An Altus AFB Commissary meat cutter places packaged meat in the main store, Jan. 24, 2014.
Citing supply chain strains and anticipated shortages as a result of the novel coronavirus pandemic, the agency that manages military commissaries says some stores will start limiting how much fresh meat customers can purchase.
Starting May 1, commissaries within the 50 states and in Puerto Rico will limit purchases of fresh beef, poultry and pork, the Defense Commissary Agency announced Thursday evening. For fresh beef, pork, chicken and turkey, customers will be limited to purchasing two items per visit, according to the announcement.
“There may be some shortages of fresh protein products in the coming weeks,” Robert Bianchi, a retired Navy rear admiral and the Defense Department’s special assistant for commissary operations, said in a statement. “Enacting this policy now will help ensure that all of our customers have an opportunity to purchase these products on an equitable basis.”
Military commissaries, located on military bases around the world, operate on a nonprofit basis and offer food items at cost. Considered a military benefit, they are open to active-duty troops, dependents, retirees and some other special veteran categories.
Individual stores will have the ability to increase or decrease limits based on their inventory, DeCA officials added in the release. Some commissaries have already been posting quantity limits on high-demand items, such as toilet paper and hand sanitizer.
The move to limit meat purchases is a troubling one that comes on the heels of an announcement from Tyson Foods, one of the largest meat-processing companies in the nation, that it was being forced to close down plants due to the virus. Eventually, the company warned, the closures would lead to shortages in stores.
“The food supply chain is breaking,” company chairman John Tyson said in a full-page ad that appeared in the New York Times April 26.
On Tuesday, President Donald Trump issued an executive order ordering Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue to “take all appropriate action under that section to ensure that meat and poultry processors continue operations,” calling the plants “critical infrastructure for the nation.
To that end, the administration will purchase billion in excess dairy, produce and meat “to be distributed in order to assist Americans in need as well as producers with lost markets,” the White House said in an announcement accompanying the order.
In DeCA’s Thursday announcement, Bianchi said the supply chain for commissaries overseas remained strong.
“In addition, we continue to prioritize quantities for our overseas shipments, so we should be able to support the demand,” he said. “If we experience any unexpected major hiccups in the pipeline, we will look at expanding shopping limits to other locations.”
The release noted that purchase limits were also intended to head off the phenomenon of panic buying, which has led to bare shelves in supermarkets all over the country. As demand spiked, DeCA issued a March 14 directive allowing store managers to implement shopping limits as they saw fit to maintain stock availability. That directive remains in effect.
“We know this is a potentially stressful time for all concerned,” Bianchi said. “But together we will meet these challenges and support our service members and their families throughout the duration of this crisis wherever necessary.”
For over a year, the U.S. military has been looking at options for replacing the decades-old Beretta M9 handgun. As with most DoD programs, the so-called “Modular Handgun System” program is a sprawling, multi-million dollar plan to find a new pistol that takes advantage of innovations in the current firearms market and delivers a sidearm that works well for a variety of missions and troops.
Listen to the WATM podcast to hear the author and our veteran hosts discuss what the XM17 modular handgun program means to the military:
The M9 is a solid performer and is still popular among many in the U.S. military. But over the last 20 years, handgun technology — especially the use of polymers in handgun construction — has advanced well beyond the all-metal, one-size-fits-all frame of the flagship Beretta sidearm.
Both the Army and Air Force are running the search for an M9 replacement, dubbed the XM17, and have called for a do-all pistol that will fit in the hands of a wide range of troops, be more accurate and reliable than the Beretta and, most importantly, be configurable for different missions.
An ambitious goal to be sure, and some high-ranking officials in the Pentagon have argued it’s one that’ll wind up being too expensive and take too long to field, with the Army estimating it’ll take $17 million and 2 years to test the final version of the XM17.
“We’re not exactly redesigning how to go to the moon. This is a pistol,” Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said in March. “You give me $17 million on a credit card, and I’ll call Cabela’s tonight, and I’ll outfit every soldier, sailor, airman and Marine with a pistol for $17 million. And I’ll get a discount on a bulk buy.”
Despite Milley’s frustration, the program is set for a so-called “downselect” next month to three competitor designs to move into field testing. The safe money is that the Army will settle on options from Sig Sauer, Glock and a team composed of General Dynamics and Smith Wesson.
So what do each of these companies bring to the table for a modular handgun?
By far the most popular handgun among law enforcement, military special operations and a huge swath of civilian shooters, the Glock series of polymer-framed pistols has been considered the gold standard of modern handguns since its introduction in the 1980s.
In fact, the Glock 19 is the standard-issue handgun for Army special operations troops, Air Force special operations Airmen and has recently been chosen to replace Naval Special Warfare Sig Sauer P226 pistols. Sources say the company submitted versions of its G17 (a 5-inch barreled, 9mm handgun) and the G22 (a 4.5-inch barreled, .40 caliber handgun) to the MHS program.
A Special Forces soldier fires a Glock 19 pistol at a range during joint training with Hungarian special operations forces. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Tyler Placie)
While Glock doesn’t have a so-called “modular” gun, the pistol uses so few parts that swapping a barrel or switching the backstrap of the grip for smaller-handed shooters takes no time. Glock offers several handguns that look and operate the same as the G17 and G22 — namely the G19, G43 and G21 — that are more compact or are optimized for different shooting situations.
Long a close second to the Glock family of polymer pistols, Smith Wesson’s MP series of handguns have made serious inroads in the law enforcement and civilian markets.
Check out the utility belt of a local cop or stroll down the shooting bays of your local range, and you’re bound to see a bunch of MP 9s in holsters or on the bench. Similar to the Glock, the MP pistol is simple to operate, has few parts and fits a wide range of shooters with replaceable backstraps on its grip.
Smith Wesson MP 9. (Photo from Smith Wesson)
And, like Glock, Smith Wesson doesn’t have a truly modular handgun system. But the company makes a longer barrel MP in a variety of calibers and the wildly popular MP Shield for concealed carry. All are based on the same design as the MP 9 and have the same ergonomics — so troops shifting from the 5-inch MP 5-inch CORE on one mission to the MP Shield on another won’t have to deal with a learning curve.
Sig Sauer has been most widely known for its double action handguns (ones that have hammers instead of strikers), and the P226 is perhaps the most famous gun the company makes since it’s been the go-to pistol for Naval Special Warfare’s sailors for years.
That changed this year when the SEAL community let slip that it would be replacing its inventory of P226s with Glock 19s — in line with other special operations units in the U.S. military. In 2014, Sig announced its newest handgun, dubbed the “P320,” which uses a similar polymer frame and striker fire system as the Glock and MP.
But what makes the P320 unique among its closest competitors is that it is truly modular. Buy a stock P320 and a shooter can purchase new frames and barrels in different sizes and calibers; you can literally change the P320 from a 4.7-inch combat handgun into a 3.6-inch subcompact concealed carry gun in about a minute with a new frame, slide and barrel.
Photo from Sig Sauer
You can even switch out a 9mm to a .40 with ease. The only common part of the Sig P320 is the “fire control group” which includes the trigger and internal safety module.
The problem is the Army (and other services) don’t have a great track record of making solid decisions on new weapons that take advantage of modern technology.
For several years in the early 2000s, the Army spent a lot of time and money looking into a replacement for the M4 carbine — a rifle that derives from a pre-Vietnam design. Despite test reports that showed other options performed better than the M4, the Army decided it wasn’t enough of an improvement over the existing rifle, and the service shelved the program.
Likewise, the Mk-16 and Mk-17 SOCOM Combat Assault Rifle — or SCAR — program was originally billed as a modular rifle program, one that would eventually see a combat rifle capable of switching from, say, a short-barreled entry gun into a longer-barreled one for more distant engagements. That program was also shelved, with special ops forces mostly using the .308 caliber Mk-17 on some missions as a battle rifle.
It’s still unclear whether the XM17 program will suffer a similar fate. But it’s there’s no argument that the Beretta M9 is facing an age problem and is increasingly causing armorers headaches.
So whether it’s a Glock 19 from Cabela’s or a futuristic, modular pistol, U.S. troops should see some kind of new handgun in their armory within a few years.
Major Aaron Darty, 100th Maintenance Squadron operations officer, was presented the Bronze Star Medal at RAF Mildenhall, England, July 1, 2019, for his meritorious achievement while at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan.
Since Dec. 6, 1941, men and women who served in any capacity in or with the U.S. military, have been awarded the Bronze Star Medal by distinguishing themselves through heroic or meritorious achievement or service in a combat zone.
From March 3, 2018, to March 2, 2019, Darty served as the operations officer and maintenance advisor for the 442nd Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron. During this time, he operated outside of a coalition-controlled airfield, where he endured 29 indirect fire rocket attacks and was exposed to a persistent threat of insider attacks.
Even with all of the challenges, Darty was able to help execute more than 10,000 sorties during his year in Afghanistan, and he also helped set up a UH-60 Black Hawk maintenance training program, which allowed for the host nation members to become more familiar with this technology.
U.S. Air Force Maj. Aaron Darty, 100th Maintenance Squadron operations officer, poses for a photo at RAF Mildenhall, England, July 9, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Brandon Esau)
“This was an outstanding opportunity for me and I learned so much about my job as well as myself,” Darty said. “I was able to work alongside great U.S. military members as well as extraordinary Afghan National Army counterparts who all shared the same common goal.”
Before arriving to RAF Mildenhall, Darty finished the 365-day deployment which brought its share of obstacles.
“Communication was the toughest obstacle we faced,” Darty said. “We received training in Dari, which is one of the primary languages in Afghanistan, and we worked alongside some of the bravest interpreters and people I’ve ever met in some of the most hostile conditions, and patience was my guide.”
Learning patience and understanding of other cultures was a major factor in Darty and members of his team being awarded the Bronze Star.
“Some things I was the lead for and some I did on my own, but this award is really for the 40-plus other people in the squadron who did the heavy lifting,” Darty said. “Our team consisted of Romanian, Swedish and U.S. service members from different branches – it was a truly joint, coalition organization.”
U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Paul Weme, 100th Maintenance Group commander, presents Maj. Aaron Darty, 100th Maintenance Squadron operations officer, with a Bronze Star Medal during a ceremony held at RAF Mildenhall, England, July 1, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Brandon Esau)
Master Sgt. William Smith, 733rd Air Mobility Squadron production superintendent at Kadena Air Base, Japan, worked alongside Darty in Afghanistan and attests to his ability to lead a team with a common goal.
“It was an absolute pleasure to have the opportunity to work with a person of his caliber in a hostile and foreign environment,” Smith remarked. “Major Darty has an uncanny ability to bring everybody around him up, even in unknown situations. He was always calm in numerous high-stress situations where our number one priority was keeping our people safe and out of harm’s way.
Coming together as a team to execute the mission is, according to Darty, part of his vision for the airmen he works with here.
“My advice to them is always rely on the people next to you,” Darty expressed. “This was something I learned while deployed which I never learned anywhere else. We were our own security and even though we may not be getting shot at everyday here, you have to always trust the person by your side.”
Uber and U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, Army Research Laboratory, announced a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement to advance technologies supporting Future Vertical Lift.
As part of this agreement, Uber and RDECOM ARL also signed their first joint work statement to jointly fund and collaborate on research development of rotor technology, which may lead to ground-breaking discoveries to support Army Modernization Priorities. Officials announced the agreement and work statement at the second Uber Elevate Summit in Los Angeles, May 8, 2018.
The joint work statement focuses on research to create the first usable stacked co-rotating rotors or propellers; this is a concept for having two rotor systems placed on top of each other and rotating in the same direction.
Initial experimentation of this concept has revealed the potential for stacked co-rotating rotors be significantly quieter than traditional paired rotor approaches and improve performance for a flying craft. To date, stacked co-rotating rotors have not been deployed in existing flying craft.
Under this first joint work statement, Uber and the Army’s research lab expect to spend a combined total of $1 million in funding for this research; this funding will be divided equally between each party.
The CRADA allows for additional joint work statements in other aligned research areas. Uber and Army will continue to explore future developments in this sphere.
“This agreement with Uber displays the Army utilizing innovative approaches to collaborate with an industry partner that is truly on the cutting edge,” said Dr. Jaret Riddick, director of the ARL’s Vehicle Technology Directorate. “This collaboration is an opportunity to access years of knowledge vested in subject matter experts within the lab. It will allow the Army to rapidly advance mutually beneficial technology to inform objectives for silent and efficient VTOL, or vertical takeoff and landing operation, for the next generation fleet of Army unmanned air vehicles. This supports the Army modernization priorities for future vertical lift aircraft.”
(Photo by David McNally)
Uber is proud to be partnering with ARL on critical research on flying vehicle innovations that will help create the world’s first urban aviation rideshare network,” said Eric Allison, Head of Uber Elevate. “Our first jointly-funded project will help us develop first of its kind rotor technology that will allow for quieter and more efficient travel. We see this initial project as the first of many and look forward to continued collaboration with the lab on innovations that will make uberAIR a reality.”
Uber will also collaborate with Launchpoint Technologies Inc., a technology company focused on the modeling, design optimization, and fabrication of novel electric motors. LaunchPoint’s design approach will lead to motors best suited to power eVTOL technology with stacked co-rotating propellers. In the future, all three entities will exploit the experimental data and lessons learned from stacked co-rotating rotor testing. The result will be more predictive models and higher-performing next generation co-rotating propellers
Dave Paden, President of LaunchPoint Technologies, expressed his enthusiasm for the project — “LaunchPoint’s engineering team is excited to engage with Uber and ARL in this challenging and meaningful endeavor. The transformation of air transportation is right around the corner and collaborations like this are essential to developing the enabling these technologies.”
In 2017, Uber announced the first U.S. Elevate cities would be Dallas-Fort Worth/Frisco Texas and Los Angeles, with a goal of flight demonstrations in 2020 and Elevate commercially available to riders in 2023 in those cities.
To make uberAIR a reality, Uber has entered into partnerships with several highly experienced aircraft manufacturers who are developing electric VTOL vehicles including: Aurora Flight Sciences (now a subsidiary of Boeing), Pipistrel Aircraft, Embraer and Bell. Uber’s design model specifies that this fully electric vehicle have a cruising speed between 150-200 mph, a cruising altitude of 1,000-2,000 feet and be able to do trips of up to 60 miles on a single charge.
In 2017, Uber signed a space act agreement with NASA for the development of new unmanned traffic management concepts and unmanned aerial systems that will enable safe and efficient operations at low altitudes. To help create skyports for the uberAIR network, Uber has also entered into real estate partnerships with Hillwood Properties and Sandstone Properties.
In response to a question about whether Tehran would free Iranian-American father and son Baquer and Siamak Namazi, Zarif said on September 21 that the only way for him to have influence on the courts is through a swap for Iranians he claimed the United States is holding unjustly.
“Let’s not put one person in front of another. Let’s do a universal deal. I repeat, we can exchange all prisoners, period,” he said.
Washington has long demanded that Iran release U.S. citizens including Baquer and Siamak Namazi, who were jailed in 2016 and 2015, respectively.
Baquer Namazi, the former governor of Khuzestan Province under Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, was arrested during a trip to Iran to see his imprisoned son.
The United States has exchanged prisoners with Iran before. Navy veteran Michael White, detained in 2018, returned home in June as part of a deal in which the United States allowed an Iranian-American physician Majid Taheri to leave to Iran.
In December 2019, Tehran freed U.S. citizen Xiyue Wang, who had been held for three years on spying charges, in a swap for Iranian Massoud Soleimani, who faced charges of violating U.S. sanctions on Iran.
Tehran denies it holds people on political grounds, and has mostly accused its foreign prisoners of espionage.
Oda Nobunaga was a powerful feudal lord in late 16th-century Japan. For almost 200 years, Japan had seen near-constant warfare between daimyo, lords like Oda. Although the emperor was nominally in charge of the Japanese people, his real power was ceded to the Shogun, a general who administered the government. The ongoing wars between lords were often over succession. Three subsequent warlords, Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and Tokugawa Ieyasu, were the ones who finally unified Japan.
Fighting alongside Oda was Yasuke, a man from Mozambique who had proven himself worthy of the title “Samurai.”
Yasuke came to Japan in 1579 with an Italian missionary. Though it can’t be confirmed, historians believe Yasuke was from Mozambique, as many of the first Africans to arrive in the Pacific island nation were from Mozambique. The young Mozambican’s black appearance was definitely noticeable in the Japanese capital. He was presented to the Daimyo Oda Nobunaga, who forced the man to strip and clean himself, not believing his skin was naturally black. When he finally accepted this, he eventually adopted Yasuke into his own service, impressed with the African’s strength and physique.
Oda provided Yasuke with money, a residence and his own katana. The now-former missionary was given the post of the Daimyo’s weapon bearer and soon found himself in battle.
The Battle of Tenmokuzan pitted Oda and Tokugawa Ieyasu against their longtime rival Takeda Katsuyori. Katsuyori burned his own castle and tried to escape into the surrounding hills but ended up committing ritual suicide before Oda and Tokugawa could capture him. The Tokugawa leadership describes Yasuke as standing more than six feet tall and having skin as black as charcoal.
But Oda’s luck would soon run out, and the noble Oda Nobunaga was forced to commit suicide by rival Samurai and lord Akechi Mitsuhide at a Buddhist temple in Kyoto. Yasuke was present for Oda’s seppuku and joined his successor Oda Nobutada’s army to avenge the elder Oda’s gruesome end. He was captured fighting Akechi forces at Nijo Castle but was not killed because he wasn’t Japanese.
Yasuke does not appear in historical records after his capture at Nijo Castle, perhaps being returned to the Jesuit order which originally took him to Japan.
Shortly after he became an officer in the Marines, John Kelly met a captain who told him that he should approach his new position as “a real professional.”
“A doctor who doesn’t read peer articles and stay attuned to the developments in his field is not the kind of doctor you would want to go to, and the same is true for officers in the Marine Corps,” the captain told him.
“He got me going on reading, specifically focused on military things, and I just never stopped,” Kelly said.
The Wall Street Journal reported August 4 that Kelly picked up C.S. Forester’s 1936 novel “The General” after accepting the role of chief of staff, just as he did after accepting the role of DHS chief six months prior — and just as he did every time he was promoted during and after his military career, since he was 25 (he is now 67).
It’s essentially a parable about the dangers of patriotism and duty unaccompanied by critical thinking. Kelly went through it again to remind himself “of what to avoid as a leader,” the Journal reported.
“The General” tells the fictional story of General Sir Herbert Curzon, a leader in the British Army during World War I. Curzon is an unremarkable man who attained his position of power largely through luck and the failings of the superiors who preceded him. He is eventually put in charge of 100,000 men during WWI, where he leads many of them to their death and loses his leg in the process. Despite his failings as a leader, he is lauded in his retirement as a military hero.
When Kelly read the book as a young officer, he thought of his captain’s words on leadership.
Describing Curzon, Kelly wrote in “The Leader’s Bookshelf,” “He is a brave guy, a dedicated guy, a noble guy, but a guy who in the end has become a corps commander — a three-star general — and when presented with an overwhelming German attack couldn’t figure out how to deal with it because he’d never developed himself intellectually.”
Every time Kelly has read the book, he wrote, he’s noted where he was at that point in his life, and how the novel’s lesson resonates with him.
He wrote that, “depending on as you get older and higher in rank, it’s a different book every time you read it. When a lieutenant reads that book it’s different from when a lieutenant general reads it. … So it’s just kind of a fun thing I’ve done over the years and with this book in particular just to remind me of the critical importance of thinking.”
Sebastian Junger is not a military veteran. He makes that clear, but he sure sounds like one. Maybe it’s because he’s covered conflict zones
from Sierra Leone to Nigeria to Afghanistan as a journalist. It’s safe to say he’s seen more conflict than many in the United States military.
If there’s an expert on modern warfare and the long-term effects of those who live it, that person is Sebastian Junger.
He sees war and its effects through the lens of an anthropologist. This not only gives him the perspective to look back on his homecoming—and the homecomings of U.S. troops—to see the problems and abnormalities with how societies deal with their combat veterans, it allows him to put those ideas into words. Some words returning and transitioning veterans may not have ever known to use.
“We try hard to keep combat at a distance,” he says in the new
PBS documentary Going to War. “But when we talk about war, we talk about what it means to be human.”
In Going to War, Junger and fellow author Karl Marlantes (Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War) examine the paradox of fighting in combat: how the brotherhood and sense of purpose contrast with the terror, pain, and grief surrounding the violence and destruction. It starts with the training. Whenever young men (and now women) are placed in a situation where they would be fighting for their lives, the training would diminish perceptions of the individual in favor of the group.
“If you have people acting individualistically in a combat unit, the unit falls apart and gets annihilated,” Junger says. “So you need them to focus on the group. The training, beyond firing a weapon, is an attempt to get people to stop thinking of themselves.
This is not just the U.S. military. This is every military around the world.
The United States is “orders of magnitude” more capable than most. What the U.S. is having trouble dealing with is what comes after its veterans return home and then to civilian life. For returning vets, sometimes the problem is returning to an unearned hero’s welcome.
Only about ten percent of the military will ever see combat. Those who don’t still get the welcome home, but feel guilty for feeling like they never did enough to earn that accolade.
For those who were in combat, the experience of being shot, shot at, and watching others get killed or wounded is a traumatic experience that our increasingly isolated society doesn’t handle well.
When veterans leave the military, separation becomes a more apt term than we realize. Our wealthy, individualistic modern society rips military veterans from their tribal environment while they’re in the military and puts them back into a cold, unfamiliar and far less communal world.
Junger thinks a fair amount of what we know as PTSD is really the shock of a tribal-oriented veteran being put in an individualized environment.
“Going to War did a fantastic job of capturing the experience of fighting in a war and then coming home,” Junger says. “For me one of the most powerful moments wasn’t even on the battlefield.
Junger goes on to describe what, for him, is the most poignant story out of a slew of emotional, true stories of men fighting nearly a century of wars:
“A young man, a Marine describing his final training, a ruck march. They had heavy packs and the guy had an injury so he couldn’t walk very well. Another guy comes along and carries his pack for him, so the second guy is carrying 160 pounds maybe, and says ‘If you’re not gonna make it across the finish in time, then neither will I. We’re gonna do it together or fail together.’ And that is the central ethos to men in combat in the military.”
Audible: For you, the listeners of the Mandatory Fun podcast, Audible is offering a free audiobook download with a free 30-day trial to give you the opportunity to check out some of the books and authors featured on Mandatory Fun. To download your free audiobook today go to audibletrial.com/MandatoryFun.
In our upcoming issue, we recapped our top picks for interesting and innovative products in the RECOIL Best of SHOT 2020 awards. The awards themselves were provided, in part, by the company behind this installment of Veteran Vices: Green Feet Brewing.
For those unfamiliar, the symbol of Green Feet has been the calling card of Air Force combat rescue since Vietnam. The HH-3 “Jolly Green Giant” helicopters used by combat rescue units at that time would touch down in muddy rice paddies, leaving impressions in the mud that looked like footprints. Scott Peterson, owner and operator of Green Feet Brewing, spent nearly three decades in the USAF combat rescue community as a Flight Engineer on MH-53J Pave Low and HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters. In 28 years of service, he’s deployed “too many times to count,” but cites one of his most rewarding deployments bring a trip to Afghanistan as part of a Combat Search and Rescue crew.
His professional interest in beer started as a home brewing process. Says Peterson, “I … loved the process and creativity that making beer allows. In 2012, I called my wife from Afghanistan and asked her if she wanted to open a brewery.” Eight years later, the Petersons continue to man the Green Feet tap room. Located in an aging industrial park just outside of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, home to an Air Force Rescue Squadron, it’s easy to miss. But once inside, the cozy space, VIP locker wall, and the sprinkling of military certificates and decorations creates an atmosphere that’s part barracks rec room, part Cheers bar. “We had a nice following of USAF Rescue folks from the local community to help us out,” he says. “That community is a small, but very loyal community and wanted to see one of their own succeed.”
In this same vein, Green Feet Brewing also gives back to the community that has supported them over the years. They donate primarily to the That Others May Live foundation, which provides immediate tragedy assistance, scholarships for the children, and other critical support for familiar of Air Force Rescue units who are killed or severely wounded in operational or training missions. Green Feet also supports Wreaths Across America, an organization local to them in Tucson, Arizona. Wreaths Across America is dedicated to helping lay wreaths on veterans’ graves at Christmas.
At time of writing, Green Feet Brewing is strictly a local operation. They distribute to some other tap rooms and businesses around the city of Tucson, but aren’t available outside of that area. If you find yourself passing through, stop in, grab a pint, and raise one up for those who sacrifice their health and well-being That Others May Live …
Reserve and active duty pararescuemen were undergoing dive and jump training Sept. 11, 2018, in Key West, Florida, when they were recalled back to their home units to immediately begin the process of pre-positioning for Hurricane Florence search-and-rescue operations.
Reserve airmen within the 920th Rescue Wing at Patrick Air Force Base, Florida, put their lives on temporary hold to respond to a natural disaster.
“When we returned to Patrick (AFB) that evening, we unpacked our dive gear and repacked all of our hurricane gear,” said Senior Master Sgt. Joe Traska, 308th Rescue Squadron pararescueman. “We went home to see our families briefly and returned the following morning to begin the trip to Moody Air Force Base, Georgia.”
In all, 140 Reservists dropped what they were doing on a Wednesday afternoon to fix and fly search-and-rescue aircraft, and perform everything imaginable in-between, to get four HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters and all the necessary personnel and equipment heading north to Moody AFB, Georgia, when the prepare-to-deploy order was given Sept. 12, 2018.
HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter aircrew airmen with the 334th Air Expeditionary Group, sit alert on the Joint Base Charleston, S.C.flightline Sept. 16, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Kelly Goonan)
The 920th RQW airmen integrated forces with active duty personnel at Moody AFB’s 23rd Wing and began posturing for an official disaster relief operation as one cohesive Air Expeditionary Group, waiting out Hurricane Florence as it crawled through the Carolinas.
Two days later, Maj. Gen. Leonard Isabelle, director of search-and-rescue operations coordination element for Air Force North Command, officially established the 334th Air Expeditionary Group tasked with positioning the fully integrated forces of airmen and assets for relief efforts to assist those most severely impacted by Hurricane Florence.
Within 18-hours, 270 airmen working together seamlessly picked up and moved their search-and-rescue operation from middle Georgia forward to Joint Base Charleston, S.C.
Senior Master Sgt. Will Towers checks the tail rotor blades as part of his preflight checklist at Joint Base Charleston, S.C., Sept. 16, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Kelly Goonan)
However, the coastal installation was still under evacuation orders leaving the 334th AEG faced with establishing a bare base operations center while contending with lingering unfavorable weather conditions.
“The base had to literally open their gates for our arrival,” said Lt. Col. Adolph Rodriguez, 334th Mission Support Group commander. “They (JB Charleston officials) began recalling critical personnel to give us the necessary assistance for this operation to be a success.”
With the aid of the host installation, the 334th AEG was at full operational capability, ready to conduct search-and-rescue missions when the first HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter landed Sept. 15, 2018.
Col. Bryan Creel, 334th Air Expeditionary Group commander, discusses search-and-rescue operational plans with Lt. Col. Jeff Hannold, 334th AEG deputy commander, at Joint Base Charleston on Sept. 15, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force Photo by Technical Sgt. Kelly Goonan)
Switching gears from readiness training in South Florida to real-world operations in South Carolina is a prime example of, “being constantly fluid and flexible,” said Capt. Jessica Colby, 334 AEG public affairs officer. “Search and rescue is often like that: You never know where you’re going to go, you never know how big of a footprint you can bring, or what will be needed.”
There is one constant in situations like these, training, explained Rodriguez. “Reserve citizen airmen must constantly train to not only stay current, but to propel their capabilities beyond just meeting the minimum requirement. Honing their proficiencies will ultimately provide the best possible performance in real-world operations. All of the readiness training efforts that the 920th RQW has conducted has better positioned the Wing to this current operational pace.”
“The same capabilities which make the U.S. armed forces so powerful in combat also lends themselves extraordinarily well to disaster relief.”
“It’s amazing what these citizen airmen did inside and outside their Air Force specialty codes,” Rodriguez said. “They’re doing things they’re trained for, and accomplishing tasks beyond their job scope with zero deficiencies and zero mishaps.”
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has reiterated that Kyiv is seeking a Membership Action Plan (MAP), a formal step toward joining NATO.
Poroshenko, in a post on Facebook on March 10, 2018, said a MAP was Ukraine’s “next ambition” on the path toward eventual membership in the 29-country Western alliance.
“This is what my letter to Jens Stoltenberg in February 2018 was about, where, with reference to Article 10 of the North Atlantic Treaty, I officially [set out] Ukraine’s aspirations to become a member of the Alliance,” Poroshenko wrote.
A Membership Action Plan is a multistage process of political dialogue and military reform to bring a country in line with NATO standards and to eventual membership. The process can take several years.
Poroshenko’s comments came after NATO updated its website to include Ukraine alongside three other countries — Bosnia-Herzegovina, Georgia, and Macedonia — that have declared their aspirations to NATO membership
“Countries that have declared an interest in joining the Alliance are initially invited to engage in an intensified dialogue with NATO about their membership aspirations and related reforms,” the NATO website said.
The next step toward possible membership is a MAP. But a NATO official told RFE/RL that the alliance has not changed its position on Ukraine.
“NATO’s policy remains the same,” the official said. “There has been a change in Ukraine’s policy, which the website reflects.”
Under former President Viktor Yanukovych, Kyiv said it was not interested in joining NATO. But Kyiv has sought NATO membership since the 2014 antigovernment Maidan protests that toppled Moscow-friendly Yanukovych and ushered in a pro-Western government.
Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada on June 8, 2017, passed a law making NATO integration a foreign policy priority.
In July 2017, Poroshenko announced that he would seek the opening of negotiations on a MAP with NATO.
Ukraine is currently embroiled in a war with Russia-backed separatists in part of its eastern regions that has killed more than 10,300 people and displaced hundreds of thousands since April 2014.
Congressional decision-makers are working with the Navy to explore massively speeding up construction of its emerging fleet of new amphibious assault ships as part of an urgent push to expand the overall fleet faster and address an enormous deficit of available amphibs.
A July 3, 2018 Congressional Research Service report, titled ” Navy LPD-17 Flight II (LX[R]) Amphibious Ship Program: Background and Issues for Congress,” says the currently proposed Navy plan to buy the second LPD-17 Flight II Amphib in 2020 may need to be accelerated to fall within the services’ 2019 budget.
The Navy currently has slightly more than 30 amphibious assault ships the fleet, and plans to reach 38 in coming years; However, the current plan still falls short of meeting the global requirements of combatant commanders, Navy leaders say.
While Navy officials are clear to tell Warrior Maven that the service does not comment on pending legislation related to Congressionally-authorized funding, service leaders have been quite vocal about the Navy and Marine Corps need for more amphibs for many years now.
“Navy and Marine Corps officials have testified that fully meeting U.S. regional combatant commander requests for day-to-day forward deployments of amphibious ships would require a force of 50 or more amphibious ships,” the Congressional report states.
The first LPD-17 Flight II ship, formerly called the LXR, is being acquired this year. Speeding up procurement of the second ship of this new class of amphibs helps address the Navy’s shortage of amphibious assault ships and further expedites the Navy’s planned fleet expansion to 355-ships.
LX(R) concept based on the LPD-17 design
The Navy plans new LPD-17 Flight II amphibs to replace its current fleet of Dock Landing Ships, or LSD 41s, which have functioned for years as a support ship in an Amphibious Ready Group. This strategic move to replace Dock Landing Ships with an LPD 17-like hull seems to speak to a Navy effort to expand amphibious capability to adjust to a new, fast-changing threat environment.
The demand for amphibs is in part so great, because the versatile ships are needed for combat and a wide range of humanitarian and non-combat missions.
“Although amphibious ships are designed to support Marine landings against opposing military forces, they are also used for operations in permissive or benign situations where there are no opposing forces. Due to their large storage spaces and their ability to use helicopters and landing craft to transfer people, equipment, and supplies from ship to shore without need for port facilities,” the CRS report writes.
New Navy LPD-17 Flight II — future amphib strategy
The Navy hopes to add much greater numbers of amphibious assault ships to the fleet while simultaneously adjusting to a modern threat landscape which will require more dis-aggregated operations and require single Amphibious Ready Groups to perform a much wider range of missions. Modern near peer adversaries increasingly posses long range sensors and precision-guided munitions, a phenomenon which will require much more operational diversity from ARGs.
The Navy used to be able to deploy up to five ARGs at one time, however the fleet is no longer the size it used to be in the 1980s and the service is working on a strategy to get by with fewer ARGs and as fewer amphibs overall. As a result, the Navy needs more ships that have the technological ability to operate independently of an ARG if need be.
LCAC-55, a Navy Landing Craft Air Cushion
(U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Sarah E. Ard)
The modern threat environment contains a wider range of contingencies to include counterterrorism operations, counter-piracy, humanitarian missions, disaster response, and full-scale amphibious combat operations against near-peer adversaries. This requires that the three ships in an ARG have an ability to disperse when necessary and operate independently. The Navy and Marine Corps increasingly explains that modern missions require more split or dis-aggregated operations.
A lead Amphibious Assault Ship, a Dock Landing Ship, or LSD, and the San Antonio-class LPD 17 amphibious transport dock are both integral to an Amphibious Ready Group, which typically draws upon a handful of platforms to ensure expeditionary warfighting technology. The ARG is tasked with transporting at least 2,200 Marines and their equipment, including what’s called a Marine Expeditionary Unit, or MEU.
The 684-foot long LPD 17s can hit speeds of 22 knots and carry four CH-46 Sea Knights or two MV-22 Osprey aircraft. The LSD, or Dock Landing Ship, also travels around 20 knots however it is only 609-feet long and not equipped to house aircraft.
Both the LPD 17 and the LSDs have well-decks for amphibious operations along with the ability to launch Landing Craft Air Cushions, or LCACs. However, the LPD17 weighs close to 25,000 tons and the LSD is only 16,000 tons.
The 1980’s-era LSD dock landing ships consist of eight Whidbey Island-class 609-foot long ships. The 15,000-ton ships, configured largely to house and transport four LCACs, are nearing the end of their service life, Navy developers say.
While the mission of the existing Dock Landing Ship (LSD) is primarily, among other things, to support an ability to launch Landing Craft Air Cushions, or LCACs, for amphibious operations, the new LPD-17 Flight II ship will have an expanded mission to include more independent missions. LCACs are ship to shore connector vehicles able to transport Marines and equipment from ship-to-shore beyond the horizon. LCACs can even carry M1 Abrams tanks over the ocean.
An Amphibious Transport Dock, or LPD, is designed to operate with greater autonomy from an ARG and potentially conduct independent operations as needed. An LSD is able to operate four LCACs and the more autonomous LPD 17 can launch two LCACs.
USS Saipan LHA-2 amphibious assault ship
(U.S. Navy photo)
Developers explain that the LPD-17 ship will have a much wider mission set than the fleet of LSD ships it is replacing.
As a result of this wider mission requirement for the LX(R), the ship is being engineered with greater aviation and command and control technologies that the LSD 41 ships it is replacing.
Additional command and control capabilities, such as communications technologies, will allow the ship to reach back to the joint force headquarters they are working for, stay in with the parent ship and control the landing force, Navy and Marine Corps developers added.
Having more amphibs engineered and constructed for independent operations is seen as a strategic advantage in light of the Pacific rebalance and the geographical expanse of the region. The widely dispersed territories in the region may require a greater degree of independent amphibious operations where single amphibs operate separately from a larger ARG.
Corps officials explain that the greater use of amphibious assault ships is likely as the Marine Corps continues to shift toward more sea-based operations from its land-based focus during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
At the same time, Navy and Marine Corps leaders are quick to acknowledge that there is a massive shortfall of Amphibious Assault Ships across the two services. In recent years, senior service leaders have said that if each requirement or request for amphibs from Combatant Commanders worldwide were met, the Navy would need 50 amphibs.
The Navy currently operates only roughly 30 amphibs and plans to reach 38 by the late 2020s.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
With tensions in the South China Sea simmering — and getting hotter (the People’s Liberation Army Navy stole an American underwater drone) — the chances that America and China could come to blows are increasing. The fight could very likely be a naval-air fight, but there could also be the need for something not really seen since the Korean War: amphibious assaults.
The United States has the world’s preeminent military force in that capacity: The United States Marine Corps.
The People’s Republic of China turns to the People’s Liberation Army Navy Marine Corps for its needs in this area. These two forces are similar in that both have a mission to deploy by sea to carry out operations on land.
The Chinese force, though, consists of two brigades in the South China Sea area, totaling 12,000 active-duty personnel, according to GlobalSecurity.org. Calling up reserves could boost the force to 28,000.
That force is arguably outmatched by the USMC’s III Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF), based out of Okinawa. A typical MEF has over 50,000 Marines, and features both a division and an air wing.
U.S. and Chinese Marines shoot the type-95 rifle in a joint training exercise. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jeremy J. Harper)
The Chinese Marines are equipped with armored vehicles, notably the Type 59 main battle tank and the Type 63A amphibious tank. The former is a knockoff of the Soviet T-55, carrying a 100mm gun.
The latter is an interesting design, equipped with a 105mm main gun, which holds 45 rounds, but capable of swimming to shore. China also has large stocks of Soviet-era PT-76 and indigenous Type 63 amphibious tanks in its inventory as well.
The Marines have the M1A1 Abrams tank, which is not amphibious. That said, this is a very tough tank that has deflected shells from more powerful tank guns from 400 yards. Against the Type 63A, it would easily survive a hit and then dispatch the tank that shot at it.
While the Type 63A can swim to a battlefield, it trades protection for that ability. The result is that its thin armor can be easily penetrated, and that is bad news for its crew.
The tank disparity is not all that would hamper the Chinese Marines. The People’s Liberation Army Navy did not see fit to provide the Chinese Marines with any organic aviation. III Marine Expeditionary Force has the 1st Marine Air Wing, a powerful force that includes a squadron of F/A-18D Hornets, KC-130J tankers, and AH-1Z attack helicopters. That does not include units that rotate in from the United States, including AV-8B Harriers and F/A-18C Hornets.
In short, the United States Marine Corps brings in over 240 years of tradition, as well as far greater manpower, resources and capabilities. At present, if the United States wants China off of its unsinkable aircraft carriers, the American leathernecks would, in all likelihood, succeed.