The powerhouse that will help NASA’s Orion spacecraft venture beyond the Moon is stateside. The European-built service module that will propel, power, and cool during Orion flight to the Moon on Exploration Mission-1 arrived from Germany at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Nov. 6, 2018, to begin final outfitting, integration, and testing with the crew module and other Orion elements.
The service module is integral to human missions to the Moon and Mars. After Orion launches on top of the agency’s Space Launch System rocket, the service module will be responsible for in-space maneuvering throughout the mission, including course corrections. The service module will also provide the powerful burns to insert Orion into lunar orbit and again to get out of lunar orbit and return to Earth. It is provided by ESA (European Space Agency) and built by ESA’s prime contractor Airbus of Bremen, Germany. NASA’s prime contractor for Orion, Lockheed Martin, built the crew module and other elements of the spacecraft.
“We have a strong foundation of cooperation with ESA through the International Space Station partnership, and the arrival of the service module signifies that our international collaboration extends to our deep space human exploration efforts as well,” said Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA’s associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations.
The European-built service module brings together new technology and lightweight materials while taking advantage of spaceflight-proven hardware. It is comprised of more than 20,000 components, including four solar array wings that provide enough electricity to power two three-bedroom homes, as well as an orbital maneuvering system engine, a recently refurbished engine previously used for in-orbit control by the space shuttle. Beginning with Exploration Mission-2, the module also will provide air and water for astronauts flying inside Orion, which will carry people to destinations farther than anyone has travelled before and return them safely to Earth.
“Our teams have worked together incredibly hard to develop a service module that will make missions to the Moon and beyond a reality,” said Mark Kirasich, NASA’s Orion program manager. “It is quite an accomplishment of ESA and Airbus to have completed the developmental work on the module and have this major delivery milestone behind us.”
Now that the service module is at Kennedy, it will undergo a host of tests and integration work ahead of Exploration Mission-1. Engineers will complete functional checkouts to ensure all elements are working properly before it is connected to the Orion crew module. Teams will weld together fluid lines to route gases and fuel and make electrical wiring connections. The service module and crew module will be mated, and the combined spacecraft will be sent to NASA’s Glenn Research Center’s Plum Brook Station in Ohio early 2019 where it will undergo 60 days of continuous testing in the world’s largest thermal vacuum chamber to ensure Orion can withstand the harsh environment of deep space. Once that testing is complete, it will return to Kennedy for integration with the SLS rocket in preparation for launch.
NASA is leading the next steps to establish a permanent human presence at the Moon. The first in a series of increasingly complex missions, Exploration Mission-1 is a flight test of an uncrewed Orion spacecraft and SLS rocket that will launch from NASA’s modernized spaceport at Kennedy. The mission will send Orion 40,000 miles beyond the Moon and back and pave the road for future missions with astronauts. Together, NASA and its partners will build the infrastructure needed to explore the Moon for decades to come while laying the groundwork for future missions to Mars.
This article originally appeared on NASA. Follow @NASA on Twitter.
An attack in Niger that left four American Green Berets and five Nigerien soldiers dead earlier this month has sparked a nationwide debate over how the Trump administration has handled the incident.
During a condolence call with Myeshia Johnson, the widow of one of the men who was killed, President Donald Trump reportedly told her that her husband “knew what he signed up for.” Democratic Rep. Frederica Wilson of Florida, a friend of Johnson’s family who listened to the call on speakerphone, called Trump’s remarks “insensitive.”
In response, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly called Wilson an “empty barrel,” and said he was appalled that the congresswoman shared what she heard on that call. Trump fired off several tweets calling Wilson “wacky” and disagreeing with the widow’s impression of the call.
As the feuding continued, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford held a press conference at the Pentagon on Monday addressing reports that the Trump administration was withholding information about what really happened in Niger.
Dunford said 12 members of the US Special Operations Task Force joined 30 Nigerien forces on a reconnaissance mission from Niamey, Niger’s capital city, to an area near the remote village of Tongo Tongo.
October 4: The day of the attack
US soldiers and the Nigerien troops met with local leaders to try to gather intelligence information, Dunford said. Some of the soldiers stayed behind to guard their vehicles, a US defense official told CNN.
As the meeting came to a close, the soldiers became suspicious when the village leadership started stalling and delaying their departure.
When US troops started walking back to their vehicles mid-morning, they were attacked by approximately 50 militants. Dunford said the enemy was likely from an ISIS-affiliated group of local tribal fighters.
The militants fired on the US-Nigerien patrol team with small arms, machine guns, and rocket-propelled grenades. This apparently caught the Americans and Nigeriens by surprise.
One hour later: US troops request reinforcements
An hour into the firefight, the American soldiers asked for support to thwart the attack.
Dunford said a drone arrived overhead “within minutes,” although it was only sent to gather intelligence. French Mirage fighter jets capable of striking enemy targets arrived at the scene “within an hour.”
Later that afternoon, French attack helicopters arrived along with a Nigerien quick reaction force as well.
Sgt. La David Johnson was somehow separated from the rest of his unit. US military officials were not able to explain how or when exactly that happened.
“This [attack] was sophisticated,” an intelligence official told ABC News. “Our guys not only got hit hard, but got hit in-depth.”
Responding to questions about why the US troops didn’t request reinforcements sooner, Dunford said he wouldn’t judge why it took them an hour to ask for backup.
“I’ve been in these situations myself where you’re confronted with enemy contact, [and] your initial assessment is you can deal with that contact with the resources that you have,” he said. “At some point in the firefight, they concluded they then needed support, and so they called for additional support.”
That night: US soldiers evacuated
French military Super Puma helicopters evacuated US soldiers who were wounded during the firefight to Niamey.
Three soldiers killed in action were also evacuated: Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson, and Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright. One soldier, Sgt. Johnson, was still missing.
October 6: Johnson’s body is finally discovered
Dunford said US officials continue to investigate how Johnson separated from the team and why it took 36 hours to recover his body.
Secretary of Defense James Mattis, meanwhile, has insisted that Johnson was not “left behind.”
“The US military does not leave our troops behind, and I would just ask you not question the actions of the troops who were caught in the firefight and question whether or not they did everything they could in order to bring everyone out at once,” he said.
An intelligence official told ABC News that Johnson’s locator beacon was giving unclear reports, and he seemed to be moving.
“Johnson’s equipment might have been taken,” the official said. “From what we now know, it didn’t seem like he was kidnapped and killed. He was somehow physically removed from where the combat took place.”
That same day, the Pentagon identified the three other soldiers who were killed.
October 7: Johnson’s body is returned to Dover Air Force Base in Maryland
Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright (left), Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson (center), and Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black. Photos from US Army.
October 16: Trump first addresses the incident publicly
During a press conference at the White House, CNN asked Trump why it took so long for him to come out with a statement about what happened in Niger.
“If you look at President Obama and other presidents, most of them didn’t make calls,” Trump responded. “A lot of them didn’t make calls. I like to call when it’s appropriate.”
That exchange was the first time Trump addressed the Niger ambush publicly.
Tuesday, October 17 to Monday, October 23: The condolence call controversy
Trump, Kelly, and Wilson exchanged barbs last week, disagreeing over what the president said during his condolence call with Myeshia Johnson, Sgt. Johnson’s widow.
The Gold Star widow broke her silence on Monday, saying that Trump had trouble remembering her husband’s name and told her that “he knew what he signed up for.” Johnson said she cried after she got off the phone.
After the interview aired, Trump tweeted, “I had a very respectful conversation with the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, and spoke his name from beginning, without hesitation!”
“If my husband is out here fighting for our country, and he risked his life for our country, why can’t you remember his name? That’s what made me upset and cry even more,” she told “Good Morning America.”
October 23: Dunford outlines key details in the attack
In a 45-minute briefing on Monday, Dunford acknowledged that many looming questions about the attack are still unanswered.
Questions he’s hoping the military’s investigation can uncover include:
“Did the mission of US forces change during the operation?”
“Did our forces have adequate intelligence, equipment and training?”
“Was there a pre-mission assessment of the threat in the area accurate?”
“How did US forces become separated during the engagement, specifically Sgt. Johnson?”
“And why did they take time to find and recover Sgt. Johnson?”
“These are all fair questions that the investigation is designed to identify,” he said.
(Featured image: Nigerian army soldiers shoot targets under 60mm illumination mortar rounds as a part of Exercise Flintlock 2017 in Diffa, Niger, March 9, 2017. Department of Defense photo.)
Early one morning in Galeana, Mexico, a series of pickup trucks pulled up to a small, unassuming house. It was like many houses in the state of Chihuahua, except this one was occupied by the family of a man who decided to stand up to the drug cartels that had for so long terrorized his friends and neighbors. The man (along with a friend who had come by to check on the commotion) were dragged away at gunpoint. The narcos drove them down the street and shot them.
That was the last straw. Now there’s a new force standing up to the cartels terrorizing the people and government of Mexico, a resistance is coming from what you might think of as an unlikely source: The Mormon Church.
The war on drugs in Mexico has seen an uptick in violence in recent years. When the government switched its tactics to take down the higher-ranking members of the cartels, their successes left power vacuums in their wake, which sparked wars for dominance among individuals inside the cartels. As a result, the drug-related violence has only gotten more widespread and more intense as time wore on. The violence is ten times deadlier in Mexico than in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Vice reporter and founder Shane Smith drove down to Chihuahua to talk to the long-established Mormon colony run by the Lebaron family, descendants of the first Mormon settlers in the region. The Lebaron family, like most who stand up to bullies, were just pushed around once too often, as a result of kidnappings, extortion, and ultimately, murder.
Vice founder Shane Smith with the Mexican Federal Police at a Chihuahua road block.
Mormons first came to Mexico in 1875 to escape persecution from the U.S. government for their beliefs, specifically plural marriage – also known as polygamy. Those who refused to adhere to the United States’ demand to end the practice came to Mexico where they could continue what they saw as not only a divine right, but a commandment. Their descendants still live there to this day, just south of the border.
The murders in Galeana were the result of the Mormon colonies who put pressure on the cartels through their political partners in the Mexican government. After one of their own was kidnapped, they told the government to do something about it, or they would do it themselves. The kidnapped child was returned unharmed, but shortly after, the Mormons paid the price with the lives of Benjamin Lebaron and his friend Luis Widmar.
Firearms smuggled from the United States into Mexico and captured by the Federales.
That changed the game. The Mormons went through the process of getting gun ownership rights in the country, no small feat. Then they called in the Federales, who use their colony – a known safe haven from narcos – as a base of operations, intercepting drug smugglers on major highways in Chihuahua, conducting patrols and raids, and watching the traffickers as they work. The Mormons themselves have also joined the fight, they have adopted the tactics of U.S. troops fighting insurgents in the Iraq War, setting roadblocks and observation posts of their own.
Word got around to the narcos, eventually. Rumor has it the Mormons employ scouts and snipers to defend their colonies. The drug traffickers are all known to the Mormons now, their vehicles and faces easily identifiable to Church leaders, who work in close concert with the Mexican federal police. Their enduring vigilance has led to an uneasy stalemate in violence and kidnappings. They still occur, but with much less frequency.
Looks like it’s about time to get back to the grind, guys. Grab that razor and shave off that poor excuse for a block-leave beard because Uncle Sam is about to get his dues again. You got all the warm and fuzzies from telling your family and friends you’re in the military, but now it’s time to do actual military stuff again.
On the bright side, next week is going to be lazy. While you’re slugging through the motor pool, know that you’re not alone —your chain of command is in the same boat. They just can’t show it since, ya know, burdens of leadership and all.
Oh? You thought the 100% accountability urinalysis was to “ensure good order and discipline?” Hell no. Your NCOs want to get out of PT just as much as you do.
Here’re some memes to help bring you back into the military mindset:
There has never been an active-duty military spouse elected to Congress. As overall military representation has fallen by roughly 20% over the past 60 years, spouses of service members are seeking to close the military-civilian representation gap.
Military Families Magazine spoke to three military spouses running for elected office in 2020 to see what led them to take the leap from concerned citizen to candidate.
First active-duty spouse in Congress?
If elected in November, Lindsey Simmons, a candidate for Missouri’s 4th Congressional District, would be the first active-duty military spouse elected to Congress. To put that in context there are currently 535 representatives in the 116th Congress. Since the election of the first female representative in 1917 there have been 51 sessions of Congress and thousands of opportunities to elect an active-duty military spouse.
Army spouse Lindsey Simmons is running for Missouri’s 4th Congressional District. Her political journey began when she started working with and for veterans in her community, trying to close the civilian-military representation gap. (Military Families Magazine)
Like many military spouses, Simmons’ journey into public service started through her advocacy for military families, with a desire to improve schools and health care access.
“I recognized that There was a huge gap between military families and civilian families,” Simmons said. “And so much of the policies coming down from Washington and how they were affecting our families never made the news.”
On the surface, the military population seems diverse, with increased participation from women and minorities. However, those who join the military are more likely to come from military families. With the overall size of the military in decline, the average citizen’s connection to someone in the military has dropped. Seventy-nine percent of baby boomers have a military connection as compared to only 33% of millennials.
If military families choose not to participate in a “second service” by running for elected office, then their voices and experiences are left out of the political process, widening the civilian-military representation gap.
Simmons is running for Missouri’s 4th Congressional District. Her political campaign was born out of her concern for her communities’ access to healthcare and other services. (Military Families Magazine)
With fewer experienced representatives in Congress, “their [politicians’] only notion of the military is what they see,” Simmons said. “And often the liaisons that DOD sends are going to be higher-ranking officers.”
Because military spouses are not subject to DOD Directive 1344.10 — the regulation that prevents active-duty service members from engaging in politics — there is no reason they cannot attempt to close the gap. According to Sarah Streyder, Director of the Secure Families Initiative and active-duty Air Force spouse, there is a lack of clarity surrounding what level of political engagement is acceptable for military families. Military programming is “missing a call to public sector engagement,” Streyder said. There are no reasons spouses should not “lobby our representatives, by voting, by speaking up in order to be a more active part of the conversations that drive war and peace.”
Serve where you want to see change
Not everyone feels called to serve in Congress, but their participation is no less valuable. Navy spouse Alexia Palacios-Peters is running for the school board in Coronado, California. Things shifted for Palacios-Peters during a parent-teacher conference.
Coronado, California School Board candidate and Navy spouse Alexia Palacios-Peters participated in #thefrontstepsproject while actively running for elected office. Photo credit: Katie Karosich. (Military Families Magazine)
“It became clear that the teacher didn’t realize dad was deployed and had been extended four times,” Palacios-Peters said. “You’re in a military town and how many kid’s parents are on the [U.S.S. Abraham] Lincoln?”
It seemed that Coronado, a proud Navy town with a high military population, didn’t have strong military representation.
“Not all of them are residents here or are able to vote here,” Palacio-Peters said. As a politically-active resident, she hopes to “be that voice for military families because decisions are going to affect our kids.”
Being a voice in local communities is not out of reach for the average disinterested citizen.
Before Melissa Oakley decided to run for elected office, she actively participated in politics, founding the Onslow Beat Conservative News Blog. Oakley is pictured interviewing Congressman Dr. Greg Murphy (R) after his first town hall. (Military Families Magazine)
“I really wasn’t into politics,” Melissa Oakley, a Marine Corps spouse who is running for the Board of Education in Onslow County, North Carolina, said. “I had the mindset ‘I’m a military spouse and they know I’m going to move, and they don’t want us.’ But in reality, they really do want us.”
Oakley’s call to service was born out of her personal conviction to help her community. She founded a food pantry and supported local like-minded political leaders. According to Oakley, local government involvement is vital.
“A lot of people think that we need to focus on the president; no not really. Because if you’re a homeowner your local government is controlling your property taxes being raised,” she said.
Military spouses can make a difference in the communities in which they live. The only hurdle is finding a way to get involved.
Where do I start?
Because Melissa Peck, a Navy spouse, was stationed in Japan with her family, she felt removed from the 2016 election cycle. Rather than throwing up her hands in frustration, upon her return to the U.S. she immediately joined her local political committee and brought her family along for the ride.
“All four of my kids have gone canvassing with me,” Peck said. “They have attended political rallies. We hosted a meet and greet for a congressional candidate in our home.”
Today, Peck is an elected leader of her local political party.
All candidates agree. You don’t have to run for office to make a difference. Whether you contribute one hour a month, or you turn your volunteering into a full-time job, it is appreciated. It’s attainable. And it makes a difference.
Wondering what you can do to make an impact on your community? You don’t have to run for office to make change happen:
Easy next steps
Register to vote.
Volunteer for a candidate or political party you support.
Research candidates for the 2020 election via Vote411.org.
Go to school board meetings.
Show up to virtual and in-person town halls.
Sign a petition for a cause you support.
Involve your kids. Show them the process isn’t just for politicians.
A notebook written in English that may have belonged to an ISIS fighter was reportedly found in a jail in Raqqa, according to the National, which exclusively obtained the notebook from an unnamed source.
The notebook reportedly details the inner workings of the militant group, including their future plans, military shortcomings, and issues foreign fighters faced within the group.
According to pictures of the purported notebook provided by the National, the pages appear to be written in English by one author who used American spelling of words and numbers. A second author wrote in French, and Arabic was used in some of the text as well.
The author details ISIS’s core strategies for maintaining control in the region.
On one page, the author describes how to prevent defectors from leaving ISIS territory: “We should push civilians who want to flee to our centers of gravity in Mosul and Raqqa.” The author added: “The enemy might try to break our control over an area and allow civilians to escape.”
The notebook describes a solution, written in large letters “THE BIG SOLUTION” which explains that ISIS should not use “conventional military power against a much stronger foe,” and suggests the group focus on “insurgency” until their “political situation allows for a more conventional approach.”
Another page compares several types of guns and their cost in dollars using hand drawn pictures.
The author also discusses expanding efforts to other countries, including Saudi Arabia. A page reportedly questions: “How to make Saudi like Syria? Can we get people to hate Their [sic] rulers?”
The author continues: “Mecca and Medina are a priority for the [caliphate] to actually influence world Muslims. But to get there we need to destabilize Al-Saud. Direct action against Al-Saud from Iraq will likely fail militarily and attract US ground troops so the best way to do this is internally, with the support for Yemen and Iraq.”
The writings also appear to show that ISIS fighters kept up with international news, and often monitored global political cycles.
The author offers suggestions on how to pull “the USA to another major war to exhaust its economy.” The writer also extensively followed the US presidential elections, and said key decisions would depend on US political action.
“The US decisions are very important, and they depend on the Presidential elections.”
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)
“However, if democrats lose, a Republican administration would be more likely to bring US boots on the ground, and cooperation with Iran will likely stop,” the author reportedly wrote.
The journal also reportedly layed out a strategy for confronting the US on the battlefield: “Fighting the USA might be more dangerous militarily, but it will grant IS respect in muslim [sic] eyes.”
The notebook also reveals the innermost thoughts of what appears to have been a foreign ISIS fighter. At the bottom of a page detailing “important” military issues “to study,” the author asks himself: “Who am I? What should I do? Why am I here? How did I reach this place?”
According to the report, the author bemoans several limitations within the group, including lack of training time to militant fighters and notes there were “problems created by different languages.”
Associate Professor at the Naval War College Monterey, Dr. Craig Whiteside, told the National that there were notable similarities between the strategies laid out in the book and the strategies taught in western military training.
“The author has studied topics we study in a war college, such as the differences between policy and strategy.”
“If this is a foreign fighter, not studying their own country for military facilities but instead learning about Iraq and Syria, the goal is to encourage them to stay,” he added.
Figures from October 2017 show more than 40,000 fighters from more than 110 countries flocked to Syria and Iraq after its establishment in 2014. Reports indicate that roughly 129 US nationals joined the caliphate. Of those foreign fighters, at least 5,600 citizens or residents from 33 countries who have returned home.
“I didn’t have a normal and safe childhood,” Pvt. 1st Class Yasir Kadhum said woefully. “I did this so my kids could live, and be safe.”
Kadhum was born and raised in Baghdad, Iraq. Growing up, he never considered the life he lived was anything out of the ordinary, until he was an adult and attending his first year of college in 2003, when U.S. forces entered Iraq.
“It was a complicated feeling then,” Kadhum remembered. “We were happy, but it was also scary, because during the Saddam regime we had nothing. In 2003, we had hope.”
Iraq had become a warzone right in front of his eyes.
“When the coalition forces had come to Iraq to free us from Saddam, I was in college and decided I needed to help.”
Kadhum was hired by a U.S. contractor and used the time to establish himself and work on his English. When the request for translators was made from the U.S. Army, he knew he could do more.
Kadhum learned immediately that his job as an interpreter could have either a negative or positive effect based on his translations.
“If I missed one word when translating, then something could have happened,” he said.
Kadhum started his job as an interpreter working with a Military Transition Team. His team worked directly with the Iraqi army, training them and providing guidance on how to use equipment, clear rooms and other necessary tactical skills.
Being in the position he was in, Kadhum was sometimes the only connecting piece between the Iraqi forces and U.S. forces. Eventually, he would become a target of the enemy and had to start concealing his identity whenever traveling outside of his job.
“Our people think we aren’t good people because we help the U.S. Army,” he said. “They started threatening us and following us many times. They would threaten us either directly or indirectly.
Pvt. 1st Class Yasir Kadhum, an 88M (truck driver) assists in fueling vehicles during a driver’s training class, July 26, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jessica DuVernay)
I had to move my family with me from place to place. “
As a result of the threats, Kadhum felt pressured to leave the Military Transition Team and started working at a prison, still as an interpreter.
“This was another challenge for me,” he said. “To help the prisoners, and most of them were terrorists. But it was their human right.”
Kadhum said he gained experience in the proper and fair treatment of prisoners, despite the crime they committed. Ensuring the imprisoned received the right food and water in accordance with their rights was, at times, difficult for Kadhum, but despite his struggle, he continued to help facilitate the standard.
In 2007, Iraq had become a more dangerous place. Enemy forces were relentless with their attacks on the government, U.S. forces and the people of Iraq.
Kadhum’s main purpose for working with U.S. forces was to benefit the country and people of Iraq. Unfortunately, others did not feel that was the purpose of the interpreters.
“I felt like I was serving my country more than I was serving the U.S. Army,” Kadhum said. “I don’t feel like I did something wrong in my country, but other people did.
“All the time I must hide everything, even the ID I had, I had to hide in my boot. We had to travel together [the interpreters] to go home to make sure we were safe.”
Kadhum continued his support to the American forces until he determined it was no longer safe to stay in Iraq.
“I was scared for my son when he went to school,” Kadhum explained. “My wife would go with him and wait because maybe someone would kidnap him; every time he went to school my wife stayed with him.”
With the help of the program established for interpreters who assist the U.S., he was able to get a Special Immigration Visa and come to America with his wife and two children in August 2016.
“I feel like at first when I came here I felt safe,” he said. “My oldest is almost ten and my daughter is now three. Now I feel safe.
“If my son wants to go to the playground, I’m not scared someone will kidnap him. I’m not scared someone will be threatening me through him,” Kadhum continued. “Now I feel like my kids can grow up normal.”
A few months later, Kadhum was in a U.S. Army recruiter’s office looking for a way to give back to the very institution that he had already given so much.
“Right now for me the Army is not a job, it’s not a career,” he started. “I’m serving. This is what I feel because at least I can pay back what the U.S. Army did for me.
I came here and the first thing I thought was I needed to serve; because this Army has worked to help people to do better in their life. I believed it at the time even when I was an interpreter.”
In early July 2018, Kadhum recited the Naturalization Oath of Allegiance to the United States, and became an official U.S. citizen with more than 15 other soldiers during a ceremony on Fort Hood.
“I’m really happy but at the same time it is a big responsibility,” he said. “While serving in the Army it is a responsibility, but even if I get out of [the] Army as a civilian I still have more responsibility.
When you choose to get that citizenship it is different from the people who are born with the citizenship. When it’s harder to get it, it is a big commitment. I have more appreciation for it.”
Kadhum is looking ahead to the future for himself and his family.
“The best thing is because of the naturalization, I can do anything now,” he said. “My hopes are for my kids that they get to live a normal life and every thing will be perfect for them.”
While Black Hawks, Apaches, and Chinooks usually get top billing when the Army comes out to play at air shows and sporting events (plus the occasional MH-6 Little Bird when special operation aviators come to play), the service does have another helicopter quietly working behind the scenes to plug crucial gaps: the UH-72 Lakota.
But another reason the Lakota doesn’t usually get on the front page is that it doesn’t deploy. It wasn’t purchased to deploy, and then-Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno told Congress that it couldn’t go overseas as currently configured. It simply doesn’t have the necessary systems to protect itself from enemy fire and keep its pilots alive after crashes.
But the missions the Lakota can do are still important. It’s a workhorse that can fly in rough weather and provide assistance during disaster response. That’s a big part of why it’s primarily flown by National Guard units. It may not be expected to fight and win in the deserts of the Middle East, but it can hoist a family out of hell or high water during a wildfire or flood.
(Fort McCoy Public Affairs Office Scott Sturkol)
And it can do so at a discount. It costs 30 to 50 percent less to fly per flight hour than a Black Hawk according to Sikorsky estimates, partially thanks to the lack of all those protective systems that a Black Hawk has.
This is especially valuable when the UH-72 is used as an air ambulance, which it often is. Litter crews can load a patient in quickly and safely from multiple angles, and the helicopter can carry two litters and a medic per flight. In its utility role, it can carry eight troops instead of the two passengers.
All of this makes the Lakota great for homeland security and disaster response, and the Army has even made it the primary helicopter in its training fleet.
But don’t expect it to become the shiny crown jewel in the Army’s fleet. Modifying the Lakota to take on the Black Hawk’s mission or anything similar would drastically drive up costs and, without upgraded engines, adds little in terms of capability. And the Army is already shopping for more exotic designs like the tilt-rotor V-280 Valor and Sikorsky’s S-97 Raider with its compound rotor and push propeller.
Female Soldiers may now wear dreadlocks and male Soldiers whose religious faith requires beards and turbans may now seek permanent accommodation.
Army directive 2017-03, signed earlier this month, spells out changes to Army Regulation 670-1, the uniform policy, for the turban, worn by male Soldiers, the under-turban; male hair worn under a turban; the hijab, which is a head scarf worn by females; and beards worn by male members.
Sgt. Maj. Anthony J. Moore, the uniform policy branch sergeant major inside the Army’s G-1, said the policy change was made largely as a way to increase diversity inside the service, and to provide opportunity for more Americans to serve in uniform.
“This is so we can expand the pool of people eligible to join the Army,” Moore said. “There was a section of the population who previously were unable to enlist in the Army. This makes the Army better because you’re opening the doors for more talent. You’re allowing people to come in who have skills the Army can use.”
Female Soldiers have been asking for a while for permission to wear “locks,” or dreadlocks, Moore said.
“We understood there was no need to differentiate between locks, corn rows, or twists, as long as they all met the same dimension,” Moore said. “It’s one more option for female hairstyles. Females have been asking for a while, especially females of African-American decent, to be able to wear dreadlocks, and locks, because it’s easier to maintain that hairstyle.”
The Army directive says that each lock or dreadlock “will be of uniform dimension; have a diameter no greater than 1/2 inch; and present a neat, professional, and well-groomed appearance.”
All female Soldiers can opt to wear the dreadlocks, Moore said.
The Army has granted waivers to Sikh Soldiers since 2009 to wear a turban in lieu of issued Army headgear, and allowed those same Soldiers to wear the turban indoors when Army headgear would normally be removed. Moore said for those Soldiers, the waivers were permanent, but that it was unclear Army-wide that this was the case. That is no longer true, he said.
The new policy is that religious accommodation for Soldiers wanting to wear the turban needs to be requested only once, and that the accommodation will apply to them for their entire Army career.
In an Army directive dated Jan. 3, then-Secretary of the Army Eric K. Fanning made official the policy regarding the wear of turbans, beards, hijabs, and under-turbans.
“Based on the successful examples of Soldiers currently serving with these accommodations, I have determined that brigade-level commanders may approve requests for these accommodations, and I direct that the wear and appearance standards established in … this directive be incorporated into AR 670-1,” Fanning wrote in the directive.
“With the new directive, which will be incorporated into the Army regulation, religious accommodations are officially permanent for Soldiers,” Moore said.
Also a change: whereas in the past requests for such accommodation rose to the Pentagon before they could be approved, permission can now be granted by brigade-level commanders. Bringing approval down to that level, Moore said, speeds up the approval process dramatically.
That was the intent, Moore said. “They are trying to speed up the process for the Army and for the Soldier.”
Moore said the same religious accommodation rules apply for those Soldiers seeking to wear a beard for religious reasons, and to female Soldiers who want to wear a hijab as well.
If brigade-level commanders feel it inappropriate to approve the accommodation for some reason, he said, then they can recommend disapproval, but it must be channeled to the GCMCA for decision. Under the new policy, requests for religious accommodations that are not approved at the GCMCA-level will come to the secretary of the Army or designee for a final decision.
Still at issue for Soldiers is wear of a beard in conjunction with a gas mask.
“Study results show that beard growth consistently degrades the protection factor provided by the protective masks currently in the Army inventory to an unacceptable degree,” Fanning wrote in the Army directive. “Although the addition of a powered air-purifying respirator and/or a protective mask with a loose-fitting facepiece has demonstrated potential to provide adequate protection for bearded individuals operating in hazardous environments, further research, development, testing, and evaluation are necessary to identify masks that are capable of operational use and can be adequately maintained in field conditions.”
Moore said that until further testing is completed, and alternatives are found to protect bearded Soldiers in environments that are affected or are projected to be affected by chemical weapons, Soldiers with beards may be told to shave them in advance, with specific and concrete evidence of an expected chemical attack.
If a chemical warfare threat is immediate, Moore said, instructions to shave their beards would come from higher up, at the General Court-Martial Convening Authority-level — typically a division-level commander.
Likewise, Soldiers who seek religious accommodation to wear a beard will not be allowed to attend the Army schools required for entry into chemical warfare-related career fields, Moore said.
For wear of the beard, Moore said, the new directive allows for beards to be as long as the Soldier wants, so long as the beard can be rolled up and compressed to less than two inches from the bottom of the chin. Additionally, for those Soldiers wearing a beard under a religious accommodation, the rules for wearing a mustache are also new. Mustaches may extend past the corners of the mouth, but must be trimmed or groomed to not cover the upper lip.
Maj. Kamaljeet Kalsi, a civil affairs officer in the Army Reserve’s 404th Civil Affairs Battalion at Fort Dix, New Jersey, is a Sikh Soldier who wears both a turban and a beard. He said he welcomes the new policy change as an indication that the Army is now looking to both accolade his faith, and to open its doors to talent in the United States that might have been previously untapped.
“It means a lot to us,” Kalsi said. “And not just to Sikh Americans, but I think Americans that value religious freedom and religious liberty, and value diversity. I think it means a lot to all of us. To me it says the nation is moving in a direction that the founders intended, a pluralistic democracy that represents all. I think we’re a stronger nation when we can draw from the broadest amount of talent, the broadest talent pool. And it makes us a stronger military when the military looks like the people it serves.”
Capt. Simratpal Singh, with the 249th Engineer Battalion prime power section, said the policy is for him about acceptance.
“On a personal level, it means that I can serve freely and without having to worry about any stipulations or constraint,” he said. “That’s all I want: is to serve in the U.S. Army just like any of my peers.”
Because the next edition of AR 670-1 is expected to be published next month, the Army will not be able to include the new rules. But Moore said Soldiers can expect to see these most recent changes in the AR 670-1 that comes out at this time next year.
The midway point on construction of the Navy’s next aircraft carrier, the John F. Kennedy, CVN 79, was reached at the end of August 2018, when the latest superlift was dropped into place, shipbuilder Huntington Ignalls said in a release.
The modular-construction approach the shipbuilder is using involves joining smaller sections into larger chunks, called superlifts, which are outfitted with wiring, piping, ventilation, and other components, before being hoisted into place on the Kennedy.
The latest superlift makes up the aft section of the ship between the hangar bay and the flight deck. It is one of the heaviest that will be used, composed of 19 smaller sections and weighed 997 standard tons — roughly as much as 25 semi trucks. It is 80 feet long, about 110 feet wide, and four decks in height.
Below, you can see Huntington’s Newport News Shipbuilding division haul the massive superlift into place with the shipyard’s 1,157-ton gantry crane.
Workers installed an array of equipment, including pumps, pipes, lighting, and ventilation, into the latest superlift before it was lifted onto the ship.
The modular approach has allowed the shipbuilder to reach this point in construction 14 months earlier than it was reached on the USS Gerald R. Ford, the Navy’s first-in-class Ford-class carrier, the company said.
“Performing higher levels of pre-outfitting represents a significant improvement in aircraft carrier construction, allowing us to build larger structures than ever before and providing greater cost savings,” Lucas Hicks, the company’s vice president for the Kennedy program, said in the release.
A superlift is dropped into place on the aft section of the Navy’s next aircraft carrier, the John F. Kennedy, August 2018.
Huntington Ignalls started construction on the Kennedy in February 2011 with the “first cut of steel” ceremony. The ship’s keel was laid in August 2015, and the carrier hit the 50%-constructed mark in June 2017.
The shipbuilder said in early 2018 that the Kennedyreached 70% and 75% structural completion, which “has to do with superlifts and the number of structures erected to build the ship,” Duane Bourne, media-relations manager for Huntington Ignalls, said in an email.
With the nearly 1,000-ton superlift added at the end of August 2018, work on the Kennedy — structural or otherwise — is now halfway done.
The ship is now scheduled to move from dry dock to an outfitting berth by the last quarter of 2019, which would be three months ahead of schedule. Hicks said in April 2018 that the Kennedy was to be christened and launched in November 2019 and delivered to the Navy in June 2022.
USS Gerald R. Ford underway on its own power for the first time in Newport News, Virginia, April 8, 2017.
(US Department of Defense photo)
The Kennedy includes many of the new features installed on the Ford, like the Electromagnetic Launch System and Advanced Arresting Gear, both of which assist with launching and recovering aircraft. (One notable feature not included on the Ford: urinals.)
The Ford was delivered to the Navy in June 2017 — two years later than planned — and commissioned that year. The ship came at a cost of about .9 billion, which was 23% more than estimated. The Ford has faced a number of issues and is still undergoing post-commissioning work before it can be ready for a combat deployment.
The Navy and Huntington Ignalls have said lessons from the construction of the Ford will be applied to future carriers — though the Government Accountability Office said in summer 2017 that the .4 billion budget for the Kennedy was unreliable and didn’t take into account what happened during the Ford’s construction. The Pentagon partially agreed with that assessment.
The Kennedy is the second of four Ford-class carriers the Navy plans to buy. Work has already started on the next Ford-class carrier, the Enterprise, with the “first cut of steel” ceremony taking place in August 2017.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Every spring caterpillars shed their cocoons, emerging as butterflies. This timeless symbol of change is now being applied to enhanced chemical detection for our nation’s warfighters. Researchers from the military service academies, funded by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency’s Chemical and Biological Technologies Department, are using butterflies to detect trace amounts of chemical warfare agents with increased precision and speed.
Managed by DTRA CB’s Brian Pate, Ph.D., researchers at the U.S. Air Force Academy demonstrated that analyzing light reflected from the scales of a butterfly wing may fill a critical capability gap for our service members. Currently, only expensive, non-portable instrumentation exists for the required sensitivity of certain CWA. Other tools, such as colorimetric and nanomaterial methods show promise, however, they pose challenges for long-term field use such as inadequate sensitivity or sensor poisoning.
Highlighted in the ACS Omega article, “Sensing Chemical Warfare Agent Simulants via Photonic Crystals of the Morpho didius Butterfly,” researchers tested both naturally occurring and synthetic photonic crystals for CWA vapor detection. Using the reflective properties of the butterfly wings, researchers were able to identify changes in the refractive index or distance between structure layers.
When exposed to water, methanol, ethanol and simulants for mustard gas, researchers found that vapors could be detected at parts per million concentrations in under one minute. Offering an innovative, low-cost and rapid means of threat agent detection, this sensing technique may offer significant advantages for deployed warfighters. The portable technique only requires a small photonic crystal, a visible light source and a fiber optic cable. Further, this method could potentially be used as a long-term, continuous, passive sensor.
While promising, these sensing agents present some challenges such as generating a synthetic butterfly wing to increase vapor sensitivity and selectivity towards chemical agents. Ongoing efforts are underway at the Air Force Academy to address this issue.
Collectively, these efforts highlight the capability of the service academies to contribute to the chemical and biological defense enterprise’s mission of protecting our force from threat agents, while fostering critical thinking and technical excellence in the next generation of military leaders.
Few things in battle are scarier than a gas attack during a ground assault. The air grows thick with toxic mist, and the world shrinks to the view from a hot, sterile mask.
It’s the attack most troops have dreaded since the tactic was first used on a large scale at the Second Battle of Ypres over 100 years ago. Chemical warfare was outlawed in the wake of World War I, but it’s something that American forces still prepare for.
During a recent mock battle with the Australia military dubbed Exercise Koolendong in Darwin, Australia, Leathernecks from the 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment trainers dropped CS gas into fighting positions to force the troops to deal with a chemical attack in the middle of a firefight.
Photos from the exercise show how difficult it is for troops to fight during a chemical attack and provide an eery reminder of the mustard gas-blanketed battlefields on the War to End All Wars.
1. The assault began with simulated artillery firing in on Marine and allied positions
2. Despite the gas drifting into their positions, the Marines had to stand their ground
3. Range safety officers peer through the gas-filled haze to keep Marines injury free
4. Getting a gas mask on in time to stay alive in the middle of a fight can be a daunting task
5. Despite the restricted vision and discomfort, Marines still have to put rounds down range and keep the enemy at bay
Marines with Company C, 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, fire at enemy positions during a CS gas attack during a live fire range August 18, 2016, at Bradshaw Field Training Area, Northern Territory, Australia. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Sarah Anderson)
6. Troops take precious minutes testing the air to determine how best to survive the attack
7. It’s just as important for medical personnel to practice treating and evacuating casualties during a chem-bio attack
8. As America’s potential adversaries look for ways to defeat U.S. troops with unconventional weapons, it’s important that the services practice fighting during a chemical or biological attack — no matter how remote the possibility