The official Mad Scientists of war, otherwise known as Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency employees, have crafted a way for helicopter pilots to see through dust, snow, and smoke to fly safely even when their view is blocked.
Currently, low-visibility conditions lead to crashes and collisions that cost the U.S. hundreds of millions of dollars and can lead to troops’ deaths. Brownouts, when helicopter pilots lose visibility due to dust kicked up by their rotors or sandstorms, have caused a number of crashes in the recent wars in the desert.
The system maps terrain and landing zones in brownouts or whiteouts, prevents collisions with other aircraft and obstacles, and warns of weather hazards.
When the pilot is in combat, the system will aid in identifying and acquiring targets, guiding weapons, and linking the data feeds of different aircraft.
Ideally, the system will work as a “plug and play” add-on to current and future aircraft. Everything from modern helicopters to drones to the coming Joint Multi-Role Aircraft will feature the technology.
In a profile piece on Joseph Gordon-Levitt from The Guardian, the actor revealed that he flew to Russia for a secret meeting with Edward Snowden in preparation for playing the NSA whistle-blower in the upcoming movie “Snowden,” directed by Oliver Stone (opening in 2016).
Gordon-Levitt said the motivation behind the meeting was to “understand this person that I was going to play, observing both his strengths and weaknesses,” he said.
The two met for four hours and though the actor wanted to tape record the meeting, it was advised that he did not.
In fact, according to piece, Snowden’s lawyers didn’t want Gordon-Levitt to admit the meeting had taken place.
The actor said that what he took most from the meeting with Snowden was he completely agrees with the actions he took.
“I left knowing without a doubt that what [Snowden] did, he did because he believed it was the right thing to do. That he believed it would help the country he loves,” said Gordon-Levitt.
“Now, as he would say, it’s not for him to say whether it was right or wrong. That’s really for people to decide on their own, and I would encourage anybody to decide that on their own. I don’t want to be the actor guy who’s like, ‘You should listen to me! What he did was right!’ I don’t think that’s my place. Even though that is what I believe — that what he did was right.”
“Snowden” is based on Luke Hardin’s book “The Snowden Files” and Anatoly Kucherena’s “Time of the Octopus.”
Along with Gordon-Levitt, the film stars Shailene Woodley as Lindsay Mills, Snowden’s girlfriend, Zachary Quinto as Glenn Greenwald, and Melissa Leo as Laura Poitras. Greenwald was the journalist and Poitras the filmmaker Snowden leaked the classified documents to.
Nicolas Cage, Scott Eastwood, and Timothy Olyphant also star.
Gordon-Levitt will next been seen in the Robert Zemeckis film “The Walk,” in which he’ll be playing another real-life figure, Philippe Petit. The film recounts Petit’s infamous tightrope walk across New York City’s World Trade Towers in 1974.
Former “Dancing with the Stars” winner JR Martinez sits down with fellow wounded warrior and current season contestant Noah Galloway for an in-depth conversation about military service, the nature of war, and dealing with a life-changing injury. This WATM exclusive — a must-watch for DWTS fans — brings out a side of Galloway that only a fellow vet like Martinez can.
The Pentagon is looking to boost counterterrorism cooperation with an elite Indonesian special forces group, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Jan. 23 during a visit to Jakarta.
The special forces unit, known as Kopassus, has been accused of a range of human rights abuses, including killings and torture, mostly in the 1990s. Mattis says the group has since reformed.
“That was upwards of 20 years ago, and we’ll look at it since then,” Mattis said after meeting with Indonesian President Joko Widodo, Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu, and other leaders.
Mattis’ visit aims to expand overall military cooperation with Indonesia, which is modernizing its military and has shown an increased willingness to push back against China’s territorial claims.
Indonesia is also dealing with the possible return of hundreds of Indonesians who fought with the Islamic State terror group in Syria and Iraq.
“We are out to expand in ways that respond to any requests from Indonesia on counterterrorism to include the special forces units,” Mattis said alongside his Indonesian counterpart.
Following those talks, Ryacudu said he would like Mattis to help relax the legal limitations on closer U.S. ties with the elite special forces group.
Kopassus’ alleged abuses include massacres in East Timor, the abduction and forced disappearance of student pro-democracy activists, and a torture campaign in Aceh during a now-ended insurgency. Rights groups say many of those responsible have not been held accountable.
Amid those concerns, the United States severed ties with Kopassus in 1999. In 2010, the Pentagon took initial steps toward reestablishing cooperation, but the ties have been limited and non-lethal, consisting of staff exchanges and low-level subject matter dialogue.
Mattis says he believes the group has reformed and would now stand up to the scrutiny of the so-called Leahy Law, which prohibits the United States from providing military assistance to foreign security forces that violate human rights.
Joseph Felter, the top U.S. defense official on Southeast Asia, said the Pentagon sees “real value and potential in working with Kopassus as a partner in counterterrorism,” if the State Department were to loosen restrictions.
“They are a very, very effective counterterrorism unit,” Felter said.
The United States already has very close ties with the Indonesian military. Since 2013, Felter said the United States has sold more than $1.5 billion to Indonesia under the foreign military sales program, including the Apache helicopter and the F-16. And Felter says Jakarta is considering buying more F-16s.
“Anytime we can help a partner uphold a free and fair rules-based order in a free and open Indo-Pacific, that’s what we’re here for,” the deputy assistant secretary of defense for South and Southeast Asia said.
On Jan. 24, Mattis heads to Vietnam, where China is likely to be a major focus.
The Pentagon last week unveiled a new National Defense Strategy that prioritizes the U.S. geopolitical rivalry with China and Russia.
Vietnam is one of the most vocal critics of China’s expansive claims in the South China Sea and has repeatedly clashed with Chinese ships in the area.
During his visit to Indonesia Tuesday, Mattis repeatedly spoke about the importance of the “rule of law” and “freedom of navigation” – comments apparently aimed at China.
Most outsiders may not know about an Air Force tradition that gives the hard-charging crew chiefs of some of the most high-tech airplanes in the world a chance to show a little personality.
You might have seen some funny videos or gifs here and there featuring Air Force maintainers directing taxiing aircraft with the flair of a funny dance or outrageous outfit, and you might have wondered how they got away with it without their commander coming down on them like a ton of bricks.
What you’re seeing is “Freestyle Friday,” a military version of “casual Fridays” where Air Force crew chiefs – the tactical aircraft maintainers who coordinate the maintenance and care of the world’s most expensive airframes — are allowed to have a little fun on the job.
Crew chiefs have one of the hardest jobs in the Air Force; one that requires a lot of training, long hours, and a lot of responsibility to make sure the planes are in tip-top shape for their dangerous missions. There’s a reason the crew chief often gets his name on the nose of a plane with the pilot’s.
Some consider Air Force crew chiefs and maintainers the “grunts” of the Air Force, and no one should be surprised when they have a little fun on the flightline during Freestyle Fridays to blow off a little steam.
Crew chiefs have to deal with exhaustion from a high operational tempo, hearing loss from the jet noise on the flightline, and may sometimes feel a little underappreciated by the rest of the maintenance group.
Like most enlisted folks with this level of responsibility, they’re known for blunt talk and a no-nonsense attitude. They take care of the planes they’re charged to maintain very seriously. So it’s no surprise they’re known to be hardasses for doing things their way.
The Russian Ministry of Defence has finally completed a prototype of the Altius-U, its version of the US’s RQ-4 Global Hawk and Predator drones, Russian state news agency TASS has reported.
After several practical setbacks and cost increases, as well as the arrest of Alexander Gomzin, the general director of Altius’s original designer last year, the six-ton Altius-U took to the skies for 32 minutes on Aug. 20, 2019, the Russian Ministry of Defence announced.
The prototype was outfitted with intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) equipment during the test flight, said Samuel Bendett, a researcher at the CNA Corporation. Eventually, the drone will be armed to carry out precision attacks and will be able to carry up to one ton, Bendett told Insider.
The UAV flew at an altitude of about 800 meters, or 2,600 feet, although Bendett said that both the Altius and Russia’s new Okhotnik stealth drone would eventually be able to fly at very high altitudes to penetrate adversaries’ air defenses.
Heavy Russian drone Altius-U makes it maiden flight
According to the Russian Ministry of Defence, the Altius-U is capable of a 24-hour flight time, which gives it the capability to move far beyond Russia’s borders.
Bendett told Insider that Russia was trying to wean itself off of foreign military equipment and to learn lessons from combat in Syria — and the development of both the Altius-U and the Okhotnik shows just how far Russia has come on both those fronts.
“This was a capability they were craving,” Bendett told Insider.
But the Altius prototype is only on its first test — “A lot has to happen” before either UAV is part of the Russian arsenal.
Even so, it’s a clear signal to Russia’s adversaries that it’s taking note of UAV technologies coming from the US and Israel in particular, and that it is developing the capabilities to fight in the wars of the future.
The testing of the two UAVs “moves beyond the discussion of whether or not they can [build these types of weapons] to, ‘Yes they did,'” Bendett said.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The National Naval Aviation Museum at Naval Air Station-Pensacola unveiled a nearly 9,000 square foot scale replica exhibit of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz’s (CVN 68) flight deck, Oct. 31, 2018.
The museum’s theater ticket counter was built to look like Nimitz’s island, and the flight deck is the second phase of the museum’s Nimitz project.
For the man in command of the ceremony, the Nimitz flight deck and having the towering 68 at his back was familiar territory.
“I’ve had the opportunity to deploy with her on three separate occasions,” said retired Navy Capt. Sterling Gillam, director, National Naval Aviation Museum. “My first arrested landing as a young aviator was on Nimitz. She is the oldest carrier in our fleet and in my opinion the most capable.”
Retired Marine Corps. Lt. Gen. Duane Theissen, President and CEO of the Naval Aviation Museum Foundation addresses guest during an unveiling of the 1/4 replica flight deck exhibit of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Cole Schroeder)
This exhibit is Gillam’s way of sharing a story in an interactive way. The exhibit gives viewers a chance to not only learn the history of Nimitz, but to see, touch and feel it.
“Our job here at the National Naval Aviation Museum is to tell the story of our rich, 107-year legacy of Naval aviation,” said Gillam. “That history is not static. Right now, men and women are flying off aircraft carriers around the world. These are Nimitz class carriers.”
There were many moving parts that brought this project, as well as the ceremony, together.
Retired Navy Capt. Sterling Gillam, left, Director of the Naval Aviation Museum along with retired Navy Vice Adm. Jim Zortman, middle, the chairman of the Naval Aviation Museum Foundation, and retired Marine Corps. Lt. Gen. Duane Theissen, President and CEO of NAMF prepare to cut the ribbon during an unveiling of a 1/4 replica flight deck exhibit of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz.
“The museum is a part of history,” said George Taylor, project manager. “The guys that worked with us to get the flooring in place, brought their families out. They were proud that they were a part of history.”
“This new display is designed to get our visitors in the frame of mind of what they’re going to experience throughout the museum,” said retired Marine Corps. Lt. Gen. Duane Thiessen, president and CEO of the Naval Aviation Museum Foundation. “They’re going to step on to a facsimile of a Nimitz class carrier. This is today. This is the Navy today. It’s deployed today. It’s operational today. These visitors are then going to go off of this carrier, through the museum, and they’re going to then learn and understand how they got to that point.”
Retired Navy Capt. Sterling Gillam, Director of the Naval Aviation Museum prepares the Ouija board display before the unveiling of replica flight deck exhibit of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Cole Schroeder)
Thiessen talked about the unveiling event as being the first of many experiences for those visiting the museum in the future.
“You come here, you’re going to get an experience,” said Thiessen. “You don’t just learn something, you get to touch it, you get to understand it, and you get to experience it.”
Although Nimitz will one day reach its life span and be replaced, its history and legacy will live on at the National Naval Aviation Museum.
Gillam may never again have the opportunity to launch from a flight deck or feel the jet’s tailhook catch the arresting gear wire. However, his contribution, and that of thousands of others who have served on board Nimitz, will be preserved as part of the Nimitz legacy.
The US Air Force put the F-35 up against “the most advanced weapons systems out there” during the recent Red Flag air combat exercise, and the fight-generation stealth fighters apparently dominated — so much so that even the rookie pilots were crushing it.
Pilots from the 388th Fighter Wing’s 4th Fighter Squadron took to the skies in upgraded F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters, integrating into a “Blue Force” consisting of fifth and fourth-generation fighters for a “counter air” mission against a “Red Force” made up of “equally capable” fighters.
During the intense fight, aggressor aircraft blinded many of the “blue” fourth-generation aircraft using electronic attack capabilities, such as those advanced adversaries might employ in battle.
“Even in this extremely challenging environment, the F-35 didn’t have many difficulties doing its job,” Col. Joshua Wood, 388th Operations Group commander, explained in a US Air Force statement summarizing the exercise results.
An F-35A Lightning II takes off at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. Feb. 1, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)
Novice F-35 pilots were able to step in and save more experienced friendly fourth-generation fighter pilots while racking up kills against simulated near-peer threats.
“My wingman was a brand new F-35A pilot, seven or eight flights out of training,” Wood said, recounting his experiences. “He gets on the radio and tells an experienced 3,000-hour pilot in a very capable fourth-generation aircraft. ‘Hey bud, you need to turn around. You’re about to die. There’s a threat off your nose.'”
That young pilot took out the enemy aircraft and then went on to pick up three more “kills” during the mission, which lasted for an hour. “I’ve never seen anything like it before,” Wood added.
The latest iteration of Red Flag — a multinational exercise aimed at training pilots to defeat enemy aircraft, integrated air-defense systems, and electronic and information warfare tactics — was said to be “exponentially more challenging” than past drills, as they were specifically intended to simulate real combat against a more serious threat like Russia or China. The pilots waged simulated war in contested environments characterized by electronic attack, communications jamming, and GPS denial.
Capt. Brad Matherne conducts preflight checks inside an F-35A Lightning II before a training mission at Nellis Air Force Base.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Brett Clashman)
“Those situations highlight the fifth-generation capabilities of the F-35. We’re still able to operate and be successful,” Lt. Col. Yosef Morris, the 4th Fighter Squadron commander, said in a US Air Force statement.
The F-35A participated in Red Flag, the service’s top air combat exercise, for the first time two years ago. At that time, the powerful stealth aircraft was only at its initial operating capability, yet it still destroyed the opposition with a 20:1 kill ratio.
This year, pilots were flying F-35s with upgrades offering improved combat capabilities and maneuverability, making the aircraft more lethal in air combat. The Block 3F software upgrades brought the aircraft up to full warfighting capability.
The F-35A is “exceeding our expectations when it comes to not only being able to survive, but to prosecute targets,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein said Feb. 26, 2019, according to Air Force Times.
The F-35A, an embattled aircraft still overcoming development challenges, is expected to eventually replace the aging fleet of F-16 Fighting Falcons and A-10 Thunderbolt II ground attack aircraft.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The latest proposed bone regenerative therapy is a paint-like substance that coats implants or other devices to promote bone regrowth. It’s designed for use in treating combat injuries and lower back pain, among other issues.
After about $9 million in grants from the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs, the substance, called AMP2, made by the company Theradaptive, is moving onto the next trial phase, a step ahead of testing on humans. Creator Luis Alvarez, a retired Army lieutenant colonel who served a year in Iraq, said coating an implant is much better than the current, more dangerous therapy for bone regrowth.
“Without this product, the alternative is to use the type of protein that is liquid,” Alvarez said. “And you can imagine if you try to squirt a liquid into a gap or a defect in the bone, you have no way of controlling where it goes.”
This has caused bone regrowth in muscles and around the windpipe, which can compress a patient’s airway and nerves leading to the brain, he said.
AMP2 is made out of that same protein that promotes bone or cartilage growth in the body, but it’s sticky. It binds to a bolt or other device to be inserted into the break, potentially letting surgeons salvage limbs by reconstructing the broken, or even shattered, bone, Alvarez claims.
He said veterans could find the new product beneficial as it may be used in spinal fusions to treat back pain or restore stability to the spine by welding two or more vertebrae together. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, the goal of this surgery is to have the vertebrae grow into a single bone, which is just what AMP2 is intended to facilitate.
Alvarez created his product after finding out halfway through his career that wounded soldiers he served with ultimately had limbs amputated because they couldn’t regrow the tissue needed to make the limbs functional.
“To me, it felt like a tragedy that that would be the reason why you would lose a limb,” he said. “So when I got back from Iraq, I went back to grad school and the motivation there, in part, was to see if I could develop something or work on the problem of how do you induce the body to regenerate tissue in specific places and with a lot of control?”
Alvarez, who graduated from MIT with a Ph.D. in Biological Engineering and a Master of Science in Chemical Engineering, said AMP2 has shown a lot of promise: A recent test showed bone regrowth that filled a two-inch gap. And its potential is not limited to combat injuries, he added.
“The DoD and the VA are actually getting a lot of leverage from their investment because you can treat not only trauma, but also aging-associated diseases like lower back pain,” Alvarez said. “It’s going to redefine how physicians practice regenerative medicine.”
The Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC) held a commemoration ceremony for the 100th anniversary of the first combat firing of the naval railway gun, Sept. 6, 2018.
The ceremony took place at Admiral Willard Park at the Washington Navy Yard where on display is a naval railway gun still mounted on a railway carriage.
Master Chief Yeoman Nathaniel Colding, senior enlisted leader at NHHC, was the master of ceremonies for the event and shared the history of the naval railway gun with the guests in attendance.
Upon entering World War I in April 1917, the Navy was already developing long-range artillery primarily to counter the German army’s heavy guns capable of bombarding the English Channel ports used by the Allies.
The Navy’s initial idea was to employ several 14-inch 50-caliber Mark IV naval rifles, with a complete train of equipment for each gun, on railway mountings behind British lines in France. However, changing military conditions prevented British authorities from stating definitively at which port these batteries were to be debarked.
The Navy ultimately offered the guns to General John J. Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Force, who readily accepted them.
“In the summer of 1918, five U.S. naval railway guns made the journey across the Atlantic Ocean for use in France during the First World War,” said Colding. “Although they were assigned to the First Army’s Railway Artillery Reserve, the guns operated as independent units under the command of Rear Admiral Charles P. Plunkett. In early September 1918, Battery Number 2 went into action with a bombardment of a German-occupied railroad hub more than 20 miles away.”
Retired Rear Adm. Sam Cox, director of NHHC, was the guest speaker for the commemoration ceremony and spoke about why this event is important for us to remember today.
British 12-inch howitzers on top-carriage traversing mounts.
“The U.S. Navy was able to provide a quick solution using guns that were normally intended for battleships,” said Cox. “The key point of the U.S. Navy’s participation in the war was that although we only lost about 430 Sailors during the entire course of the war, we were able to get two million U.S. Army troops to France a lot faster than the Germans ever thought was possible. The Navy did this without any losses to U-boats, ending a war that at that point was the bloodiest in human history.”
While the naval railway guns were in operation, the crew had no support from the Army should the Germans unit advance on them and they were expected to “fight alone.” They did not have to face that fate, however; the Germans were in retreat throughout their period of service.
“The increased use and effectiveness of aircraft, particularly bombers, with their greater flexibility and mobility, meant that the naval railway battery would not be a mainstay in future wars,” said Conrad. “Nonetheless, its development and deployment highlights the U.S. Navy’s ability to think innovatively and create and deploy new and effective programs quickly. That skill is transferable and is a hallmark of the U.S. Navy in the twentieth century.”
Although the naval railway guns operated well behind the front lines and were not subject to the constant bombardment received by more forward positions, the U.S. naval railway batteries were hardly immune from enemy fire. Many of the units took counter-fire from German artillery. German observation planes flew above their positions during the day, and bomber aircraft were active at night. The units lost only one Sailor to enemy fire and other battery personnel were wounded.
French 370 mm railway howitzer of World War I.
According to Dennis Conrad, Ph.D., a historian at NHHC, 530 officers and men made up the Naval Railway Guns command. The unit was subdivided into six groups, one for each battery and these groups were further subdivided into crews: a train crew, a construction crew and a gun crew.
The Naval History and Heritage Command, located at the Washington Navy Yard, is responsible for the preservation, analysis, and dissemination of U.S. naval history and heritage. It provides the knowledge foundation for the Navy by maintaining historically relevant resources and products that reflect the Navy’s unique and enduring contributions through our nation’s history, and supports the fleet by assisting with and delivering professional research, analysis, and interpretive services. NHHC is composed of many activities including the Navy Department Library, the Navy Operational Archives, the Navy art and artifact collections, underwater archeology, Navy histories, ten museums, USS Constitution repair facility and the historic ship Nautilus.
From working at McDonalds, to attending Army Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC), to serving more than 18 years each in the U.S. Army Reserve — identical twin master sergeants are mobilized together for the third time.
Master Sgt. Bryant Howard and his identical twin brother, Master Sgt. Joseph Howard, motor transport operators, 450th Movement Control Battalion (MCB), are currently deployed together to Kuwait — marking the third time they have deployed together.
Bryant decided to join first.
“I was in high school, (and) I was also working at McDonalds, and my mom called me lazy.” he said. “I figured I wasn’t, so I was going to get her mad and join the Army.”
For Joseph, the decision to join the Army was much easier after he found out that his brother was joining.
“I tried joining the National Guard. The recruiter didn’t take me seriously.” Joseph said. “I was going to back out, then I found out my brother was joining the Reserve, so I went ahead and joined too.”
From left to right — Master Sgt. Joseph Howard, S-3 (operations) noncommissioned officer in charge (NCOIC), 450th Movement Control Battalion (MCB), and Master Sgt. Bryant Howard, Trans-Arabian Network (TAN) NCOIC, 450th MCB, stand back to back at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, Oct. 24, 2019.
(Photo by Spc. Dakota Vanidestine)
Once their decision to join was finalized, Bryant and Joseph needed to pass through Military Entrance Processing Stations (MEPS) before leaving for basic training.
“We were still in high school, just turned 18. We were trying to get on the battle buddy system, but something happened at MEPS and Bryant wasn’t able to join the same time I did.” Joseph said. “He had to go back four months later. Because of that, they couldn’t get us to Basic (Training) together, even though we went at the same time. I went to Fort Jackson; he went to Fort Sill.”
Although the buddy system was not possible for Basic Training, the brothers were reunited at Advanced Individual Training (AIT).
“We did go to AIT together at Fort Leonard Wood though. It took the drill sergeants a month to realize there was twins in the unit. They threw a fit because they thought we were just one super high-speed person” Joseph said.
Confusion on the brothers’ identities, like at AIT, has allowed them to play pranks all of their life.
“Our last day of high school, we switched classes.” Bryant said. “We had a different style uniforms in school — I had a pullover, and he had a button up shirt. Joseph’s teacher could tell us apart, even though she didn’t know me — but my teacher didn’t recognize him.”
After high school, the military was not the only time that Bryant and Joseph’s paths have crossed.
“We both worked at one time at Direct TV” Joseph said. “Also, we both had some sort of experience in law enforcement. I became a police officer, he worked in a jail — he was a corrections officer. The weird part about that was if I dropped somebody off at jail, they might run into him and think he was me. We don’t necessarily try to follow each other – that’s just the way things happen. It really is a small world.”
Even today their civilian careers have brought them not only to the same state, but the same location.
“Now were both mill-techs. Joseph works in the RPAC (Reserve Personnel Action Center) and I work for a unit” Bryant said.
From left to right, Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Howard, Sgt. Michael Howard, motor transport operators, 498th Transportation Company, and Sgt. 1st Class Bryant Howard, motor transport operator, 850th Transportation Company, pose for a photo as Bryant prepares to redeploy back to the U.S. at Kandahar Airfield, April. 28, 2014.
“We actually work in the same building — two different units. I work for the 88th Readiness Division, he works for the 383rd Military Intelligence Battalion” Joseph added.
When Bryant and Joseph heard about an opportunity to deploy together with the 450th MCB, they took full advantage.
“We deployed together in 2003 and 2009 to Iraq” Bryant said.
“He deployed to Afghanistan at the end of 2013, and I deployed there in the beginning of 2014 — so we were actually at the same place” Joseph added. “Our older brother actually deployed with me.”
Currently, Bryant is the Trans Arabian Network Noncommissioned Officer in Charge (NCOIC).
“I am the NCOIC over all the movement within Kuwait, Jordan, Oman, and the surrounding locations.” Bryant said.
While Joseph serves as the S-3 (operations) NCOIC by taking care of “the personnel, administrative, and operational aspects.”
Once this deployment is complete, the brothers may finally part ways. Joseph is considering retirement from the Reserve.
“I do want to hit my 20 year mark.” Joseph said. “It’s really hard to keep up with the changing Army — the trends and everything. Depending on what happens when I get to the States, I may stick it out longer, or I may get out.”
“I’m just going to stay in until I can’t stand it anymore” Bryant added.
Together, Bryant and Joseph have dedicated over 37 years of service to the U.S. Army Reserve — both wearing the rank of master sergeant and have seven combined deployments to show for it.
In order to meet the goal of a Navy numbering 355 ships, Naval Sea Systems Command will consider resurrecting a number of retired combat vessels from the dead and refitting them for active service.
Though nothing has been set in stone just yet, some of the “younger” ships parked at the various Naval Inactive Ship Maintenance Facilities around the country could get a new lease on life, thanks to dialed-down purchases of Littoral Combat Ships and the next-generation Zumwalt class destroyer.
Upon decommissioning, warships are often stripped for reusable parts, and sensitive equipment and gear are removed, along with the ship’s weapon systems. Frigates, destroyers and cruisers could lose their deck guns, their radars, and electronics suites — some of which will be used as spare parts for active ships, and the rest of which will be stored until the Navy determines that it has absolutely no use for these retired vessels anymore, heralding the start of the process of their dismantling.
A number of ships will also be sold to allied nations for parts or for active use.
Currently, the Navy retains less than 50 ships within its inactive “ghost” fleet, among them Oliver Hazard-Perry frigates, Ticonderoga guided missile cruisers, Kitty Hawk-class aircraft carriers, and a variety of other types, including fleet replenishment ships and amphibious assault ships.
Among the ships to be evaluated for a potential return to service are a handful of Oliver Hazard-Perry class frigates and the USS Kitty Hawk, a conventionally-powered super carrier mothballed in Bremerton, Washington.
The Kitty Hawk, now over 57 years old, is apparently the only carrier in the Navy’s inactive fleet worthy of consideration for a return to duty. Having been retired in 2009, the Kitty Hawk was modernized enough to support and field all Navy carrier-borne aircraft currently active today.
However, the ship has since been heavily stripped down; many of her combat systems destroyed or sent around the Navy for use with other vessels. The extensive refurbishment this 63,000 ton behemoth would have to undergo would likely prove to be the limiting factor in bringing it back to duty.
This wouldn’t be the first time the Navy has explored the possibility of returning mothballed ships to active duty. In fact, in the 1980s as part of then-President Reagan’s 600 Ship initiative, the Navy recommissioned the legendary WWII-era Iowa class battleships, three of which had been inactive since the late ’50s and one of which had been retired in the late ’60s. All four vessels underwent a costly multi-million dollar overhaul and were ushered back into service.
Two of these battleships — the Wisconsin and the Missouri — would go on to see action during the Persian Gulf War before being quickly retired in 1990 along with their sister ships, the Iowa and the New Jersey.
Bringing back the Hazard-Perry frigates could be far more of a distinct possibility than any of the other ships in the inactive fleet. With the Navy reducing its planned buy of LCS vessels, originally designed to be the successor to the Hazard-Perry boats, and constant engineering issues plaguing the active LCS fleet, a gap has gradually emerged with many clamoring for a more effective frigate-type vessel… or a return to the ships which were previously to be replaced.
A number of Hazard-Perry ships have indeed been sold for scrap, or have been earmarked for a transfer to allied nations, though a few still remain in the inactive reserve, ready to be revamped and returned to service should the need arise.
Ultimately, it will be the bean counters who determine the final fate of the ships in the ghost fleet, and whether or not un-retiring them is a viable option. The cost of refitting and overhauling these vessels to be able to stay relevant against more modern threats, including boat swarms, could prove to be too much for the Navy to foot, especially for a short term investment.
Further options could include hastening the construction of current combat vessels on-order, while retaining more of the older ships in the fleet for an extended service term. However, given the Navy’s needs at the moment, it’s safe to say that NAVSEA will give returning some of these old veterans back to duty serious consideration.
There’s one thing everyone can agree with President Donald Trump on about the street gang MS-13: The group specializes in spectacular violence. Its members attack in groups, in the woods, at night, luring teens to their deaths with the promise of girls or weed. One Long Island boy told me he doesn’t go to parties anymore because he worries any invitation could be a trap. A victim’s father showed me a death certificate that said his son’s head had been bashed in, then lowered his voice and added that the boy’s bones had been marked by machete slashes, but he didn’t want the mother to know that. A teenager who has left the gang told me he considers himself dead already, and is just trying to make sure MS-13 doesn’t kill his family.
I’m spending the year reporting on MS-13 members and their associates. I’ve been combing through their text messages. I’m talking with the detectives building cases against killers not yet old enough to buy cigarettes. And I’ve been spending long evenings with the gang’s victims, who often start crying as soon as they start talking about the violence that has marred their lives. Everyone agrees the gang is bloodthirsty. Most of the other assertions I’ve heard from the Trump administration about MS-13 have almost no connection to what I’m seeing on the ground.
1. MS-13 Is Not Organizing to Foil Immigration Law
Trump often talks about how MS-13 has carried out a string of murders in the suburbs outside New York City. One of the first things I did when I started reporting was talk to the ex-girlfriend of the gang leader charged with ordering six of those killings in 2016 and 2017. The girl sat at a Panera Bread in a Long Island strip mall and told how he had kidnapped and raped her shortly after her 15th birthday, threatened her family, and forced her to get a tattoo of his name on her arm. As I talked to her, I imagined a man like the ones I had seen in news reports on MS-13 — chins jutted out, arms strong from lifting weights, and gothic tattoos of the letters M and S on their faces and chests. I was shocked when I eventually saw this gang leader in court; he was a baby-faced 19-year-old who blushed when girls waved to him from the gallery. The indictment against him laid out killings that were ordered in response to adolescent trash talking.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has called MS-13 the most brutal of the gangs driving the drug trade, and promised to go after the group like the government went after mob boss Al Capone. Really, experts have found the gang has barely any role in the international drug trade. The Congressional Research Service said that it could be misleading to call MS-13 a transnational criminal organization at all, because it has no central leader or global ambitions. The gang is made up of sometimes competing cliques, often led by teenagers most interested in wielding power over other young people in their immediate circles.
On Long Island, a detective told me police officers call MS-13 members “mighty munchkins,” because they have often not yet hit their growth spurts and tend to commit their crimes in large groups. They meet at night because, while other criminal organizations have massive international revenue streams, these guys — even the leaders — have to work menial jobs and sometimes go to school during the day. Each clique has its own shot caller, and its own hyperlocal focus. On Long Island, the gang’s focus has often been on controlling the halls of a single high school.
2. MS-13 Is Not Posing as Fake Families at the Border
In justifying the policy of child separation, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen said, “The kids are being used as pawns by the smugglers and the traffickers. Those are traffickers, those are smugglers and that is MS-13.” The theory is that Central American gang leaders are showing up at the border falsely claiming to be the parents of children, and are also instructing unaccompanied minors to go to the U.S. and claim territory.
Actually, there have been fewer than 200 cases of false family claims this year — a fraction of 1 percent of the total number of families apprehended at the border — and there is no indication that any of those cases involved MS-13. Of the hundreds of thousands of unaccompanied minors that have come to the U.S. since 2012, Border Patrol says only 56 were suspected of MS-13 ties.
The gang is trying to find new members, but there’s no need to step on the toes of the Mexican gangs that control human smuggling to do it. Long Island teenagers tell me that when they show up to school, gang members sit down next to them at lunch and ask them to join. Many— worn down by loneliness, boredom and the threat of violence if they try to refuse — accept the invitation.
People who study MS-13 agree that when young gang members travel from El Salvador to the U.S., they are driven by the same economic factors driving other Central American immigrants. Even the 19-year-old gang leader charged with six murders on Long Island told his ex-girlfriend he was not a member of the gang when he came to the U.S. from El Salvador. He said it was only later, in the New York suburbs, that he was recruited.
And some MS-13 members are born right here. The Suffolk County Police Department examined a sample of active MS-13 members and found that just a quarter had come to the U.S. as unaccompanied minors. The natural conclusion: This is not a border issue. It’s a recruitment issue.
3. MS-13 Is Sticking Around, but It’s Not Growing
Trump talks about the gang as if it is suddenly taking over. “The weak illegal immigration policies of the Obama Admin. allowed bad MS 13 gangs to form in cities across U.S.,” he wrote in a tweet.
MS-13 has been stubbornly persistent, but it remains a boutique criminal organization, accounting for a tiny portion of 1.4 million gang members nationwide. Trump’s Justice Department says there are about 10,000 MS-13 members in the U.S., the same number as 10 years ago. There’s also nothing new about MS-13 alarmism. Back in 2005, Newsweek ran a cover story about the group, citing its 10,000 members, under the headline, “The most dangerous gang in America.”
On Long Island, the murder people cite most often when talking about MS-13’s brutality is the killing of a two-year-old and his mother back in 2010. But the gang’s history goes back much further than that; the FBI set up a Long Island task force to crack down on the gang in 2003. And MS-13 never invaded the U.S at all. It was founded in Los Angeles in the 1980s, and then mixed with California prison gang culture and was exported to El Salvador.
The group remains significantly smaller than the Crips, the Bloods and the Latin Kings; it’s also smaller than several gangs you’ve probably never heard of, like the Gangster Disciples in Chicago. Even the Center for Immigration Studies, which has been labeled an extremist group for its anti-immigrant ideology, can’t come up with more than an average of 35 murders per year attributed to MS-13 — far fewerthan that Chicago gang you didn’t know existed.
MS-13 is not the largest, the most violent, or the fastest-growing gang, but it is the U.S. gang most strongly tied to Central America, which is where the majority of asylum-seeking teenagers come from. In that way, it’s the perfect focal point for Trump’s message of closed borders.
4. MS-13 Is Preying on a Specific Community, Not the Country at Large
When confronted in June 2018 with audio obtained by ProPublica of wailing children separated from their parents, White House Communications Adviser Mercedes Schlapp said, “What’s very heartbreaking is to watch Americans who have lost their children because of the MS-13 gang members.” But the vast majority of MS-13 victims are young immigrants, many of them undocumented.
I often think about this when I’m out reporting. In 2018 I have reached out to current gang members and added them as friends on Facebook. I’ve visited the homes of people on the local clique’s kill list, and heard their police-issued panic buttons hum under tables and behind doors. I’ve explored the wooded areas Long Island police call “the killing fields,” where bodies have been found. I feel safe doing this because MS-13 rarely goes after true outsiders — people who are not friends with any gang members or targets for recruitment. The closest I’ve found in Long Island to a totally random victim was a worker at a Central American deli who was hurt when a bullet passed through the head of a targeted victim.
The White House put out a statement in May 2018 that described recent murders carried out by “MS-13 animals.” Lost in the controversy over whether it was OK to call gang members animals was the fact that of the six identified victims, five were immigrants and the other was a child of immigrants.
5. Immigration Raids and Deportation Can Only Go So Far
Secretary Nielsen said in June 2018 that the presence of MS-13 in the U.S. is “the exclusive product of loopholes in our federal immigration laws.” The loopholes she is talking about are actually specific protections contained in United Nations conventions on refugees and torture, which the U.S. ratified. The U.S. is obligated to allow Central American immigrants to stay in the country while their asylum claims are processed, which can take years. If the person pleading asylum is a minor, they are supposed to be released to relatives.
But if U.S. officials determine that a teenager is a gang member, they stay in custody. And immigration officials can also re-detain teenagers who are recruited into MS-13 once they get here. Dozens of Long Island teenagers were re-detained in 2017 on suspicion of gang ties. The problem is that it can be hard to tell who is in the gang and who is just adopting gang style. MS-13 has its own music and aesthetic, bound up in Central American pride. On Long Island, some immigrant teens use MS-13 markers as a fashion statement, the way American kids might once have worn the blue bandanas associated with the Crips because they liked Snoop Dogg.
I sat in on one hearing for a Long Island 17-year-old who had been detained for half a year after he wrote the El Salvador telephone code, “503,” in a notebook at school. He had spent some of that time in a detention center now under investigation for child abuse. At the hearing, an immigration judge ordered the teen released and openly mocked the gang charges. “I note that ‘503’ is an area code,” the judge said. “He may have had his grandmother’s phone number written in his notebook. We don’t know. But I think this is slim, slim evidence on which to base the continuing detention of an unaccompanied child.”
That’s not to say that all of the immigrant teenagers accused of gang affiliation are innocent. But Immigration and Customs Enforcement has arrested some 8,000 suspected MS-13 members in the past decade. If deportation was all it took, the gang would be gone by now.
This all matters because the gang really is terrorizing a portion of the population: young Latino immigrants in a few specific communities.
In May 2018, I accompanied the mother of a high school freshman killed by MS-13 to a Trump event on Long Island. Inside a government building, the president railed against the gang. “They killed a cop for the sake of making a statement. They wanted to make a statement, so they killed a cop,” he said. (They did not kill a cop.)
Outside, the mother drifted between a pro-Trump rally and a counter protest. She took tranquilizer pills so she could face local reporters, and then told them she was unsure if Trump really cared about victims like her. She said she hoped the president’s fixation on MS-13 might spur changes that will keep other kids from being attacked and recruited by the gang.
But for any policy to work, it needs to be rooted in reality.