Exclusive interview: Army nurse on how COVID has affected the MOS - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Exclusive interview: Army nurse on how COVID has affected the MOS

Martine Caraballo comes from five generations of military service. Her father is a Purple Heart Vietnam veteran. She was raised on Treasure Island, Florida and served four years in the Marine Corps as a Comm Center Operator. Caraballo served 10 years in the US Army as a 68W Combat Medic with ASI (Additional Skill Identifier) of M6/LPN. As an Iraq War veteran, she Deployed to Iraq in 2009-2010. She was among 39 Soldiers selected for the AMEDD Enlisted Commissioning Program (AECP).

Martine Caraballo with her father, a Vietnam Vet.
Martine Caraballo with her father, a Vietnam Vet.

In March 2013, Caraballo was commissioned as a 66H in the Army Nurse Corps. In her spare time she has run five Marine Corps Marathons. She is eager for the age of COVID to pass so she can run marathons once again. Currently, she is retired from the military and working in telemetry and COVID floors at Bay Pines V.A. in St Petersburg, FL. Caraballo’s sons are in the Army; one is a Medic and the other an Artilleryman.

WATM: Your career is a success story to all enlisted who dream of going Green to Gold. What was it like to become a commissioned officer and a nurse?

Well, first off it was a big sigh of relief after years of pushing myself to get this goal. The biggest take away is that persistence pays off. When I joined the Army I had this goal in mind for the Army Medical Enlisted Commissioning Program. I achieved many goals, got married and everything. I had a timeline mapped out because I needed it to happen before a certain age before commissioning. There were some setbacks from the beginning; I had a shoulder injury because of that I had to go back to the combat medic school. When I was in school, I was the platoon leader. For some people who are prior service, especially Marines, they really like to have them as platoon leaders. I graduated with honors with a 300+ PT score and then I did the LPN course. I chose to keep my LPN option because Airborne was dangled in front of me and I really wanted to do that – jump out of planes would be a lot of fun but I had to keep with my timeline. I had to be practical because an LPN gives you more job options than jump wings, right? (laughs)

I finished LPN school and arrived at Fort Bragg for my first duty station. What I did to get the college courses that were prerequisites for the nursing program, I made a deal with my boss. I said ‘Hey, I’ll work tuition assistance to pay for my school – I just had to buy my books. I would work 12 hour shifts and then do a class, go to sleep and do it all over again.’ It was exhausting but after a few eight-week semesters I had the credits I needed to apply for the nursing program and the AECP program. Then I got accepted into three universities: University of Texas, El Paso, UNC Pembrook and East Carolina University. I chose ECU because it was the closest to my family and they are very military friendly. I was accepted as an alternate because I had one more class to do. So, I was working on that when I had another setback – I got deployed.

I got 18 days’ notice because someone else couldn’t do it [due to] health reasons, so, I had to take over someone’s spot. I had 18 days to put everything in storage, do predeployment training with a new unit where I know nobody, and I had to explain the situation to the university. I paid for them to hold my seat until I returned from deployment before my classes start. That was the great thing, they seated classes in the fall and spring, so, there wasn’t much of a delay.

I was working against time. I passed my boards and got commissioned five weeks before the time cut off because of my age. It was a big sigh of relief to achieve that goal.

WATM: What new challenges has COVID-19 presented to the MOS vs civilian nurses?

Well, I transitioned over to the civilian side but sometimes I still wish I was active duty. When you’re active duty you don’t have to deal with issues with non-compliant individuals as we do in the private sector. When they say ‘wear the mask’ you wear the mask on active duty. On the civilian side we get a lot of hatred and nastiness from people who are being asked to wear it. What can you do?

Martine giving her sons oath of enlistment.
Martine giving her sons oath of enlistment.

It took a bit of adjusting to get used to taking care of a different population. Where I went from taking care of active duty with more trauma issues to an older population with more chronic health issues. Unfortunately, a lot of our vets have, uh, a lot of unhealthy coping mechanisms. They have a lot of substance abuse issues, so that makes me a little sad. It was a shock to go from being an officer where there is respect at the workplace with the ‘yes, ma’am, no, ma’am’ to being physically and emotionally abused at work. Nurse abuse is real. I had to develop a tougher shell.

There are challenges on many different fronts. Patients can’t have visitors, so, that makes it hard on them. Help with them healing and having to wear the mask all day for 12 hours. You get the marks on your face, your glasses fall off or fog up, indentations on your face, and having to be very careful all the time. I work in a COVID unit and sometimes there isn’t enough PPE supplies going around and you have to wear your mask for longer than what would be the ideal amount of time you’re supposed to wear it. You just worry about catching it and bringing it home. I keep sanitizer in my car, I spray my shoes and I’m super careful. This challenge is for everybody.

WATM: What advice would you give to others pursuing a military career in nursing?

Leave no stone unturned when looking for opportunities such as cross training in other specialties. For a new graduate nurse, it’s hard to get a job because they want you to have experience. So, you’re stuck in a catch 22. You can’t get experience because they won’t give you experience. In the Army we had the Brigadier General Hays Program, and it gave us six months where we follow a nurse around, first we watch then we gradually take on a patient and then another patient until you’re taking on a full load and graduating to the floor. Being thrown to the wolves, you know? (laughs)

You have the chance to work with other services and I really recommend it. They help pay for the school, they give you the training, you’re a commissioned officer – what’s not to like? (laughs)

WATM: What can the population do to better support nurses in their mission?

Pretty simple: wearing a mask and avoiding large groups. Healthcare workers are feeling frustration and fatigue with those who are willing and knowingly going to the top three modes of transmission which are: going to bars or restaurants, gyms, and places of worship. They get sick and then want treatment. It is hard to not get irritated when ‘you didn’t care for your health, so, why should we care for your health?’ (laughs). You know its frustrating for healthcare workers to risk their health and their family’s health for people who want to have a beer in a bar instead of at home.

I hear people say, ‘I went golfing without a mask’ and now you got two of your buddies sick and they wished they wore the mask because now they really can’t breathe. Another one I hear is ‘I had some friends over to play cards.’ I say ‘Did you wear a mask and use hand sanitizer?’

‘No.’

They can’t say the word hasn’t been getting out. It’s been advertised all over TV and the news, so, if people haven’t figured out how to be safe right now then (puts hands up in the air).

I understand people have COVID fatigue and they want to go out and you miss socializing. We have the vaccine coming, so, just hang in there. It’s coming. Hang in there a little bit longer and by the end of this year we should be able to go out and do more things once we get closer to herd immunity.

WATM: Is there anything you would like to say to the military audience?

A lot of the VA’s do Homeless Stand Downs where they have folks come and try to assist veterans with legal and homelessness issues. They have clothes bins where people are able to donate clothes and whatever, they have other bins. There really is a need for mental health assistance, health providers have their hands full. I see fellas get off active duty and they kinda get lost and lose their way. They don’t have that paycheck every two weeks, they don’t have healthcare, they don’t have that barracks. Maybe they didn’t get the skills they needed in the military that translate to a good job on the outside. Make sure you have a plan before you leave; go to school or have a job lined up and everything. It’s not easy on the outside, rent is going up. Dental care, you’ll really miss that. That’s all I can say about that, really.

Use those benefits. For example, in Florida if you’re 100% disabled you get a tax break on property tax. That’s great! (laughs) Apply for the VA, you can apply for disability benefits up to 90 days before your ETS/EAS. So, get the ball rolling because it may take a couple months. Look into the other benefits that different states offer. In Florida, I think if you’re 100% rated you can get your license plate at no extra cost, so, look into it.

Stay in your fitness routine! People get out of the service and they stop working out.

Uh oh, I feel personally attacked here!

(we laugh) I call it the civilian 15. When you first go to college you’re going to gain some weight (laughs).

MIGHTY HISTORY

One of the most recent soldiers killed in Afghanistan was 5 when the war started

Army Spc. Gabriel D. Conde’s short life spanned the history of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan since Sept. 11, 2001, from the euphoria over the fleeting early successes to the current doubts about the new strategy to break what U.S. commanders routinely call a “stalemate.”

When Conde was six years old, then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said the Taliban had been defeated and the Afghan people were now free “to create a better future.”


He was seven years old when then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said, “We’re at a point where we clearly have moved from major combat activity to a period of stability and stabilization and reconstruction activities.”

When Conde was 12, then-President George W. Bush was at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan to declare that “the Taliban is gone from power and it’s not coming back.”

In 2009, when Conde was 13, then-President Barack Obama said he would “make the fight against al-Qaida and the Taliban the top priority that it should be. This is a war that we have to win.”

He sent 30,000 more U.S. troops into Afghanistan, with a timeline for their withdrawal.

Obama wanted the withdrawal to be complete by the time he left office, but he left behind about 8,500 U.S. troops to deal with a resurgent Taliban and a new enemy — an offshoot of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria called Islamic State-Khorasan Province, or IS-K.

August 2017, when Conde was 21, President Donald Trump announced a new strategy for Afghanistan that discarded “nation building” in favor of a plan to drive the Taliban into peace talks and a negotiated settlement.

Trump acknowledged that his initial impulse was to pull U.S. troops out completely, but he agreed to boost troop levels from 8,500 to about 14,000.

Exclusive interview: Army nurse on how COVID has affected the MOS
President Donald Trump

The presence of U.S. troops would now be conditions-based and not subject to artificial timelines. “We’re going to finish what we have to finish. What nobody else has been able to finish, we’re going to be able to do it,” Trump said.

Late April, 2018, the Taliban announced the start of its 16th annual spring offensive.

On May 1, 2018, when Conde was 22, he was killed by small-arms fire in the Tagab District of Kapisa province northeast of Kabul. A second U.S. soldier was wounded.

Conde, of Loveland, Colorado, served with the 3rd Battalion, 509th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), of 25th Infantry Division, based at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska. His unit was expected to return to Alaska at the end of May 2018.

Also on May 1, 2018, the Trump administration took official note of the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan by granting political asylum to former Capt. Niloofar Rahmani, the first female fixed-wing pilot in the Afghan Air Force, who had been training in the U.S.

Through her lawyer, she had successfully argued to immigration authorities that the chaos in Afghanistan, and death threats against her and her family, made it impossible for her to return.

On the same day that Rahmani won asylum and Conde was killed, the latest in a wave of suicide bombings and terror attacks devastated the Shash Darak district of central Kabul in what Afghans call the “Green Zone.”

Two suicide bombers had slipped past the estimated 14 checkpoints surrounding the district, Afghanistan’s TOLOnews reported.

The first set off a blast and the second, reportedly disguised as a cameraman, joined a pack of reporters and photographers rushing to the scene and triggered a second explosion.

At least 30 people, including nine journalists, were killed. A 10th journalist was killed on the same day in an incident in Khost province. (Short biographies of the 10 journalists can be seen here.)

Mattis put on spot over attacks

In response to May 1, 2018’s events, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Army Gen. John Nicholson, commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, echoed what other commanders and Pentagon officials have said so many times before during America’s longest war.

They mourned the loss of a valorous soldier and the victims of the bombings. They said the strategy of increased airpower and the buildup of Afghan special forces is showing progress. They pledged to stay the course.

At a session with Pentagon reporters May 1, 2018, Mattis said the Taliban are “on their back foot.”

The recent terror attacks show that they are desperate, he said.

“We anticipated they would do their best” to disrupt upcoming elections with a wave of bombings aimed at discouraging the Afghan people from voting, Mattis said.

“The Taliban realize the danger of the people being allowed to vote,” he added. “Their goal is to destabilize the elected government. This is the normal stuff by people who can’t win at the ballot box. They turn to bombs.”

At a welcoming ceremony on May 2, 2018, for the visiting Macedonian defense minister, Mattis was challenged on how he could point to progress amid the wave of bombings and a recent series of watchdog reports on widespread and continuing corruption in Afghanistan.

Exclusive interview: Army nurse on how COVID has affected the MOS
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis

“The message from this building has consistently been that the situation is turning around, that things are improving there,” Mattis was told. “How do you reconcile this difference?”

“First, I don’t know that that’s been the message from this building. I would not subscribe to that,” Mattis said. “We said last August NATO is going to hold the line. We knew there would be tough fighting going forward.

“The murder of journalists and other innocent people is a great testimony to what it is we stand for and more importantly what we stand against,” he added.

“The Afghan military is being made more capable. You’ll notice that more of the forces are special forces, advised and assisted, accompanied by NATO mentors. And these are the most effective forces,” Mattis said.

“We anticipated and are doing our best and have been successful at blocking many of these attacks on innocent people but, unfortunately, once in a while they get through because any terrorist organization that realizes it can’t win by ballots and turns to bombs — this is simply what they do. They murder innocent people,” he said.

For the long run, “We’ll stand by the Afghan people, we’ll stand by the Afghan government and the NATO mission will continue as we drive them to a political settlement,” Mattis said.

Nicholson’s two-year plan to end the ‘Forever War’

“Actions like this only strengthen our steadfast commitment to the people of Afghanistan,” Nicholson, who doubles as commander of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan, said after the bombings May 1, 2018, and the death of Conde.

“We offer our sincere condolences to the families of those killed and wounded, and we stand with our Afghan partners in defeating those who would threaten the people of this country, whose cries for peace are being ignored,” he said.

Like many of his troops, the 60-year-old Nicholson, a West Point graduate, has served multiple tours in Afghanistan. When he was confirmed by the Senate in March 2016 to succeed Army Gen. John Campbell as commander, he would go back to Afghanistan for the sixth time.

Since 9/11, “the U.S. campaign in Afghanistan has largely defined my service” in 36 years in uniform, he told the Senate.

Nicholson is the son of Army Brig. Gen. John W. Nicholson, also a West Point graduate, and is distantly related the legendary British Brig. Gen. John Nicholson (1821-1857), who fought in the First Anglo-Afghan War.

Early on in his command, Nicholson was at the forefront on the military advisers who convinced Obama to approve the expansion of the air campaign against the Taliban and IS-K. In February 2017, he began arguing for more troops to partner with the Afghan National Defense Security Forces.

Mattis later signed off on what was essentially Nicholson’s plan. And Trump, in coordination with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, authorized it in an address to the nation in August 2017.

Exclusive interview: Army nurse on how COVID has affected the MOS
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and U.S. Army Gen. John Nicholson.
(DOD photo by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley)

In a video conference from Kabul to the Pentagon in November 2017, Nicholson said it would take about two years to bring 80 percent of Afghanistan under government control and drive the Taliban into peace talks.

“Why 80 percent? Because we think that gives them [the Afghans] a critical mass where they control 80. The Taliban are driven to less than 10 percent of the population; maybe the rest is contested,” Nicholson said.

“And this, we believe, is the critical mass necessary to drive the enemy to irrelevance, meaning they’re living in these remote, outlying areas, or they reconcile — or they die, of course, is the third choice,” he said.

Nicholson’s remarks contrasted with a simultaneous report from the Pentagon’s Inspector General’s office.

In his foreword to the IG’s quarterly report, Acting IG Glenn Fine said, “During the quarter, Taliban insurgents continued to attack Afghan forces and fight for control of districts, and ISIS-K terrorists launched high-profile attacks across the country.”

Fine added, “Internal political tensions increased in Afghanistan, and corruption remained a key challenge to governance despite positive steps by Afghanistan’s Anti-Corruption Justice Center.”

Fine also said that maintaining the accuracy of future IG reports made available to the public is becoming more difficult, since key statistical measures are now being classified.

“When producing this report, we were notified that information that was previously publicly released regarding attrition, casualties, readiness, and personnel strength of Afghan forces that we had included in prior Lead IG reports was now classified,” Fine said. “In addition, we were advised that ratings of Afghan government capabilities were now classified.”

The strategy — what strategy?

In announcing the strategy for Afghanistan in August 2017, Trump made clear that he was doing so with grave misgivings.

“Someday, after an effective military effort, perhaps it will be possible to have a political settlement that includes elements of the Taliban in Afghanistan. But nobody knows if or when that will ever happen,” he said.

The skeptics are many. “Why would anybody call this a strategy? We declared we wanted to win, but we didn’t change anything fundamentally that we’re doing,” retired Army Lt. Col. Jason Dempsey, who served two tours in Afghanistan, told Military.com.

The focus now, as it has been for years, is on building up the Afghan military into a more effective force capable of holding and administering territory retaken from the Taliban, he said, “but that army assumes the existence of a functioning government.”

“We are creating a military that assumes the existence of a state that does not exist,” said Dempsey, an adjunct senior fellow of the Military, Veterans and Society Program at the Center for a New American Security.

“What it boils down to is that we can’t decide what we want,” Dempsey said. “The only consensus we have on Afghanistan is that we don’t want to lose.”

In her analysis of the Trump administration’s strategy, Brookings Institution scholar Vanda Felbab-Brown wrote that the president basically had three options — “full military withdrawal, limited counterterrorism engagement, and staying in the country with slightly increased military deployments and intense political engagement.”

“The option the Trump administration chose — staying in Afghanistan with a somewhat enlarged military capacity — is the least bad option,” Felbab-Brown said.

“Thus, the Trump administration’s announced approach to Afghanistan is not a strategy for victory,” she said.

“Staying on militarily buys the United States hope that eventually the Taliban may make enough mistakes to seriously undermine its power,” she said. “However, that is unlikely unless Washington starts explicitly insisting on better governance and political processes in the Afghan government.”

Watchdog reports contrast with claims of progress

The goal of better governance is dependent on an Afghan military as the enabler, but the office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) said May 2, 2018, that the number of Afghan soldiers and police has declined sharply in the past year.

In a report, SIGAR said that the combined strength of the military and police dropped nearly 11 percent over the past year, from about 331,700 in January 2017 to about 296,400 this January, well below the total authorized strength of 334,000.

“Building up the Afghan forces is a top priority for the U.S. and our international allies, so it is worrisome to see Afghan force strength decreasing,” John Sopko, the head of SIGAR, told reporters.

At the end of January 2018, insurgents controlled or had influence over 14 percent of the Afghanistan’s 407 districts, SIGAR said, while the Afghan government controlled or influenced 56 percent. The remaining districts were contested, SIGAR said.

The report also noted the significant increase in the air campaign: “The total of 1,186 munitions dropped in the first quarter of 2018 is the highest number recorded for this period since reporting began in 2013, and is over two and a half times the amount dropped in the first quarter of 2017.”

In addition, the report indicated that Nicholson’s plan to bomb drug production centers and have the Afghan military interdict shipments in an effort to cut off Taliban funding was having little effect.

“From 2008 through March 20, 2018, over 3,520 interdiction operations resulted in the seizure of 463,342 kilograms of opium. But the sum of these seizures over nearly a decade would account for less than 0.05% of the opium produced in Afghanistan in 2017 alone,” SIGAR said.

Since 9/11, the U.S. has invested more than $850 billion in the war and efforts to bolster the Afghan government, but a recent drumbeat of reports from SIGAR and the Pentagon Inspector General’s office have highlighted widespread and continuing corruption.

At a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in April 2018, Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, called on Army Secretary Mark Esper to justify a $50 million contract that SIGAR charged was used to buy luxury cars such as Alfa Romeos and Bentleys for Afghan officials and pay for $400,000 salaries for no-show jobs.

“Please tell me that a senator 20 years from now is not going to be sitting here and going, ‘How in the world are taxpayers paying for Alfa Romeos and Bentleys?’ ” McCaskill said.

‘We’ve kind of been going about it wrong’

As of March 2018, there were roughly 14,000 U.S. military personnel serving in Afghanistan as part of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, according to U.S. officials.

Of the 14,000, about 7,800 of these troops were assigned to NATO’s Resolute Support mission to train, advise and assist Afghan security forces.

The 7,800 number reflects an increase of 400 personnel from the deployment of the Army’s first Security Force Assistance Brigade, or SFAB, to Afghanistan.

In February 2018, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats issued a report on what those troops can be expected to accomplish this year that was at odds with the upbeat assessments of Mattis and Nicholson.

Exclusive interview: Army nurse on how COVID has affected the MOS
Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats

“The overall situation in Afghanistan probably will deteriorate modestly this year in the face of persistent political instability, sustained attacks by the Taliban-led insurgency” and the “unsteady” performance of the Afghan military performance, the DNI’s report said.

Afghan troops “probably will maintain control of most major population centers with coalition force support, but the intensity and geographic scope of Taliban activities will put those centers under continued strain,” the report said.

Mattis and Nicholson have singled out the SFAB as a key component in reforming and refining the operations of the Afghan security forces.

The SFAB concept takes specially selected non-commissioned and commissioned officers, preferably with experience in Afghanistan, and assigns them the train, advise and assist role in place of conventional Brigade Combat Team units.

Before the deployment, Army 1st Sgt. Shaun Morgan, a company senior enlisted leader with the SFAB, told Stars & Stripes that there were no illusions about the difficulty of the job ahead.

“So, we’ve been kind of going about it wrong for a while, I think,” Morgan said. “Maybe this is an opportunity to get on the right foot toward getting it right.”

Previously in Afghanistan, “we couldn’t get it through our heads that we weren’t the fighters,” Morgan told Stripes in a reference to the role of U.S. troops as partners and advisers to the Afghans who were to take the lead in combat.

“I think the bosses decided maybe this is the right shot, and it just makes sense to me,” Morgan said.

The Afghans also were under no illusions on the continuing threats posed by the Taliban and other insurgents, and the risks they take to go about their daily lives.

Shah Marai Faizi, the chief photographer for Agence France-Presse in the Kabul bureau, was among the nine journalists killed in May 1, 2018’s suicide bombings in Kabul. He was the father of six, including a newborn daughter.

In 2017, Shah Marai wrote an essay titled “When Hope Is Gone” that was read in part on the Democracy Now cable program.

“Life seems to be even more difficult than under the Taliban because of the insecurity,” he wrote. “I don’t dare to take my children for a walk. I have five, and they spend their time cooped up inside the house. I have never felt life to have so little prospects, and I don’t see a way out.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.

Articles

The Army will soon have fire proof uniforms made out of this retro fabric

U.S. Army researchers want to improve the service’s flame-resistant, protective apparel by developing a U.S.-manufactured, wool-blend uniform.


The Army has developed a wool-blend uniform composed of 50 percent wool, 42 percent Nomex, 5 percent Kevlar and 3 percent P140 antistatic fiber, according to a recent Army press release.

Also read: Army Links M4 Thermal Sights to Night Vision

One goal of textile research and development effort is to create a flame-resistant combat uniform made solely from domestic materials, said Carole Winterhalter, a textile technologist with the Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center.

This research may provide an opportunity to meet this objective.

“We have a lightweight fabric that is inherently flame resistant; no topical treatments are added to provide FR,” Winterhalter said. “We are introducing a very environmentally friendly and sustainable fiber to the combat uniform system. We don’t have other wool-based fabrics in the system right now. This is a brand new material.”

Exclusive interview: Army nurse on how COVID has affected the MOS
Pvt. Antwan Williams, an Infantryman serving as a human research volunteer soldier at the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center, models a wool-blend uniform developed by NSRDEC’s textile technologists. | U.S. Army photo

Three Army researchers traveled to Germany from Aug. 26 to Sept. 15 for Exercise Combined Resolve VII to work with about 100 soldiers in testing and evaluating prototype, wool-blend uniforms composed of this fabric. The scientists joined John Riedener, the field assistance in Science and Technology advisor assigned to 7th Army Training Command. The exercise brings about 3,500 participants from NATO allies to the region.

“We were in the heat of summer here, and it was very warm during the exercise,” Riedener said. “The uniforms were lighter weight and breathed better. Soldiers were very happy with the material.”

FAST advisors are a component of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command.

Soldiers from 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division participated in the 21-day testing and completed surveys before and after the exercise, said Brian Scott, NSRDEC equipment specialist, Soldier and Squad Optimization and Integration Team. The RD team selected Hohenfels, Germany, because the previous FR wool undergarment evaluation took place there.

Each soldier received three wool-blend uniform prototypes. Each uniform was made from the same wool-based blend. One was “garment treated” with permethrin, an insecticide, and another “fabric treated” with permethrin. The third was untreated.

Soldiers wore each of the three uniforms for about seven days in a field environment for a total of 21 days. The testing and survey instructions asked soldiers not to compare the prototypes with existing uniforms or camouflage patterns. Participating soldiers came from multiple military occupational specialties.

Their feedback regarding comfort, durability, laundering and shrinkage, insect resistance, and overall performance will help determine whether researchers continue this development effort, Winterhalter said.

Initial results suggest the majority of the soldiers liked the fabric because it was lightweight and breathable; however, analysis of the survey data is not complete, said Shalli Sherman, NSRDEC program manager for the Office of Synchronization and Integration.

Winterhalter is optimistic about the prospect of a wool blend being incorporated into combat uniforms because of its environmental, manufacturing and economic benefits. She said the United States has about 80,000 wool growers, and the Army would like to include this material in the clothing system.

“Wool is 100 percent biodegradable. It’s easy to dye and absorbs moisture,” said Winterhalter, who is also the federal government’s chief technology officer for the Advanced Functional Fabrics of America Manufacturing Innovation Institute.

The Army has spent quite a bit of time and money to reintroduce a manufacturing process in this country called Super Wash that allows us to shrink-resist treat the wool, Winterhalter said.

“When blended with other fibers, the fabric does not shrink excessively when washed,” Winterhalter said. “The Super Wash line at Chargeurs in Jamestown, South Carolina, has exceeded its business estimates. It has revitalized wool manufacturing in this country.”

The new Super Wash process makes wool viable for combat clothing in nearly any application, including jackets, pants, underwear, headwear, gloves and socks, Winterhalter said.

NSRDEC researchers plan a larger field study with more users over a longer time period of possibly 30 days. More data on comfort and durability is needed as the Army moves forward with this RD effort, Winterhalter said.

Articles

Coalition launches 84 strikes against ISIS as Iraqi army squeezes Mosul

Coalition air power had a busy Veterans’ Day Weekend while attacking the Islamic State of Iraqi and Syria, also known as ISIS.


Exclusive interview: Army nurse on how COVID has affected the MOS
A U.S. Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker from the 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron refuels a F-15 Strike Eagle in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Nathan Lipscomb)

Across Iraq and Syria, 84 airstrikes were carried out against the terrorist group, 27 of which were around the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, which Iraqi forces have been trying to liberate from ISIS since October.

The attacks took place as Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, visited the region. Iraqi forces are moving towards the city, in an offensive expected to take months, according to a DOD News article.

“In my judgment, what Mosul does is reduce ISIL inside of Iraq back to an insurgency with terrorist actions and get them to a level where Iraqi security forces with a minimum level of outside support will be able to manage the violence inside Iraq,” Dunford said. “It denies ISIL freedom of movement and sanctuary inside Iraq.”

The terrorist group was in retreat as their eastern defenses around Mosul collapsed, and the Iraqi Army claimed to have secured the Intisar district of the city, and was moving into the neighborhood of Salaam.

As Coalition forces move in, there have been reports of increasing atrocities carried out by ISIS. According to VOA news, one video released by the terrorist group showed four children — none older than 14 — being forced to execute alleged spies. ISIS had developed “hand grenade” drones and was using them around Mosul.

In other news about the fight against ISIS, the BBC reported that ISIS carried out a half-dozen bombings around Baghdad, and a tweet from CombatAir reported that a Russian MiG-29K Fulcrum operating from the Admiral Kuznetsov was lost.

According to a Nov. 11 release, 24 air strikes were carried out by coalition forces, seven of which took place near Mosul. The Mosul-area strikes destroyed or damaged seven mortar systems, an artillery system, three vehicles, and two weapon caches. Other targets hit that day included a command and control node, oil production facilities, three supply routes, fighting positions, heavy machine guns, a storage container, and a bulldozer.

A Department of Defense release on Nov. 12 reported that five out of 23 strikes that day took place near Mosul. Those five strikes hit a fighting position; five mortar systems; two tunnel entrances; two heavy machines guns; four vehicles; a vehicle bomb; and a weapons cache. The other 18 strikes blasted a number of other targets, including a headquarters building; six oil wellheads; five fighting positions; and six ISIS “tactical units.

Articles

North Korea tried to launch a missile, but couldn’t get it up

North Korea attempted to fire a missile April 16, the day after the anniversary of its founding, but it blew up within seconds.


While North Korea’s missile program may be the shadowiest on earth, it’s possible U.S. cyber warriors were the reason for the failed launch.

A recent New York Times report uncovered a secret operation to derail North Korea’s nuclear-missile program that has been raging for at least three years.

Essentially, the report attributes North Korea’s high rate of failure with Russian-designed missiles to the U.S. meddling in the country’s missile software and networks.

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The North Korean Hwasong missile has been tested with varying success, most recently in February 2017. (Photo: KCNA)

Though North Korea’s missile infrastructure lacks the competence of Russia’s, the Soviet-era missile on which North Korea based its missile had a 13% failure rate, while the North Korean version failed a whopping 88% of the time, according to the report.

Also read: This is what a war with North Korea could look like

While the missile failure on April 16 could have just been due to poor workmanship, U.S. Deputy National Security Adviser K.T. McFarland seemed to leave room for speculation about espionage, telling Fox News: “We can’t talk about secret intelligence and things that might have been done, covert operations, so I really have no comment.”

On April 17, Vice President Mike Pence  visited the demilitarized zone between the Koreas, saying that “all options are on the table to achieve the objectives and ensure the stability of the people of this country,” and that “the era of strategic patience” with North Korea “is over.”

To those in the know, the campaign against North Korea came as no surprise. Ken Geers, a cybersecurity expert for Comodo with experience in the National Security Agency, told Business Insider that cyberoperations like the one against North Korea were the norm.

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These aren’t the guys who hacked North Korea…but they could be. (U.S. Air Force photo)

While the U.S. hacking another country’s missile program may be shocking to some, “within military intelligence spaces, this is what they do,” Geers said. “If you think that war is possible with a given state, you’re going to be trying to prepare the battle space for conflict. In the internet age, that means hacking.”

North Korea’s internal networks are fiercely insulated and not connected to the internet, however, which poses a challenge for hackers in the United States. But Geers said it was “absolutely not the case” that hacking requires computers connected to the internet.

A recent report in The New Yorker on Russian hacking detailed one case in which Russia gained access to a NATO computer network in 1996 by providing bugged thumb drives to shops near a NATO base in Kabul, Afghanistan. NATO operators bought the thumb drives, used them on the network, and just like that, the Russians were in.

“That’s where SIGINT (signals intelligence) or COMINT (communications intelligence) comes into collaboration with HUMINT (human intelligence),” Geers said.

Related: North Korea threatens a pre-emptive nuclear attack

He described the present moment as the “golden age of espionage,” as cyberwarfare remains nonlethal, unattributable, and almost completely unpunished.

But a recent missile salvo from North Korea suggests that even a prolonged, sophisticated cyberattack can’t fully derail its nuclear-missile program.

“Imagine you’re the president. North Korea is a human-rights abuser and an exporter of dangerous technology,” Geers said. “Responsible governments really need to think about ways to handle North Korea, and one of the options is regime change.”

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The test-fire of Pukguksong-2 in February 2017. (KCNA/Handout via Reuters)

Furthermore, Geers said, because of the limited number of servers and access points to North Korea’s very restricted internet, “if it ever came to cyberwar between the U.S. and North Korea, it would be an overwhelming victory for the West.”

“North Korea can do a Sony attack or attack the White House, but that’s because that’s the nature of cyberspace,” Geers said. “But if war came, you’d see Cyber Command wipe out most other countries pretty quickly.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Veteran unemployment rate drops in first signs of economic rebound

Veteran unemployment rates fell in May by nearly three points to 9%, from 11.7% in April — the first signs of an economic rebound from the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Labor Department reported Friday.

The drop in the unemployment rate for veterans of all generations exceeded the 1.4% decrease in the rate for the general population, from 14.7% to 13.3%, reflecting “a limited resumption of economic activity that had been curtailed” by the virus, the monthly report said.


May’s 9% jobless rate for all veterans compared to 2.7% overall in May 2019 during the economic surge, and 3.8% in March before the first effects of the novel coronavirus hit the economy, the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics reported.

The unemployment rate for all female veterans in May was 7.8%, compared to 2.7% in May 2019, BLS said.

For post-9/11, or Gulf War II, veterans, the unemployment rate remained in double digits at 10.3%, but was down from 13.0% in April, BLS said. A year ago, the unemployment rate for post-9/11 veterans was 2.8%.

The figures showed remarkable resiliency in a hard-hit economy among older veterans who began their service in the 1990s, referred to as Gulf War-I veterans by BLS. For those veterans, the unemployment rate was 4.8% in May, BLS said.

However, the unemployment rates remained in double digits for the oldest generation of veterans from Vietnam, Korea and World War II, it said. For those veterans, the unemployment rate in May was 11.9% compared to 2.7% in May 2019.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell and Wall Street analysts had warned that the overall unemployment rate could approach 20% in May and June and remain in double digits through the end of this year, depending on a range of variables.

However, BLS Commissioner William Beach, in a statement accompanying the report, said that non-farm payroll jobs increased by 2.5 million in May despite the pandemic “and efforts to contain it.”

The 2.5 million figure was the largest monthly gain in new jobs since BLS began tracking the data in 1939, it said.

At the White House, President Donald Trump hailed the unexpected drop in the unemployment rates as “an affirmation of all the work we’ve been doing.”

He called predictions of jobless rates in the range of 20% “the greatest miscalculation in the history of business shows” and said the economy is now poised to take off “like a rocketship.”

In a statement, Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia said the May jobs report showed “much higher job creation and lower unemployment than expected, reflecting that the reopening of the economy in May was earlier, and more robust, than projected.”

He said, “It appears the worst of the coronavirus’s impact on the nation’s job markets is behind us.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia unsheathes a mysterious new laser weapon

A new Russian laser weapon designed to instantly obliterate targets entered military service December 2018, the Russian defense ministry revealed.

Russia’s Peresvet laser system, named after the medieval warrior monk Alexander Peresvet, entered experimental combat duty on Dec. 1, 2018, the Russian defense ministry’s official Krasnaya Zvezda newspaper reported Dec. 5, 2018.

The military began taking possession of the first shipments in 2017 as part of Russia’s ongoing military modernization program, according to The Moscow Times, and there is speculation the lasers could shoot down incoming missiles and airplanes.


Watch Russia unveil Peresvet laser system:

Заступление на опытно-боевое дежурство новейших лазерных комплексов «Пересвет»

www.youtube.com

Russian President Vladimir Putin first announced the existence of this new laser weapon in March 2018 during his State of the Nation address, during which he briefly introduced the “Combat Laser Complex.”

“We have achieved significant progress in laser weapons,” he boasted, “It is not just a concept or a plan any more. It is not even in the early production stages. Since last year, our troops have been armed with laser weapons.”

“We are one step ahead our rivals,” Putin added without providing any evidence.

Deputy Defense Minister Yuri Borisov offered a bit more information in an interview with Russian state media outlet TASS, explaining that the device could destroy targets “within fractions of a second.”

“We can talk a lot about laser weapons and movies were made about them a long time ago and fantastic books have been written, and everyone knows about this,” he introduced. “But, the fact that these systems have started entering service is indeed a today’s reality.”

The Russian defense ministry posted a video of the weapon in July 2018, before it had officially entered service.

Боевой лазерный комплекс «Пересвет»

www.youtube.com

Not much is publicly known about the Peresvet combat laser system, as Sputnik, a Russian media outlet controlled by the government, noted. What exactly it does has been the subject of much speculation.

“It is expected to be an air-defense system that can track and shoot down hostile aircraft and missiles,” Sputnik explained, adding, “Some suggest it will be tasked with ‘blinding’ sophisticated enemy systems, making them inoperable.”

Other countries, like the US and China, are also developing directed energy platforms.

China unveiled the LW-30, a vehicle-based laser weapon built to quickly eliminate a variety of aerial targets, at Airshow China 2018 in Zhuhai in November 2018.

Experts speculated that the weapon designed by China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC) could be deployed to the South China Sea.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Articles

The Navy may park its most advanced ship on Kim Jong Un’s doorstep

The U.S. offered to send its “most advanced warship” to the Korean Peninsula to curb threats from North Korea, South Korean defense officials revealed.


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USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) during first at-sea tests and trials in the Atlantic. (U.S. Navy)

Admiral Harry Harris, head of the U.S. Pacific Command, suggested stationing the stealth destroyer USS Zumwalt at a South Korean naval base at either Jeju Island or Jinhae to deter North Korea, Ministry of Defense spokesman Moon Sang-gyun said at a press conference Monday.

The $4 billion multipurpose destroyer is armed with SM-6 ship-to-air missiles, Tomahawk long-range cruise missiles, and anti-submarine weapons.

Responding to North Korean provocations, South Korea has been calling on the U.S. to deploy strategic assets to the peninsula on a permanent basis. Pyongyang conducted two nuclear tests and around two dozen ballistic missile tests last year, and 2017 began with multiple threats of an impending intercontinental ballistic missile test.

“A deployment of strategic assets is something that we can certainly consider as a deterrence against North Korea’s nuclear and military threats,” Moon explained, “We haven’t received any official offer in regard to the deployment of the Zumwalt, but if the U.S. officially makes such a suggestion, we will give serious consideration.”

“If the U.S. officially makes such a suggestion, we will give serious consideration,” he further said.

Some observers believe Harris’ proposal should not be taken literally and should, instead, be treated as a sign that the U.S. is committed to defending South Korea.

Given some of the Zumwalt’s issues, it is questionable whether the U.S. would actually deploy the Zumwalt to the Korean Peninsula.

Secretary of Defense James Mattis assured South Korea this weekend that the U.S. will stand by it against North Korea. “The United States stands by its commitments, and we stand with our allies, the South Korean people,” he explained.

“We stand with our peace-loving Republic of Korea ally to maintain stability on the peninsula and in the region, Mattis added, “America’s commitments to defending our allies and to upholding our extended deterrence guarantees remain ironclad. Any attack on the United States, or our allies, will be defeated, and any use of nuclear weapons would be met with a response that would be effective and overwhelming.”

Mattis reportedly agreed to send strategic assets to the peninsula.

The U.S. is expected to send the Nimitz-class supercarrier USS Carl Vinson and its accompanying carrier strike group, as well as strategic bombers, to South Korea to take part in the Key Resolve military exercise.

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Almost every NFL player stood for the national anthem on Veterans Day

The NFL take-a-knee protests dropped off dramatically Sunday, with all but a handful of players standing for the national anthem as teams pulled out the stops to honor the military for Veterans Day.


As of Sunday afternoon, only three players — the San Francisco 49ers’ Eric Reid and Marquise Goodwin and the New York Giants’ Olivier Vernon — had refused to stand for “The Star-Spangled Banner.” That was down from 15 players the week before, according to the ESPN tally.

The three represented the lowest number of kneelers since Week One of the NFL season, when three players sat or took a knee during the national anthem.

Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett, who has refused to stand all season in a protest against racial and social injustice, told reporters that he made an exception for Veterans Day.

“It was to signify that we are all with the military and that we love them,” Bennett told the Tacoma [Washington] News Tribune after Thursday’s game. “There’s been this narrative that we don’t care about the military. Today we were honoring the military.”

The pro-military celebrations came amid calls to boycott the NFL for Veterans Day over the take-a-knee protests.

In a joint statement, the NFL and NFLPA said Saturday that there was “no change” in its national-anthem policy, which says players “should” stand but does not require them to do so.

Still, there was plenty of patriotic feeling at the Week 10 games, which were marked by ceremonies to commemorate the military as part of the NFL’s Salute to Service month.

At least two teams, the Jacksonville Jaguars and Washington Redskins, invited hundreds of new military recruits to take their oath of enlistment on the field.

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Service members, firemen and police officers participate in a ceremony commemorating the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks before a Jacksonville Jaguars NFL game. More than 300 Sailors from Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Naval Station Mayport and Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay participated in a pre-game and halftime performance. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Gary Granger Jr./Released)

Players were joined by military personnel as they ran out of their tunnels before the games; coaches and cheerleaders wore camouflage gear, and camouflage Salute to Service ribbons decorated items including footballs, helmets, pylons and goal-post wraps.

Players wore helmet decals honoring military branches. Each player on the Atlanta Falcons wore a helmet decal with the initials of a fallen hero.

Some celebrations were more spontaneous. After a touchdown, Detroit Lions wide receiver Golden Tate gave a four-way salute from the end zone to the fans.

The NFL said it would donate $5 to its military non-profit partners, including the Pat Tillman Foundation, the USO, Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, and the Wounded Warrior Project, for every #SalutetoService tweet.

“Honoring the military is part of the fabric of the NFL,” said the league in a statement. “This support takes place both at home and abroad, with NFL players and coaches traveling overseas to salute the troops, as well as with team recognition of our servicemen and women through the NFL’s Salute to Service.”

Also Read: This NFL star trying to eat an MRE will crack you up

Since 2011, the NFL said it has raised more than $17 million for charity through its Salute to Service program.

The ESPN count on those kneeling came before the Sunday night game between the New England Patriots and Denver Broncos, all of whose players have stood for the anthem in recent weeks.

The Monday night game could bring up the total: Playing the Carolina Panthers are the Miami Dolphins, whose team includes three players who have frequently taken a knee during the anthem.

Articles

The Air Force seems to have persuaded Congress to pay up for the A-10

A bit of budgetary gamesmanship by the US Air Force earlier this month seems to have paid off, as the House Armed Services Committee has allotted money to keep the vaunted A-10 Thunderbolt in the air, according to Defense News.


The committee chairman’s draft of the fiscal year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act includes $103 million for an unfunded requirement related to the A-10 that the Air Force included in its budget request.

The $103 million, plus $20 million from this fiscal year, will go toward restarting production of A-10 wings to upgrade 110 of the Air Force’s 283 Thunderbolts.

Defense experts told CNN earlier this month that the Air Force’s inclusion of the A-10 wing money in its unfunded requirements was likely a ploy to get Congress to add money for the venerable Thunderbolt on top of the money apportioned for the service branch’s budget request.

Members of the House Armed Service Committee looked likely to approve money for the A-10, which is popular among both service members and elected officials like committee member Rep. Marth McSally, herself a former A-10 pilot, and Sen. John McCain.

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Photo courtesy of USAF

McSally noted during a hearing earlier this month that the Air Force had committed to retaining just six of its nine squadrons of A-10s and pressed Air Force officials to outline their plans for the fleet.

The Air Force currently plans to keep the A-10 in service over the next five years at minimum, after which point the fleet will need some maintenance. US Air Combat Command chief Gen. Mike Holmes told Defense News this month that without new wings, those 110 A-10s would have to go out of service, though he did say the Air Force had some leeway with its resources.

“When their current wings expire, we have some flexibility in the depot; we have some old wings that can be repaired or rejuvenated to go on,” he told Defense News. “We can work through that, so there’s some flex in there.”

The Air Force has been looking at whether and how to retire the A-10 for some time, amid pushback from elected officials and increased demand for close air support against ISIS, in which the A-10 specializes.

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US A-10s and F-16s | US Air Force photo

The five-year cushion described by Holmes gives the service more time to evaluate the aircraft and whether to replace it with F-35s or another aircraft.

The National Defense Authorization Act only approves a total amount of funding, Defense News notes, which means others in the House and Senate could choose to direct those funds to projects other than the A-10’s refurbishment.

The Air Force’s priorities may change as well.

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson told Defense News that the service had a defense strategy review in progress, after which the service life of the A-10 — which has been in the air since 1975 — could be extended. Though, Wilson said, the Air Force has a number of platforms that need upgrades.

hauntedbattlefields

These base residents say ghosts haunt their houses

Costumes, candy, Halloween parties, and trick or treating are common ways to celebrate All Hallows Eve. Another way some choose to take part in is by going to a “haunted house.”

For some, haunted houses are all too real.

Many Team Shaw members have heard rumors of some buildings on base that are supposedly haunted, but few have actually had experiences with the paranormal. The following stories have been told by Shaw housing residents who claim to have had encounters.


“The old base housing was very haunted so I’d say yes it’s possible the new ones are too,” said a Team Shaw spouse. “We had so many creepy experiences in the old housing. My oldest would scream bloody murder and just point at something in his room and refuse to go in there. At night, we’d lay in bed and could hear something downstairs slamming cabinets closed.”

Others said they have seen floating orbs of light on camera, had home devices turn on by themselves and heard doors open and close or bangs in their home.

Another member said she is “creeped out” but has come to terms with the entity in her home. Whenever she decides to turn in for the night, she now says, “Alright haunts. I’m going to bed. It’s time for you to go on home.”

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(Flickr photo by PROMichael)

In August of 2015, Heather Ingle, Team Shaw spouse, moved to Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, with her active duty husband and two young daughters.

“When we came here, (the girls) were refusing to sleep in their room,” Ingle said of her new home. “(My youngest daughter) was still pretty young, and she wouldn’t even go in there,”

“They just would not go in the room,” said Ingle. “(My eldest daughter) kept saying, ‘There is a scary lady in there.’ I told her, ‘There is nobody in this house. There’s nobody in here.’ We would just battle night after night after night that they wanted to sleep in bed with me, both of them.”

During this time in her life, Ingle was working in Columbia, South Carolina, and would get home late, while her daughters would stay at a friend’s home until she was able to pick them up and take them home.

Ingle stated one night she and her daughters got home around midnight after a long day of work. Her children were exhausted, but still argued to sleep with her in her bedroom.

She, then, went into their bedroom, closed the door, and screamed at whatever entity was there to go away, saying it wasn’t welcome here. Then, Ingle shouted out a blessing she was told to use by a friend.

According to Ingle, ever since that night, there have been no experiences. The girls do not see the ‘scary lady’ anymore.

So, if Team Shaw members hear someone shout “Boo!” while enjoying a “haunted house” this Halloween, look around. There may not be anyone there.

This article originally appeared on DVIDS. Follow @DVIDSHub on Twitter.

Articles

Air Force concerned that VIP helicopters are dangerously old

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Gen. Abidin Ünal, Turkey’s Air Force Chief of Staff, waves during takeoff in a UH-1N Iroquois at Joint Base Andrews, Md., April 6, 2016. Ünal flew with the 1st Helicopter Squadron during a U.S. visit to build U.S. – Turkey relations. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Ryan J. Sonnier)


On Apr. 6, Turkish Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Abidin Ünal smiled and waved as the U.S. Air Force’s 1st Helicopter Squadron took him on an aerial tour of the Washington, D.C. area. What Ünal’s hosts probably never mentioned was that their “White Top” UH-1N Twin Hueys are getting dangerously old.

The flying branch bought their first Twin Hueys nearly five decades ago. Despite numerous attempts to replace the choppers, the UH-1Ns continue to fly security missions around nuclear missile fields, shuttle dignitaries around the nation’s capital and stand ready to help out after a disaster or other emergency.

“[The] UH-1N doesn’t satisfy many assigned mission requirements,” Air Force officials wrote in a presentation for defense contractors in August 2015. “Emphasis is on expedited fielding of replacement aircraft.”

We Are The Mighty obtained a redacted copy of this document through the Freedom of Information Act. According to the “rules of engagement” section, the hosts banned attendees from recording the industry day gathering or taking photographs.

First flown in 1969, the Bell UH-1N has a top speed just shy of 150 miles per hour and a range of over 300 miles. Compared to earlier Hueys, the N models have twin Pratt and Whitney T400-CP-400 turboshafts – hence the “Twin” nickname.

Depending on the internal configuration, the Twin Huey can carry up to 13 passengers in addition to its crew of three, at least on paper. Unfortunately, temperature and other weather conditions can dramatically change how much any helicopter can lift.

The briefing highlights three missions that were driving the push to replace the choppers. The first two were convoy escort and security response operations around missiles silos and related sites. The third, but equally important mission was carrying “distinguished visitors” like Ünal in and around Washington, D.C.

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So, since the release of the Pentagon’s latest budget in February, and with serious concerns about these limits and overall age of the Air Force’s UH-1N fleet, American lawmakers have begun to demand action. But the safety of the country’s nuclear missiles has been at the center of the outcry.

“I look at the helicopters and I see glaring weaknesses and vulnerabilities which put our nation and … the mission at stake,” Ryan Zinke, a former Navy SEAL and Republic congressman for Montana, said in a statement on Mar. 9. “This is not a mission that can fail. Our nuclear triad is at stake.”

Armed with fast-firing miniguns and rocket pods, the Air Force originally rushed the UH-1Ns to Southeast Asia to schlep commandos around South Vietnam and Laos during the final years of the Vietnam War. By the end of the 1980s, the flying branch had largely replaced them in the special operations role with the more powerful HH-60G Pave Hawk.

Of the 62 UH-1Ns, 25 eventually wound up serving with squadrons guarding nuclear sites across the western U.S. The 582d Helicopter Group at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming oversees those units and their missions.

However, nearly as many Twin Hueys are busy transporting “distinguished visitors” at home and abroad. The 1st Helicopter Squadron at Joint Base Andrews owns 20 of the choppers, while the 459th Airlift Squadron at Yokota Air Base in Japan has another four aircraft.

Commonly known as “White Tops” because of their striking blue and white paint jobs, the 1st Helicopter Squadron’s choppers fly foreign officials like Turkey’s Ünal around on a regular basis. On top of that, the unit is prepared to act if a natural disaster or major terrorist attack threatens the most powerful city in the free world.

In 2011, the 479th‘s white and gray UH-1Ns got put the test after the Tōhoku earthquake and resulting tsunami hit Japan. The choppers and their crews help moved critical American and Japanese personnel around the disaster area – including near the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant – to survey and assess the situation.

On Feb. 29, the Air Force announced that two of the Twin Hueys in Japan had gotten new hoists to help rescue trapped or injured individuals in a crisis. Unfortunately, on the same day, the service admitted that one of the UH-1Ns had made a “precautionary” landing at Chofu Airport in Tokyo after experiencing engine trouble.

“They’ve run an exercise, a couple of them, and every time they use the Hueys, they fail,” Zinke said in an interview with Congressional Quarterly in February, referring to some of the 582d’s aircraft stateside.

If a UH-1N were to crash while carrying an American or foreign government official, it would be a major embarrassment for the Air Force and Washington as a whole, if nothing else. Depending on who was involved and if there were any fatalities, the fallout could be just as devastating as a breach of nuclear security.

Unfortunately, Pentagon and the Air Force have had serious problems trying to fix the problem. Since 2004, the service has repeated pushed back the plans due to budget cuts, competing priorities and delays with other projects.

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Had these sailors saved this Huey in ’75 (pushed overboard to make room on the flight deck during the evacuation of Saigon) it might still be flying VIPs around DC today. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

In 2009, the Pentagon dealt one of the biggest blows to the plan by canceling the program to replace the HH-60G rescue choppers. Three years earlier, the flying branch had hired Boeing to supply new HH-47 Chinooks.

Other competitors quickly filed official complaints accusing the service of mismanaging the contracting process. After the Government Accountability Office sided with the protesting companies, the Air Force tried and failed twice more to jump-start the program.

Ultimately, the flying branch inked a deal with Sikorsky to supply an updated HH-60W version of their iconic Black Hawk. But the Connecticut-based company, now part of Lockheed Martin, doesn’t expect to deliver any of those aircraft to the Air Force before 2019.

There’s no guarantee that these new aircraft would free up any of the older Pave Hawks either. In their 2015 briefing, the flying branch was willing to consider upgrading the choppers as a possible solution.

The Air Force made it clear that they wanted a single, common replacement for all the UH-1Ns scattered across the service, including another dozen assigned to training and test units. But, at the time, the presenters added that there was no program of record or funding stream for any replacements for the aging choppers.

On Feb. 26, Zinke and 13 other legislators co-signed letters to the House Armed Services Committee and the House Appropriations Committee asking them to put money for new helicopters in the 2017 budget. Their proposal would involve adding to an existing U.S. Army plan to purchase HH-60M Black Hawks, but sending the extra aircraft to the Air Force.

“By adding Black Hawks … we can address the problem immediately rather than more delayed action,” the messages explained. “Not only does the Huey create security vulnerabilities, it has been proven inefficient and costly to operate and maintain.”

Neither congress nor the Pentagon has made a final decision on how best to proceed. In the meantime, foreign officials like Ünal will have to continue riding in the old Twin Hueys when they visit Washington.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This Marine will make you want to let the bodies hit the floor

U.S. Marine Chloe Mondesir is not in any way predictable.


First, as is often the case with women, you wouldn’t expect her to be a military veteran (let alone a Marine), but she served as an Ammunition Technician in Iraq. She also holds multiple college degrees (something you wouldn’t expect from a Marine — zing!) and is a mother of an 8-year-old (and her daughter, by the way, knows the lyrics to Drowning Pools’ “Bodies” and headbangs accordingly).

Probably what’s the most refreshing when you meet Mondesir is how fun-loving and energetic she is. If you’re a fan of Season 2 of John Cena’s “American Grit,” then you already know this.

“It’s pretty hot in Iraq so sometimes things get really tough and you need that extra motivation, and music just does it.”

In her Battle Mix video, she even makes the heat of Iraq sound not so bad. She also talks about how she was privy to Usher’s 2004 hit “Yeah” before the rest of her buddies at boot camp, and I grin every time I watch it.

Fun fact: she’s the only one of WATM’s Battle Mix veterans we had to censor. Just another great Chloe Mondesir surprise.

Check out her interview here:

And you can catch her full Battle Mix right here: