A government shutdown can bring questions and uncertainty. In an effort to best support you, official answers to common questions associated with a government shutdown are provided below.
Will pay be affected? If the lapse in appropriations extends past Dec. 28, 2018, military personnel may experience a delay to their regularly scheduled December end-of-month paycheck for the period ending on Dec. 31, 2018. Salaries earned during and after the lapse in appropriations will be paid to military members once an appropriation or a continuing resolution is passed. Monthly allotments will be deducted as scheduled. All personnel are encouraged to verify automated transactions with their financial institutions to ensure they have sufficient funds or make alternate arrangements, as needed.
Retiree pay is subject to the availability of unobligated balances. Questions regarding retiree pay can be directed to the Pay Personnel Center’s retiree and annuitant services branch by calling 1-800-772-8724 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Coast Guard Mutual Assistance (CGMA) is available during the lapse in appropriations.
Today, CGMA offers aid to the entire Coast Guard family: active duty and retired Coast Guard military personnel, members of the Coast Guard Reserve, Coast Guard civilian employees, Coast Guard auxiliarists, and public health officers serving with the Coast Guard. In general, assistance is needs based and provided through counseling, financial grants, interest-free loans, and other related means. More information about CGMA may be found at http://www.cgmahq.org/.
The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Eagle awaits a passenger transfer off the Coast of Miami June 14, 2014. The Eagle served as a classroom at sea to future Coast Guard officers since 1946.
(Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Mark Barney, U.S. Coast Guard)
Will Coast Guard Child Development Centers (CDCs) remain open? It is anticipated that Coast Guard CDCs will remain open. Please contact your local CDC or Coast Guard base for guidance.
Will the Coast Guard child care subsidy be impacted? Child care subsidy processing may be delayed.
How is Coast Guard travel affected? Military members should contact their command for guidance prior to traveling or using their government travel cards.
Will Coast Guard Exchange locations remain open? Coast Guard Exchange (CGX) locations will remain open to serve all authorized patrons, unless access to facilities is limited due to other potential closures associated with a government shutdown. Please contact your Coast Guard Exchange location for verification.
Is CG SUPRT available during a government shutdown? CG SUPRT will not be impacted by a government shutdown. Services can be requested by calling 855-CG SUPRT (247-8778), visiting www.CGSUPRT.com (select “My CG SUPRT Site” and enter “USCG” as the password), or through the CG SUPRT mobile app (Login ID: USCG).
Are Coast Guard work-life staff members and programs available during a government shutdown? Work-life regional managers and sexual assault response coordinators will remain available during the government shutdown.
Once a month, Coast Guard All Hands will feature “Dear Coast Guard Family,” a column for Coast Guard families by Coast Guard spouse Rachel Conley. Rachel is married to her high school sweetheart, Chief Warrant Officer James Conley, and is the mother of three children. Rachel passionately serves as a Coast Guard Ombudsman and advocate of Coast Guard families. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including the United States Coast Guard Ombudsman of the Year Award.
It’s December and many are doing their holiday shopping or making a wishlist of gifts they’d like to receive.
During the Future Ground Combat Vehicle Summit in Levonia, Michigan early in December, Army acquisition professionals and program managers had their own wishlists that included an assortment of robots and ground combat vehicles meant to protect Soldiers and give pause to potential adversaries.
Brian McVeigh, project manager for Force Protection, was big on robots.
Over 7,000 were fielded in just the last decade, he noted. The challenge now is to move the most effective ones into programs of record.
Among these, he said, is the M-160 Robotic Mine Flail, which efficiently clears land mines using rotating chains that flail the ground. It is also rugged enough to be protected against mine explosion fragments.
The M-160 made it into a program of record this year before the holidays, and a number are already involved in route-clearance missions in Afghanistan.
By 2025, dismounted Soldiers will conduct foot patrols alongside robots called Squad Multipurpose Equipment Transport, or SMET, vehicles that carry rucksacks and other equipment that will lighten the Soldier load, McVeigh said.
In order to get these to the warfighter sooner rather than later, the Army is procuring them through an Other Transactional Agreement, or OTA, he said.
The OTA got the program rolling fast, with requirements out in April and a down-select six months later in November, he said. Four contracts were awarded for 20 vehicles each, which will be tested by Soldiers in two brigades until the end of next year. Low-rate initial production is expected to follow with a production contract in place.
The requirements were limited to give manufacturers more flexibility in the trade-space, he said. The only firm requirements were that SMET be able to haul 1,000 pounds off-road, cover 60 miles in 72 hours and cost $100,000 or less each.
The OTA was used because Army leaders prioritized getting the weight off the backs of dismounted Soldiers, he noted.
Common Robotic System (Heavy) is designed to disarm or disable unexploded ordnance using a highly dexterous arm remotely controlled by a Soldier. The Army just published requests for information from industry for the wireless-range manipulator arm, McVeigh said.
Feedback from industry on CRS-H has been good, he said. It is expected that by next summer, draft performance specifications will be issued, and it is hoped that fielding can begin as early as 2020. This system is also going the OTA route.
The Enhanced Robotics Payload is another explosives ordnance disposal robot. A request for proposal has been released, McVeigh. And in October, a contract was awarded to Endeavor Robotics for another EOD robot, the Man-Transportable Robotics System Increment II.
Ground combat vehicles
David Dopp, program manager for Mobile Protected Firepower Vehicle, Ground Combat Systems, said a request for proposal was released in late November for MPF.
The MPF he envisions can be described as a light tank. It will be light in the sense that it will weigh less than half as much as an Abrams tank, which will allow two to fit inside a C-17 aircraft. That means its armor will be less than an Abrams.
The MPF will also sport a gun in the 105mm to 120mm range, similar to the ones on early versions of the Abrams, Dopp said.
It is expected that the MPF will provide infantry brigade combat teams with a long-range, direct-fire capability for forcible entry and breaching operations, he noted, so it is not by any stretch a tank replacement.
There will not be a lot of requirements other than MPF being light and powerful, he said. Army leaders are eager to quickly get it into the hands of Soldiers for testing.
A contract could be awarded by early FY19 with low-rate initial production to follow, he said.
Maj. Gen. John Charlton, commander, Army Test and Evaluation Command, said that although the Next Generation Combat Vehicle fielding isn’t expected until 2035, a lot of the components that may find their way onto the NGCV in one shape or another are being currently tested around the Army.
Two such systems that will likely inform development of NGCV, he said, are the Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station-Javelin and the Stryker Remote Weapons Station.
CROWS-J allows the warfighter to remotely engage targets with precision fire from the Javelin while on the move, he said. Stryker RWS is a 30mm cannon on an unmanned turret. Both systems keep the gunner inside the vehicle, in a less exposed area than the turret.
Electro-magnetic interference testing is now underway on the sensors and software, he said.
There are some challenges to overcome in putting this technology on the NGCV, he said, describing a few.
Although the gunner is tucked inside the vehicle, rounds must still be loaded and reloaded in the gun, which means being exposed to enemy fire and working in cramped conditions, he said.
Getting everything working correctly will require a lot of software development, he said. This is probably the most difficult challenge.
And finally, situational awareness could be lost with the crew fully buttoned up inside the vehicle, he said. This could be particularly bad in urban terrain where Soldiers cannot get good visuals of what’s around and above them.
The situational awareness issue could be addressed through adding sensors and cameras so the crew doesn’t feel so completely closed in, he noted.
Other future weapons
Charlton said several promising weapons are in the science and technology and testing stages.
Engineers are now designing extended-range cannons that can be mounted on the Paladin and will fire much greater distances than current artillery, he said, noting that the distances are impressive but classified.
The cannons could find their way on the NGCV, he said.
The challenges are now designing a breech in the gun system that can handle the enormous pressures and getting the APS software and sensors developed. Also, the crew might be adversely affected by the enormous pressures, so some sort of dampening mechanism would be needed.
Another weapon that will eventually make its way to the battlefield is the high-energy laser, Charlton said.
The Army and Air Force are now out at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico using them to knock out air-to-ground and surface-to-air missiles, as well as unmanned aerial vehicles, he said.
A 300-kilowatt laser will be built and tested in the near future, he added.
“We want to ensure the lanes are clear when firing the laser,” he said. “We don’t want to take out one of our own satellites, so it will need to be equipped with an avoidance detection system.”
Lastly, Charlton said that an electromagnetic rail gun will be developed soon, but he’s not sure if it will find its way onto the NGCV. “But it will be on the battlefield in some shape or form,” he said.
The rail gun will shoot small, dense projectiles to distances of 30 kilometers at several times the speed of sound using electromagnetic pulses, he said. That will require some serious power, so initially it might have to be loaded on a large cargo truck.
Dr. Dale Ormond, principal deputy, Research Directorate, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, said his office is working to ensure all of the laboratories across the Department of Defense are talking to each other, helping each other and avoiding duplication of effort.
The areas he’s particularly excited about are artificial intelligence paired with autonomy. Machines programmed for artificial learning will be able to collaborate much better with Soldiers and give commanders more options on the battlefield, he said.
Other promising areas are hypersonic weapons, he said, like the rail guns and lasers that the Army is working on.
He said he also expects to see a lot of developments in the space and cyberspace domains, as well as being able to operate in GPS-denied environments.
The upcoming Army Combat Fitness Test is intended to improve soldier readiness, transform the Army’s fitness culture, reduce preventable injuries, and enhance mental toughness and stamina.
But the new test leaves one question: How do soldiers train safely?
First Sgt. Daniel Ramirez, the first sergeant for Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, First Army, answered this question for his soldiers by partnering with a local functional fitness gym. He and fifteen other soldiers of the Detachment recently attended a four-day, in-depth class at Foundation in East Moline, Illinois on proper techniques for lifting, squatting, and other exercises essential to safe completion of the ACFT. The goal of the workshop was to “Train the Trainer,” enabling First Army personnel to be subject-matter experts in advising their teammates on safe and efficient methods of exercise.
“We want to get everyone on the same page technique-wise so we can prevent injuries,” said Ramirez. The Foundation coaches, Ramirez said, were ideal instructors, due to their knowledge and experience.
Soldiers of First Army practice lifting techniques and proper lifting posture at Foundation in East Moline, Illinois.
Command Sgt. Maj. Todd Sims, Command Sgt. Maj. First Army, also attended the training. He agreed with the idea of partnering with fitness professionals to learn the fundamentals.
“It’s crucial to have a better understanding of what we are asking our soldiers to do,” explained Sims. “By working with professionals in this, it’s only going to build our knowledge base when we go back and train the rest of the team.”
Brandon Bartz, Co-Owner of Foundation in East Moline, Illinois, observes Soldiers of First Army practicing their technique that will be used during the standing power throw of the Army Combat Fitness test.
Brandon Bartz and Josiah Lorentzen, owners of the Foundation, instructed the soldiers in the proper exercise techniques.
“We just want to help the soldiers get ready for the new test,” explained Bartz. “We just want all of you to be able to train effectively and safely.”
In addition to developing First Army’s philosophy as a team of Fit Army Professionals and preparing for the fitness test, the event also strengthened ties to the local community and the Rock Island Arsenal.
Josiah Lorentzen and Brandon Bartz, Owners of Foundation, in East Moline, Illinois, demonstrate the proper dead lift technique to First Army Soldiers.
“It’s awesome to work these soldiers, said Lorentzen. “They are close to home, so we love getting to work with them whenever we can.”
The Army Combat Fitness Test becomes an official for record test staring in October of 2020.
The 1965 movie “The Battle of the Bulge” is generally considered by war movie buffs to be the most inaccurate war movie ever made. It stars Henry Fonda leading a large cast of fictional characters (though Fonda’s Lt. Col. Kiley was based on a real U.S. troop). The film was made to be viewed on a curved Cinerama screen using three projectors. Watching it on DVD doesn’t give the viewer the intended look, which especially hurts the tank battle scenes, according to the film rating website Rotten Tomatoes.
There are so many inaccuracies in the film that it comes off as interpretive instead of dramatic. In the film’s opening, a precursor to the errors to come, the narrator describes how Montgomery’s 8th Army was in the north of Europe; they were actually in Italy. The inaccuracies don’t stop there.
The weather was so bad at the launch of the German offensive that it completely negated Allied air superiority and allowed the Nazi armies to move much further, much fast than they would have had the weather been clear. In the 1965 film, the weather is always clear. When the film does use aircraft, the first one they show is a Cessna L-19 Bird Dog, a 1950s-era plane.
Despite the time frame of the real battle, December 1944- January 1945, and the well-documented struggles with ice and snow in the Ardennes at the time, there is no snow in the movie’s tank battle scenes. Also, there are few trees in the movie’s Ardennes Forest.
In an affront to the men who fought and won the battle, the film uses the M47 Patton tank as the German King Tiger tanks. The filmmakers show U.S. tanks being sacrificed to make the Tiger tank use their fuel so the Germans will run out. The U.S. didn’t need to use this tactic in the actual battle, as the Germans didn’t have the fuel to reach their objectives anyway.
Speaking of tactics, a German general in the film orders infantry to protect tanks by walking ahead of them after a Tiger hits a mine, which ignores the fact that a man’s weight is not enough to trigger an anti-tank mine and therefore none of them would have exploded until tanks hit them anyway.
Other inaccuracies include:
The uniforms are all wrong.
Jeeps in the film are models that were not yet developed in WWII.
Salutes are fast, terrible and often indoors.
The bazookas used in the films are 1950s Spanish rocket launchers (the film was shot in Spain)
American engineers use C-4, which wasn’t invented until 11 years after the war’s end.
Soldiers read Playboy Magazine from 1964.
The technical advisor on the film was Col. Meinrad von Lauchert, who commanded tanks at the Bulge… for the Nazis. He commanded the 2nd Panzer Division, penetrating deeper into the American lines than any other German commander. Like the rest of the Nazis, he too ran out of fuel and drove his unit back to the Rhine. He swam over then went home, giving up on a hopeless situation.
The reaction to the movie was swift: That same year, President Eisenhower came out of retirement to hold a press conference just to denounce the movie for its historical inaccuracies.
Veterans in the community living center (CLC) at VA Central Western Massachusetts Healthcare System, like CLC residents throughout the VA health care system, are isolated due to COVID-19 safety precautions and unable to receive visitors.
But thanks to the hundreds of letters they have received through Operation Mail Call, they know they haven’t been forgotten.
Call to action
Operation Mail Call began when Navy Veteran Tim Moran posted a call to action on Facebook. Moran is a VA Central Western Massachusetts registered nurse.
“I asked people to write to our Veterans in the CLC on the main campus since they can’t leave or receive visitors for their own safety,” says Moran. “We received between 115 to 120 pieces of mail in response to that first Facebook post. Every Veteran received at least three or four letters during the first mail all.”
Inspired by Navy service
Moran says Operation Mail Call was inspired by his time as a sailor in the Navy. “I worked on a fast frigate homeported in San Diego. My high school sweetheart used to write me letters scented with perfume. I used to read those letters over and over again.”
As Moran prepared to deploy to a VA CLC in Bedford, Massachusetts, to help care for coronavirus patients, he handed the project over to VA Recreation Therapist Meaghan Breed.
“We’re happy to spread the love to other Veterans who live on our main campus. And to those who are unable to receive visitors at this time as well,” Breed says.
President Donald Trump has announced that the US Navy is conducting a search for the 3 missing sailors after a plane carrying 11 passengers crashed into the sea southeast of Okinawa.
Eight of the passengers have been recovered alive. The plane crashed while it was en route to the USS Ronald Reagan, the US’s forward-deployed aircraft carrier, on Nov. 22.
The accident marks the latest in a string of deadly crashes involving the US Navy’s Pacific or 7th fleet. The other crashes have involved the guided missile destroyers the USS Fitzgerald, USS John McCain, and a non-deadly crash involving the USS Benfold.
In total, 17 have died in crashes in the US Navy’s 7th fleet ships within the last half 2017. Those deaths were ruled preventable by a Navy review.
“Personnel recovery is underway and their condition will be evaluated by USS Ronald Reagan medical staff,” the Navy said in a statement.
The downed aircraft, a C-2 Greyhound logistics plane that moves people, mail, and cargo onto the aircraft carriers, suffered engine troubles, a Japanese defense ministry spokesperson told Reuters.
Sailors lower the national ensign during evening colors aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), March 10, 2014. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jacob Estes)
The Greyhound has served with the navy for more than five decades. It will be phased out in favor of tilt-rotor V-22 Ospreys in the near future.
Eight of the passengers have been found, but no information in regard to their condition has been given, according to the Navy.
The Navy has withheld the names of those involved in the crash pending next of kin notifications.
Although they say a lot, these are six things you’ll never hear a Marine recruiter say:
6. “When you get to MEPS, make sure you disclose all of your medical issues, especially if it’s not already in your paperwork.”
Since recruiters are in the business of making their quotas and enlisting all the people they can, the advice they give also includes finely crafted verbiage that will cover their ass should something arise during your screening.
No recruiter wants to see their next potential “poolee” disqualified for any reason.
“No, I don’t have asthma.” (Image via GIPHY)
5. “We get just as much funding as the Army does, so don’t worry about getting issued any gear that’s outdated.”
You can Google the Marine Corps annual budget. Spoiler: It’s nowhere near what the Army earns.
4. “If a drill instructor ever gets in your face, remind them you’re a big deal and he or she shouldn’t bother you again.”
Good luck with all that. A recruiter isn’t going to set you up for that type of failure.
Never say these words. (Image via GIPHY)
3. “If you want a real career in infantry, you should consider going to the Army instead.”
Although the Army and Marine infantry are similar in various ways, the Corps prides itself on the ground pounders it produces. In fact, they’ll commonly advise youngsters to pursue a job in the MOS followed by, “you can lat move later.”
2. “Every movement you do in the Corps, you’ll do at your once pace. Senior Marines are known for their patience.”
If there was one single place that could be called the front lines of the clandestine Cold War, Berlin was it. The city, like the rest of Germany, was divided. It was a bastion, deep inside the heart of the Eastern Bloc, where Westerners could roam relatively freely within their sector by day and sneak into enemy territory under the cover of darkness.
A divided Berlin was the setting for so many stories, many of which are just now coming to light. And many of those stories are about Detachment-A, a Special Forces unit so secret, many in Special Forces couldn’t even know about it.
If World War III broke out, their mission was not to win — they were 110 miles behind enemy lines and couldn’t possibly win a pitched battle. Their mission was to just buy time for NATO. Along the way, their training helped develop the units and tactics used by American special operations the world over.
Retired Special Forces soldier and former CIA agent James Stejskal was among among the members of Detachment A. He served in it for nine years and just wrote a book on the recently-declassified unit, called Special Forces Berlin: Clandestine Cold War Operations of the U.S. Army’s Elite, 1956-90. Working behind enemy lines in an unconventional conflict is one of the foundational duties of the U.S. Army’s Special Forces, but Detachment A had no misconceptions about what would happen in a war with the Soviet Union. They would operate as small teams inside and outside of Berlin, tripping up the Red Army in any way they could.
“We were going to, basically, break out of the city. Two of the six teams would stay behind and cause trouble inside the city. Four of the teams would go outside the city,” James Stejskal told WATM. “A railway network, basically called the Berliner Ring, would carry the majority of the Russian forces from east to west. Our mission was to report on and sabotage the railway, communications… to cause as much havoc as possible.”
Stejskal grew up with the military. His father was drafted for World War II in 1941, before Pearl Harbor. He would earn a commission during the war as a combat engineer in Patton’s XII Corps. His father even went to Germany during the Korean War. The younger Stejskal was always interested in intelligence, commando, and what he calls the “darker arts.” He read about the British Special Operations Executive and the Office of Strategic Services during WWII and it captivated him. So when it came time for him to join the Army, the Green Beret called to him. He joined with Special Forces on his mind. But Det A was so secret, he didn’t know it existed even after he earned his place among the elite.
“I only found out about it on one of my exercises in Germany,” he recalls. “We jumped into it, into Southern Germany for our annual winter warmer exercise and one of the guys on the ground that met us was a civilian-clothes guy, speaking German. Only later on in the exercise did he start to speak in English to us and, before too long, I figured out that he was actually American. He told us he’s from a unit Berlin and he couldn’t really talk about it.”
That piqued Stejskal’s interest. He continued to dig into it and, as one thing led to another, he found himself in Berlin. Detachment A was the closest unit to the old OSS that a soldier could get in to. Speaking German, the men of Det A wore their hair long, civilian clothes, and worked with soldiers from other countries. Their commander was a Czech officer and their Sergeant Major was a German who was in the Bundeswehr, both veterans of World War II.
“It’s a strange feeling. We were 110 miles behind the East German border, with about 12,000 allied troops inside West Berlin surrounded by close to a million Russian and Warsaw Pact soldiers,” He says. “Oddly enough, I think most of us were very energized to be where we were.”
This would be an Emmy-winning TV show today. Mad Men, eat your heart out.
During peacetime, they performed protection duties for VIPs and – most importantly – they trained. Detachment A trained with the British Special Air Service, who taught them to watch how the Germans and Israelis performed anti-terror operations, like clearing a hijacked aircraft. They soon became the U.S. Army’s first counter-terrorism team, long before Delta Force or SEAL Team Six. Charlie Beckwith, Delta’s first commander, came to Berlin to see Detachment A for himself.
“He came over to Berlin to see how we were doing things and took a lot of our training techniques and tactics and exported them back to Fort Bragg, about 1980,” Stejskal says. “The commander of SEAL Team Six, Marcinko, he also came over and observed. We did our operability training with Delta Force later on in the 1980s. We also trained a lot of the SEALs in the city.”
Aside from forming the foundations of modern Special Forces and SEAL Team operations, veterans of Detachment A also took their knowledge back home, joining police departments as local SWAT teams popped up around the United States. They trained law enforcement and military alike in building assault tactics, urban combat, and clearing buildings. But if war broke out, these soldiers had no illusions about their fate.
“I never thought about it being certain death, but it could have,” says Stejskal. “I think we would’ve been hard-pressed to survive more than 72 hours, but you never can tell. You’re anticipating you’re going in to a very bad situation, but you got the best tools, the best cover, and everything else. You have a confidence level that you can do it, but you, there’s always that element of uncertainty that you don’t have everything under control, so that’s part of the energy that fuels you when you’re there.”
Four Swedish air force pilots received U.S. Air Medals during a ceremony in Stockholm Nov. 28, 2018, recognizing their actions that took place over 31 years ago. Until 2017 the details of their mission remained classified.
During the 1980s, the height of the Cold War was still being felt. The U.S. was flying regular SR-71 aircraft reconnaissance missions in international waters over the Baltic Sea known as “Baltic Express” missions. But on June 29, 1987, during one of those missions, an SR-71 piloted by retired Lt. Cols. Duane Noll and Tom Veltri, experienced an inflight emergency.
Experiencing engine failure in one of their engines, they piloted the aircraft down to approximately 25,000 feet over Swedish airspace where they were intercepted by two different pairs of Swedish air force Viggens.
“We were performing an ordinary peace time operation exercise,” recalled retired Maj. Roger Moller, Swedish air force Viggen pilot. “Our fighter controller then asked me are you able to make an interception and identification of a certain interest. I thought immediately it must be an SR-71, otherwise he would have mentioned it. But at that time I didn’t know it was the Blackbird.”
U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. John Williams, Mobilization Assistant to the commander, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Africa, salutes the Swedish pilots who are being awarded the U.S. Air Medal in Stockholm, Nov. 28, 2018.
U.S. Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Kelly O’Connor
According to the Air Medal citation, once the Swedish pilots intercepted the SR-71, they assessed the emergency situation and decided to render support to the aircraft by defending it from any potential third-party aircraft that might have tried to threaten it. The pilots then accompanied the aircraft beyond the territorial boundaries and ensured that it was safely recovered.
“I can’t say enough about these gentlemen,” said Veltri, who was at the ceremony. “I am so amazingly grateful for what they did, but also for the opportunity to recognize them in the fashion we are doing. What these guys did is truly monumental.”
Noll, who was not able to be at the ceremony, recorded a message which was played to those in attendance.
“Your obvious skills and judgement were definitely demonstrated on that faithful day many years ago. I want to thank you for your actions on that day,” said Noll. “We will never know what would or could have happened, but because of you, there was no international incident. The U.S. Air Force did not lose an irreplaceable aircraft, and two crew members’ lives were saved. Lt. Col. Veltri and I can’t thank you sufficiently for what you prevented. Thank you for being highly skilled and dedicated patriotic fellow aviators.”
U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. John Williams, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa mobilization assistant to the commander, presented the Air Medals to Swedish air force Col. Lars-Eric Blad, Maj. Roger Moller, Maj. Krister Sjoberg and Lt. Bo Ignell.
“That day in 1987 showed us that we can always count on our Swedish partners in times of great peril,” said Williams. “Even when there was both political risk and great physical risk in the form of actual danger, there was no hesitation on your part to preserve the pilots on that day.”
The presentation of Air Medals to the Swedish pilots represented the gratitude from the U.S. and the continued longstanding partnership with Sweden.
The F-22 Raptor is kind of an underrated badass. Now overshadowed by the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the Raptor never really got its chance to stand out on its own. But with the U.S. Air Force increasingly butting heads with other air forces around the world, the real power of the Raptor is starting to show.
General Mark Welsh, then-Air Force Chief of Staff once told the story of a Raptor pilot who snuck up on an Iranian F-4 Phantom who was moving to intercept and shoot down a U.S. drone. After flying below two Iranian planes to check out their armaments, he pulled up to their left wing, surprising them, and told them to go home. They did.
The F-22 was born out of a desire to replace both the F-16 and F-15 with an air superiority fighter unrivaled in air-to-air kills. Even with the development of the F-35, there are those who still believe the F-22 is the superior airframe and that Raptor production stopped too soon.
They have a valid point.
Nowadays, the F-22 is mostly being wasted on patrols and alert missions or other exercises that don’t require the Raptor’s particular set of skills, according to a Government Accountability Office report. And since such missions don’t require the F-22 specifically, pilots aren’t able to trained to make use of capabilities unique to the aircraft, meaning it rarely has its full range of abilities realized.
In combat zones, the mere presence of an F-22 commands respect. Currently, Russian, Syrian, and Iranian aircraft are operating in the skies above Syria. In 587 encounters there, the Raptors forced the other aircraft to back off without further aggression.
A U.S. Air Force F-22 fighter jet (front) taxis past a C17 aircraft after landing at Kadena U.S. Air Force Base on Japan’s southwestern island of Okinawa
The success (though limited) in Syria showcases not only the capability of the Raptors and their pilots, but also what other air forces’ pilots think of the airframe — and the potential for future roles in other battlespaces, specifically China.
The Commander of Pacific Air Forces, Gen. Charles Brown, has an idea of what that role might look like. While the Chinese are certain to try to jam U.S. communications in the event of a conflict, Brown wants the F-22 to frustrate and confuse the Chinese. The idea has been dubbed “Rapid Raptor” and features four escort F-22s and a USAF C-17 transport plane to be deployable within 24 hours to go anywhere in the PACOM area of responsibility.
The “Rapid Raptor” idea calls for the Elmendorf AFB, Alaska-based 3rd Wing of F-22s to quickly disperse in the event of a conflict, being able to refuel from the C-17’s wing tanks wherever they go. The idea quickly spread to the rest of the Air Force’s F-22 fleet, most notably in Eastern Europe where F-22s are a deterrent to Russian aggression. The Air Force even wants to use the Rapid concept on other airframes.
In the event of a conflict, these spread-out fighter formations could more easily communicate through Chinese jamming via the use of satellite communications. They would also receive target orders this way. In the event of the Chinese disabling or destroying satellites, the small formations would have enough information to make informed battlefield decisions and operate independently.
The chief debate among people searching for a cold-weather sleeping bag is the choice between down and synthetic fill. As a rule, down fill is lighter and more compressible than synthetic fill. However, down clumps when it gets wet and loses much of its insulation, while synthetic fill tolerates the dampness better.
I recently tested the Kifaru Slick Bag, which features synthetic Climashield APEX fill. This bag works well even when dam — and that’s an important feature to me since I live in the rainforest of Southeast Alaska. This fill also does not need to be kept religiously clean, as down does.
Designed for a wide range of conditions and climates, the Slick Bag is a standout, versatile sleeping bag. It is warm, tough, and light enough to carry.
Kifaru offers this bag rated for 20 degrees Fahrenheit, 0 degrees Fahrenheit, or negative 20 degrees Fahrenheit. The 0 degree bag is a solid all-around rating for where I backpack, but users in the Lower 48 may favor the 20 degree bag to save weight.
(Photo courtesy of Kifaru International.)
I’ve yet to test it in temperatures below zero, but the Slick Bag has stood up well to nights in the single digits. Though I tend to sleep cold, the Slick Bag kept me warm, even when wet, mostly thanks to the Durable Water Resistant (DWR) coating on the bag’s exterior. The material is Kifaru’s RhinoSkin, a ripstop nylon that’s plenty tough for backcountry use. Kifaru claims it’s tough enough to sleep with boots on in the bag, though I didn’t test that theory.
The 0 degree Slick Bag weighs 3.35 pounds in regular width, making it light but not ultralight. The bag, when compressed, is easy to carry. The 20 degree bag weighs 2.9 pounds, and the negative-20 bag comes in at 4.43 pounds. Kifaru offers all of the bags in wide and long as well, though these features naturally increase the weight and cost.
The bag uses a center zip for ease of access, which has been an issue for heat retention in the past. Kifaru addressed that issue by adding a passive baffle system around the zipper and neck. If any heat bleeds off from the top zipper, it’s unnoticeable. For temperature regulation, users can unzip a lower section of the bag or adjust the hood. The bag has a looser fit than most other mummy-style bags, making movement easy, especially for side sleepers.
Returning to that debate between down and synthetic fill, I have a confession: I generally prefer down. The light weight and low volume when compressed is ideal for a minimalist backpacker or ultralight hiker looking to shave off a couple more ounces from their pack.
But for a hunter, especially someone using vehicular transportation or who may be working out of a base camp where cutting ounces is not critical, a synthetic bag like the Slick Bag is the perfect choice. Not having to worry about water on the sleeping bag provides peace of mind. The bag is also great for anyone who plans on bivouac camping. Without the protection of a tent, the synthetic fill and water-resistant RhinoSkin exterior is a must.
The base price of the Slick Bag is 0 and ranges up to 8 depending on degree rating, length, and width, which is in line with other high-end synthetic bags. Along with tents and rain coats, sleeping bags are an important — albeit often expensive — part of safe camping. It’s worth it to find something that will do what you need it to do. It’s also important to take proper care of your investment — for long term storage, sleeping bags should be hung in a closet and kept dry.
Unlike some gear on the market that looks cool but falls apart quickly, Kifaru’s sleeping bags are built to stand up to hard use for a very long time. The Slick Bag is a well-built sleeping bag that will keep you warm and comfortable in harsh conditions.
EXCLUSIVE: Inside Travis Pastrana’s Record Breaking Jumps
Later in December 1967, the guards hauled a new prisoner strapped to a board into Day’s cell.
Day was in bad shape himself. He had escaped and was on the run for two weeks before being caught. The beatings had been merciless, but the condition of the new guy was something else.
“I’ve seen some dead that looked at least as good,” Day would later reportedly say. The new prisoner was in a semblance of a body cast. He weighed less than a hundred pounds. He had untended wounds from bayonets. His broken and withered right arm protruded from the cast at a crazy angle.
Day thought to himself that the North Vietnamese “have dumped this guy on us so they can blame us for killing him, because I didn’t think he was going to live out the day.”
Then Day caught the look: “His eyes, I’ll never forget, were just burning bright,” and “I started to get the feeling that if we could get a little grits into him and get him cleaned up and the infection didn’t get him, he was probably going to make it.”
“And that surprised me. That just flabbergasted me because I had given him up,” Day said, as recounted in the book “The Nightingale’s Song” by Marine Vietnam War veteran Robert Timberg.
(Simon & Schuster)
Day had just met Navy Lt. Cmdr. John Sidney McCain III, or as Radio Hanoi called him, “Air Pirate McCain.” Day realized this was the Bug’s “Crown Prince,” the son of Adm. John S. McCain, Jr., commander of U.S. Pacific Command.
The nearly five years he spent as a POW were a reckoning for the future senator from Arizona.
But now, he’s facing a different kind of reckoning.
In July 2017, he was diagnosed with glioblastoma, a form of brain cancer that usually is terminal.
Shortly after the diagnosis, McCain went to the Senate floor to plead for bipartisanship.
“Stop listening to the bombastic loudmouths on the radio and on the Internet. To hell with them,” he said.
“We’ve been spinning our wheels on too many important issues because we keep trying to find a way to win without help from across the aisle,” he added. “We’re getting nothing done, my friends; we’re getting nothing done.”
McCain, still chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, went home to Arizona before Christmas and has not returned.
Before leaving the Senate, McCain said in a floor speech that “I’m going home for a while to treat my illness,” McCain said in a floor speech before leaving the Senate. “I have every intention of returning here and giving many of you pause to regret all the nice things you said about me.”
“And I hope to impress on you again, that it is an honor to serve the American people in your company,” McCain added.
At his ranch in Sedona, Arizona, McCain has reportedly not been a model patient. He has jokingly accused his nurses of being in the witness protection program.
“His nurses, some of them are new, they don’t really know him, so they don’t understand that sarcasm is his form of affection,” Salter said May 28, 2018, on the “CBS This Morning” program.
“He fights, he’s fought with everybody at one point or another,” Salter said. “You know, he always talks about the country being 325 million opinionated, vociferous souls — and he’s one of them.”
In an audio excerpt from the book, McCain faced mortality.
“I don’t know how much longer I’ll be here,” he said in the book. “Maybe I’ll have another five years. Maybe with the advances in oncology, they’ll find new treatments for my cancer that will extend my life. Maybe I’ll be gone before you hear this. My predicament is, well, rather unpredictable.”
Maverick no more
In the 1990s, A&E ran a documentary on McCain that included in its title the moniker “American Maverick.” The title was probably suitable for a politician who clashed so frequently with others but managed to maintain friendships with rivals, including Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Hillary Clinton.
McCain said he’s seeking to shed the “maverick” label, discussing the subject in an HBO documentary on his life that will air on Memorial Day.
“I’m a human being and I’m not a maverick,” McCain said in a trailer for the documentary obtained by ABC.
“I’ve been tested on a number of occasions. I haven’t always done the right thing,” he said, “but you will never talk to anyone who’s as fortunate as John McCain.”
Throughout his life and public career, McCain has demonstrated humor in dire circumstances and the ability to absorb grave blows and continue on.
When he was told that the Hoa Lo prison, dubbed the “Hanoi Hilton” by the POWs, had actually been turned into a hotel, McCain said “I hope the room service is better.”
He could also be self-deprecating.
“I did not enjoy the reputation of a serious pilot or an up-and-coming junior officer,” McCain, with long-time collaborator Mark Salter, wrote in his book “Faith of My Fathers,” describing life before his A-4 Skyhawk was shot down over Hanoi.
He had crashed three planes in training. He was assigned to attack aircraft and was not among the elite who flew fighters.
The look that riveted Bud Day in the prison camp signaled that the gadfly and carouser McCain was renewing a commitment “to serve a cause greater than oneself.”
It is a message that he has delivered to Naval Academy graduates and to congressional colleagues, and he has admitted to often falling short of living up to his own mantra.
After his return from Vietnam, there was a failed marriage and his implication in the “Keating Five” scandal, a bribery affair with a a corrupt wheeler-dealer that almost ended his career in politics.
McCain recently described to CNN’s Jake Tapper how he wanted to be remembered.
“He served his country, and not always right,” McCain said. “Made a lot of mistakes. Made a lot of errors. But served his country. And I hope you could add ‘honorably’.”
On the campaign trail with McCain
The famously named “Straight Talk Express” campaign bus was actually reduced to a minivan when McCain was broke and running on fumes in the New Hampshire presidential primary of 2008. The few reporters still covering him had no problem squeezing in. The small group included this reporter, who covered the McCain campaigns for the New York Daily News in 2000 and 2008.
McCain would be off to some high school gym to speak, but mostly to listen. Everybody knew the script, because there wasn’t one, and that’s part of what made him a treat to cover.
His “Town Hall” events really were town halls. There might be a talking point at the top, or some message of the day fed to him by handlers, but McCain would get rid of it quickly and throw it open to the floor.
The practice had its downside. There was the guy who seemed to show up everywhere and always managed to grab the mic. He wanted to grow hemp, or maybe smoke it, and thought McCain should do something about it. It drove the candidate nuts.
The ad-lib nature of his campaigns sometimes backfired. There was the time in New Hampshire when he was headed to Boston for a Red Sox game and a sit-down with pitching hero Curt Schilling. Red Sox? New Hampshire primary? Impossible to screw that up.
The news of the day was that opponent Mitt Romney had hired undocumented immigrants to sweep out his stables, blow the leaves off his tennis courts, or similar tasks.
A small group of reporters hit McCain with the Romney question on his way to the car. McCain hadn’t heard. He started to laugh, thought better of it, and rushed back inside the hotel.
He could be seen in the lobby doubling up as aides explained the Romney situation. He came back out, said something to the effect of, “Of course, if true, this is troubling … ” and went to the ballgame.
Somebody wrote that McCain was the only candidate who could make you cry, and that was true.
In 2000, McCain was basically beaten when the campaign reached California. George W. Bush would be the Republican nominee.
McCain was running out the string in San Diego with many of his old Navy buds. On the dais was Adm. James Stockdale, who had been the senior officer in the prison camps. Stockdale received the Medal of Honor for his resistance to his captors.
Somehow, Stockdale had become the running mate of the flighty and vindictive Ross Perot, who had disrespected him and sidelined him from the campaign.
In his remarks, McCain turned to Stockdale and said that, no matter what, “You will be my commander — forever.”
There was a pause, and then the crowd stood and applauded.
His friends from the prison camps would occasionally travel with him on the bus or the plane. They were easy to pick out. During down times, they were the ones who would rag on him about what a lousy pilot he had been. It was a learning experience for those who covered McCain.
One of the former POWs was Everett Alvarez, who was the longest-held Navy pilot from the camps. At an event in California, there was a great rock n’ roll band that opened and closed for McCain. Outside the hall, as the crowd filed out, Alvarez was at an exit, enjoying the band as they blasted out ’60s hits.
“Great stuff,” he said to this reporter, who wondered later whether that was the first time Alvarez was hearing it.
Son of a son of a sailor
The title of the cover song of a Jimmy Buffett album applies to John McCain: “Son Of A Son Of A Sailor.”
His grandfather, John S. “Slew” McCain Sr., was an admiral who served in World War I and World War II. His father, John S. McCain Jr., was an admiral who served in submarines in World War II. Both father and grandfather were in Tokyo Bay after the Japanese surrender in World War II.
John S. McCain III was born on August 29, 1936, at Coco Solo Naval Air Station in the Panama Canal Zone. The family moved 20 times before he was out of high school, and his transience became an issue when he first ran for Congress in 1982.
His opponent tried to pin the “carpetbagger” label on him, and said he had only recently moved to Arizona. McCain said his opponent was correct: the place he had been in residence longest was Hanoi. He won easily.
McCain was an indifferent student and his poor academic record continued at the U.S. Naval Academy, where he graduated in 1958 fifth from the bottom in a class of 899.
After flight school, he was assigned to A-1 Skyraider squadrons and served on board the aircraft carriers Intrepid and Enterprise.
In 1967, in his first combat tour, he was assigned to the carrier USS Forrestal, flying the A-4 Skyhawk in Operation Rolling Thunder.
On July 29, 1967, McCain was in his A-4 on the flight deck when a missile on a following plane cooked off and hit the A-4, starting a fire that killed 134 and took more than a day to bring under control.
McCain transferred to the carrier USS Oriskany. On Oct. 26, 1967, McCain was flying his 23rd combat mission over North Vietnam when his aircraft was hit by a missile. He broke both arms and a leg when he ejected and nearly drowned when his parachute came down in Truc Bach Lake in Hanoi.
McCain’s decorations include the Silver Star, three Bronze Stars with combat ‘V’ devices, the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Purple Heart.
“In all candor, we thought our civilian commanders were complete idiots who didn’t have the least notion of what it took to win the war,” McCain would later write of the Vietnam war.
A final fight
McCain did not vote for President Donald Trump. The antipathy was there when Trump said during the campaign that McCain was “a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured,” but the break came later when a video emerged of Trump spewing vulgarities about women.
In speeches and in his writings since, McCain has not referred to Trump by name but made clear that he is opposed to some of the policies and crass appeals that won Trump the election.
In an address in October 2017, at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, McCain said that it was wrong to “fear the world we have organized and led for three quarters of a century, to abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership, and our duty to remain the last, best hope of Earth.”
He said it was wrong to abandon those principles “for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems.”
To do so was “as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history,” McCain continued.
While hoping for recovery, McCain has made plans for what comes next. He said in the HBO Memorial Day documentary that “I know that this is a very serious disease. I greet every day with gratitude. I’m also very aware that none of us live forever.”
In his new book, McCain said that he was “prepared for either contingency.”
“I have some things I’d like to take care of first, some work that needs finishing, and some people I need to see,” he said.
He has asked that Barack Obama and George W. Bush give eulogies when his time comes. He has asked that Trump not attend his funeral.
McCain has also asked that he be laid to rest alongside Adm. Chuck Larson at the Naval Academy’s cemetery in Annapolis. Larson, who was twice superintendent of the Naval Academy, was McCain’s roommate at Annapolis.
In a message of his own last Memorial Day, McCain recalled his friend, the late Air Force Col. Leo Thorsness, a Medal of Honor recipient for his valor in Vietnam. Thorsness was shot down two weeks after the actions for which he would receive the medal.
“I was in prison with him, I lived with him for a period of time in the Hanoi Hilton,” McCain said.
Through the nation’s history, “we’ve always asked a few to protect the many,” McCain said. “We can remember them and cherish them, for, I believe, it’s only in America that we do such things to such a degree.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.
Fleet Admiral Ernest King was one of the greatest military minds of his generation, rising to command the entire Navy fleet after the attacks on Pearl Harbor and ensuring that every theater of the war had its needed material, manpower, and great thinkers throughout World War II.
Fleet Admiral Ernest J. King, U. S. Navy, arrives at his quarters and salutes a soldier during the Potsdam Conference in 1945.
(U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)
Let’s start with his buddyf*ckery that actually affected the war. As mentioned above, King had an issue with the intelligence genius behind the Navy’s Midway success.
The problem came during the buildup to the battle. King’s staff briefed him that the most likely Japanese course of action was an attack on the U.S. West Coast and the Aleutian Islands of Alaska. Admiral Chester Nimitz’s staff intercepted and decoded Japanese radio transmissions that indicated an attack near Midway Island.
Both intelligence sections were actually correct. The Japanese did attack the Aleutian Islands in June, 1942, and occupy a few of them, but it was a relatively small and inconsequential action next to the massive attack at Midway that same week.
Captain Joseph J. Rochefort led the team that cracked Japan’s naval code, then prioritized which messages to translate first, and then took the collected information to paint a clear picture of the coming attack at Midway in 1942. He was rewarded by being shipped off to pasture.
Nimitz pressured King into giving him the needed ships for a defense at Midway, staged one of the most decisive engagements of the war, crippled the Japanese Navy, and then put in the top intelligence officer for a Distinguished Service Medal.
Seems well-earned, right? Captain Joseph J. Rochefort had led the team that cracked the Japanese code, then used intelligence garnered from that break to prepare the fleet for a decisive engagement that led to a massive American victory.
King didn’t think so. He summarily denied the award and then transferred Rochefort out of Nimitz’s staff and into a lesser position even though Nimitz begged him not to.
The Japanese ship Mikuma slowly sinks during the Battle of Midway in 1942.
But King didn’t limit his Blue Falcon practices to the official realm. He also slept with the wives of his subordinates, and often sexually harassed them. Women knew not to sit next to him at official functions because he had a tendency to let his hands wander under the table.
One officer, Captain Paul Pihl, was friends with King. He and his wife, Charlotte Pihl, would regularly attend parties with him. King reportedly held his own parties with Charlotte, going to the Pihls’ farmhouse when Paul was away at sea. This happened so frequently that King’s wife, Mattie, knew to call the Pihl house if she couldn’t find her husband at the office.
But most subordinate officers were more familiar and resentful of King’s notoriety for enforcing the rules against his own subordinates while violating them himself. While there are plenty of examples of this from ship life and day-to-day operations, it’s perhaps most notable in King’s drinking.
King was in the service during Prohibition, and he encouraged officers around and beneath him to strictly follow the rules, except when he wanted to get drunk. He was known to carry a flask with him and doled out drinks with it when he wanted to party, even if he was pouring for people whom he would otherwise punish for drinking.
He even encouraged the commandant of his flight school to enforce prohibition against enlisted men and young officers while simultaneously joining an officers club known for its rancorous and alcohol-fueled parties.
All-in-all, not the best example or steadiest hand at the wheel.
Admiral Ernest King onboard the USS Augusta (CA-31) with Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox during a visit to Bermuda in September 1941.
That’s because, for his many flaws, he was also a brilliant tactician, strategist, and organizer. He predicted the rise of submarine warfare and naval aviation, attending and graduating both Navy schools, while the rest of his contemporaries were focused on battleships.
And he was known for doing what needed to be done, even if he was a jerk while doing so. When he was promoted to Chief of Naval operations over eight more senior admirals after Pearl Harbor. Legend has it that a reporter asked why he thought President Franklin D. Roosevelt had picked him, and King responded, “when the shooting starts, they have to send for the sons of bitches.”
As Roosevelt might have put it, “He’s a SOB, but he’s our SOB.”