Everything you need to know about the Air Force's new PT tests - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Everything you need to know about the Air Force’s new PT tests

Air liaison officers and tactical air control party operators will soon see new career field-specific physical testing as the Air Force expands physical training beyond the standard PT test, officials announced Jan. 31.


It marks the first time specific career fields will have “occupationally specific and operationally relevant standards, as well as a second fitness assessment,” the service said in a release.

“ALO and TACP operators will be given a 12-month period after implementation to adapt to these new tests and standards before they are officially enforced,” Dr. Neal Baumgartner, chief of the Air Force’s Exercise Science Unit (ESU), said in the release.

“There are certain career fields, ALO and TACP for instance, that required much higher and broader levels of physical fitness to meet the demands of their operational mission sets,” he said.

Because of the critical skills these career fields require, Baumgartner said, the unit — with support from Rand Corp., a nonprofit institution that provides research and analysis studies on public policy, and its Project AIR FORCE team — initiated the science-based review.

Everything you need to know about the Air Force’s new PT tests
Senior Master Sgt. Kenneth Blakeney (second from left), 9th Air Support Operations Squadron, Fort Hood, Texas, launches a medicine ball at the fitness center at Joint Base Andrews, Md., Jan. 9, 2018. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joe Yanik)

Job-related exercises

Based on the study and focus groups, the new Tier 2 test — which is still being augmented in certain cases — includes such exercises as follows:

  • 1,000-meter row (measured in minutes and seconds);
  • Pull-ups (measured in repetitions);
  • Trap bar deadlift (five repetitions, measured in pounds);
  • Two-cone agility drill (measured in seconds);
  • Medicine ball toss (measured in feet);
  • Grip strength test (measured in pounds per square inch);
  • 100-yard farmer’s carry (or 4 x 25 yards, measured in seconds);
  • Extended cross knee crunch (measured in repetitions);
  • Weighted lunges (measured in repetitions); and
  • A faster 1.5 mile run (measured in minutes and seconds).

Tier 2 is scored on a 1-10 scale in each of the 10 components. The ALO or TACP must score at least 46 points out of 100 to pass, according to the scoring sheet provided to Military.com.

In addition, TACPs or ALOs must now complete the 1.5-mile run in 11 minutes, 31 seconds, or less, the scores reveal.

Unlike the Tier 1 test, age, and gender are not a factor.

The tape test — widely unpopular among airmen, which measures weight and waist circumference — will still be taken, Air Force spokeswoman Brooke Brzozowske told Military.com.

Everything you need to know about the Air Force’s new PT tests
Master Sgt. Kyle Anderson, 3rd Air Support Operations Group, runs between two cones during a speed, strength and agility demonstration at Joint Base Andrews, Md., Jan. 9, 2018. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joe Yanik)

Science-based review

The study, which began in 2011, found that in order “to properly develop Tier 2 tests and standards, we performed five major steps to develop a final product: identify critical physical job tasks; develop fitness tests and physical task simulations; validate fitness tests and standards versus operational physical requirements; implement and verify these tests and standards; and finally document Tier 2 products and provide recommendations for policy during the adaptation period,” Baumgartner said.

The first step used Air Force focus groups to identify 44 air liaison-TACP Critical Physical Tasks, or CPTs, the release said. They were reviewed and approved by senior leaders in the operations community.

The ESU team then identified 10 testing components deemed critical for strength training, dubbed “Tier 2 Operator Prototype PF Test Battery.”

They included grip strength, medicine ball toss, back and side; three cone drill; trap bar deadlift, five repetition maximum; pull-up; lunges, weighted 50 pound, metronome; extended cross knee crunch, metronome; farmer’s carry, 2 x 50 pound, 100 yards; row ergometer, 1000 meters; and 1.5-mile run.

Related: Here’s how to get in shape to be an Air Force special operator

“The important takeaway here is that each of these 10 components have specific relevance to unique ALO-TACP operational mission sets,” Master Sgt. Matthew Gruse, ESU NCO in charge, said in the release.

“The grip strength test, for example, measures muscular strength in the hands and forearms, but why?” he said.

“While some may see this as redundant to other test components, our study found grip strength plays a significant role in performing tasks such as litter carries, casualty drags and rescue sled pulls during casualty movement,” Gruse said.

Lastly, Rand designed eight broad physical task simulations, or PTSs, which were developed in collaboration with special operators, reviewed by senior leaders, and tested during a pilot study.

Physical Task Simulation components included rope bridge; rope ladder; cross load personnel and equipment; casualty movement; and small unit tactics.

Everything you need to know about the Air Force’s new PT tests
Master Sgt. James Blair, 12th Combat Training Squadron, performs a farmers drag during a strength and agility demonstration as part of the Air Force special operations community’s new fitness assessment program at Joint Base Andrews, Md., Jan. 9, 2018. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joe Yanik)

Coming in 2019

All airmen are required to pass the service-wide Fitness Assessment known as Tier 1, Brzozowske said.

With Tier 2 in the mix, there is some nuance.

“ALOs and TACPs are granted permanent exemption from the aerobic (1.5-mile run) and muscle fitness (sit-up and push-up) components [under] the Tier 1 Air Force Fitness Assessment,” Brzozowske said in an email Wednesday. They were granted the exemption on Nov. 1, 2017, she said.

That is because the sharper run is already built in their new Tier 2 training.

Brzozowske said, “The exemption applies only to ALO and TACP personnel assigned to positions that are required to take the Tier 2 [Occupationally-Specific, Operationally-Relevant] Fitness Assessment per forthcoming Air Force Instruction 13-113, TACP Training Volume 1 policy. All other ALO and TACP personnel must continue to take the Tier 1 Air Force Fitness Assessment.”

While there were no women represented in the career fields during the pretrial testing, officials said they are eligible for either career field provided they “meet all minimum standards outlined in respective qualifications summaries.”

Everything you need to know about the Air Force’s new PT tests
Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright (second from left) poises to launch a medicine ball over his head Jan. 9, 2018 at Joint Base Andrews, Md. Wright visited a demonstration for a new occupational fitness program performed by senior noncommissioned officers from across the special operations community. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joe Yanik)

How and when the Air Force intends to implement the Tier 2 testing is still being determined.

The service is also weighing expanding job-specific physical testing standards for other Special Tactics career fields such as combat controllers, weather officers, combat rescue and combat pararescue, as well as non-battlefield airmen careers such as fly-away security teams, loadmasters and firefighters, which require more endurance on the job.

To prepare and to avoid duplication, some of these careers — combat control (1 C2Xl ), combat rescue officer (13DX), pararescue (1 T2Xl), special tactics officer (13CX), special operations weather technician (1 WOX2) — may be granted a temporary exemption of the aerobic run, push-ups, and sit-ups until Dec. 1, 2018, Brzozowske said. The waist-tape test will still occur.

“This exemption is contingent upon each career field manager resuming and continuing development and validation of their new AFSC-specific, operationally specific/relevant fitness assessments,” she said.

The Tier 2 test is expected to be fully implemented for the ALO-TACP career fields by the start of 2019.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Boots will test new lightweight combat boot in boot camp

The Marine Corps is getting ready to launch a test to determine if lighter footwear will improve the performance of Marines at boot camp.

According to a release from Marine Corps Systems Command, the test, to be run during a future recruit training cycle, will involve two lightweight boots designed for warmer climates: the Danner Reckoning Hot Weather Boot, currently available to Marines for optional wear; and the Rocky Tropical boot, which has participated and performed well in recent wear tests assessing jungle footwear for Marines.


The Marine Corps plans to order 700 pairs of each to issue to an equal number of male and female recruits at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina. They will be compared to the standard Marine Corps combat boot during the test, according to the release.

During the three-month test, users will be monitored to determine if there is a decrease in lower extremity injuries for those wearing the lighter boots, according to the release.

Everything you need to know about the Air Force’s new PT tests
Marines with Combat Logistics Regiment 2 splash their way through one of the many mud puddles during an endurance course at Camp Lejeune, N.C., April 22, 2016.
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Brianna Gaudi)

“The feedback we’ve received from Marines on the Reckoning boots, is positive,” Todd Towles, project officer for the Clothing and Equipment Team at Marine Corps Systems Command, said in a statement. “The boots are lightweight, durable, and there’s virtually no break-in period.”

While officials did not say when the test is set to take place, they have already begun to procure the boots it requires.

On March 22, 2018, the Marine Corps published an intent to sole source 700 pairs of the Reckoning boot. It published a request for a quote on the Rocky boot.

This most recent effort follows a series of wear tests in 2016 and 2017 involving tropical boot prototypes. The tests, which took place in Hawaii and Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, California, involved boots made by four different companies: Rocky Boots, Bates Footwear, Altama, and Danner.

While the Marine Corps has not publicized full results of those tests, they said the Rocky brand performed well during testing.

Articles

China’s special ops just reenacted the US raid on Bin Laden for some reason

Footage recently emerged from a prime-time segment on Chinese state-run television showing Chinese special forces practicing a raid that bears an eerie resemblance to the US Navy SEALs’ 2011 raid on Osama Bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.


The segment, first noticed by the New York Times, takes place in Xinjiang, a province in Western China home to the Uighurs, a Muslim minority often at odds with China’s state-endorsed atheism and their dominant ethnicity, the Hans.

Related: 7 amazing and surreal details of the Osama bin Laden raid

While China has increased its presence in the Middle East as of late, it has also increased raids on Uighur leaders, issuing one strange announcement in November 14, 2015 that compared a 56-day battle against the Uighurs to the ISIS attack in Paris that killed 130.

In the slides below, see details from the Chinese reenactment of the Bin Laden raid.

Here’s the compound US Navy SEALs found Osama Bin Laden in.

Everything you need to know about the Air Force’s new PT tests
Sajjad Ali Qureshi via Wikimedia Commons

Here’s China’s reproduction.

Everything you need to know about the Air Force’s new PT tests
Henri KENHMANN via Youtube

Here we see the Chinese special forces taking doors and clearing rooms.

Now, inexplicably, they’re crawling under flaming ropes.

Putting on a bit of a show here.

 

Finally we see helicopters descend on another, similar compound.

While the delivery may be a bit garbled, it’s clear that China sought to imitate the world’s finest in its version of the successful SEAL Team 6 raid. Whether the special forces units will participate in raids against Al-Qaeda-linked targets abroad or simply continue to hit the Uighur minority, they’ve broadcasted loud and clear that they’re proud and ready.

Watch the full video below:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=phETSsuUMsw
Articles

This charity helps troops beat Halo when they’re not beating the Taliban

Operation Supply Drop (OSD) is the kind of organization that sounds very simple at first. They collect donated video games, console systems, and cash to send gaming care packages to troops overseas and here in the United States. The nonprofit calls these care packages “supply drops.”


As anyone who’s been deployed can attest, the periods of excitement and fear are interspersed with long periods of monotony. OSD began in a garage with an Iraq War vet boxing up donations to help his peers enjoy the same hobby he loved: gaming.

From those humble roots, OSD has now grown into a charity that does a lot more. While they still generate care packages for deployed service members, they’ve expanded into creating unique experiences for veterans, fighting veteran joblessness, and other causes which affect warriors.

The expansion had some growing pains. The founder publicly split and created his own new organization. But the CEO, Glen Banton, is excited for all the ways OSD’s expanded mission has let them serve veterans.

“We’re in the business of helping veterans,” he said in an interview with WATM. “Unfortunately, the video game thing sometimes overshadows the other things we do. But essentially, it needs to be about putting veterans first. How can we keep supporting as many vets as possible. That’s while you’re deployed and need something to spend your time with, or when you get home and have other needs.”

Everything you need to know about the Air Force’s new PT tests
Photo: Courtesy Army Maj. Erik Johnson

OSD began by enlarging the supply drop program, and then adding on new programs.

“The supply drops increased in size and scope. We started going to bases themselves, rec centers, mess halls, day rooms, hospitals, events, Halloween and Christmas parties… Anywhere we can impact a lot of troops per day and have fun.”

In a recent supply drop at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, OSD worked with Army occupational therapist Maj. Eric Johnson who has used video games to help wounded warriors progress in their therapy. But the center had just an old Nintendo Wii with which to work.

Johnson gave a wish list to OSD who was able to get the medical center six new video game consoles and almost 100 games plus peripherals like steering wheels. It was OSD’s largest supply drop yet.

“Glen and his team, they came with OSD last week and, blew me away,” Johnson said. “Way more than I had asked for, way more than I anticipated.”

Everything you need to know about the Air Force’s new PT tests
Wounded warriors play video games at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas after a the Operation Supply Drops largest drop. Photo: Courtesy Operation Supply Drop

Then there are “Thank You Deployments,” where a veteran or a small group of veterans get to participate in a special event or outing, usually by working with corporate or non-profit partners.

“There are VIP outings, genuinely relevant to the veteran,” Banton said. “So, we might take them to a gaming conference or on a trip to a studio. But there might be other stuff.

“We’ve had race car experiences. We met a driver who worked for Forza and is a vet. He helps get them full access, a ride in the pace car, access to the lounge. It’s really amazing.

“And as the community grows, it continues to get broader and broader. It doesn’t take us away from gaming. It takes us to people who are gamers and do other stuff.”

OSD also has a “Teams” program. The teams encourage people to get locally connected with active duty service members and veterans so everyone can engage at the local level on big issues like veteran suicide, depression, homelessness, and unemployment.

“The Teams Program is the action arm of OSD,” Banton said. “They’re local chapters with veteran and civilian members who address things like veteran suicide or homelessness. Really, what we look at with the teams is, how do we create within Seattle, L.A., Muncie, Indiana, how do we engage in a way that helps?”

While it may seem like this is OSD straying from their roots as a gamer-veteran focused charity, Banton and his team don’t see it that way.

Glenn explained, “If someone asks, ‘Hey, OSD, I need some help and don’t know where to go. I think I can get this job but I don’t have the clothes,’ or ‘I don’t have the home base to do the interview,’ we can help with that.

“So we can, for a thousand dollars, get them housed for six months and get them help through this community, then they become a big part of the community.

“That individual doesn’t have space to enjoy an XBox if he wanted to. to us, it’s very clear and it’s easy. We know exactly what we’re supposed to be doing: Inspiring veterans and other civilian supporters to give back to those around them.”

For those interested in getting involved helping veterans through OSD, head to “The Teams” page, make a donation, or learn about the 8-bit Salute where gamers can play to raise money for future supply drops and other events.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is how John Kelly shut down speculation on President Trump’s gold star family call

Florida Congresswoman Rep. Frederica Wilson claimed she was with the wife of a fallen Special Forces soldier when the woman received a phone call from President Donald Trump. Wilson claims the president had some insensitive words for the grieving young woman.


“He said to the wife, ‘Well, I guess he knew what he was getting into,’ ” said Wilson. “How insensitive can you be?”

The call was to Sgt. La David Johnson’s widow Myeshia after her husband was killed in an ambush in Niger with three other soldiers on Oct. 4. The couple had two children and were expecting a third.

Everything you need to know about the Air Force’s new PT tests
Sergeant La David Johnson and three other soldiers were killed in action in Niger on Oct. 4, 2017.

President Trump denied the accusation via Twitter, while the White House Press Secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders described the call as “respectful” and “sympathetic” but asserted that no recordings of the calls exist.

Johnson’s mother, who was also listening to the call, then stepped into the media spotlight by affirming Wilson’s story.

The White House has since criticized the Florida Congresswoman for politicizing the practice of calling Gold Star Families on the event that their loved one was killed in action. But President Trump opened himself to criticism on this issue as well, by falsely claiming that his predecessors never did anything like it

Enter former Marine Gen. John Kelly, now the White House Chief of Staff.

Read: Everybody should read General John Kelly’s speech about two Marines in the path of a truck bomb

President Trump told reporters President Obama  never called then-Gen. Kelly when the General’s son was killed in Afghanistan in 2010. The White House claims Kelly was on hand for Trump’s call to Johnson and saw the conversation as “respectful” and appropriate.”

On Oct. 19, Kelly himself took the podium during the White House Press Briefing to explain to reporters what happens when American troop are killed in action, how the remains are transported, how the family is notified, and who sends their condolences.

Everything you need to know about the Air Force’s new PT tests

Kelly set the record straight with how Presidents send their condolences and how it should be done. He confirmed that President Obama did not call his family – not as a criticism, just a fact. And Kelly advised Trump against calling too.

“I recommended that he not do it,” Kelly said. “It is just not the phone call they’re looking forward to. … It’s not a negative thing.”

When Trump decided to call he asked Kelly how to make the call and what to say. He told the president there’s no way he would ever understand how to make that call.

“If you’re not in the family, if you’ve never worn the uniform, if you’ve never been in combat, you can’t even imagine how to make that call,” Kelly said.

As he continued, Kelly emotionally recalled what Gen. Joseph Dunford, the casualty officer assigned to the Kelly family, told him when Kelly’s son was killed in action.

“He [Kelly’s son] knew what he was getting into… he knew what the possibilities were, because we’re at war,” Kelly recalled. “When he died, he was surrounded by the best men on this earth, his friends. That’s what the president tried to say to four families the other day.”

Everything you need to know about the Air Force’s new PT tests
U.S. Marine Gen. John F. Kelly, left, and Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stand at attention. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Related: This is why John Kelly could comfort families of fallen troops

Kelly then lashed out at Rep. Wilson for tarnishing what he believed was one more formerly sacred institution in America. He said he had to go walk among “the finest men and women on this earth. … You can always find them because they’re in Arlington National Cemetery.”

Watch the full press briefing below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ps5ttDzWBaY
MIGHTY CULTURE

Army says it needs more entrepreneurs

The military needs innovative ideas from small businesses and entrepreneurs now more than ever, said Under Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy.

McCarthy spoke Feb. 21, 2019, at Muster DC, an event in the nation’s capital for military veterans aspiring to be entrepreneurs.

“If you look at the history of the Department of Defense, we were at our best when entrepreneurs were doing business with us,” he said.


As an example, he cited that the first jeeps for World War II were actually designed and built by a small motor company called American Bantam in Butler, Pennsylvania. Later, the design was shared with Willys-Overland and Ford to produce the jeeps on a larger scale.

Everything you need to know about the Air Force’s new PT tests

1941 American Bantam Jeep Prototype.

DOD was at its best when small businesses brought their ideas and “partnered with big corporations to scale out those ideas,” McCarthy said.

“We got away from that for the last several decades,” he said, adding the Army’s practice has been to put out 1,000-page requests for proposals, or RFPs, specifying the exact size and weight of each component of a system.

Businesses maybe had a better solution, he said, but they would never share it, because that’s not what they were incentivized to do.

That culture needs to change, McCarthy said, and that’s one reason the Army Futures Command was organized. It’s why soldiers have been placed alongside tech innovators at an “accelerator hub” in Austin, Texas.

The purpose of Futures Command is to drive innovation, he said, “so that we can do business faster. So small businesses don’t get their cash flow crushed waiting years for us to make a decision.”

Out of more than 800 programs that the Army oversees, eight have been granted a special “transactional authority” to do business differently, he said.

The Futures Command has eight cross-functional teams: long-range precision fires, next-generation combat vehicle, future vertical lift, Army network, air and missile defense, soldier lethality, synthetic training environment; and assured positioning, navigation and timing.

Everything you need to know about the Air Force’s new PT tests

A soldier with the 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade loads a Stinger onto an Avenger Air Defense System during a live fire training exercise at Pacific Missile Range Facility Barking Sands, July 24, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo by Capt. Rachael Jeffcoat)

The Army needs a “quick win” in these eight programs, McCarthy said, in order to change the acquisition culture and to keep ahead of near-peer adversaries. The U.S. military has enjoyed a vast technological advantage for years, he said, but competitors are quickly catching up.

McCarthy said he’d like to see soldiers in accelerator hubs across the country so entrepreneurs will have easy access to pitch their ideas.

Entrepreneurs who are military veterans have an advantage, he said, because they are resilient and can deal with stress. They know how to organize and plan.

When getting ready to leave the Army, where he served as a Ranger, McCarthy said at his first interview in Manhattan, he was asked what he knew about finance.

“I said, ‘Nothing. But I know how to plan and I know how to organize and there would be nothing you can put me through that I hadn’t been through already in the form of stress and pressure,'” he said.

After the interviewer stopped laughing, McCarthy said he took a chance and hired him. The company even held the job open for a year, because soon afterward, the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks occurred and McCarthy agreed to stay in the Army for a deployment before going to work in New York.

Veterans are not afraid to engage, he said, and have commitment. “Nobody wants to follow a leader that hedges,” he said. “They want somebody that’s playing ‘double-in’ every day.”

Veterans have some of the key attributes business leaders need to have, he said, “especially if they’re going to start their own business.”

Other talents the Army needs most right now include systems engineering and software coding, McCarthy said.

Weapons systems are sophisticated and have millions of lines of coding, he said.

Most failures of weapons systems in the past came from not having the right systems architecture, he said, which resulted in weapons not being able to communicate with other platforms.

Articles

How to get a defense industry job without a clearance

Everything you need to know about the Air Force’s new PT tests
A Navy contractor explains the process of missile maintenance to foreign military personnel. Gonzalo Bastidas, from Navy Munitions Command CONUS West Division, Unit Seal Beach, explains the process of missile maintenance to foreign military personnel at the Standard Missile shop at Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach. The missile shop visit is part of a familiarization tour for members of the International Standard Missile Users Group. The Standard is the Navy’s primary area air defense missile and is also used by many allied navies around the world. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communications Specialist 1st Class Eli J. Medellin)


The defense industry is not only filled with upwardly mobile careers, but it is teeming with demand for candidates. To top it off, these employers really want veterans and tend to offer excellent financial packages for truly interesting and vital jobs.

The catch is, well, almost all these jobs require candidates to have a current clearance in order to be considered. Do you have one? Maybe you already do and you’re already game, or maybe you have one but it’s not a high enough clearance to fit into the typical defense industry position.

If you aren’t the proud owner of a clearance, don’t despair: It’s an uphill hike but still possible if you are willing to consider some options. If you are, you’re in luck … you may just be the right person to land one of these defense jobs that don’t require a clearance.

How, you ask?

With a little bit of fairy dust … and a plan.

Every industry needs support and planning. Behind all those defense industry jobs and workers is a cadre of specialists working to ensure the whole thing runs. Even if your end goal is to work within the cleared field, these positions can provide a gateway to get you where you want to go.

Contracts:

Someone has to identify, write and present contract bids for defense contractors to obtain government work. If the military needs a new set of aircraft, they go shopping among company bids with an eye on cost and potential effectiveness of the company on delivering quality equipment on time.

Recruitment:

With successful contract bids come the need for skilled employees who can live up to the company’s promises. Many defense industry employers maintain a lively team of recruiters, recruitment coordinators and administrative staff to hire and maintain an effective and talented resource of employees.

Human Resources:

Once that team is constructed, a staff dedicated to managing hiring packages, medical, dental and education benefits, as well as employee pay, is vital to make the operation work smoothly.

Maybe you aren’t interested in support jobs and would rather work within the cleared sector of the defense industry. There are still a couple avenues you can pursue. You can apply for defense jobs that do require a clearance, but you don’t necessarily need to currently hold one.

Here’s some options:

Apply to Directly:

Government agencies are less hamstringed by the need to have a preexisting clearance for potential personnel and are more likely to hire the right fit despite clearance status. The process for this is usually quite long, so have a plan in place while you work through the federal hiring process.

Note: Keep an eye on the political atmosphere, since agencies are affected by any federal hiring freezes.

Education Programs:

Many government agencies and some defense contractors have programs that provide direct connections to educational institutions and in-demand fields of study. If you were already interested in mathematics, for example, you may find an agency program that mentors student mathematicians with an eye for post-graduation hire. These programs target majors that are in high demand.

So, yes! It is possible to work in the defense industry. Fairy dust helps, but if you know the jobs that don’t require a clearance, you can snag yourself an opportunity. Support the greater defense community or work toward clearance sponsorship by getting your education and employment set up in one fell swoop.

You got this.

Articles

USS Gabrielle Giffords completes maiden voyage and arrives at its home port in San Diego

Following construction and acceptance trials earlier this year at the Austal USA shipyard in Mobile, Giffords sailed to Galveston, Texas, where she was commissioned June 10.


“Our Sailors are honored to represent the ship namesake, its homeport in San Diego, and the U.S. Navy,” said Cmdr. Keith Woodley, Giffords’ commanding officer. “Every Sailor will continue, through USS Gabrielle Gifford’s service to her nation, to fulfill the ship’s motto, ‘I Am Ready.'”

During her sail around transit from Mobile, Giffords Sailors conducted Combat Ship Systems Qualification Trials events, various crew certification training events, and regularly scheduled equipment and systems checks and transited through the Panama Canal.

Everything you need to know about the Air Force’s new PT tests
Photo courtesy of US Navy.

Giffords is the ninth littoral combat ship to enter the fleet and the fifth Independence-variant LCS. She joins other LCS, including USS Freedom (LCS 1), USS Independence (LCS 2), USS Fort Worth (LCS 3), USS Coronado (LCS 4), USS Jackson (LCS 6), and USS Montgomery (LCS 8), who are also homeported in San Diego.

Giffords Sailors are excited for the future of their ship but also for their own return to San Diego.

“We have put in a lot of hard work over the past nine months,” said Operations Specialist 1st Class Lee Tran. “It is going to be nice to have a little down time with friends and family before continuing to work the ship toward its next milestone.”

Family and friends were similarly eager for some quality time with their returning Sailors. Many said they were also grateful for the support and friendships they forged with other families while their Sailors were away.

Everything you need to know about the Air Force’s new PT tests
Sailors arrive in San Diego, CA aboard the USS Gabrielle Giffords. Navy photo by Lt. Miranda Williams.

“Knowing I was not in this alone and that there were more families out there going through it too made me at peace knowing our Sailors had each other,” said Morgan Witherspoon, friend of a Giffords Sailor.

LCS 10 is named after former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords who survived an assassination attempt in 2011. Former Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus selected the LCS 10 namesake and said it is appropriate that the ship is named for Giffords, whose name is “synonymous with courage when she inspired the nation with remarkable resiliency and showed the possibilities of the human spirit.”

LCS is a high-speed, agile, shallow draft, mission-focused surface combatant designed for operations in the littoral environment, yet fully capable of open ocean operations. As part of the surface fleet, LCS has the ability to counter and outpace evolving threats independently or within a network of surface combatants. Paired with advanced sonar and mine hunting capabilities, LCS provides a major contribution, as well as a more diverse set of options to commanders, across the spectrum of operations.

Articles

Meet the F-16 pilots who turned their wartime experiences into hilarious songs

Some vets with a tendency toward showmanship like to take their talents to YouTube or Hollywood when they hit the post-service world.


Everything you need to know about the Air Force’s new PT tests
These guys sang a couple songs that pissed their CO off (bravo!). (Photo: Amazon.com)

But the former F-16 fighter pilots behind Operation Encore took the old-school approach and are working to shatter some of the caricatures of veterans through music. The result is a blend of music genres from a variety of military-affiliated artists that range from folksy bluegrass to present-day pop rock — all of it relating to experiences of war that poke fun at life in the service and lament the tragedy of war.

Chris Kurek is the co-founder and partner with Viper Driver Productions. He’s better known as “Snooze,” one of the two founding members of the band Dos Gringos, a pair of F-16 pilots who released four satirical albums full of songs with titles like “I Wish I Had a Gun Just Like the A-10” to the NSFW drinking song “Jeremiah Weed” to the Willie Nelson-esque “TDY Again.”

The band kicked off when Kurek and his fellow jet jock Robert “Trip” Raymond were deployed to Kuwait for Operation Southern Watch and later Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“We were out there for six months, there was nothing else to do,” Kurek said. He and Raymond wrote some songs and performed for the rest of their squadron.

Their songs drew what Kurek described as “wonky eyes” from some, but their squadron commander was very supportive, encouraging them to record the songs on CD, even offering to put up the money.

“We were kind of writing on stuff that pointed out things that drive you crazy in the military,” he said.

After the band’s return stateside, they went to Texas to record their first CD, “Live at the Sand Trap.”

Turns out Dos Gringos’ wing commander was less than pleased with their extracurricular enterprise and barred them from performing at the Cannon Air Force Base Officer’s Club.

But the band went viral in a 2003 sorta way via the enlisted maintenance personnel who particularly dug the song, “I’m a Pilot,” Kurek said. The semi-satirical ditty about a self-centered fighter jock — which evokes a sound similar to some songs from the 80s band Warrant — was passed around the flightline.

Eventually, Dos Gringos would put out three more albums —”2,” “Live at Tommy Rockers,” and “El Cuatro” — before the band had to go on hiatus due to pressure from higher ups as Raymond rose through the ranks.

They were not done with music, though. Both felt some frustration with how some caricatured vets and with what they perceived as an effort by Nashville to cash in on the veteran experience.

Kurek recounted that the war wasn’t always patriotism or sadness, pointing out there was a lot of “goofing off and laughter” because of “boredom.”

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Stephen Covell, a former Army medic who contributes to Operation Encore. (From OperationEncoreMusic.com)

“Vets can write about anything,” Kurek said. Eventually, in a conversation with Erik Brine, a C-17 pilot who was a later addition to Dos Gringos, Kurek recounted someone asking, “I wonder if there are any other people who did what we did on deployment – bring a guitar and write songs.”

They began a search, and it was a pair of submissions from Stephen Covell, an Army medic who served with the 82nd Airborne Division, that prompted them to create Operation Encore.

“Those two alone were the best I ever heard,” Kurek said. “They conveyed a combat vet’s experience.”

Covell’s submissions pushed Kurek and Raymond to launch a Kickstarter campaign to pay for airfare, studio time, mixing and mastering.

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Rachel Harvey Hill, a military spouse who has contributed to Operation Encore. (From OperationEncoreMusic.com)

While two albums, “Volume 1” and “Monuments,” have so far been released, Kurek notes the process has been a challenge, largely due to the way the music industry has changed. Kurek recounted that when the first Dos Gringos album came out, CDs were still king. The rise of iTunes and digital downloads were one shift which evened out – the volume increased, even as they got less per song.

With Operation Encore, though, the big challenge has been the fact that the music industry has shifted once again to streaming services, and it takes hundreds of thousands of streams to get real money. Furthermore, Kurek pointed out that Dos Gringos was a niche market, and their audience knew what they would get.

Operation Encore is different.

“Operation Encore is a compilation, not one band, sound, or genre,” he explained, pointing out some of the songs were pop rock, others country or bluegrass. Furthermore, the singers who appear are scattered all over the world. Just getting the performers together for a concert would entail airfare, hotel rooms, and equipment rental. Not to mention all the stuff that is in the riders for the artists.

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Kurek, though, is still hot on his Iraq War-era band.

“I wish we could do one more Dos Gringos album,” he said.

Operation Encore’s CDs can be purchased at CDBaby.com, or bought as digital downloads from iTunes, Amazon.com, and Google Play. Dos Gringos CDs are also available at CDBaby.com, and can be purchased from iTunes, Amazon.com, and Google Play.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Inside the Taliban’s 13-hour siege of a Kabul hotel

Survivors of the Taliban attack on Kabul’s Intercontinental Hotel gave harrowing accounts on Jan. 22 of the 13-hour weekend standoff that claimed 18 lives, including 14 foreigners.


The siege ended on Jan. 21 with Afghan Security Forces saying they had killed the last of six Taliban militants who stormed the hotel in suicide vests late the previous night, looking for foreigners and Afghan officials to kill.

More than 150 people were rescued or managed to escape, including 41 foreigners. Eleven of the 14 foreigners killed were pilots and employees of KamAir, a private Afghan airline. A statement by KamAir later said some of its flights were disrupted because of the attack.

Six Ukrainians, two Venezuelan pilots for KamAir, and a citizen of Kazakhstan were among those killed in the attack. German Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Adebahr confirmed that a German was among those killed, without providing further details.

Mohammad Humayun Shams, the telecommunications director of eastern Laghman province, who was visiting Kabul and staying at the hotel, said he was able to escape by jumping into a tree from a hotel window as the attackers roamed the hallways, killing people.

“It was the worst night of my life,” Shams said, adding that as he ran, he couldn’t tell the attackers apart from the police because they were all wearing the same uniforms.

Two Greek pilots who were in Afghanistan to train local airline pilots said they survived the attack by hiding in their rooms — one inside a hollow he had cut in his mattress and the other in his bathtub.

Vassilis Vassiliou and Michalis Poulikakos were in the hotel restaurant when gunmen burst in through a kitchen service door. They dashed up to their rooms and hid, following emergency instructions they had been given.

“We overturned the mattresses and messed up the rooms, then opened the balcony doors to make it look as if we had escaped that way,” Poulikakos told Greece’s private Skai TV on Jan. 21.

Also Read: US bodyguard gives harrowing account of Benghazi attack

“I hid in the bathtub. Nobody entered my room, I was very lucky and it all ended after nine hours,” he said. “I was on the fourth floor. Vassilis was on the fifth and he was the only survivor on that floor, there were many more survivors on my floor.”

Vassiliou said he spent 13 hours hidden under — and inside — his mattress, and managed to stay undiscovered even as gunmen used his balcony as a firing position.

“They broke down my door and burst in. I had managed to slip under the bed. There were three of them in the room, one went onto the balcony, the other shot at the other bed and lifted it up,” he said.

When the gunmen had used up their ammunition, they set fire to the fifth floor and disappeared for about an hour and a half. Vassiliou went out to the balcony and realized that there was no escape there — he even came under fire from forces besieging the hotel.

“So I went back into the room and used a small pair of scissors to cut an opening for myself inside the mattress and remained there,” he said. That protected him from the heat and the smoke from the fire burning outside his room.

“I don’t know why but I was very calm. It was as if something told me that I would live,” Vassiliou said.

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He said he had shut down both his mobile phones to avoid being betrayed by their ringing, which led authorities to believe he had been killed. He remained in the room from about 9 p.m. to noon the next day, when the gunmen finally ran out of ammunition and left.

“I heard English being spoken and came out of my mattress,” he said.

Vassiliou added that security forces took an inexplicably long time to reach his floor.

“Between 6 and 9 (a.m.), on the fifth floor, these four or five people were having fun, joking around,” he said, referring to the attackers. “They would open every door, I heard voices, a couple of shots, and then laughter. They were undisturbed, nobody tried to stop them, and I think that was a big mistake.”

On Jan. 21, Afghan Security Forces remained positioned on all the roads leading to the hotel, barring everyone from the area.

Among Afghans killed in the attack was a telecommunications official from western Farah province, Afghanistan’s newly appointed consul general to the Pakistani city of Karachi and an employee of the High Peace Council, a commission created to facilitate peace talks.

Related: This is how much of Afghanistan the Taliban reportedly control

Friedhelm Kraemer, the head of the Marianne and Emil Lux Foundation, a German charitable group, confirmed in an email that the woman killed was the head of an aid project. German regional newspaper Boeblinger Bote named her as 65-year-old Brigitte Weiler.

In an email to AP, Kraemer said she was a former German navy officer and nurse who would travel to Kabul at her own expense to deliver medicine, food and clothes to families in remote mountain villages in northern Afghanistan.

“Her tragic death tears a hole in the humanitarian aid work for people whom nobody else is helping,” said Kraemer, whose organization supported the project.

Along with Shams, five other hotel guests, including a foreigner, managed to jump into the tree. From there, they climbed down to the ground and Shams called the police with his mobile.

They were told to stay put until the police came to take them away, hours later.

“I am still in shock … in fact can’t believe I am alive” he added.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is a first look at soldiers firing their new M17 handgun

Soldiers from conventional and special operations units recently got the chance to test the Army’s new M17 Modular Handgun System.


Most soldiers who tested the MHS at Fort Bragg’s Range 29 on Aug. 27 were assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, said OTC’s Col. Brian McHugh in a recent Army press release.

Testers were pulled from across the military, including soldiers of the Special Operations Aviation Regiment, based in Kentucky, and of the 3rd Infantry Division, based in Georgia. Some of the military occupational specialties involved include police, pilots, infantry and crew chiefs.

“We wanted to make sure that we have a huge sample to make sure that we’ve got this right — that the Army has it right,” said McHugh.

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A service member fires the Sig Sauer P320 during Modular Handgun System tests for the U.S. Army Operational Test Command, conducted at Fort Bragg, N.C. Aug. 27. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Lewis Perkins)

Modular Handgun System test for the U.S. Army Operational Test Command, conducted at Fort Bragg, Aug. 27.

The Army awarded Sig Sauer a contract worth up to $580 million Jan. 19 to make the service’s new sidearm. Sig Sauer beat out Glock Inc., FN America and Beretta USA, maker of the current M9 9mm service pistol, in the MHS competition.

Army weapons officials have selected the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) at Fort Campbell, Kentucky as the first unit to receive the 9mm M17 MHS this fall.

Various service members will be at Fort Bragg over the next few weeks for testing of the MHS, which is based on the Sig Sauer P320, for the U.S. Army Operational Test Command, or OTC, based at Fort Hood, Texas, according to the press release. Testing will also be conducted by Sailors, Airmen and Marines.

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A service member fires the Sig Sauer P320 during Modular Handgun System tests for the U.S. Army Operational Test Command, conducted at Fort Bragg, N.C. Aug. 27. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Lewis Perkins)

Capt. Christina Smith with the Army’s Product Manager Individual Weapons, has traveled to different testing sites to ensure the system’s quality.

“It’s worth it to make sure you get the right product to the right soldiers,” she said.

Maj. Mindy Brown, test officer for OTC, said it is important to bring the test to Fort Bragg because the installation has the ranges to support realistic conditions.

“You are using real soldiers in a realistic environment,” Brown said. “These are the soldiers who would be using the weapon every day, so getting their feedback on the pistol is really what is important for operational testing.”

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Magazine for the Modular Handgun System test for the U.S. Army Operational Test Command conducted at Fort Bragg, N.C. Aug. 27. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Lewis Perkins)

Sgt. 1st Class Kevin Custer, of 160th SOAR, appreciated being able to participate in MHS testing.

“It’s good. We don’t really get the opportunity to test the equipment in the unit we’re in,” he said.

What’s interesting about the release is it makes it sound like the Army is still not certain about the M17 MHS.

“If fielded, according to officials, the new modular handgun system, also known as MHS, will offer improved durability and adjustability over the current M9, as well as performance improvements.”

Program Executive Office Soldier officials, however, told Military.com that MHS is being fielded beginning in October.

Articles

Israel’s F-35s may have already flown a combat mission against Russian air defenses in Syria

Israel received three F-35s from the US on Tuesday, bringing its total inventory of the revolutionary fighter up to five, but according to a French journalist citing French intelligence reports, Israeli F-35s have already carried out combat missions in Syria.


In the Air Forces Monthly, Thomas Newdick summarized a report from Georges Malbrunot at France’s Le Figaro newspaper saying Israel took its F-35s out on a combat mission just one month after receiving them from the US.

Malbrunot reported that on January 12 Israeli F-35s took out a Russian-made S-300 air defense system around Syrian President Bashar Assad’s palace in Damascus and another Russian-made Pantsir-S1 mobile surface-to-air missile system set for delivery to Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Related: F-35s will take part in NATO drills

Israel has repeatedly and firmly asserted its goal to make sure weapons cannot reach Hezbollah, a terror group sworn to seek the destruction of Israel.

In March, Israel admitted to an airstrike in Syria. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said “when we know about an attempt to smuggle weapons to Hezbollah, we do whatever we can to prevent this from happening, provided we have sufficient information and capabilities to react,” according to Russian state-run media.

However, the other details of the story seem unlikely. The only known S-300 system in Syria is operated by the Russians near their naval base, so hitting that would mean killing Russian servicemen, which has not been reported at all.

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Land-based S-300 surface-to-air missile launchers | Creative Commons photo

Also, as Tyler Rogoway of The Drive points out, the Pantsir-S1 air defenses would certainly bolster Hezbollah in Lebanon, but Israel wouldn’t be under immediate pressure to destroy this system. Their jets have advanced air defense suppression and electronic warfare capabilities that limit the threat posed by the Pantsir-S1, and make it unlikely that they would risk F-35s to attack them.

Also read: 3 reasons why Airwolf is more badass than the F-35

But parts of the French report hold up. There was an airstrike on January 12 at Mezzeh air base, where the French report said it took place. The BBC reports that the Syrian government accused Israel of a strike at that time and place.

Jeff Halper, author of War Against the People, a book that looks at the military ties between Israel and the US, told Al Jazeera that Israeli pilots may be the first to see combat action in the F-35.

“Israel serves as the test-bed for the development of these kinds of new weapons,” said Halper. “The F-35 will be tested in the field, in real time by Israel. The likelihood is that the first time the plane is used in combat will be with Israeli pilots flying it.”

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Israeli Air Force

Indeed the F-35’s stealth abilities remain untested, and only in a heavily contested environment could the F-35 really meet its match. In the past, F-35 pilots have complained that surface-to-air threats are not advanced enough to provide realistic training, and the Air Force has run short on adversary services to provide enough competition to really prove the F-35’s capabilities.

In the case of the S-300, experts have told Business Insider that it would take a stealth jet like the F-35 to safely take them out.

While the details remain sketchy and wholly unverifiable, Halper’s “test-bed” assertion has certainly been true of US-Israeli defense projects, like missile defenses, in the past. Rogoway also noted Israel’s history of rushing new platforms to the front lines as possible supporting evidence.

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Could Israel have flown combat missions in the F-35 one month after receiving it? | U.S. Air Force photo/R. Nial Bradshaw

On Wednesday night, Syria’s government again accused Israel of an airstrike near Damascus International airport.

Short of taking responsibility for the attack, Israeli officials said it was a strike on Hezbollah targets, which they support.

Israeli Intelligence Minister Israel Katz told Israeli Army Radio: “I can confirm that the incident in Syria corresponds completely with Israel’s policy to act to prevent Iran’s smuggling of advanced weapons via Syria to Hezbollah in Iran. Naturally, I don’t want to elaborate on this,” according to the BBC.

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