When Toni Gross stood at the entrance of the Dover Fisher House for Families of the Fallen, she had no idea what to expect.
The previous hours were a blur, filled with grief and disbelief. It was July 2011, and she and her husband and daughter learned that Army Cpl. Frank Gross, their only son and brother, had been killed by an IED while serving in Afghanistan.
He was 25. And just like that, a mere few weeks into deployment, he was gone.
“We were just numb,” Toni Gross said.
The day after learning of Frank’s death, the Grosses traveled from Oldsmar, Florida to Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, expecting to stay at “some place like a Hampton Inn” for the dignified transfer of Frank’s body. But instead, just across the street from the runway, they spent 24 hours at the Dover Fisher House for Families of the Fallen — a house created by Fisher House Foundation specifically for loved ones of those who have fallen through combat.
“It was a wonderfully comforting experience, and everything we could possibly think of— all of our needs, food, everything — was taken care of,” Toni Gross said. “We were able to spend time focusing on why we were there: grieving the loss of our son.”
That’s exactly what the chairman and CEO of Fisher House wants to hear. Ken Fisher is a third-generation leader of one of America’s most successful family-owned real estate development and management companies, but he is also expressly passionate about honoring veterans while assisting their families.
The foundation offers several programs to support military families through critical times, like the Hero Miles program and a scholarship program for military children, spouses, and children of fallen and disabled veterans. In 2019 alone, more than 32,000 families were served, according to its website.
There are 87 Fisher Houses located on 25 military installations and 38 VA medical centers, with several more in the works. Run by the Fisher House Foundation, Inc., each Fisher House provides free lodging for military families whose loved ones are receiving medical treatment nearby.
The Fisher House at Dover, however, is special for many reasons, Fisher says, because “it was built to honor the ultimate sacrifices of those who wear the uniform.”
Those who stay there aren’t waiting for a recovery but a goodbye to their airman, soldier, Marine, sailor or Coastie.
“I think the Fisher House at Dover does more than just provide lodging,” Fisher said. “It’s important that these families who have made the ultimate sacrifice understand that there are Americans that are very grateful.”
The Fisher House at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware. Photo Roland Balik.
Built in just a few months in 2010, the Fisher House at Dover is equipped with nine guest suites that have seen approximately 3,700 guests since its opening. The average length of stay is 24 to 48 hours, with a typical family consists of six to 10 members.
Air Force Tech. Sgt. Michelle Johnson watches over each one. As house manager, it’s her job to make sure each guest has every need — and every want —taken care of.
One family with small children, for example, stayed at the house over Halloween. Staff members purchased costumes and took them trick-or-treating. Another time, they cooked a traditional holiday dinner for a family receiving their loved one’s body over Christmas.
“[These families] are experiencing a very difficult point in their lives, and grieving comes in different ways, so we make sure the Fisher House staff members takes care of those families,” Johnson said. “Giving them the care that they need and providing them with any comfort required.”
Toni Gross’ experience with staff members made such an impact that she now volunteers regularly at a Fisher House in Florida. Similarly, Ken Fisher, whose 87-year-old father served in the Korean War, calls the houses his “passion.”
“The House at Dover is particularly relevant as we approach Memorial Day, even while we’re in the grip of a pandemic,” he said. “In the end, we can never ever forget what has been done, what has been given to us, this freedom. That what we hold most dear above everything else — that came at a cost.”
And for families who have experienced that cost, like Toni Gross, it is “comforting” to have a place of refuge during such a difficult time.
“My family and I are grateful to the Fisher House Foundation for our stay at Dover Air Force Base. While it was a solemn time, it was comforting to know that the staff there all understood why we were there and were able to accommodate us during our darkest hours,” Gross said.
Suicide is one of the most challenging societal issues of our time, and sadly, one that affects those who served our Nation at alarming rates. For Veterans, the suicide rate is 1.5 times higher and the female Veteran suicide rate is 2.2 times higher than the general population.
There is good news: suicide is preventable and working together, we can create change and save lives.
On March 5, 2019, President Trump signed Executive Order 13861 establishing a three-year effort known as the President’s Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End a National Tragedy of Suicide (PREVENTS). Under the leadership of The White House and VA, the PREVENTS Office and cabinet-level, interagency task force were created to amplify and accelerate our progress in addressing suicide. The roadmap was released on June 17, 2020.
In July, PREVENTS launched a centerpiece of the initiative: the Nation’s first public health campaign focused on suicide prevention, REACH. This campaign is for and about everyone because we all have risk and protective factors for suicide that we need to recognize and understand. REACH provides the knowledge, tools, and resources that we need to prevent suicide by educating ourselves so that we can REACH when we are in need – so that we can REACH to those who feel hopeless. REACH empowers us to reach beyond what we have done before to change the way we think about, talk about, and address emotional pain and suffering.
As a member of the VA community, you are in a position to REACH out to Veterans who may be at risk during this difficult time. We all need support – sometimes we need more.
How can you get involved?
Take the PREVENTS Pledge to REACH: Make a commitment to increase awareness of mental health challenges as we work to prevent suicide for all Americans. Visit wearewithinreach.net to sign the pledge and challenge your friends and colleagues to do the same. PREVENTS is planning a month-long pledge drive during September, Suicide Prevention Month. Please join us!
Veterans can also help lead the way as we work to change the way we think about, talk about and address mental health and suicide. Veterans can give us their perspective and provide guidance as we reach out to those in need. To that end, the PREVENTS Office is launching a first-of-its kind, national survey on Sept. 2, 2020, that will give us invaluable feedback from Veterans and other stakeholders, including Veterans Service Organizations, Veterans’ families and community organizations. The survey will help us learn what are our Veterans’ most pressing needs. In addition, the answers we receive will help us understand how Veterans want to receive important information on mental health services and suicide prevention.
Please help us by taking the survey at PREVENTS Survey and encourage everyone you know to take it. Filling out the survey takes less than 5 minutes! The PREVENTS survey will be available from Sept. 2-30.
A long-standing Washington, D.C. donor has pledged to donate $1 million to the Boulder Crest Foundation in a matching challenge. The goal is to extend their ability to serve through vital services that target the needs of the military community.
Ken Falke is the founder and Chairman of Boulder Crest Foundation. He’s also the co-author of the best-selling book, Struggle Well: Thriving in the Aftermath of Trauma. Falke served in the United States Navy for 21 years where he was an Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician before retiring as a Master Chief Petty Officer. Early in the War on Terror, he began to see the increasing numbers of wounded EOD troops. He started a consulting company that worked to serve their needs. “After taking care of about 11 families, my wife and I started something known as the EOD Warrior Foundation,” he shared. Falke spent 16 years taking care of physically wounded EOD troops before leaving the foundation.
Falke and his wife began hosting military families at their home for cookouts and nature trips. “One day my wife said, ‘Rather than having these families in our house, why don’t we build some cabins in the meadows?’ “We had 200 acres,” he explained. That idea his wife had is what started the whole initiative. In 2011, the Foundation was established with the mission of utilizing Post Traumatic Growth to target issues impacting the military community as a whole.
“It was the nation’s first privately funded wellness center for veterans and their family members. Our biggest donor was the Clark family of Clark Construction. They came to us three and half years ago and gave us a $10 million dollar gift and we bought a second facility in Arizona,” Falke shared. “We now have two beautiful centers and we do the exact same thing at both centers.”
Kathryn Buckland is a major in the United States Army, stationed at Fort Irwin, CA. She personally knows the power that the support and resources Boulder Crest Foundation can provide. “Boulder Crest and the PATHH program gave me the permission to openly admit that I was struggling and that it was okay,” she explained. “For years, I would tell myself that I was unworthy of seeking help because there were others in more dire situations or who had experienced more trauma than I have that needed those resources and opportunities more. As an athlete, student and now Army Officer, I have spent the majority of my life training, yet I was never trained on how to struggle well.”
Struggling well is a key concept that the Boulder Crest Foundation teaches within their programs for the military community. They don’t do this alone either. Falke shared that it is through partnerships with many nonprofits and organizations that they are able to truly make a difference. “You can go a lot further together than you can on your own,” he stated.
Another thing the Foundation is working on is to remove the stigma associated with getting help, even if you haven’t seen combat. “I vividly remember when I did reach out for help, the individual peered over my shoulder to look at my uniform for either a combat action badge or combat medical badge, as if they could not understand why I was struggling if I had not been in engaged in combat over my deployment,” Buckland shared. “Not all veterans deploy and of those that do – not all have trauma directly related to their combat experiences, which is why it is critical to change the narrative about what our society perceives to be reasons for why our veterans are struggling.”
Although veterans have struggled for years with invisible wounds, it has continually worsened over time as the wars raged on. When the Boulder Crest Foundation saw the numbers increasing for suicides among veterans as the world battled the COVID-19 pandemic, it was spurred into action to do more. One of the ways they will be able to tackle the needs of so many is through the generosity of others through the matching challenge. When this $1 million dollar gift is matched, it will allow the organization to serve over 300 more veterans.
The organization has come a long way since its founding and has even opened their programs to the nation’s first responders and their families. The statement on their website says it all: We envision a world where all combat veterans, first responders, and their families have the training, skills and support they need to transform their struggle into lifelong Post-traumatic Growth.
To learn more about this organization and how you can support its efforts, click here.
Following a successful surprise meeting on Nov. 8, 2018, Beijing and Canberra want to be friends again.
That’s good, but it won’t change the fact that, for the Chinese people, Australia has made “probably the worst” impression out of all Western nations, The Global Times has noted in a strongly worded opinion piece.
Despite a reportedly warm first encounter on Nov. 8, 2018, between Australia’s newly enlisted foreign affairs minister Marise Payne and Chinese state councilor and foreign affairs minister Wang Yi (王毅 ) in Beijing, the strident Chinese tabloid had some tough truths to share for those hoping for a thaw in the frosty bilateral relationship.
In a typically withering opinion piece titled “It will be more difficult for China and Australia to repair people-to-people relations than to restore political relations,” the publication compared Australia unfavorably with US President Donald Trump.
At least when Trump was openly hostile toward China, people could understand why, the paper suggested.
“Trump has launched an unprecedented trade war with China, but the Chinese people can at least understand the rationale of the US. But Chinese people do not get why Australia is so hostile to China (in the last two years),” the opinion piece reads.
United States President Donald Trump.
In fact, the resumption of high-level meetings between China and Australia will come a lot easier than rediscovery of the once mutually admirative and friendly feelings between the two peoples, the paper observed.
Making the enemy less of an enemy
“Due to its performance in the past two years, Australia has left a bad impression on the Chinese people, probably the worst of all Western countries,” the opinion column said.
It continued: “The Chinese people understand that we must make friends with the outside world and try our best to make the enemy less than the enemy. Therefore, it is acceptable to improve the relationship between China and Australia rationally. However, people’s understanding of the Australian position in recent years is difficult to change in a short time.
For almost a decade really, Australia has been caught in a bit of a slow motion PR trainwreck in China.
Emerging of a once-in-a-generation trading boom that peaked around 2007, relations ironically began to sour around the same time the Mandarin speaking China expert Kevin Rudd was voted into office the same year.
We don’t want to talk about Kevin
The rot really began when Rudd famously delivered an unanticipated dressing-down of China in a speech at Beijing University, using a little-known and controversial word ‘Zheng you’ to describe a friend who is unafraid to tell it like it is.
Unsurprisingly the ensuing blunt assessment of China’s various faults in fluent Mandarin before an audience of hyped-up, patriotically infused, pre-Beijing Olympic students has never been forgotten, or forgiven.
What has followed has been a shopping list of insults, perceived or real, that have stretched the relationship to a breaking point.
Chinese public opinion can grasp that Australia is economically close to China, but politically and strategically attached to the US, the Times noted.
“But Australia has taken the lead in boycotting China’s so-called “infiltration” of the South China Seas … Australia also took the lead among Western countries to exclude Huawei from participating in 5G construction.”
Salt on the wound
“This is to say that salt was sprinkled on the wounds (伤口上的盐) of China-Australia relations.”
This position stands in contrast to the broad reporting of events in Beijing on Nov. 8, 2018, where foreign minister Wang Yi indicated that the two sides had found “an important common understanding.”
The flashpoint of Nov. 8, 2018’s discussions this time centered on the South Pacific, after Australia’s prime minister announced a surprise multibillion economic, diplomatic and security dollar fund to counter China’s rising influence in the region.
Beijing and Canberra should work together in the South Pacific and not wake up one day as strategic rivals, the State Councilor and former Ambassador to Japan said on Nov. 8, 2018.
“Australia and China are not competitors, not rivals but cooperation partners and we have agreed to combine and capitalize on our respective strengths to carry out trilateral cooperation involving Pacific island states.”
Australian prime minister Scott John Morrison.
An important extended thread in China’s 21st century Maritime Silk Road, the redrawing and rebuilding of trade routes, sea lanes and infrastructures, Wang said that China would prefer to be Australia’s partner in driving infrastructure in the Pacific.
Wang spoke of forming a “tripartite cooperative” with Pacific nations after Morrison announced a rebooting of Australia’s engagement with its neglected “backyard,” of which the centrepiece is a billion infrastructure fund to potentially lure island states away from the maritime leg of China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
All well and good for the islands, the Times said, “but it is uncertain whether (people to people ties) will recover.”
“Let Australia pay the price …”
On Nov. 6, 2018, Australia flagged concerns at the United Nations Human Rights Council review in Geneva on the Communist Party’s aggressive expansion of “reeducation” camps directed against local Muslim populations in western China’s Xinjiang province.
“In an interview, Payne said that she would ‘talk about human rights’ in Beijing. This information shows that China-Australia relations will not be too calm in the future,” the Times cautioned.”
The example of Australia tells us that cooperation does not necessarily mean that each other is a friend … of course, we have to build leverage to harness (the advantages) of a complex relationship.”
“Australia said a few words of disrespect to China, but if it does actions that harm China’s actual interests … then we should respond, let Australia pay the price, and steer mutual cooperation through struggle.”
However, foreign minister Wang said that since taking office, the newly elected Australian government (this one is about two months old, and it’s not elected) has made “positive gestures” toward developing China-Australia relations on many occasions.
According to the state council news agency Xinhua, both sides also vowed to “promote bilateral ties on the basis of mutual trust and win-win results.”
“We stand ready to strengthen communication and coordination with Australia in multilateral mechanisms, as a way of jointly safeguarding multilateralism and free trade,” Wang added, in a clear nod to China’s need to shore up multilateral support as the damaging trade war with the US continues to impact the economy.
A country, yes, but also a kind of sandbox for experimentation
Xinhua noted that Payne acknowledged Australia does not regard China as a military threat and that a prosperous China is a positive and significant outcome for the entire world, as is custom on these occassions.
Meanwhile, the Times closed it out like this.
“Australia is a middle-power Western country not far from China. It is important to say that Australia is important to China. It doesn’t matter if it is not important. China should regard relations with Australia as a sandbox (一块沙盘) for experimenting with the relationship between China and the West.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Russia has accused the United States of supporting Islamic State (IS) militants in Syria, enabling them to mount counteroffensive attacks there.
The Defense Ministry made the accusation on October 4 as Russian-backed Syrian government forces and fighters backed by the United States are racing to capture territory from the IS extremist group.
As the separate campaigns are being waged within close proximity of one another, the Russian and U.S. militaries have traded charges that their troops or allies were endangered or struck by the other side’s forces.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said that a series of attacks launched by IS militants on Syrian government forces came from an area around Al-Tanf near the border with Jordan where a U.S. mission is located.
Konashenkov said the attacks took place last week near Al-Qaryatayn in the Homs Province and a highway linking the central city of Palmyra and Deir al-Zor to the east.
The spokesman said that the attackers had the precise coordinates of the Syrian government forces, which could only have been obtained through aerial reconnaissance.
“If the U.S. side views such operations as unforeseen ‘accidents,’ Russian aviation in Syria is ready to begin the complete eradication of all such ‘accidents’ in the zone under their control,” Konashenkov warned.
“The main thing preventing the final defeat of [the IS group] in Syria is not the terrorists’ military capability but the support and pandering to them by our American colleagues,” he added.
It is the latest of a series of accusations traded as Russian-backed troops loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the U.S.-allied, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces battle IS fighters in the eastern province of Deir al-Zor near the Iraqi border.
Moscow and Washington held a first-ever meeting between their generals last month to try to prevent accidental clashes between the two sides, but reports of deaths in continuing clashes suggested the problem was not resolved.
A Russian Sukhoi Su-25 “Frogfoot” ground attack aircraft was shot down over the city of Maasran in Idlib, Syria, on Feb. 3, 2018. The aircraft, RF-95486/06 Blue (ex Red), was involved in airstrikes in region and had just fired rockets on a ground target.
Video seen on social media shows what appears to be a person, claimed to be the Russian Su-25 pilot, descending by parachute after the aircraft was hit. The BBC reported that Russia’s defense ministry said: “The pilot had enough time to report that he had ejected in an area controlled by the militants of Jabhat al-Nusra.”
Based on report and the above videos the aircraft was hit by a MANPADS (Man Portable Air Defense System): most probably a Chinese FN-6 passive infrared homing (IR) man portable air defence system known to be in the hands of the Jidahists.
According to reliable sources within the Russian military who spoke to TheAviationist.com, the pilot did reach the ground and then engaged unknown ground forces. Our Russian source tells TheAviationist.com that photos from the scene show the pilot’s personal firearm and that, “One store [ammunition magazine] is completely empty, the other two are consumed more than half. The pilot led the fight.” The source claimed the weapon shown in the photos is a Russian Stechkin automatic pistol or APS. This weapon is widely carried by Russian military and federal law enforcement.
Additional sources on Russian social media report that the pilot carried a grenade and may have detonated it close to himself as insurgent forces closed in on him. There is no official confirmation of this information.
Anyway, the pilot was captured and killed. The Russia-based, independent Conflict Intelligence Team posted photographs they say showed the dead body of the pilot and a paper recommending a man named Major Roman Filipov for a state award that was allegedly filled out by Russian air group commander Lieutenant Colonel Sergei Aksyonov.
Novaya Gazeta quoted an unidentified Defense Ministry source as confirming that the pilot was Filippov. According to the newspaper, he was a Ukrainian pilot from Crimea, the Ukrainian region that Russia annexed in 2014.
Video from alleged to be from the crash scene clearly show the wing of an Su-25 with Russian markings along with a damaged engine and fire among debris.
TheAviationist.com showed the Arabic language news broadcast to a translator in Dearborn, Michigan, who told us that the reporter in the video, identified as “Journalist Moazom Al-Chamie”, says the aircraft was shot down by a shoulder fired missile after being spotted by drivers in a truck. The reporter also goes on to say that another Russian Su-25 remained in the area after the incident, and that the men shown in the video hoped to shoot it down as well.
According to Iranian journalist Babak Taghvaee the Su-25 shot down on Feb. 3 2018 was one of six Su-25s of RuAF’s 368 ShAP recently deployed from Sevastopol, Crimea to Hmeymim Air Base, Syria.
The loss of this Su-25 is the 11th Russian aircraft destroyed by enemy action or in accidents during the Russian involvement in the Syrian campaign. Considering the number of combat sorties flown by the Russians over Syria, and the increasing number of man portable air defense systems (MANPADS), these losses could be characterized as low for a campaign of this size.
Russian observers remarked that an absence of infra-red decoy flares being ejected from the Su-25 shown in the videos is unusual. It is common to see a series of bright flares ejected from an aircraft as a countermeasure to heat-seeking anti-aircraft missiles.
Video seen on social media showed Su-25 attack aircraft over the same area being engaged by anti-aircraft guns. One video showed an Su-25 taking a near miss as a proximity fused anti-aircraft round detonates near its left wing root.
Following the downing of the Su-25 reports began to appear on Twitter that numerous air strikes were occurring in the area where the aircraft was downed.
If you like to read and are in the military, chances are that you aren’t reading for the hell of it, but reading to learn. Reading history, military leadership and self-improvement books are a great way to work toward developing skills to help improve your chances of success as a leader.
While the intent is admirable, there is a more practical problem with this approach. According to the forgetting curve, we forget most of what we read in the days or weeks after we encounter the material. Research has found that we generally remember as little as 10 to 20% of what we read.
I read a lot and I’m continually looking for ways to help me retain the important ideas, passages and quotes I come across. And I’m not alone.
Since humans first started writing practical advice for leaders, people have tried to figure ways to remember these lessons and incorporate them into their daily lives. The Stoic philosopher Seneca even commented on this over 2000 years ago:
“We should hunt out the helpful pieces of teaching and the spirited and noble-minded sayings which are capable of immediate practical application—not far-fetched or archaic expressions or extravagant metaphors and figures of speech—and learn them so well that words become works.”
So how do we learn the words so well that we turn them into works? The key is to counter the forgetting curve and increase our ability to recall the information we gain from reading. Thankfully, memory research has some answers for us.
Here are 3 tips for remembering what you’re reading:
Use your hands.
One of the ways in which we can better remember what we read is to get our hands involved in the process. In other words, using a highlighter to mark important passages or a pen to write marginalia (notes in the margins) helps us with retention.
In their book, The New Science of Learning: How to Learn in Harmony with Your Brain, educators Terry Doyle and Todd Zakrajsek argue that by adding the sense of touch to learning, we create multi-sensory pathways in the brain. Studies have shown that a multi-sensory approach to learning greatly increases the probability of recall.
Build an external hard drive.
From Marcus Aurelius to George Patton and Leonardo da Vinci to Bill Gates, these leaders and inventors kept personal notebooks or notecards where they captured quotes, maxims, ideas or anything else they found of interest. As we look back now into their private writings, we find evidence of the intellectual growth that made them successful. For instance, Patton copied down insights at West Point that would eventually become his fighting style decades later.
Typically when I finish a book, I return to it and transfer my margin notes, highlighted passages or additional reading (footnotes and endnotes are great for this) into my notebook. This extra step takes about thirty minutes, but it is worth it.
I continually look back through my notebook, gaining more familiarity with the subject. This “external hard drive’ is a great place to review ideas when I need them, and I don’t have to worry about it crashing!
Talk about it!
Finally, when we discuss what we read, we increase the chances we won’t forget it. By talking about it, we force our brains to recall the information. Research has shown that in recalling information, we strengthen the memory.
If I am reading a book I enjoy, I will bring it up in conversation with friends and family members. As we discuss an aspect of the book, I typically find that we will come up with even more applications for the quote or idea put forth by the author.
So, next time you pick up a book, don’t just read it cover to cover and put it away. Grab your highlighter and a pen. Mark passages and make notes in the margins. Find a small notebook where you can capture insights, quotes and tidbits worth remembering. And talk about your books with family and friends, always looking for ways to recall the information. If you do these things, you will be able to follow the advice of Seneca, and know the words so well that you turn them into works.
What started as wishful thinking by a bunch of vets hoping to one day become space shuttle door gunners is starting to take shape as the next steps in establishing a Space Force are underway.
Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Vice President Mike Pence held a conference at the Pentagon on Aug 9 to discuss the latest plans and updates on the creation of the United States Space Force. To clear some of the fog surrounding it, it’s not about sending armed troops into space nor is it an over-the-top plan to fight aliens.
There is a real and current strategic advantage in using space to aid with Earthly conflicts through satellites operations and missile defense — both of which would fall under the purview of the new Space Force.
Vice President Mike Pence has championed our current space commands within the Air Force and the Navy.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Dennis Hoffman)
Secretary Mattis opened up the briefing and announced that the Pentagon will release its latest space report to Congress, reinforcing the specifics on how they will move forward. He then welcomed Vice President Pence to take the podium.
Vice President Pence reiterated both the desire to push mankind back into space exploration and to utilize space for the rapid advancement of technology. He likened the establishment of the Space Force to that of the Air Force when it was first created.
“In 1939, at the start of the second World War, the U.S. Army Air Corps was still a fledgling organization… By 1945, the American military had nearly 30 times the number of planes and 85 times the number of pilots and support crews compared to just six years earlier and our allies emerged victorious from WWII because of the strength of our armed forces and because our armed forces adapted to meet the emerging threats of the day,” said Vice President Mike Pence.
Once you realize just how many U.S. satellites are in space, how little protection they have, and just how dependent our society is on their safety… you’ll stop thinking of the Space Force as a joke branch.
(Air Force illustration)
Our current military does, in fact, have a space command and has had one for decades. Expanding the space command into a full branch would give the tens of thousands of troops and civilian contractors currently working on the space mission far greater spending to continue and expand upon the responsibilities of the domain.
Founding the Space Force will firmly establish America’s leadership in space. In President Trump’s own words,
“It is not enough to merely have an American presence in space. We must have American dominance in space. And so we will.”
One of the first technologies announced was the fielding of a new generation of jam-resistant GPS and communication satellites. This also comes along with a new missile defense satellite that is “smaller, tougher, and more maneuverable than ever before.”
The need for dominance over space is growing by the day. China launched a missile that tracked and destroyed a test satellite in 2007. Russia has been designing an airborne laser that is said to disrupt satellites and claim to be creating missiles that could be launched mid-flight to destroy satellites. Both have claimed to have ability to move their satellites closer to our own — which could pose an unprecedented new danger.
Many more details about the new branch’s establishment will come soon as we move forward towards its eventual creation with a possible date set for 2020.
Several prominent leaders in the national defense community are calling upon the Pentagon to re-start production of the high-speed F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jet which began air attacks against ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria.
Citing Russian and Chinese stealthy fighter jet advances, Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., and former Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne wrote an OPED in the Wall Street Journal describing the current fleet of F-22s as massively insufficient to address today’s fast-changing global threat environment.
The F-22’s recent performance in combat missions for Operation Inherent Resolve over Iraq and Syria have led observers and analysts to emphasize the importance of the fighter.
The OPED argues that the Pentagon needs to resurrect production of the Lockheed-Boeing-built Raptor or replace it with a new aircraft with comparable capabilities; Forbes is the current Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee’s Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee and Wynne served as Secretary of the Air Force from 2005 until 2008.
“Raptor incorporated cutting-edge technologies that had never been combined in a single aircraft: composite materials, computer avionics, thrust-vectoring engine nozzles, and radar countermeasures. It became the first “fifth generation” fighter, a high-speed, super-maneuverable stealth aircraft that still outclasses everything else in air-to-air combat,” the OPED writes.
The Air Force had originally planned to build more than 700 F-22s, however ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan inspired new, more immediate thinking regarding the global threat calculus – leading the Pentagon to ultimately truncate the fleet sized down to only 187 jets, the OPED says.
The move was part of a Pentagon culture fostered by former Defense Secretary Robert Gates wherein developers were suffering from what he called “next-war-it is” and not sufficiently focused upon the pressing needs on ongoing ground wars.
“By the time the Raptor started rolling off the production line in 2002, the high-tech threats it had been designed to defeat had faded from view. Instead of Russian MiGs, Pentagon leaders were worried about improvised explosive devices,” the essay writes.
Writing that the U.S. Air Force’s fleet is the smallest and the oldest it has ever been, Forbes and Wynne point out that Russia and China have been developing, fielding new fighters and, in some cases, and exporting sophisticated air defenses to countries like Iran.
“Russia rolled out its first fifth-generation stealth fighter, the PAK-FA, in 2010. China followed in 2011, flight-testing the J-20, an F-22 look-alike, while Secretary Gates was visiting Beijing. Gen. Mark Welsh, the Air Force’s chief of staff, warned last year that future Russian and Chinese jets “will be better than anything we have today,” Forbes and Wynne write.
In addition, the House Armed Services Committee recently added language to a draft version of the proposed defense authorization bill requiring the Air Force to study the issue of restarting F-22 production.
Air Force officials have explained that, as much as the service may want more F-22s in the fleet, the money to build them again would most likely need to come from elsewhere in the budget.
As evidence of the current Air Force position on the issue, the service’s Military Deputy for Acquisition Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch, recently told Congress that restarting F-22 production would require billions of dollars.
Bunch cited a recent Rand study on the issue, explaining that the service was no longer analyzing the possibility due to budget realities.
“We viewed it, in the light of the balancing act we’re already doing between readiness and modernization, as something that would be cost prohibitive and we would have to take something else out that we value right now to try to meet the requirements to be able to do that. And so we have not put any further analysis into that,” Bunch said.
On this topic, however, the Forbes-Wynne letter cites the Rand study’s finding that it would cost over $500 million (in 2008 dollars) to restart production on the F-22.
“If the Air Force ordered 75 additional jets, Rand estimated they would cost $179 million each,” the letter states.
If lawmakers were somehow able to increase the budget or secure the requisite funding for additional F-22s, it certainly does not seem inconceivable that Air Force and Pentagon developers would be quite enthusiastic.
F-22 Raptors sit on the flight line at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii. | U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Shane A. Cuomo
Inside the F-22’s Mission in Iraq
Air Force F-22 Raptor fighter jets delivered some of the first strikes in the U.S.-led attacks on the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, when aerial bombing began in 2014, service officials told Scout Warrior.
After delivering some of the first strikes in the U.S. Coalition-led military action against ISIS, the F-22 began to shift its focus from an air-dominance mission to one more focused on supporting attacks on the ground.
“An F-22 squadron led the first strike in OIR (Operation Inherent Resolve). The aircraft made historic contributions in the air-to-ground regime,” Col. Larry Broadwell, the Commander of the 1st Operations Group at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
Even though ISIS does not have sophisticated air defenses or fighter jets of their own to challenge the F-22, there are still impactful ways in which the F-22 continues to greatly help the ongoing attacks, Broadwell said.
“There are no issues with the air superiority mission. That is the first thing they focus on. After that, they can transition to what they have been doing over the last several months and that has been figuring out innovative ways to contribute in the air-to-ground regime to support the coalition,” Broadwell said.
As a fifth-generation stealth fighter, the F-22 is specifically engineered for air supremacy and air dominance missions, meaning its radar-evading technology is designed to elude and destroy enemy air defenses. The aircraft is also configured to function as the world’s premier air-to-air fighter able to “dogfight” and readily destroy enemy aircraft.
“Air superiority, using stealth characteristics is our primary role. The air dominance mission is what we will always do first. Once we are comfortable operating in that battlespace, our airmen are going to find ways to contribute,” Broadwell explained.
F-22 as “Aerial Quarterback”
The F-22’s command and control sensors and avionics help other coalition aircraft identify and destroy targets. While some of the aircraft’s technologies are not “publically discussable,” Broadwell did say that the F-22’s active and passive sensors allow it to function as an “aerial quarterback” allowing the mission to unfold.
“Because of its sensors, the F-22 is uniquely able to improve the battlefield awareness – not just for airborne F-22s but the other platforms that are airborne as well,” he said. The Raptor has an F-22-specific data link to share information with other F-22s and also has the ability to use a known data link called LINK 16 which enables it to communicate with other aircraft in the coalition, Broadwell explained.
For example, drawing upon information from a ground-based command and control center or nearby surveillance plane – such as a Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System – the F-22 can receive information or target coordinates from nearby drones, Broadwell explained.
Newer F-22s have a technology called Synthetic Aperture Radar, or SAR, which uses electromagnetic signals or “pings” to deliver a picture or rendering of the terrain below, allow for better target identification.
The SAR technology sends a ping to the ground and then analyzes the return signal to calculate the contours, distance and characteristics of the ground below.
“The addition of SAP mapping has certainly enhanced our air-to-ground capability. Previously, we would have to take off with pre-determined target coordinates. Now, we have an ability to more dynamically use the SAR to pinpoint a target while airborne,” Broadwell added.
Overall, the Air Force operates somewhere between 80 and 100 F-22s.
“The F-35 is needed because it is to global precision attack what the F-22 is to air superiority,” he added. “These two aircrafts were built to work together in concert. It is unfortunate that we have so few F-22s. We are going to ask the F-35 to contribute to the air superiority mission,” he said.
The F-22 is known for a range of technologies including an ability called “super cruise” which enables the fighter to reach speeds of Mach 1.5 without needing to turn on its after burners.
“The F-22 engines produce more thrust than any current fighter engine. The combination of sleek aerodynamic design and increased thrust allows the F-22 to cruise at supersonic airspeeds. Super Cruise greatly expands the F-22’s operating envelope in both speed and range over current fighters, which must use fuel-consuming afterburner to operate at supersonic speeds,” Broadwell explained.
The fighter jet fires a 20mm cannon and has the ability to carry and fire all the air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons including precision-guided ground bombs, such Joint Direct Attack Munitions called the GBU 32 and GBU 39, Broadwell explained. In the air-to-air configuration the Raptor carries six AIM-120 AMRAAMs and two AIM-9 Sidewinders, he added.
“The F-22 possesses a sophisticated sensor suite allowing the pilot to track, identify, shoot and kill air-to-air threats before being detected. Significant advances in cockpit design and sensor fusion improve the pilot’s situational awareness,” he said.
It also uses what’s called a radar-warning receiver – a technology which uses an updateable data base called “mission data files” to recognize a wide-range of enemy fighters, Broadwell said.
Made by Lockheed Martin and Boeing, the F-22 uses two Pratt Whitney F119-PW-100 turbofan engines with afterburners and two-dimensional thrust vectoring nozzles, an Air Force statement said. It is 16-feet tall, 62-feet long and weighs 43,340 pounds. Its maximum take-off weight is 83,500.
The aircraft was first introduced in December of 2005, and each plane costs $143 million, Air Force statements say.
“Its greatest asset is the ability to target attack and kill an enemy without the enemy ever being aware they are there,” Broadwell added.
I recently spoke with a recruiter from my current company and he mentioned the wide gap in quality of resumes he received from veteran applicants.
Here are eight tips to bolster your transition success. You do not need to take it as gospel, but these tips work:
1) Do not lie, omit, or embellish.
I once read honesty is being truthful with others while integrity is being truthful with yourself. Integrity and honesty are paramount in a resume. Do not say you were the Battalion Operations Officer when you were only the Assistant. The difference is large and will come out in the interview.
Do not omit certain military additional duties either. Unit Movement Officer, for example, is a powerful resume bullet, especially if you’re applying for positions in logistics, supply chain, or purchasing.
2) Do not de-militarize your resume.
We cannot bridge the military-civilian divide if we diminish what we’ve done during service. People going from Wall Street to manufacturing do not change their previous official positions on a resume, so you should not either.
You were not a “Mid-level Logistics Coordinator” — I “logistics coordinate” every time I do a DITY move. Sheesh. You were a “Battalion Logistics Officer (S-4),” responsible for millions dollars worth of equipment, travel funding, and other logistics needs for a high operational tempo military unit of 500-800 people.
Put quantifiable performance measures (e.g. coordinated redeployment of 800 people and associated equipment without loss; received a commendation for the exceptional performance of my team) and any recruiter will see the worthiness of your work. The interviewer will ask pointed questions so you can showcase your talents and they will learn more about the military rank structure and terminology.
3) Do showcase your talents.
If you briefed the Under Secretary of the Army or a General Officer, put that down. Your yearly efficiency reports are replete with this information. Try this format: Cause (redeployment), Action (coordinated), Effect (no loss), Reward (commendation).
4) Do review your resume and have someone else review it.
Bad grammar, misspelled words, or omitted words are resume killers. Use spell check on the computer, then print it out and go to town with a red-ink pen. This is the type of stuff a mentor is more than willing to do for you.
5) Do put your awards down, especially valor awards or awards for long-term meritorious service.
Simply put: Bronze Star with Valor device = Yes
MacArthur Leadership Award = Yes
Army Service Ribbon = No.
Items like a Physical Fitness Award or the Mechanics Badge should be left off unless they are relevant to the job you are seeking.
6) Do not list specific military skills, unless you’re applying for certain contracting, federal, or law enforcement jobs.
Simply put, again: CDL or foreign language proficiency = Yes
HMMWV training or marksmanship badges = No.
7) Do list your references in this way: one superior, one peer, and one subordinate.
Imagine the power of a corporate recruiter finding that your Battalion Commander, the captain you shared a hallway with, and one of your NCOs all speak highly of you.
The combination of their views can speak wonders. Let it work for you. It shows you are a good employee, a team player, and a leader all at once. If you can only list two, list the superior and the subordinate.
8) Do make your resume a living document.
Customize it as needed for various jobs, and highlight different points accordingly. “Leadership in a high-stress environment” creates a stable framework to delve deeper into what you have accomplished. Focus on tangible, specific, quantifiable, and consistent results.
Do not think for a second that your military service will not get you the job you want. Leadership under high-stress situations comes in many forms, in training and in combat. Sell yourself. Win.
The Arctic could become the location of the next phase of an arms race between the United States and Russia – and the Russians have taken an early lead.
According to a report by Reuters, Russian military assets, including Cold War-era bases in the Arctic, are being brought back into service as Vladimir Putin makes a play to control what could be massive reserves of oil. The Russian build-up reportedly includes effort to winterize modern weapons, like the Su-34 “Fullback” strike aircraft and the MiG-31 “Foxhound” interceptor.
According to Globalsecurity.org, the Su-34 is capable of carrying up to eight tons of weapons or a dozen air-to-air missiles, has a crew of two, and saw some combat action over Syria. The Fullback is slated to replace Su-24 Fencers currently serving with the Russian Air Force and Russian Naval Aviation. That site also notes that the MiG-31, an improved development of the MiG-25 Foxbat interceptor, also has a two-person crew, and is capable of firing the AA-9 “Amos” air-to-air missile, which has a range of just under 100 miles. The Foxhound has been upgraded with a new radar.
Also included in the buildup are new icebreakers – including three nuclear-powered icebreakers according to a 2014 World Nuclear News report. In 2015, Port News reported that construction had started on two conventionally-powered icebreakers, while the Barents Observer reported in 2014 that the LK-25 would be delayed by up to two years from a planned delivery date of 2015.
Port News reported in December 2016 that the vessel, now named Viktor Chernomyrdin, wouldn’t be completed until sometime in 2018.
The British news agency noted that the push comes even though a combination of economic sanctions and low oil prices have shelved Russian plans to explore for some of the massive oil and natural gas reserves in the Arctic.
The F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jets left behind at Tyndall Air Base when Hurricane Michael damaged or destroyed virtually every building on site will be visited by structural engineers from Lockheed Martin, the defense contractor tweeted.
Hurricane Michael hit Tyndall with unexpected force and sooner than expected, and the Air Force left some of the jets, which cost in the hundreds of millions apiece, behind in the base’s most hardened hangars.
But the storm proved historically powerful, and images of the aftermath show the hangars torn open. Initial assessments said that up to 17 of the planes had been destroyed, but top US Air Force officials later visited the base and said the damage wasn’t as bad as first thought.
F-22 Raptors from Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., taxi after landing at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio for safe haven.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Wesley Farnsworth)
While the Air Force still won’t share how many F-22s were left behind, or how bad they were damaged by the storm, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis sounded hopeful on Oct. 16, 2018.
The Air Force did manage to relocate a number of air-worthy F-22s before the storm, and they’ve returned to training stealth pilots in the world’s most capable combat plane. The limited run of F-22s, their stealth shaping and coating, and rare parts make repairing them a costly endeavor.