As part of the fiscal 2019 defense budget, the Senate Armed Services Committee wants the U.S. to launch offensive cyber attacks in retaliation against Russia or any other country that tries to “significantly disrupt the normal functioning of our democratic society or government.”
The language appeared in the committee’s newly released conference report of the “John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019” a week after lawmakers on both sides of the aisle criticized President Donald Trump for not taking a hard stance on Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections during his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki.
The NDAA “authorizes the National Command Authority to direct U.S. Cyber Command to take appropriate and proportional action through cyberspace to disrupt, defeat, and deter systematic and ongoing attacks by Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran in cyberspace.”
“Defense committees have long expressed concern with the lack of an effective strategy and policy for the information domain, including cyberspace and electronic warfare,” the document states.
President Donald Trump
(Photo by Michael Vadon)
To assist the Defense Department in this challenge, the NDAA “establishes a policy that the United States should employ all instruments of national power, including the use of offensive cyber capabilities, to deter if possible, and respond when necessary, to cyber attacks that target U.S. interests with the intent to cause casualties, significantly disrupt the normal functioning of our democratic society or government, threaten the Armed Forces or the critical infrastructure they rely upon, achieve an effect comparable to an armed attack, or imperil a U.S. vital interest,” the document states.
Lawmakers became increasingly vocal in their concerns about Russian meddling in U.S. elections after Trump appeared to question his own intelligence agencies’ findings on the issue and take Putin’s word at the Helsinki summit that Russia had no part in interfering with the 2016 election.
United States President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki.
“I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today,” Trump said, according to The Associated Press.
“He just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: ‘I don’t see any reason why it would be,’ ” Trump said.
He later clarified his comments, saying he told Putin the U.S. won’t tolerate any election interference in the future.
“I let him know we can’t have this,” Trump said, according to an AP report. “We’re not going to have it, and that’s the way it’s going to be.”
In addition to the new language, Senate lawmakers increased research and development spending on cyber, and other emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, hypersonics and directed energy, by more than 0 million, the document states.
If signed by Trump, “the FY19 NDAA will help provide our men and women in uniform the resources and tools they need to face today’s increasingly complex and dangerous world,” according to a recent Senate Armed Services Committee press release.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Older U.S. Air Force jets — including the A-10 Thunderbolt II, eyed in recent years for retirement, and the F-15E Strike Eagle — are leading the air war against the Islamic State, statistics show.
U.S. military fighter-attack jets, bombers and drones have dropped more than 67,000 bombs since the 2014 start of Operation Inherent Resolve, the Defense Department’s mission against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, according to information provided by Air Forces Central Command.
Notably, fighter-attack aircraft released more than three times as many weapons as bombers did, the figures show. Drones dropped the least of any category of aircraft.
Aircraft like “the A-10, F-15E, and F-16 are breaking their backs because they are the right platform for the job and providing the right function,” Brian Laslie, an air power historian and author of the book, “The Air Force Way of War,” said in an email to Military.com.
Weapons Released by Aircraft
U.S. aircraft have released a total of 67,333 weapons from Aug. 8, 2014, through May 16, according to the data. While the F-15E released the most, the F-22 Raptor — one of the most advanced stealth fighters — dropped the least.
Here are the figures for the 10 types of U.S. aircraft flying combat sorties: F-15E Strike Eagle, 14,995 weapons released; A-10 Thunderbolt II, 13,856; B-1 Lancer, 9,195; F/A-18 Super Hornets, 8,920; F-16 Fighting Falcon, 7,679; B-52 Stratofortress, 5,041; MQ-1 Predator drone, 2,274; MQ-9 Reaper, 2,188; AV-8B, 1,650; and F-22, 1,535.
Broken down by aircraft type, fighter and attack planes dropped a total of 48,635 weapons, or 72 percent of the total; bombers released 14,236, or 21 percent; and drones dropped 4,462, or 7 percent, according to the statistics.
Capt. Kathleen Atanasoff, a spokeswoman for Air Force Central Command, or AFCENT, cautioned that the numbers released by the command — which includes assets and actions under the Combined Forces Air Component Commander, or CFACC — don’t reflect the “entirety of kinetic activity in OIR,” such as assets belonging to coalition partners or other U.S. components, like the Combined Joint Land Component Commander and Special Operations Joint Task Force.
“The amount of weapons employed by each aircraft varies due to a number of factors, such as time in theater, types of missions (i.e. close air support, air-to-air, escort, interdiction, etc.), ordnance type, etc.,” Atanasoff said in an email last week.
‘Lion’s Share of the Work’
While the Navy’s F/A-18 Super Hornets actually flew the most combat missions, the Air Force’s F-15Es dropped the highest number of bombs, releasing more than one in five of the total amount, according to AFCENT.
As the workhorses of the ISIS fight, the “E” model Strike Eagle is a dual-role jet with the ability to find targets over long ranges and destroy enemy ground positions.
The A-10 Thunderbolt II, the gunship popularly known as the Warthog or simply the ‘Hog’, has released almost as many weapons, albeit with a special type of accounting. Every 100 rounds from the Hog’s 30 mm Avenger gun is counted as one weapon, Atanasoff said.
Laslie said he wasn’t surprised that commanders are turning more frequently to fighters and close-air support aircraft in the campaign against ISIS — an operation estimated to cost roughly $13 billion so far.
After the Vietnam War, the service has operated as “a much more tactical Air Force,” he said. “From El Dorado Canyon in 1986 [campaign in Libya], to Desert Storm in ’91 and the Balkan campaigns of the mid-to-late 90s, tactical assets have done the lion’s share of the work.”
‘See the Airpower’
Atanasoff said the relatively lower strike number for the B-52 doesn’t mean the bomber isn’t as active as other aircraft, but rather that it simply hasn’t been in theater as long. The B-1 left the campaign in early 2016 and was replaced by the B-52 at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar.
Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein in February said, “You’re just going to see a continual rotation of both of those weapons systems.”
Col. Daniel Manning, the deputy director of the Combined Air Operations Center, last year noted the Stratofortress’ unique ability to stay airborne for a long duration.
“Frankly, we want our partners and the enemy to see the airpower [the B-52] has overhead,” he said at the time. “A B-52 encourages our partner force that we have their back. Being seen is actually a pretty good thing.”
Laslie said, “GPS and stand-off weapons (and permissive environments) have kept the B-52 in the game, but it really is a tactical conflict in OIR.” He said bombers like the B-52 — though strategically useful — “aren’t really optimized for this mission set” in quick, one-off strike sorties.
Hunting for Intel
Similarly, the relatively lower strike numbers for the F-22 stealth fighter and the MQ-1 and MQ-9 drones may be attributed to the fact that they’re often used for intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance to relay to other platforms and the Combined Air and Space Operations Center.
“We have refined our targeting process and become more efficient in layering our ISR to uncover targets that have made themselves available to us, which also has facilitated the number of weapons we’ve been able to deliver,” Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, commander of U.S. Air Forces Central Command, told reporters last week.
Leaders have also “relied on the F-22’s ability to fuse information, understand where our friendly forces are,” to watch, and deconflict with multiple forces on the ground, he said.
At times controllers are using Reapers, Predators or both “combined in a formation” as a more efficient way of using their sensors, according to Lt. Col. Eric Winterbottom, chief of the Commander’s Action Group, U.S. Air Forces Central Command.
Remotely piloted aircraft are likely the first aircraft dictating “strike or no strike calls based off what we’re seeing” from the sensors, Winterbottom said in October. They’re an example of why officials ask for more ISR assets to ease pressure on manned aircraft and to minimize collateral damage from airstrikes.
‘Tis the season for the giving of gifts. ‘Tis also the season of FOMUG (Fear Of Messed Up Gifting). We get it. It’s hard out there for an elf. Team WATM would like to offer you some guidance.
For the Most Interesting Man in the World or your beard-curious buddy:
~the brand of whisker oils created and prefered by Special Ops ~
Beard Oil, made by and for h-to-G* operators. (*honest-to-God — was that clear or unclear? Just wanna know for future use…)
Nicholas Karnaze is a man-lotion mixologist. A master craftsman of oils for beards. With his company, stubble ‘stache, he works to single-handedly elevate grooming standards for the bewhiskered gentlemen of the civilized world. How did this happen? How did Karnaze come to be your chin-wig’s Furry Godfather?
In 2012, Karnaze was a retired Marine Special Operator adjusting to civilian life, when he got the call that everybody fears. His close friend and fellow Raider, Sgt. Justin Hansen, had been killed in combat in Northwest Afghanistan.
Five stages of grief notwithstanding, everybody deals with the death of a comrade differently. For Karnaze, honoring Justin meant, among other things, forsaking the razor and letting his facial hair fly free and easy until the funeral. Justin was, himself, the proud owner of a truly mighty war beard. Karnaze’s gesture would prove to be both fitting tribute and an unexpected path forward.
Karnaze found that civilian #beardlife suited him. But the growth process was no picnic and there didn’t seem to be anything available to help him curb the itchiness or tame the unruliness of his rapidly maturing man-mane. So he improvised.
“I have fond memories of standing in my kitchen watching AMC’s Breaking Bad. Walt was making meth and I was making beard lotion.”
And when his Special Ops buddies caught wind of his efforts and started bugging him for samples, the cycle was complete and Heisen-beard was off to the entrepreneurial races.
These days, stubble ‘stache isn’t so much tending to individual beards as it is grooming a movement. Nobody’s saying you have to man-sprout a thick, bushy jowl-pelt in order to be awesome, much less masculine. The military has grooming standards for a reason and the squared-away men and women of the United States Armed Forces have been holding it down on Planet Earth for years now.
But if you are going to forge a path through the rich, peety byways of beardlife, all Karnaze is saying is, let him teach you how to show that mug-rug the respect it deserves. But most important of all–and this is evident in his company’s ardent financial support of organizations like the Marsoc Foundation – Karnaze wants warriors suffering from combat trauma of any kind to understand that a crucial aspect of masculinity–of awesomeness in general–is the willingness to ask for help.
The 2017 We Are The Mighty Holiday Gift Guide is sponsored by Propper, a tactical apparel and gear company dedicated to equipping those who commit their lives to serving others. All views are our own.
Speaking of Propper, they’re giving away twelve tactical packs filled with gear from our Holiday Gift Guide. Click this link to enter.
The Air Force’s and Boeing’s development of the new KC-46A Pegasus tanker has been waylaid by cost overruns and operational issues over the past several years.
Officials from the Air Force and Boeing have said that significant lingering problems, like contact between the KC-46’s refueling boom and the receiving aircraft during refueling, are expected to be resolved this year, ahead of Boeing’s October deadline to deliver 18 of the new tankers.
However, a report from the Pentagon’s Director of Operational Test and Evaluation has cautioned that while the KC-46’s most important systems could operate under EMP conditions, its operational capabilities in such a scenario have not been fully tested.
“While testing indicated the KC-46A flight-critical systems and boom refueling systems are likely survivable to the 6 decibel (dB) contractual requirement, the Program Office approved verification plan did not demonstrate the residual KC-46A mission systems capability during such an event,” according to the report, which covers fiscal year 2017 and was released last week.
“The program uninstalled or deactivated multiple mission-critical systems prior to testing and, therefore, their EMP tolerance was not tested on an aircraft in a mission-representative configuration,” the DOTE report said. “The program pre-deployed the refueling boom with hydraulics deactivated for the EMP test and therefore the capability to deliver fuel during or immediately following the EMP event was not tested.”
A KC-46 Pegasus refuels an A-10 Thunderbolt II, July 15, 2016. (Boeing photo by John D. Parker)
The KC-46 underwent EMP testing in July at Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland and at Edwards Air Force Base in California. During the testing in Maryland, the plane received pulses from “a large coil/transformer” above the aircraft, designed to evaluate its “ability to safely operate through electromagnetic fields … under mission conditions,” Boeing said at the time.
The DOET report said no tests were conducted with all flight and mission systems activated — a step required to fully test the aircraft under EMP conditions. But representatives from the Air Force and Boeing said the KC-46 had proven its EMP functionality as mandated by its test plan.
Air Force spokesman Maj. Emily Grabowski told Inside Defense that mission-critical systems has passed testing and that the systems the DOTE report highlighted are “non-critical.” Grabowski added that, overall, the KC-46 met system specifications and that the Air Force was working with DOTE to “reconcile” concerns raised in the report.
Charles Ramsey, a spokesman for Boeing, said EMP testing was conducted according to the Air Force’s test plan and that systems designated critical by that plan showed their functionality on a subsequent flight. “There are no EMP issues on the KC-46,” he told Inside Defense.
The Air Force is planning two tests related to nuclear threats during fiscal year 2018, which began in October and ends in September. One will evaluate the KC-46s ability to launch and fly a safe distance from a simulated nuclear attack on its base, and the other will test the tanker’s “inherent nuclear hardness” to blast, radiation, flash, thermal, and EMP effects, according to the DOTE report.
The DOTE report also notes that the KC-46 contract was awarded with a six-decibel threshold for the aircraft — a standard that the aircraft met during testing in July. However, after the contract was signed, the US military imposed a new 20-decibel standard tanker aircraft.
Without further testing, the report says, the Air Force and US Strategic Command will not know if the tanker meets that new requirement. “The Air Force should re-test the KC-46A in an operationally representative condition to determine the actual EMP design margin,” the report concludes.
‘They’re going to clear out pretty quick’
In December, the FAA granted Boeing an amended type certificate for the Boeing 767-2C, which is the baseline aircraft for the KC-46. The firm still needs to get an FAA supplemental type certificates for the military and aerial-refueling systems needed so the 767-2C can function as a KC-46. Additional tests are expected during the final review process.
The Air Force currently expects to receive the first operational KC-46s by late spring. Air Force Gen. Carlton Everhart, chief of Air Mobility Command, told Air Force Times in December that once testing is finished and the new tankers star arriving, he expects “they’re going to clear out pretty quick” to Air Force bases.
Boeing won the KC-46 program contract 2011, and the Air Force plans to buy 179 KC-46s under the $44.5 billion program. As a part of the contract, Boeing is responsible for costs beyond the Air Force’s $4.82 billion commitment, and as of late 2017, the defense contractor had taken on about $2.9 billion in pretax costs.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has had limited involvement in Pentagon weapons programs, but he issued a stark warning to acquisition officials in November, saying he was “unwilling (totally)” to accept flawed KC-46 tankers.
Maria Lewis was probably the most unlikely person to have ever fought in the American Civil War. She was an escaped slave, a woman, and was underage; all three of these factors barred individuals from serving. But Lewis was much smarter than the average person, let alone the average enslaved American. She fought in the war as a free white man, distinguished herself during her service, and was even part of an honor guard that presented captured rebel flags to the Secretary of War.
Kinda like this but with way more violence.
Born into slavery in 1847, Lewis and her family spent her younger years in Virginia around Albemarle County, near Charlottesville. At the age of 17, she assumed a new identity and a new life as an emancipated slave. The only real hitch was that she presented herself as something totally different when it came time to join the Union cavalry.
She enlisted as Private George Harris, a nod to the character in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s antebellum classic who escapes slavery as a Spanish man, in New York’s 8th Cavalry, which took part in many major battles throughout the war, including Antietam, Gettysburg, and the Confederate surrender at Appomattox Court House. She first participated with the 8th at the Battle of Waynesboro, near where she was born and enslaved.
The battle at Waynesboro ended the fighting in the Shenandoah for good.
Her service saw her join Union General Philip Sheridan’s army in the Shenandoah Valley, where the Union Army soundly defeated Confederate General Jubal Early and devastated the Confederate economy in the area and beyond. After the war, however, George Harris/Maria Lewis had no home to go back to and very little is known about her postwar life. She traveled to Rochester, New York, where the 8th Cavalry was originally formed, to live with the family of one of her officers. Historians believe this officer hid her secret during the war and, as a result, would naturally have been a close confidant.
Lewis Griffin was an abolitionist lieutenant in the 8th Cavalry. His sister, Julia Wilbur, wrote about the “colored woman [who] has been here who has been with the 8th N.Y. Cav. for the last 18 months.” She wrote a few more details:
“She knows Mr. Griffin. She wore a uniform, rode a horse and carried a sword and carbine just like a man. The officers protected her and she was with them mostly. The regiment didn’t know that she was a woman. She was called Geo. Harris, but her real name is Maria Lewis. She is from Albermarle Co. Va. and escaped to the Union army.”
Rochester, NY in the days following the Civil War’s end.
Many knew Lewis when she wore a dress on the streets of Rochester. She was more than happy to don a petticoat and perform the tasks of a woman of the time. But she was also known to celebrate her veteran status with those who fought alongside her.
When celebrating her service, she wore her full military uniform.
In the United States, we enjoy a good amount of federal holidays, during which many employers give their employees a paid day off. During these breaks, which sometimes result in a three- or four-day weekend, everyone can take some time to relax with friends and family — maybe even enjoy a barbecue.
Everyone, that is, except the troops deployed to combat zones. On these days, troops will (sometimes) get a slightly nicer meal served by their chain of command before they return to the grind.
To celebrate the troops that are in harm’s way and the sacrifices their families make, we have today, October 26th, the oft-forgotten Day of the Deployed. Despite the fact that it’s officially recognized by all 50 states as of 2012, you’ll likely see far more people posting things to their social media account about National Breadstick Day, which, this year, happens to share the date.
While the holiday doesn’t necessarily call for huge, elaborate celebration, officially recognizing it as a federal holiday during times of ongoing conflicts would go a long way. Hear us out.
Lt. Col. Honsa’s cousin worked to give him a nationally recognized holiday while he was deployed… The rest of our families need to step up their care package game…
Of the ten holidays observed by the federal government, two of them directly honor the military: Memorial Day, for fallen troops, and Veterans Day, for the living. There’s also Armed Forces Day, which honors the current, active duty military, but that holiday is rarely recognized outside of the military community.
The Day of the Deployed is similar to Armed Forces Day, but it specifically honors the troops who are currently deployed. The holiday first began in 2006 when Shelle Michaels Aberle approached North Dakota Governor John Hoeven to officially proclaim a day to specifically honor the troops out there fightin’ the good fight. The date October 26th was selected in honor of Aberle’s cousin, Lt. Col. David Hosna — the birthday of a soldier who, at the time, was deployed.
When Hoeven became a senator, he sponsored S.Res.295 on October 18th, 2011, to designate October 26th as the “Day of the Deployed.” It was approved unanimously and without any amendments. Since then, all 50 states have officially observed the holiday.
Six years later and the holiday is nothing more than a footnote at the bottom of calendars, found by those looking for wacky holidays — and that’s a shame. A day to commemorate the heroic acts of the troops fighting on the front lines does not deserve to be on the same level as Talk-Like-A-Pirate Day.
Federal recognition of the day would put it in league with the holidays that people get an extended weekend to celebrate — you know, the ones people take seriously. For this to make most sense, we’d need to make a couple of changes:
First, it should become a floating holiday — this year, it falls on the last Friday of October. In our opinion, that’s the perfect place for it. Not only would that mean a three-day weekend, it also means it could incorporate Remember Everyone Deployed Fridays in an official capacity, which gives people a way to celebrate.
And with the way that the postal system works for outlaying combat outposts, the care packages would arrive just before Christmas!
(U.S. Navy photo by Lt. j.g. Matthew Stroup)
On this newly upgraded National Day of the Deployed, everyone would wear red as a symbol and, as an action, they’d send care packages out to those on the front line. Hell, even if only a tiny fraction of the American population actually sends care packages, that’d be a huge windfall for the troops.
A day to remember the troops deployed overseas is an objectively better reason for a four day weekend.
(U.S. Army photo by CPT Jarrod Morris, TAAC-E Public Affairs)
Now, let’s take a look at the competitors. There are already three holidays that fall around(ish) the last Friday of October: Halloween, Columbus Day, and Veterans Day.
On Halloween, children enjoy a day of free candy and dressing like princesses and superheroes while adults awkwardly party while disguised as various pop-culture references. An extended weekend around that time would be very welcomed by the public — it wouldn’t hurt to give people a day off and let them know they have the troops to thank for it.
Earlier in the month, there’s Columbus Day, a federal holiday that’s becoming less relevant and more contentious by the year. As time goes on, evidence surfaces that suggests that Columbus, as an explorer, never stepped foot on American soil. He wasn’t the first person — or even the first European — to get here, and whether we should celebrate beginning of harsh times for American Indians is hotly debated. A 2014 report from Rasmussen showed that only eight percent of the U.S. population even believes that the day is even important. Honestly, we can’t see there being much push-back if we nixed Columbus Day in favor of Day of the Deployed.
It’d also never leave the American public’s mind that our troops are still not home to enjoy the little things — like paid time off.
(U.S. Navy photo by Lt. j.g. Lauren M. Gaidry)
Finally, on the other side of October, we’ve got Veterans Day. If Day of the Deployed were to become a floating holiday, it’d fall somewhere between eleven and eighteen days before Veterans Day.
If the final Friday of October happened to be the 31st, that means the country would enjoy back-to-back three-day weekends. If it fell on the 25th — the longest possible gap — that’d mean people could enjoy a total of eight days off and ten days of work between two holidays honoring the troops and what they’ve given this great nation of ours.
Give people that kind of time off and the freedom to enjoy themselves a bit, and you’ll truly drive home the point that brave men and women are out there sacrificing so that we can enjoy the liberties we do.
U.S. troops are still ready to “fight tonight” against North Korea despite the indefinite suspension of major military training exercises on the Korean peninsula, Pentagon officials said Tuesday.
Army Gen. Robert Abrams, commander of U.S. Forces Korea and the 28,500 U.S. troops on the peninsula, is confident “that we still have the readiness required to be able to respond to any aggression,” Air Force Lt. Gen. David Allvin told the House Armed Services Committee.
If Abrams “felt like he was not able to achieve the readiness to accomplish the mission for which he was assigned, he would certainly come up voicing that, and we’d be hearing that,” said Allvin, director of strategy, plans and policy for the Pentagon’s Joint Staff. “The overall posture remains strong.”
The large-scale Ulchi Freedom Guardian, Key Resolve and Foal Eagle exercises were suspended in 2018 by President Donald Trump as too costly and “provocative” to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who repeatedly branded them as practice for an invasion.
However, Allvin said that readiness has been maintained through more than 270 small-scale exercises with South Korean forces in 2019.
He said U.S. troops had conducted 273 of 309 “planned activities” with the South Koreans last year, giving the combined force the fighting edge to deal with any threat mounted by North Korea.
The readiness of U.S. forces is crucial as diplomatic leverage to maintain prospects for resuming long-stalled negotiations with North Korea on disarmament and denuclearization, said John Rood, the under secretary of Defense for Policy, but he cautioned that Kim’s next steps are impossible to predict.
A top North Korean official last month also threatened that the U.S. would be receiving a “Christmas gift” that the U.S. and regional allies suspected might be the launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile or a resumption of underground nuclear testing, but there was no follow-through.
“We are watching very carefully what they are doing,” Rood said. “We don’t know clearly the reasons why North Korea did not engage in more proactive behavior, which they seemed to be hinting they were planning to do in December.”
To maintain pressure on the North, the U.S. is continuing to ask South Korea to pick up more of the cost for the presence of U.S. troops on the peninsula, he said.
Twists and turns, bumps and bruises, the occasional crash. For many Veterans, the sport of bobsled is a metaphor for life.
Army Veteran Will Castillo’s story began on April 27, 2007. Castillo – then a staff sergeant – was riding along with Spc. Eddie Tamez and Pfc. David Kirkpatrick on patrol in Fallujah, Iraq, when their Humvee struck an improvised explosive device (IED).
The aftermath was a blur. When Castillo awoke, his sister and mother were by his bedside.
“I could hardly talk I was so heavily medicated,” he said. “I was just trying to survive.”
He was 27 years old, and his injuries had cost him his left leg – but he was alive. Tamez and Kirkpatrick did not survive.
Castillo spent the next two years at Walter Reed Army Medical Center recovering and learning to navigate life with one leg. Visitors came by to give him hugs, handshakes and well wishes. The Director of Homeland Security even offered him a job.
In 2009, he was discharged from Walter Reed, and he moved to Orlando to start anew. But life wasn’t good.
“I had survivor’s guilt. I thought about my guys, what had I done wrong. I was depressed. I was suicidal.”
His marriage crumbled, and his mental health deteriorated.
“All the struggles I was going through. I was Baker Acted,” Castillo said, referring to the Florida law that allows for emergency or involuntary commitment for mental health treatment.
He recovered, remarried and again tried to rebuild. But his struggles continued and, in 2015, he divorced for the second time.
In 2017, Castillo returned to Walter Reed for a follow-up operation to his injured leg. His life took an unexpected turn.
“A friend of mine was there and said to me, ‘You should try bobsled.’ I was extremely overweight, but I figured it would be something to keep me busy.”
Army Veteran Will Castillo displays his gold medal from the Empire State Winter Games para bobsled competition. Castillo is one of the world’s top ranked sledders in the sport. (Courtesy photo)
His first attempt was skeleton, a sport where the slider rides face down and head-first on a small sled down an ice track at speeds of more than 80 mph.
“It was terrifying,” he said. “I was 260 pounds. I was crashing into the walls. Those little sleds are not made for that weight.”
After a year at skeleton, he switched to monobob, a one-person bobsled that looks like a rocket on ice skates. He knew instantly he’d found his sport.
“Everything just slowed down, I was able to see everything. There was danger, but I did it. There’s no disability on that ice. For that one minute, it’s awesome.”
Veterans like Castillo are dominating the sport in the United States, thanks in large part to camps like the ones at Lake Placid. From 2015 to 2020, VA’s Adaptive Sports Grant had funded 16 camps for Veterans at Lake Placid and Park City, Utah, the only two bobsled track sites in the country.
Thanks to the VA grant, Veterans’ only cost to attend is travel to and from the camp.
Camps are typically five days and allow Veterans to stay on site at the Olympic Training Center. Once there, Veterans receive training from strength and conditioning experts, physical therapists and sports psychologists. After completing initial training, they head to the ice track where they learn the fundamentals of para-bobsled and skeleton.
“With bobsled, things are pretty expensive,” Seevers said. “To get the ice time and the bobsleds is a lot. Each of the bobsleds is ,000. For us to rent the sleds and pay for track time is typically between ,500 and ,000, dependent on the number of Veterans sliding.”
Veterans among world’s elite
At the 2019-2020 Para World Cup competition, all five U.S. team members were Veterans. They finished the season ranked 7th, 16th, 18th, 21st and 24th in the world.
Castillo is the number one ranked para-bobsledder in the U.S. and will pilot USA 1, the name of the monobob designated for Team USA’s top slider, in upcoming competitions. It’s an opportunity he humbly accepts.
“It all starts with VA and those camps,” he said. “Then you really have to put the work in and you start seeing the rewards. You get to put that uniform on again (and) represent the USA with integrity and honor.”
Para bobsled and para skeleton are relatively new sports with the first international competitions having taken place in 2013. Still, neither sport is recognized as Paralympic eligible. But that may soon be changing.
Marine Corps and Army Veteran Sarah Frazier-Kim is hoping her success can help the sport and other Veterans advance to the pinnacle of international competition.
Marine Corps and Army Veteran Sarah Frazier-Kim is one of the United States’ top para bobsledders. Athletes are hoping the sport will become one of the newest Paralympic competitions. (Courtesy photo)
“I always liked winter sports, even though I don’t like the cold,” she said. “I’d watch the Olympics on TV and bobsled and skeleton were sports I always loved.”
In 1995, Frazier-Kim was injured in a training accident in the Marine Corps. In January 2019, after years of complications, pain and suffering, doctors at Ft. Sam Houston amputated her right leg above the knee.
“(My doctor) asked me what I wanted to do. I told him I want to make Team USA. And he said, ‘We’ll get you there.'”
In November 2018, in anticipation of her surgery, she was sent for physical therapy to get her into shape.
“I changed from a mom body to an athletic body.”
After the surgery, she continued physical therapy with her therapist, an ex-football player.
“He worked me out like I was on the football team. I was working out like a beast, doing balancing exercises, strength training, and someone there knew Kim Seevers.”
Like Castillo, Frazier-Kim says she was invited to one of the camps at Lake Placid. She completed her first camp in October 2019.
In less than a year, Frazier-Kim has become one of the top female sliders in the sport. Para bobsled is gender neutral with men and women competing together.
“There’s nothing like it. It’s the most exhilarating feeling. The excitement, the adrenaline rush, you’re going so fast. It’s crazy,” she said.
But her rapid success did not come without bumps and bruises along the way.
“Your legs and shoulders are hitting the sides of the bobsled. It’s not for everyone,” she said. “You have to think about every curve while you’re being slapped back and forth.”
Despite the challenges, she says her goal now is simple – to be the best.
“I plan on doing it for as long as I can – as long as my body can take it. And being a Marine, I don’t know any other way.”
Don’t worry, destroying North Korea will wait long enough for you to take a bathroom and memes break. Here are 13 of the funniest military memes floating around, here just in time to help you relieve yourself before the Super Bowl of war:
On that rare occasion in your service, you might have run into a fellow trooper who, after reflection, could be called a “saint” for his or her selfless courage and commitment to duty.
And while very few of a martial bent wind up actually becoming saints, one Civil War veteran is being considered for canonization by the Catholic Church for his devotion to duty.
Joseph Dutton was a veteran of the American Civil War. He left the United States for Hawaii in his mid-40s, arriving in Honolulu with nothing but the clothes on his back. He spent the remainder of his life in a leper colony trying to eclipse his past mistakes “in his own eyes and in the eyes of God.”
When Brother Joseph Dutton died in March 1931, former President Calvin Coolidge said:
Whenever his story is told men will pause to worship. His faith, his work, his self-sacrifice appeal to people because there is always something of the same spirit in them. Therein lies the moral power of the world. He realized a vision which we all have.
Dutton joined the Union Army in April 1861 as a private in the 13th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry. The Vermont native moved to Wisconsin when he was just 4 years old. By age 18, he was enlisting to fight in the Civil War.
Though his regiment didn’t fight in any major battles during the war (only five men of the regiment were killed), it served faithfully in garrison duty and battled guerrillas until the end of the war. Dutton was recognized as a “dashing daredevil” and one “of the best and bravest officers in the army,” rising to the rank of regimental quartermaster sergeant and then lieutenant.
Dutton’s life was not so prosperous after the war. He performed the gloomy duty of supervising the disinterment of soldiers who were buried in unmarked graves and relocating their remains to national cemeteries. He married in 1866, but it ended in ruin when his wife cheated on him and they divorced.
In April of 1883, the former army officer turned 40 and decided he needed a change in his life. He was baptized in the Catholic Church of St. Peter’s in Memphis and took the name Joseph after his favorite saint, dropping his birth name of Ira. He lived in the Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky for two years, committed to a vow of silence and ascetic living.
Although he was content living his life in isolation at Gestsemani, Joseph wanted to commit the remainder of his years to helping others. He explained his motivation when he wrote:
“I wanted to serve some useful purpose during the rest of my life without any hope of monetary or other reward. … The idea of a penitential life became almost an obsession and I was determined to see it through.”
He was inspired to travel to Hawaii after reading about Father Damien and his work with lepers at Kalaupapa. He arrived at Honolulu from San Francisco in July of 1886 to offer his services to Father Damien de Veuster.
Hawaiians infected with leprosy or suspected of it were rounded up by the authorities and dumped into this remote settlement over the preceding decades. The leper settlement on the island of Molokai was located at the base of a range of sea cliffs bordering the ocean that formed a natural barrier from the outside world. Father Damien transformed the lawless settlement into a sanctuary that provided comfort, medical needs, and a place to worship for the infected.
The priest took the 43-year-old wanderer under his wing without hesitation. Damien had been infected with leprosy while serving the settlement for over a decade and was in desperate need of an assistant and a successor. He would be dead only three years later.
Dutton worked “from daybreak to dark” as he cleaned and dressed wounds of “all of the type that leprosy inflicts on mankind.” Dutton was as unconcerned with being infected as Father Damien was. One account said of Dutton, “leprosy had no power to instill fear in his mind.” When Damien died in 1889, Dutton took over as his successor and continued to tirelessly carry out his work.
Despite the isolation of the settlement, word of Dutton’s story reached the United States. Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge, Hebert Hoover and Franklin D. Roosevelt all praised him in writing. Franklin D. Roosevelt stated that he should “be raised up for the view and emulation of many others.”
President Theodore Roosevelt ordered sixteen Navy battleships sailing to Japan to redirect their course in July of 1906 and pass in sight of the settlement to pay homage to the worldly saint.
With the outbreak of World War I, Dutton wrote President Woodrow Wilson and offered his services by organizing “a few hundred of the old veterans” from the American Civil War to form a sharpshooter unit. This was politely declined by President Wilson, but his offer did not go unappreciated. Dutton remained a lifelong American patriot even though he never returned to the United States.
Dutton died in March of 1931 at 88. He was buried in the Saint Philomena Catholic Church Cemetery of Hawaii, and was mourned by many. The army veteran who devoted a portion of his life serving his country and the other half serving others never saw himself as a modern-day saint.
In the years before his death, he wrote: “These writers make me out a hero, while I don’t feel a bit like one. I don’t claim to have done any great things; am merely trying, in a small way, to help my neighbor and my own soul.”
The United States military has relied on drone aircraft for years, but to date, few other automated platforms have made their way into America’s warfighting apparatus — that is, until recently anyway. After achieving a number of successes with their new 132-foot submarine-hunting robot warship the Sea Hunter, the Navy is ready to pony up some serious cash for a full-sized drone warship, and the concept could turn the idea of Naval warfare on its head.
Earlier this month, the Navy called on the shipbuilding industry to offer up its best takes on their Large Unmanned Surface Vehicle (LUSV) ship concept, and they mean business. According to Navy officials, they want to have ten of these drone warships sailing within the next five years. The premise behind the concept is a simple one: by developing drone ships that can do what the Navy refers to as “3-D” work (the stuff that’s Dull, Dirty, or Dangerous) they’ll be freeing up manned vessels for more complex tasks.
The Navy expects these ships to be between 200 and 300 feet long with about 2,000 tons of water displacement, making them around half to two-thirds the size of an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, potentially landing in the light frigate classification. To that end, the Navy has already requested $400 million in the 2020 budget for construction of the first two vessels for the purposes of research and development.
The Sea Hunter, a Medium Displacement Unmanned Surface Vehicle (MDUSV)
US Navy Photo
In order to manage a variety of tasks, the Navy wants its robot warship to be modular, making it easier to add or remove mission-specific equipment for different sets of circumstances.
“The LUSV will be a high-endurance, reconfigurable ship able to accommodate various payloads for unmanned missions to augment the Navy’s manned surface force,” The Navy wrote in their solicitation.
“With a large payload capacity, the LUSV will be designed to conduct a variety of warfare operations independently or in conjunction with manned surface combatants.”
The Navy also requires that the vessel be capable of operating with a crew on board for certain missions. That capability, in conjunction with a modular design, would allow the Navy to use LUSV’s in more complex missions that require direct human supervision simply by installing the necessary components and providing the vessel with a crew.
The solicitation included no requests for weapons systems, but that doesn’t mean the LUSV would be worthless in a fight. The modular design would allow the Navy to equip the vessel with different weapons systems for different operations, or leave them off entirely during missions that don’t require any offensive or defensive capabilities.
Swapping drone ships in for monotonous work could free up the Navy’s fleet of manned vessels for more important tasks.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kenneth Abbate)
By equipping these ships with modular vertical launch systems, for instance, a fleet of LUSVs could enhance the Navy’s existing fleet of destroyers and cruisers in a number of combat operations, and eventually, they could even be equipped with the ship-based Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System, allowing them to bolster or even replace destroyers currently tasked with steaming around in defensive patterns amid concerns about North Korean or Chinese ballistic missile attack.
Like the Sea Hunter, the LUSV represents little more than the Navy dipping its toe in the proverbial drone waters, but if successful, it could revolutionize how the Navy approaches warfare. Manning a ship remains one of the largest expenses associated with maintaining a combatant fleet. Capable drone ships could allow the Navy to bolster its numbers with minimal cost, tasking automated vessels with the monotonous or dangerous work and leaving the manned ships to the more complex tasks.
Obviously, having to eject from a multi-million dollar aircraft of any kind is the last thing on a pilot’s bucket list (and is dangerous enough to actually be the last thing on the pilot’s bucket list). The truth is that, as in any military job function, things don’t always go as planned, even for the men and women fighting at a few thousand feet above the Earth.
The technology surrounding the ejection of any pilot is really incredible. After more than a century in the making, ejections can be made at supersonic speeds and at altitudes where there is little oxygen in the air. The canopy blows open, the air rushes in, and in one-tenth of a second, the pilot(s) are on their way to safety. The tech has come a long way since and the chances of a successful ejection are up from 50% in the 1940s. A lot happened in the meantime. Here are 11 things you may not have known before.
1. The first successful ejection was in 1910 and was initiated by bungee cord.
In 1916, one of the inventors of a type of parachute also invented an ejection seat powered by compressed air.
2. The German Luftwaffe perfected the ejection seat during WWII. The first combat ejection was in 1942.
The Focke-Wulf FW190 Würger testing ejection seat
Two German companies, Heinkel and SAAB (of the automobile fame) were working on their own types of ejection seats. The pilot of the first ejection bailed out because his control surfaces iced over.
3. Some aircraft, like the supersonic F-111, used pods to eject the crews. The B-58 Hustler tested its ejection system by ejecting bears.
Because parachutes need time to open, early zero-zero (zero altitude, zero airspeed) ejection seats used a kind of cannon to shoot the pilot out once they cleared the canopy. This put incredible forces on the pilot.
5. Before zero-zero seats, safe ejections required minimum altitudes and airspeeds.
Modern zero-zero technology uses small rockets to propel the seat upward and a small explosive to open the parachute canopy, cutting the time needed for the chute to open and saving the forces on the pilot.
6. The most common reason ejections fail is aviators wait too long to eject.
A recent study found the survival rate for ejection was as high as 92%, but the remaining 8% is usually because the pilot waited until the last second to eject.
7. Seats in planes like the B-1 Bomber eject at different angles so they don’t collide.
A two-ship of B-1B Lancers assigned to the 28th Bomb Squadron, Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, release chaff and flares while maneuvering over New Mexico during a training mission Feb. 24, 2010. Dyess celebrates the 25th anniversary of the first B-1B bomber arriving at the base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Kevin J. Gruenwald)
The B-1B Lancer has a crew of four and their seats are designed so that the seats are positioned at different angles and different intervals to avoid mid-air collisions. The B-1A used a capsule for the crew.
8. Depending on altitude and airspeed, the seats accelerate upward between 12 and 20 Gs.
That’s just the upward thrust. Pilots have ejected in speeds exceeding 800 miles per hour (the speed of sound is 767.2 mph) and from altitudes as high as 57,000 feet.
9. Ejection seat manufacturer Martin-Baker gives a certificate, tie, and patch to aviators who join the “Martin-Baker Fan Club” by successfully ejecting.
The first pilot was a Royal Air Force airman who ejected over what was then Rhodesia in January 1957. Since then, over 5800 registered members have joined.
10. The interval between ejections in a two-seat plane like the F-14 Tomcat is about half a second.
The RIO (Radar Intercept Officer) goes first, then the pilot (Goose then Maverick, but in real life, Goose would probably survive.)
11. Ejection seats have saved more than 7,000 people.
Not Goose, of course. (Should have followed F-14 NATOPS boldface procedures. RIP, shipmate . . .)