvious to you by the end of this story, even if you haven’t seen Braveheart.

The truth is that Edward didn’t necessarily hate Scotland or Scots (I think… that’s never really been clear). He was just dead-set on the conquest of his neighbors. In 1274, Edward picked up where his father Henry III failed in Wales and raised an army to subdue them. After a significant uprising of people with names that are difficult to pronounce, the Welsh were put down, and Edward’s son and successor was dubbed “the Prince of Wales,” a practice that continues today with Prince Charles.

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And Camilla is lucky she wasn’t thrown out of a window.

A decade or so later, the Scottish king, Alexander III, died suddenly and without a definite male heir. His daughter, Margaret, was just a baby when she was to be made queen, a process that was sped up to keep Edward from marrying his son to Margaret and claiming the throne by birthright. Because, believe it or not, the Scots and the English had a relatively peaceful co-existence until then.

Eventually, Edward gave the throne of Scotland to John Balliol, who was, by then, his vassal. Edward effectively controlled Scotland, using the country to bankroll his wars and provide soldiers. Eventually, the Scots became sick of this arrangement and rebelled. The Scots formed an alliance with France, England’s longtime enemy, which pissed Edward off to no end. Then, William Wallace killed the sheriff of Lanark.

History doesn’t record exactly why Wallace killed the Sheriff — but the execution of Wallace’s wife is one possibility posited by historians. That’s when the First War of Independence started.

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William Wallace did not shoot the sheriff. That’s not how Scots do things.

The movie Braveheart depicts the murder of the sheriff as well as the 1297 Battle of Stirling Bridge. What it doesn’t show is Edward I returning to Stirling in 1304 at the head of the largest collection of giant catapults ever assembled on Earth. Ever.

After cornering Scottish rebels inside the walls of Stirling Castle, Longshanks ordered the construction of 13 giant trebuchets right in view of the castle walls. It took 100 engineers months to build the massive siege weapons, the biggest of them being dubbed, “Wolf of War.” The English even procured gunpowder munitions to complement the boulders being tossed at Stirling Castle. Wolf of War was so massive that it wasn’t even ready for the initial barrages.

For months, the English fired at the walls of Stirling Castle, to no avail. Finally “Wolf of War” was ready in July, 1304. When the Scots saw the massive weapon and the 300-pound rocks it could hurl, they surrendered.

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Stirling Castle today.

Having spent so much time and effort on the construction of Wolf of War, Edward rebuffed their surrender and decided to fire the massive trebuchet at them anyway. People came from far and wide for its first firing at the Scots. Edward even ordered the construction of a special siege tower with a viewing balcony so his wife could watch.

Wolf of War did what the other could not do in four months. With just a few shots, the massive weapon brought down entire sections of the castle walls. Entire buildings were smashed into rubble and only 30 Scots emerged to surrender to Edward. He had one of them drawn behind a horse and executed.

MIGHTY TRENDING

$6.7 billion list of projects that could get bumped for border wall include military

The Pentagon released a list March 18, 2019, of hundreds of military construction projects worldwide totaling nearly $6.8 billion, many of which could be delayed or have funds diverted to fund the southern border wall.

The release of the list by acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan to the Senate Armed Services Committee came a day after acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney went on Sunday network talk shows to state that there was no existing list of projects facing cancellation and “it could be a while” before one was delivered to Congress.


The list was first made public by Sen. Jack Reed, D-Rhode Island, ranking member on Senate Armed Services, on March 18, 2019, and later released by the Pentagon.

Projects include, among others, a million training support facility at Fort Rucker, Alabama; a million vehicle maintenance shop at Fort Campbell, Kentucky; to a million unmanned aerial vehicle hangar at Kunsan Air Base in South Korea; and million for a “parking structure” at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

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U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

According to an accompanying statement, the list is a complete accounting of all projects still unawarded as of Dec. 31, 2018. Not everything on the list is eligible for reallocation; only projects with award dates after Sept. 30, 2019, qualify, and no military housing, barracks or dormitory projects can be touched, officials said.

“The appearance of any project within the pool does not mean that the project will, in fact, be used to source section 2808 projects,” the Pentagon said in the statement.

The full list is here.

“We know President Trump wants to take money from our national security accounts to pay for his wall,” said Reed, a West Point graduate and former Army Ranger, in a statement. “And now we have a list of some of the projects and needed base repairs that could be derailed or put on the chopping block as a result.”

The fact sheet accompanying the list held out the possibility that none of the targeted military construction projects “would be delayed or cancelled” if Congress passed the requested 0 billion defense budget by the Oct. 1 deadline for the start of fiscal year 2020.

Under the national emergency declared at the southern border by President Donald Trump on Feb. 15, 2019, the administration has been seeking an initial .6 billion from military construction projects to fund additional construction of the wall.

Another possible .6 billion from military construction for the wall was included in a .2 billion “emergency fund” that was part of the administration’s overall 0 billion request for next fiscal year.

In his statement, Reed charged that Trump was “planning to take funds from real, effective operational priorities and needed projects and divert them to his vanity wall.”

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President Donal Trump.

(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

He said the funding would “come at the expense of our military bases and the men and women of our Armed Forces who rely on them.”

The existence of the list and its release has been a source of controversy since Trump declared a national emergency Feb. 15, 2019, after Congress rejected his request for .7 billion for the wall, resulting in a 35-day partial government shutdown.

At a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the budget March 14, 2019, Shanahan agreed to the requests of several senators for the list of military construction projects. He said the list would be provided by the end of the day, but phoned Reed later to say the list would not be forthcoming.

A spokesman for Shanahan told Military.com March 15, 2019, that the list was still being worked on and would be provided to the “appropriate government officials.”

Under the emergency, Trump was seeking a total of about .2 billion for the wall, including .6 billion from military construction.

Both the Senate and the House have now passed a “motion of disapproval” against the national emergency and Trump last Friday signed a veto of the motion, the first veto of his presidency.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, has scheduled a March 26, 2019 vote to override the veto, although it appears that both the House and the Senate lacked the two-thirds majority necessary to override.

On CBS’ “Face The Nation” program March 17, 2019, Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Virginia, a Senate Armed Services Committee member, charged that the White House was withholding the list to avoid possible Republican defections in the House override vote next week.

In his statement March 18, 2019, Reed made a similar suggestion.

“Now that members of Congress can see the potential impact this proposal could have on projects in their home states, I hope they will take that into consideration before the vote to override the President’s veto,” Reed said.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

popular

Husband, wife pen book about their ‘secret life in the National Guard’

A Pennsylvania couple authored a new book documenting the lesser-talked about experiences of National Guard service.

Lt. Col. Kevin Dellicker and his wife, Susan, a high school German teacher, describe their life attached to the Air National Guard as occupying “a complicated space somewhere between military and civilian life without really feeling at home in either.” The couple wrote the book, “Twenty Percent Soldiers: Our Secret Life in the National Guard,” to give readers a glimpse into guard service in a post-9/11 era. It also sheds light on a lifestyle that means waking up in small-town America one day while having boots on the ground in Southwest Asia the next.


The Dellickers met over two decades ago while both working in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. At the time, Kevin served in the Army National Guard before later transitioning to become an Air Force intelligence officer. His decision to enlist at 25 years old followed a long family history of military service, he says.

“My father was a fighter pilot in Vietnam. My grandfather was a fighter pilot in World War II. My great grandfather, who I never met, was an infantry gunner in World War I, so, I think we’ve had at one point — my father figured out that we’ve had 80 years or so of service in the military for Dellicker men,” Kevin said.

He describes the experience of being an enlisted soldier before the attacks of September 11 as vastly different than being an officer in the Air National Guard post-9/11.

“Pre-9/11 the Army National Guard wasn’t going many places. We had old equipment and we weren’t really integrated into anybody’s battle plans, and although I really enjoyed the training and the people, we all had this realization that things would really need to be bad before the Army National Guard would ever get called out,” he said. “And in a way I was OK with that, you know we were just in the reserves. Today it’s really different with the reserves or the National Guard, you’re now part of the operational force it seems.”

“Twenty Percent Soldiers: Our Secret Life in the National Guard” opens with readers following Susan on the morning of September 11, 2001 — a day she knew signaled an uncertain future ahead for her family. “Soon, I had watched this terrible event unfold long enough. I knew that my life had just changed drastically. Today, I had become a wartime military wife,” Susan wrote in the book.

She adds that even though there was confusion initially as to what was happening, she grasped in those moments that life was about to change for all military families.

“I immediately thought this was going to change the whole scope of our lives, not just our family but all the guard families, the reserve families, the active-duty families. This was going to change all of our lives; this was going to mean war,” she told Reserve National Guard Magazine.

And it did. In fact, the Dellickers calculated they had spent roughly 20% of their life apart for military commitments.

“At times when he’s gone, it’s empowering. It leaves me to be in charge of the home front … I have to keep things running and on schedule and as normal as possible for our kids and for our household. Of course, it’s tough on a marriage when you’re separated — that part is a given, but we did have some problems then upon return and we pointed that out in the book. It’s not always easy to integrate back into having both of us at home again and getting back to ‘normal life,'” Susan said.

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And she didn’t just have the household and couple’s children to care for, but the Dellickers were also running a new business together, Kevin says.

“So, when I disappeared, she was also responsible to keep the business afloat while I was gone, which wasn’t really what she bargained for,” Kevin said.

It is among the reasons they were prompted to write the book in the first place, with several goals in mind including:

  • That other guard and reserve families know they aren’t alone,
  • Help others better understand what the National Guard does, and
  • Raise awareness of the family support challenges.

The latter point is especially personal for Susan who says people don’t realize how much life changes with a spouse gone.

“Everything changes from your monetary budget … we had two budgets: one for deployment and one for when Kevin was home because that was very important to our financial security. You don’t realize that you can’t talk to them when they’re gone — Kevin and I had no contact during his deployments, and you don’t have that sounding board as a parent or the sounding board as an employee or manager in a company. You don’t have that capability. That’s a huge thing that we experienced,” Susan explained.

The book switches between Susan and Kevin’s perspectives, with each author writing their portion separately until compiling the pages as one.

“Without a doubt there was definitely a therapeutic side to this. We saw that we could influence, hopefully, change in the guard and that we could potentially help other families see that they’re not alone and that the support system could perhaps be upgraded somehow or changed,” Susan said.

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Kevin adds the most important part of the book for him comes in the final chapter when he shares stories of those he served with. He wants to help set expectations for new and future National Guardsmen, but also stress today’s reserve component requirement is not the same as it once was.

“I think what that (book) demonstrates is, this story that Susan and I tell about our lifelong experience of jumping back and forth between the military and civilian life might be really unique to normal people, but it’s pretty much what guard members experience all the time … it’s what you have to deal with in the modern guard and reserves. One weekend a month, two weeks a year — that’s a commercial from the 1980’s,” he said.

“Twenty Percent Soldiers: Our Secret Life in the National Guard” is now available for purchase on Amazon and BarnesNoble. A portion of the proceeds of the book will be donated to military charities.

This article originally appeared on Reserve + National Guard Magazine. Follow @ReserveGuardMag on Twitter.

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