“Welcome to another exciting episode of when is America gonna start acting like the great country we keep telling ourselves we are?” asked Jon Stewart in a press conference in September. He went on to remind the crowd that he’d spent the previous fifteen years trying to get Congress to support 9/11 first responders who were sick as a result of their heroism that day.
“When it was done, we thought it was done, but it turns out that the warfighters that were sent to prosecute the battle based on the attack of 9/11 now suffer the same injuries and illnesses that the first responders suffered from. And they’re getting the same cold shoulder from Congress,” he declared.
The speech came with announced legislation that would deliver care for veterans who suffered from health problems directly related to burn pits, open air fires that were commonly used to dispose of waste at military sites in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to The Washington Post, “the legislation would declare certain illnesses among combat veterans as linked to toxic burn pits, removing barriers of proof of exposure that advocates have said are too high.”
As of Sept. 11, 2020, the VA claimed that “research does not show evidence of long-term health problems from exposure to the burn pits.”
The VA does, however, acknowledge the following:
“Toxins in burn pit smoke may affect the skin, eyes, respiratory and cardiovascular systems, gastrointestinal tract and internal organs. Veterans who were closer to burn pit smoke or exposed for longer periods may be at greater risk. Health effects depend on a number of other factors, such as the kind of waste being burned and wind direction. Most of the irritation is temporary and resolves once the exposure is gone. This includes eye irritation and burning, coughing and throat irritation, breathing difficulties, and skin itching and rashes. The high level of fine dust and pollution common in Iraq and Afghanistan may pose a greater danger for respiratory illnesses than exposure to burn pits, according to a 2011 Institute of Medicine report.” According to the Washington Post, U.S. contractors and military veterans destroy enormous amounts of waste, including vehicle parts, lithium-ion batteries, solvents, and amputated limbs, by soaking them in jet fuel and burning them in open-air pits, “some larger than a football field.”
In his speech, Stewart pointed out the similarities between the contamination on 9/11 and the burn pits overseas — especially the use of jet fuel as an accelerant. “Jet fuel as the accelerant at Ground Zero and jet fuel as the accelerant in these burn pits. So our veterans lived twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week next to toxic smoke, dioxins, everything. And now they’re being told, ‘Hey man, is that stuff bad for ya? I don’t know. We don’t have the science.’ It’s bullsh**. It’s bullsh**. It’s about the money.”
Hundreds of thousands of veterans are left to advocate on their own, Stewart explained, which is why he and a team of lawmakers have stepped up to demand that Congress go on record and be held accountable for their decisions in this matter.
The legislation was proposed to Congress by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-Calif.). The measure would grant presumption of exposure to veterans with certain conditions and who served in one of 33 countries where troops were deployed after the 9/11 attacks, Gillibrand said.
The VA opened a burn pit registry which allows eligible veterans and service members to document their exposures and report health concerns through an online questionnaire. Over 200,000 participants have already completed and submitted the registry questionnaire.
After years of development, and having only just entered service officially with the US Air Force last year, the F-35A Lightning II will finally be declared fully combat ready next month, heralding a new age of air power for the service.
Aviation Week reports that the 34th Fighter Squadron, based at Hill AFB, Utah, will take delivery of brand new F-35As fresh from the production line in Dallas, Texas. What differentiates these latest stealth jets from the F-35As currently flown by the Air Force is that they will come with the Block 3F software upgrade.
Block 3F is the final step towards enabling the aircraft to fully utilize every air-to-surface and air-to-air weapon it was built to field in combat. Currently, the F-35s flown by the Air Force and US Marine Corps operate with a limited weapons load while Lockheed Martin and other program contractors ready the Lightning II’s software.
The F-35 was created as part of the Joint Strike Fighter program of the late 1990s, bringing about a dedicated multirole replacement for the F/A-18 “Legacy” Hornet, the F-16 Fighting Falcon, and the AV-8B Harrier II jumpjet operated by the Marine Corps.
By building aircraft with similar architecture – just different engines – the Department of Defense theorized that money could be saved in the long run while keeping operational readiness for the military’s entire fighter fleet at an all-time high. As such, Lockheed Martin has developed three variants of the F-35: the A model for the Air Force, the B model short takeoff/vertical landing for the Marine Corps, and the carrier-capable C model for the Navy.
The F-35 was originally designed to work in tandem with the F-22 Raptor – the Raptor serving as an air superiority fighter while the Lightning II functioning more as a swing-role “Swiss army knife” aircraft. The deployment of the Block 3F software is a huge leap towards making that goal a reality today.
This upgrade comes in the wake of a training deployment conducted by the 34th Fighter Squadron to the United Kingdom earlier this year with F-35As that were still limited in their warfighting capabilities – most in terms of the weapons they could carry and employ. The Marine Corps has also pushed its F-35Bs out to Japan, but are also serving in a limited capacity until the new software update is rolled out.
With fears of a potential confrontation with North Korea, and with the rise of Chinese and Russian stealth fighters on the horizon, maintaining an edge with its own fifth generation fighters has become a major priority for the Air Force. According to Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, the F-35s which were deployed to the UK in spring could have been sent to battle if called upon, though their pilots would not be able to access the aircraft’s full potential, with the limited software built into their aircraft at the time.
The Pentagon expects to place more than 100 F-35s in Asia within the next three to four years to counter the Chinese air force’s fielding of its own fifth generation fighters like the J-31 Gyrfalcon and the J-20 multirole fighters.
The US Air Force is vigorously upgrading the 1980s-era F-15 fighter by giving new weapons and sensors in the hope of maintaining air-to-air superiority over the Chinese J-10 equivalent.
The multi-pronged effort includes the current addition of electronic warfare technology, super-fast high-speed computers, infrared search and track enemy targeting systems, increased networking ability and upgraded weapons-firing capability, Air Force and Boeing officials said.
“The Air Force plans to keep the F-15 fleet in service until the mid-2040’s. Many of the F-15 systems date back to the 1970’s and must be upgraded if the aircraft is to remain operationally effective. Various upgrades will be complete as early as 2021 for the F-15C AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) radar and as late as 2032 for the various EW (electronic warfare) upgrades,” Air Force spokesman Maj. Rob Leese told Scout Warrior.
The Air Force currently operates roughly 400 F-15C, D and E variantsA key impetus for the upgrade was well articulate in a Congressional report on the US and China in 2014. (US-China Economic and Security Review Commission —www.uscc.gov). Among other things, the report cited rapid Chinese technological progress and explained that the US margin of superiority has massively decreased since the 1980s.
As an example, the report said that in the 1980s, the US F-15 was vastly superior to the Chinese equivalent – the J-10. However, Chinese technical advances in recent years have considerably narrowed that gap to the point where the Chinese J-10 is now roughly comparable to the US F-15, the report explained.
Air Force and Boeing developers maintain that ongoing upgrades to the F-15 will ensure that this equivalence is not the case and that, instead, they will ensure the superiority of the F-15.
Among the upgrades is an ongoing effort to equip the F-15 with the fastest jet-computer processer in the world, called the Advanced Display Core Processor, or ADCPII.
“It is capable of processing 87 billion instructions per second of computing throughput, translating into faster and more reliable mission processing capability for an aircrew,” Boeing spokesman Randy Jackson told Scout Warrior.
The F-15 is also receiving protective technology against enemy fire with a system called the Eagle Passive Active Warning Survivability System.
“This allows the aircraft to identify a threat and actively prosecute that threat through avoidance, deception or jamming techniques,” Mike Gibbons, Vice President of the Boeing F-15 program, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
High tech targeting and tracking technology is also being integrated onto the F-15, Gibbons added. This includes the addition of a passive long-range sensor called Infrared Search and Track, or IRST.
The technology is also being engineered into the Navy F-18 Super Hornet. The technology can detect the heat signature, often called infrared emissions, of enemy aircraft.
“The system can simultaneously track multiple targets and provide a highly effective air-to-air targeting capability, even when encountering advanced threats equipped with radar-jamming technology,” Navy officials said.
IRST also provides an alternate air-to-air targeting system in a high threat electronic attack environment, Navy, Air Force and industry developers said.
The F-15 is also being engineered for additional speed and range, along with weapons-firing ability. The weapons-carrying ability is being increased from 8 up to 16 weapons; this includes an ability to fire an AIM-9x or AIM-120 missile. In addition, upgrades to the aircraft include adding an increased ability to integrate or accommodate new emerging weapons systems as they become available. This is being done through both hardware and software-oriented “open standards” IP protocol and architecture.
The aircraft is also getting a “fly-by-wire” automated flight control system.
“Fly by wire means when the pilot provides the input – straight to a computer than then determines how to have the aircraft perform the way it wants – provides electrical signals for the more quickly and more safely move from point to point as opposed to using a mechanical controls stick,” Gibbons explained.
Along with these weapons upgrades and other modifications, the F-15 is also getting upgrades to the pilot’s digital helmet and some radar signature reducing, or stealthy characteristics.
However, at the same time, the F-15 is not a stealthy aircraft and is expected to be used in combat environments in what is called “less contested” environments where the Air Force already has a margin of air superiority over advanced enemy air defenses.
For this reason, the F-15 will also be increasing networked so as to better support existing 5th-generation platforms such as the F-22 and F-35, Air Force officials said.
The intent of these F-15 upgrades is to effectively perform the missions assigned to the F-15 fleet, which are to support the F-22 in providing air superiority and the F-35 in providing precision attack capabilities, Leese said.
“While these upgrades will not make these aircraft equivalent to 5th generation fighters, they will allow the F-15 to support 5th generation fighters in performing their missions, and will also allow F-15s to assume missions in more permissive environments where capabilities of 5th generation fighters are not required,” Leese added.
Gibbons added that the upgrades to the F-15 will ensure that the fighter aircraft remains superior to its Chinese equivalent.
“The F-15 as a vital platform that still has a capability that cannot be matched in terms of ability to fly high, fly fast, go very far carry a lot. It is an air dominance machine,” Gibbons explained.
It’s not often you see those three-letter titles A1C and Ph.D. used to refer to the same person. As a matter of fact, only one-hundredth of one percent of the Air Force’s enlisted force from E-1 through E-9 possess a doctor of philosophy degree, one of 33 enlisted airmen in the Air Force with a doctorate degree.
Yet one woman with a doctorate in chemistry found herself signing on the proverbial dotted line, completing basic training, and is now assigned to the Department of Defense’s sole nuclear treaty monitoring center.
Airman 1st Class Cynthia A. Schroll enlisted in the Air Force in December 2017, though her unique career journey began much earlier, soon after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
“I was in my senior year of high school in 2001, and after 9/11 happened, I told my parents I wanted to enlist,” Schroll said. “During the discussion, my mother said something that struck me even using the word ‘please’ and asking me to do something for the first time in my life instead of telling me to. She said, ‘please don’t enlist. I’ve been saving your whole life for you to go to college.’ I knew how much it meant to her and I respect my parents deeply, so I went to college.”
Airman 1st Class Cynthia A. Schroll, a radiochemistry technician at the Air Force Radiochemistry Laboratory, Air Force Technical Applications Center, Patrick Air Force Base, Fla., pours solution from a test tube as she prepares reagent kits for AFTAC’s precious metals program.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Susan A. Romano)
Schroll attended Morehead State University in Kentucky and earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry in 2006. She bypassed the traditional path after her undergraduate studies and went straight into the doctoral program at the University of Cincinnati.
“It’s not uncommon for people looking into science degrees to forego a master’s program and go straight into a doctoral studies,” Schroll explained. “Most universities that offer a Ph.D. will let you obtain a master’s degree if you find yourself struggling with the Ph.D. work load.”
She joked, “someone once told me that the difference between a Ph.D. and a master’s degree is the Ph.D. project has to work in the end, while a master’s student can write up all the ways the project didn’t work!”
Upon completion of her doctorate in analytical chemistry with an emphasis in spectroelectrochemical detection of f-block elements, she went straight into the work force doing environmental sample preparation, product management and worked as a contract research assistant at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. She also taught general chemistry at the University of Cincinnati for two years. It was an enjoyable career, Schroll said, but military service was still on her mind.
“I had everything going for me: a great education, good job, supportive family, everything, yet I was still thinking about enlisting,” she said. “But I had some significant hurdles to overcome. I was overweight and knew that was going to be a factor as to whether I’d qualify or not. I had pets. I had a house and in 2014, I lost my mother to multiple myeloma, a form of blood cancer. It was devastating to my family and me. I took it quite hard and was lost without her influence.”
Air Force Basic Training graduation photo of Airman 1st Class Cynthia A. Schroll.
From that tragedy, however, came the realization that she still wanted to serve her country and thought it would be a lasting tribute to her beloved mother.
“I knew deep down from the beginning she didn’t want me to join the service, but through all the grief I was experiencing, I had to find a path that would bring me greater reward,” she explained.
So after several months of careful thought, consideration and a solid work-out program, Schroll paid a visit to her local recruiter to change her title from ‘Doctor’ to ‘Airman.’
“Before I left for basic, I had several lengthy conversations with my sister who served in the Army for almost 10 years and I spoke to several other female friends who had also gone through the experience,” she said. “They all told me about the mind games I should expect from the military training instructors and some of the difficulties that arise when you put 40 women together in small quarters for several weeks at a time. Needless to say, I found basic training quite entertaining!”
During basic, trainees are selected to fill certain jobs and responsibilities given to each flight: dorm chief, element leader, chow runner, and entry controller, just to name a few. Schroll volunteered to be the flight’s academic monitor. When the MTI asked what made her qualified for the job, she nonchalantly mentioned she had taught classes before. The MTI did some digging and learned that Schroll had a Ph.D.
“It all came out from there,” she said. “I tried to downplay it as much as I could, and I offered to help any of my flight mates with their study techniques, because we were all in this together. We had one trainee who had such bad test anxiety and we were all worried she was going to run out of the classroom before she finished the end-of-course exam. When our MTI started reading off our test scores, we collectively held our breath when hers was read and we cheered like mad when it was a passing score. A few of us even cried. By far my proudest moment as the academic monitor was the fact we all passed our exams the first time through.”
U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Daniel Stein, 17th Training Group superintendent, presents the 312th Training Squadron Student of the Month award to Airman 1st Class Cynthia Schroll, 312th TRS trainee, at Brandenburg Hall on Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas, June 1, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Zachary Chapman)
She graduated basic training in February 2018 and was sent to Goodfellow AFB, Texas, to undergo special instruments training. While there, she became friends with a large contingent of Air Force firefighters.
“Our tech school was housed with the airmen who undergo firefighting training, and it was so much fun,” Schroll recalled. “I was selected to be a red rope, the person who oversees dorm activities, and they kept me so grounded. I had so much respect for them that on my last day I woke up at 3:30 a.m. to go to their daily formation so I could shake every single hand and say thanks. I love and respect them all so much.”
During her tenure at Goodfellow, she received a special visitor who requested to meet with her. She was surprised to learn it was a command chief master sergeant who made the trip to speak directly with her.
“I was pretty floored when I found out Chief Master Sgt. Michael Joseph came to the schoolhouse to discuss career options with me,” she said. “He introduced himself as the command chief for the Air Force Technical Applications Center, and said his commander was very interested in having me on his team at Patrick AFB. I can’t put my finger on it, but during my conversation with Chief Joseph, I realized this was my chance to live out my desire to serve, especially in the capacity of a scientist. I thought to myself, ‘These folks who have so much experience would know how best to use my skills,’ so I put my trust in them.”
Joseph was highly impressed when he met with Schroll.
“I heard about A1C Schroll as she was coming through the pipeline since AFTAC has a majority of the 9S100 airmen in the Air Force,” said Joseph. “Every airman has a story, and I wanted to hear hers. Her background was impressive — she had written two books and has a patent to her name, but it was her desire to serve that impressed me the most. With her chemistry background and our operational need for highly-skilled chemists, it seemed like a natural fit for her to come to AFTAC.”
Recruiting personnel who possess highly-technical scientific degrees and experience has been a challenge for the nuclear treaty monitoring center, but AFTAC’s senior enlisted advisor believes they’re seeking out ways to overcome that challenge.
Schroll is assigned to AFTAC’s radiochemistry laboratory working as a radiochemistry technician. She is responsible for preparing reagent kits in the lab’s tech room as well as co-managing the precious metals program.
“I love the responsibility that comes from knowing our chemists are counting on me to prep their reagents properly and in a timely manner,” said Schroll. “If anything goes wrong with the chemistry, the first place that is looked at is the reagent, so I want them to have confidence when they see my initials on the label that they were prepared correctly.”
When asked if she was looking at becoming a commissioned officer someday, Schroll said it’s not out of the question, but it’s not her immediate focus.
“Right now, I’m still brand new to the Air Force, so I am learning as much about it as possible. I’m an airman first class, and with that comes the responsibility of being the best A1C I can be. My focus is on doing the job I am fortunate to have, and doing it as best I can. When I look to the future, I only see broad opportunities. But I’ve never been one to look too far ahead because all too often we make this grand dream or goal, only to forget to focus on the little steps to get there. I’m focusing on the little steps right now.”
A panel on memorials at the US Naval Academy will discuss whether two buildings on the campus grounds should remain named after two American naval officers who fought for the Confederacy, the academy’s superintendent said Sept. 11.
Vice Adm. Ted Carter, who briefed the academy’s Board of Visitors about the building names at a meeting at the Library of Congress, said the academy’s Memorial Oversight Committee will be looking into the issue, which has been raised in the aftermath of a white-nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that erupted into deadly violence.
“Where we are right now, there is not a move to make an immediate change, but there is ongoing dialogue,” Carter told The Associated Press in an interview during a break at the meeting.
The superintendent’s residence in Annapolis, Maryland, is named after Franklin Buchanan, the academy’s first superintendent who left to join the Confederate Navy at the outbreak of the Civil War. A road by the house, which hosts thousands of visitors every year, also is named after him. Maury Hall is named after Matthew Fontaine Maury, a leader in the fields of naval meteorology and navigation. He headed the coast, harbor, and river defenses for the Confederate Navy.
Carter told the Board of Visitors, which includes members of Congress, that the buildings were named after the two men because of their links to Navy history and their accomplishments, separate from their service in the Confederacy. He also noted that Maury was opposed to slavery. Buchanan, Carter said, turned in his commission when he believed his home state of Maryland would secede from the union. When it didn’t, he sought to return, but the secretary of the Navy at the time rejected the request.
Carter said he has not been getting encouragement to change the names.
“The other thing is, there’s nobody clamoring within the campus nor our alumni, or anyone else, to effect a change, so I listen to those voices as well,” Carter said. “And nor are the midshipmen looking for a change, so these are all parts of the conversation that we are now being open to listen to.”
Carter also noted that the decision in changing building names rests with the Chief of Naval Operations. Carter brought up the issue during a public portion of the board meeting.
Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, a Maryland Democrat who is on the board, said the issue also was discussed during a portion of the meeting that was closed to the public. He declined to elaborate on what was said in the closed portion, but he said the committee will produce a report.
“It’s something that we’re looking at,” Ruppersberger said. “We’re evaluating.”
Rep. Rob Wittman, a Virginia Republican who chairs the board, said he believes there should be extensive discussion before any names are changed.
“I think you really need to think long and hard about the person in the context in which they existed in that period of time,” Wittman said.
Sen. Ben Cardin, a Maryland Democrat, said he believes the Defense Department will end up making a military-wide policy on the issue. He said he didn’t see an urgent need to change the two names at the academy.
“But I do think it’s a matter of what do we want to have as a reflection of our values today, and that’s something that we should be looking at,” Cardin said.
A former Southern California Marine has been handed a 21-month federal sentence for faking a Purple Heart and lifting from another Marine’s combat story to get disability benefits and a free house.
In a rare prosecution under the 2013 Stolen Valor Act, a 35-year-old Iraq war veteran will also have to pay back more than $300,000 to the U.S. government and a Texas charity.
Brandon Blackstone served with 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment out of Twentynine Palms in the Mojave Desert in 2004. He deployed to Iraq in August, during a period of fierce fighting on the Syrian border.
So did Casey Owens, another 1/7 Marine.
But that’s where the similarities in the two Marines’ stories end — and where Blackstone’s fabrications began.
Prosecutors and fellow Marines say Blackstone fashioned a tale of blast injuries and combat stress based on a horrific explosion that nearly killed Owens and cost him both of his legs.
Owens was in a Humvee that triggered a double anti-mine bomb while responding to a downed U.S. serviceman in September 2004.
Blackstone was in the area and likely witnessed the event. But he wasn’t injured in that attack — or in any other combat incident — according to people who were there, the U.S. Attorney’s office in Texas, and Blackstone’s own lawyer.
In fact, he was evacuated from Iraq after a month with appendicitis.
But starting at least in 2006, Blackstone began spinning a story of suffering traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder after his Humvee hit a mine in Iraq.
He even fabricated two witness statements to support his claim for U.S. Veterans Affairs Department disability benefits that he received from 2006 to 2015, prosecutors said.
Worse, in the eyes of his fellow Marines, he began showing the photograph of Owens’ mangled Humvee as part of his story about how he was wounded.
“This scumbag lied to try to get s–t. You don’t do that. It’s not honorable. It’s not how we are. It’s personal for me, especially, as a friend of Casey’s,” said Andrew Rothman, a 1/7 Navy corpsman who was a key player in exposing Blackstone’s fraud.
“This kid essentially stole from all of us. And the honor part is bigger to us than the money and the house.”
Blackstone was awarded a 100 percent disability rating and, by claiming to have a Purple Heart, his application for a mortgage-free house was granted by Texas-based Military Warriors Support Foundation.
Meanwhile, Owens tried to make the best of his life with a double leg amputation and brain injuries, among other medical complications. He moved to Aspen and competed as a Paralympics skier.
But Owens was still in pain. He did national TV interviews describing how he struggled to get the care he needed for his mental and physical wounds. His right leg required additional surgeries that took more of it away.
In October 2014, Owens used a gun to kill himself.
But things for Blackstone were going well. He became a mentor at a Missouri-based veterans charity, Focus Marines Foundation. He even started his own nonprofit group, called The Fight Continues, with two other post-Sept. 11 veterans.
But those brushes with others in the veterans community led to his downfall. His story, including video testimonials he was giving about his combat injuries, didn’t sit right with other 1/7 Marines who dedicated a Facebook thread to discussing it.
Eventually, Rothman tipped off the Warriors Support charity that was poised to grant Blackstone the deed to the donated house.
Blackstone pleaded guilty in September to one count of wire fraud and one count of fraudulent representation about the receipt of a military decoration for financial gain.
At his sentencing last month, a federal judge in Texas called Blackstone “shameful,” but gave him credit for accepting blame for his actions. Sentencing guidelines limited his incarceration to 27 months or less, according to news reports. His was given credit for time served since February, so he will serve 18 more months.
Blackstone’s defense lawyer, Justin Sparks, said his client was diagnosed with PTSD and suffered a head injury in Iraq — but not in combat.
The head wound happened when a superior roughed him up in the barracks and he hit his head on a dresser. There were other injuries while in uniform that weren’t related to combat but required surgery, Sparks said. While in the hospital, a higher-ranking Marine informally gave Blackstone a Purple Heart medal to acknowledge his pain — but it wasn’t an official award.
There’s no explaining why Blackstone lied about the Purple Heart or applied for the free home, knowing he wasn’t qualified, the former Marine’s lawyer told the San Diego Union-Tribune.
“There’s not really a good answer for that. He was in a very, very tough time in his life and reached a pitfall there,” Sparks said this week.
Sparks said his client seemed to lose his grasp on reality as the story spun on.
“There’s a symptom of PTSD where you are living your life in the third person. You’re always convincing yourself about what is reality,” he said. “It’s almost a coping mechanism.”
Sparks said his client is still rated at 70 percent disabled by the VA.
The lawyer disagreed that Blackstone was appropriating Casey Owens’ story.
“Brandon never claimed his lost his legs,” Sparks said. “The only common elements in the two stories are PTSD, the Purple Heart, and head injuries. There must be at least 1,000-plus soldiers who have those three things.”
Blackstone’s fellow troops don’t buy the PTSD explanation for his behavior. Several of them also were disappointed by his sentence.
“He was in the grip of his own lies,” said Eric Calley, a former Marine who used his own money to start The Fight Continues with Blackstone.
“That judge should be ashamed. I think (Blackstone) deserves a life sentence for what he did to our veterans.”
Lezleigh Owens Kleibrink, Owens’ sister, said her family was hoping for closure from a tougher sentence but didn’t get it.
Kleibrink said she has no doubts that Blackstone was trying to at least bask in the association with her brother’s reputation.
“He was a thief and Casey’s story was a means to get what he wanted,” she told the San Diego Union-Tribune this week.
“What Brandon doesn’t understand is that it’s ripped open our wounds once again,” Kleibrink said. “Anyone who makes my mother cry like this … He may have joined the Corps, but he was no Marine.”
The Military Warriors Support Foundation said it was the charity’s first brush with stolen valor in awarding more than 750 homes to combat-wounded veterans.
“This was an unusual case, in that even official VA documentation was inaccurate,” said spokesman Casey Kinser. “That said, we are constantly reviewing our processes to vet our applicants more accurately and efficiently.”
The Fort Worth-area house that Blackstone nearly owned has been awarded to another Marine family.
The Air Force’s stealthy long-range bomber will have the endurance and next-generation stealth capability to elude the most advanced existing air defenses and attack anywhere in the world, if needed, senior service officials said.
When the Air Force recently revealed its first artist rendering of what its new Long Range Strike – Bomber looks like, service Secretary Deborah James made reference to plans to engineer a bomber able to elude detection from even the best, most cutting-edge enemy air defenses.
“Our 5th generation global precision attack platform will give our country a networked sensor shooter capability enabling us to hold targets at risk anywhere in the world in a way that our adversaries have never seen,” James said when revealing the image.
James added that the new bomber will be able to “play against the real threats.”
The new bomber, called the B-21, will soon be named through a formal naming competition involving members of the Air Force, their families and other participants.
The Air Force has awarded a production contract to Northrop Grumman to engineer and its new bomber. The LRS-B will be a next-generation stealth aircraft designed to introduce new stealth technology and fly alongside – and ultimately replace – the service’s existing B-2 bomber.
“With LRS-B, I can take off from the continental United States and fly for a very long way. I don’t have to worry about getting permission to land at another base and worry about having somebody try to target the aircraft. It will provide a long-reach capability,” Lt. Gen. Bunch, Air Force Military Deputy for Acquisition, told Scout Warrior in an interview several months ago.
The service plans to field the new bomber by the mid-2020s. The Air Force plans to acquire as many as 80 to 100 new bombers for a price of roughly $550 million per plane in 2010 dollars, Air Force leaders have said.
Although there is not much publically available information when it comes to stealth technology, industry sources have explained that the LRS-B is being designed to elude the world’s most advanced radar systems.
For instance, lower-frequency surveillance radar allows enemy air defenses to know that an aircraft is in the vicinity, and higher-frequency engagement radar allows integrated air defenses to target a fast-moving aircraft. The concept with the new bomber is to engineer a next-generation stealth configuration able to evade both surveillance and engagement radar technologies.
The idea is to design a bomber able to fly, operate and strike anywhere in the world without an enemy even knowing an aircraft is there. This was the intention of the original B-2 bomber, which functioned in that capacity for many years, until technological advances in air defense made it harder for it to avoid detection completely.
The new aircraft is being engineered to evade increasingly sophisticated air defenses, which now use faster processors, digital networking and sensors to track even stealthy aircraft on a wider range of frequencies at longer ranges.
Stealth technology works by engineering an aircraft with external contours and heat signatures designed to elude detection from enemy radar systems.
At the same time, advanced in air defense technologies are also leading developers to look at stealth configurations as merely one arrow in the quiver of techniques which can be employed to elude enemy defenses, particulalry in the case of future fighter aircraft. New stealthy aircraft will also likely use speed, long-range sensors and manueverability as additional tactics intended to evade enemy air defenses – in addition to stealth because stealth configurations alone will increasingly be more challenged as technology continues to advance.
However, stealth technology is itself advancing – and it is being applied to the B-21, according to senior Air Force leaders who naturally did not wish to elaborate on the subject.
“As the threat evolves we will be able to evolve the airplane and we will still be able to hold any target at risk” Bunch said.
Although the new image of LRS-B does look somewhat like the existing B-2, Air Force officials maintain the new bomber’s stealth technology will far exceed the capabilities of the B-2.
U.S. Air Force
At the same time, the B-2 is being upgraded with a new technology called Defensive Management System, a system which better enables the B-2 to know the location of enemy air defenses.
Prior to awarding the contract to Northrop, the Air Force worked closely with a number of defense companies as part of a classified research and technology phase. So far, the service has made a $1 billion technology investment in the bomber.
“We’ve set the requirements, and we’ve locked them down. We set those requirements (for the LRS-B) so that we could meet them to execute the mission with mature technologies,” Bunch said.
The Long Range Strike-Bomber will be built upon what the Air Force calls an “open systems architecture,” an engineering technique which designs the platform in a way that allows it to quickly integrate new technologies as they emerge.
“We’re building this with an open mission systems architecture. As technology advances and the threat changes, we can build upon the structure. I can take one component out and put another component in that addresses the threat. I have the ability to grow the platform,” Bunch explained.
Air Force leaders have said the aircraft will likely be engineered to fly unmanned missions as well as manned missions.
The new aircraft will be designed to have global reach, in part by incorporating a large arsenal of long-range weapons. The LRS-B is being engineered to carry existing weapons as well as nuclear bombs and emerging and future weapons, Air Force officials explained.
“We’re going to have a system that will be able to evolve for the future. It will give national decision authorities a resource that they will be able to use if needed to hold any target that we need to prosecute at risk,” Bunch said.
Members of Congress are urging President Trump to begin rebuilding the U.S. military, starting with a 2018 defense budget of at least $640 billion, most of which would go to buying more aircraft, ships, and other hardware.
That ambitious number would be about $50 billion above the spending caps set by the 2011 Budget Control Act, which enacted the process called sequestration to enforce the limits.
But House Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry and Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain are ready to lead fights to eliminate the BCA caps so they can pay for the hardware, the additional personnel and the maintenance needed to restore a defense they say has been badly weakened by six years of reduced spending.
At a media briefing Feb. 6, 2017, to preview the upcoming congressional session, Thornberry (R-Texas) first urged Congress to pass an appropriations bill to cover the six remaining months of the 2017 fiscal year “as soon as possible.”
The federal government currently is being funded under a continuing resolution that runs until April 28 and limits most spending to the prior year levels.
“There’s no reason in the world to wait until April,” Thornberry said.
The HASC chairman then urged Trump to send the supplemental funding bill he has promised to increase defense spending this year. “The sooner the better,” he said.
When asked what the supplemental should cover, Thornberry said it should start with “the things that were in the House-passed NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act) that were not in the final bill. I think they should be at the top of the list.”
The NDAA cut $18 billion that the House wanted to add, which would have gone mainly to increased weapons.
The U.S. Air Force F/A-18F has an estimated flyaway cost of $98.3 million. | U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Andy M. Kin
The deleted funds also would have allowed the services to hire even more troops than the 16,000 Army soldiers and the 3,000 additional Marines allowed by the final bill.
Funding the current fiscal year would clear the way for Congress to work on a fiscal 2018 budget, which should include an even bigger increase in defense spending, Thornberry said.
Asked what amount he wanted, Thornberry said, “Our view is about a $640 billion base budget to meet the increased end strength, the increased number of ships, to turn the readiness around, and deal with a lot of those problems.”
McCain (R-Arizona) used that same number in his opening statement at a Jan. 24 hearing of his committee.
“We have to invest in the modern capabilities necessary for the new realities of deterring conflict,” he said.
“We also have to regain capacity for our military. It does not have enough ships, aircraft, vehicles, munitions, equipment, and personnel to perform its current missions at acceptable levels of risk.”
“It will not be cheap,” McCain added. “In my estimate, our military requires a base defense budget for fiscal year 2018, excluding current war costs, of $640 billion.”
Both of the chairmen insisted the BCA caps must be removed, but only for defense, not for the domestic programs that also are limited.
Becker, a 33-year-old native of Novi, Michigan, was a pilot for the squadron. He is survived by his spouse, mother and father, the release said.
Dellecker, 26, was a co-pilot from Daytona Beach, Florida. He is survived by his mother and father.
Dalga, 29, was a combat systems officer from Goldsboro, North Carolina. He is survived by his spouse, son and mother.
The crash occurred a quarter-mile east of Clovis Municipal Airport at 6:50 p.m. on Tuesday, according to a release from the base. The cause of the accident is under investigation.
Kyle Berkshire, director of the airport, told local NBC affiliate KOB4 News on Wednesday the plane was observed performing “touch and goes” on the runway during a training sortie.
“We are deeply saddened by this loss within our Air Commando family,” Col. Ben Maitre, the base commander, said in a release on Wednesday. “Our sympathies are with the loved ones and friends affected by this tragedy, and our team is focused on supporting them during this difficult time,” he said.
The 318th was activated in 2008 under Air Force Special Operations Command to provide “battlefield mobility for our special operations forces,” according to then-Col. Timothy Leahy, the former wing commander.
The unit is tasked with flying a variety of light and medium aircraft known as non-standard aviation, according to a service release. The squadron operates PC-12 aircraft — designated as the U-28A in the Air Force — for intra-theater airlift missions, the release said.
The U-28A is operated by the 319th, 34th and 318th Special Operations squadrons, according to the Air Force. Training is conducted by the 5th and 19th Special Operations squadron. The units are located at Cannon and Hurlburt Field, Florida.
His father worked three jobs to put him through private school. He served in the US Navy as a nuclear weapons transshipment pilot, before winning a National Football League Superbowl title with the New York Giants.
He is now president at Academy Securities, a broker-dealer founded in 2009 that employs veterans and service-disabled veterans in areas like investment banking and trading.
McConkey sat down with Skiddy von Stade, CEO of finance career services company OneWire, to talk about his background, and Academy Securities.
During that conversation, he laid out why experience with the military is valuable for those who want to break into the cutthroat financial services industry.
Military culture is honesty, integrity, loyalty, teamwork and by the way, service. We’re in a service industry. Who knows more about those qualities than military veterans? When those qualities and experiences come into helping our clients, it really resonates.
We’re a small company, growing. We’d like to be a bulge-bracket investment bank broker-dealer at some point. We don’t have the resources that the big banks have, but we’re nimble, we’re quick, and we have differentiated types of value that we add. We got nine senior-level retired generals and admirals, people who have fingers on the pulse of geopolitical macro world we live in. And that’s a value to customers if they’re in capital markets. If they’re managing money.
Hollywood works hard to produce great movies, there’s no doubt about that. Plenty of industry professionals are working around the clock, 7 days per week, to provide top-shelf entertainment to the masses. And while (most) studios try their best to depict military tactics as accurately as possible, they often fall short. One area in particular where they always seem to get things wrong is urban combat — specifically, the most fundamental component: clearing buildings.
Now, don’t get us wrong — there are plenty of movies that nail it perfectly (typically the ones with a good military adviser, hint hint) but we’ve seen plenty of mistakes make it all the way to the silver screen. After all, there’s a reason I’m writing this article.
Here are some of the most basic rules that get broken consistently in movies.
If you’ve got someone watching your back, no worries.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Melanie A Wolf)
Never enter a room alone
It’s the cardinal rule of military operations in urban terrain (or, MOUT): You should never, under any circumstances, enter a room by yourself. At minimum, you need to bring one other person with you. If you enter a room alone, you could get cut down by an enemy and there’d be nobody to back you up.
Time and time again, we’ll see brazen heroes kick down doors solo — even when they’ve got teammates available.
Drop your gun, enemy drops you.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Jesus Sepulveda Torres)
Keep your gun up
Keep your gun up; keep your guard up. If a building hasn’t been cleared yet (we’ll get to that in a minute), your gun should remain ready to go. If you drop it in an unclear house, you could be caught off guard at the wrong moment — and it could mean the end of you.
We can’t tell you how many times we’ve seen characters walk through houses with their muzzles pointed at the dirt.
You better yell like someone’s life depends on it.
Everything you see, everything you hear, and everything in between needs to be communicated or repeated. No one can see every space of the room, so it’s your job to tell everyone else what you see. This way, if you find enemies, everyone in your unit knows immediately.
We’ve seen plenty of shows and movies that feature silent warriors that rely on hand signals. In fact, one of the only times we’ve seen it done right was in Sons of Anarchy. In the second episode of the third season, the Sons close in on the location of the leader of a rival gang. As they move through the house, they communicate every little thing loudly and clearly. Leave it to the lawless to abide by the rules of war.
Make sure to maintain muzzle awareness as well.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Jesus Sepulveda Torres)
Move your muzzle with your eyes
If you turn your head, your gun goes with it. If your gun isn’t locked with your eyes, you’ll need an extra second to get it there if things go south. Needless to say, your enemy doesn’t want to give you that extra second.
Characters in movies are always looking around without their gun, even when the character is supposed to be some Special Ops badass.
You never know when an enemy is hiding in a corner or under a table.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Garrett White)
Check every space
A building can only be declared “clear” when every space has been observed. If a building has a basement, attic, or both — you better check ’em. Drawers, cabinets, closets, shelves, holes in the walls — it all gets inspected. If it doesn’t, that one drawer you decided was okay could have a f*cking bomb in it.
Funnily enough, in movies, when a character doesn’t follow this rule, they’ll often been made an example for the rest of the squad.
At age 18, Cpl. Andrew Richardson was serving in the Marine Corps in Iraq. His squad maintained a perimeter around a medical sanctuary where local civilians could get treatment. Doing so gave Richardson an overwhelming sense of satisfaction and value.
Returning to civilian life, Richardson struggled to find that same sense of value. For five years he floated from job to job, doing construction and working as a roadie and security guard, among other gigs.
Today, he enjoys a fulfilling career in the tech industry, working at Microsoft, and has discovered a passion for programming — all thanks to a chance encounter while tending bar and an intensive 18-week technical training and career-development program.
The Marine Corps is accepting delivery of its first new Amphibious Combat Vehicle that can fire stabilized weapons, maneuver in littoral areas and launch faster, more survivable ship-to-shore amphibious attacks from beyond-the-horizon.
Referred to by Corps developers as ACV 1.1, the new vehicle is engineered to replace the services’ current inventory of Amphibious Assault Vehicles, or AAVs – in service for decades. There is an existing effort to upgrade a portion of its fleet of AAVs to a more survivable variant with spall liner and other protection-improving adjustments such as added armor.
Nevertheless, despite the enhancements of the AAV Survivability Upgrade, or AAV SU, the Corps is clear that it needs a new vehicle to address emerging threats, Kurt Mullins, ACV 1.1 Product Manager, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
“ACV 1.1 gives us the ability to operate throughout the range of operations. The current AAV is limited because of its survivability. The new vehicle will be significantly more survivable than a standard AAV,” Mullins said.
The Corps is now in the process of acquiring a number of Engineering, Manufacturing Development vehicles for further testing and evaluation from two vendors – SAIC and BAE Systems. Mullins said the Marine Corps plans to down-select to one manufacturer by 2018 and have an operational new ACV 1.1 by 2020.
Marine Corps fleet plans call for more than 200 of the new vehicles to support attacking infantry battalions. They are building both personnel and recovery variants, he explained.
The ACV 1.1 will serve alongside and improve upon the upgraded portion of the existing AAV fleet. The Marines have operated a fleet of more than 1,000 AAVs over the years ; some will “sunset” and others will receive the survivability upgrade.
Stabilized .50-cal machine guns and Mk 19 grenade launchers will make the new ACV for lethal and accurate in attacks against enemies; engineers are building in an up-gunned weapons station operating with Common Remotely Operated Weapons Systems, or CROWS, able to allow attackers to fire weapons from beneath the protection of the vehicle’s armor.
Unlike the tracked AAVs, the new ACV 1.1 is a wheeled vehicle designed for better traction on land and operations involving enter and egress from Amphib ships.
“Wheeled vehicles are more reliable, when operating across the range of military operations.”
Given that the new vehicle is being built for both maritime and land combat operations, requirements for the emerging platform specify that the platform needs to be better equipped to defend against more recent threats such as IEDs and roadside bombs. This, at least according to BAEs offering, includes the construction of a “V” shaped hull in order to increase the vehicle’s ground clearance and deflect blast debris away from the crew compartment.
“It needs to be able to provide significant armor and stand-off distance from the ground to the bottom of the hull,” Mullins added.
An ability to better withstand emerging threats and new weapons likely to be used by enemies is said to be of crucial importance in today’s evolving global environment; enemies now have longer-range, more precise weapons and high-tech sensors able to find and target vehicles from much further distances.
Accordingly, emerging Marine Corps amphibious warfare strategy calls for an ability to “disaggregate” and spread approaching amphibious vehicles apart as necessary to make the much more difficult for enemies to target. They are also being engineered operate more successfully in ground combat environments wherein approach vehicles need to advance much further in from the shoreline.
The new ACVs are also being designed to work seamlessly with longer-range, more high-tech US Navy and Army weapons as well. As US Navy weapons and sensors operate with a vastly improved ability to detect and destroy enemy targets – on land and in maritime scenarios – amphibious assault strategy will adjust accordingly.
BAE Systems ACV 1.1
The first BAE Systems ACV 1.1 vehicle has been delivered to the Marine Corps for additional assessment and testing, company officials said.
In a special interview with Scout Warrior, BAE weapons and platform developers explained that their offering includes a number of innovations designed to best position the vehicle for future combat.
BAE’s emerging vehicle uses no axl but rather integrates a gear box for each wheel station, designed for better traction and mission such as driving up onto an amphibious vehicle or rigorous terrain on land.
“It has positive drive to each of the wheel stations so you don’t have gear slippage and have positive traction at all times. All eight wheels are driven at the same time,” Swift said.
The absence of an axl means engineers can create greater depth for the vehicle’s “V-shaped” hull, he added.
Their vehicle is built with a 690-horsepower engine, composite armor materials and can travel up to 12 nautical miles with a crew of 13; also, the BAE ACV 1.1 can travel 55mph on land, and six mph in the water, BAE developers said.
Blast attenuated seats where seat frames are suspended from the ceiling are another design feature aimed at further protecting Marines from attacks involving explosions underneath the vehicle.
Fuel tanks on the new ACV 1.1 are stored on the outside of the vehicle as part of a method of reducing damage to the crew and vehicle interior in the event of an attack.Finally, like many emerging platforms these days, BAE’s offering is being engineered with an often-used term called “open architecture” – meaning it is built for growth such that it can embrace and better integrate new technologies as they emerge.
The Marine Corps awarded BAE a $103 million deal in November of last year; the company has delivered its first of 16 prototypes planned to additional testing.
The Marine Corps’ Future of Amphibious Attack
The Marine Corps future plan for amphibious assault craft consists of a nuanced and multi-faceted plan involving the production of several more vehicles. Following the ACV 1.1, the Corps plans to engineer and produce a new ACV 1.2 variant with increased combat and technical mission abilities.
“We are working on requirements for ACV 1.2, which will be informed by our ACV 1.1 experience,” Mullins said.
However, this next ACV 1.2 will merely serve as an interim solution until much faster water-speed technology comes to fruition, a development expected in coming years.
Meanwhile, Corps weapons developers from the advanced Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory are already in the early phases of preparation for when that much faster water speed exists. A future mission ability or vehicle of this kind, to be operational by 2023, could involve a number of different possible platform solutions, Mullins explained.
“Some sort of high-water speed capability that may not be a single vehicle solution. It could be a high-water speed connector that gets that vehicle to shore,” he said.
The Marine Corps is revving up its fleet of 1970s-era Amphibious Assault Vehicles to integrate the latest technology and make them better able to stop roadside-bombs and other kinds of enemy attacks, service officials said.
The existing fleet, which is designed to execute a wide range of amphibious attack missions from ship-to-shore, is now receiving new side armor (called spall liner), suspension, power trains, engine upgrades, water jets, underbelly ballistic protections and blast-mitigating seats to slow down or thwart the damage from IEDs and roadside bombs, Maj. Paul Rivera, AAV SU Project Team Lead, told Scout Warrior.
“The purpose of this variant is to bring back survivability and force protection back to the AAV P-variant (existing vehicle),” he said.
The classic AAV, armed with a .50-cal machine gun and 40mm grenade launcher, is being given new technology so that it can serve in the Corps fleet for several more decades.
“The AAV was originally expected to serve for only 20-years when it fielded in 1972. Here we are in 2016. In effect we want to keep these around until 2035,” John Garner, Program Manager for Advanced Amphibious Assault,” said in an interview with Scout Warrior last year.
The new AAV, called AAV “SU” for survivability upgrade, will be more than 10,000 pounds heavier than its predecessor and include a new suspension able to lift the hull of the vehicle higher off the ground to better safeguard Marines inside from being hit by blast debris. With greater ground clearance, debris from an explosion has farther to travel, therefore lessening the impact upon those hit by the attack.
The AAV SU will be about 70,000 pounds when fully combat loaded, compared to the 58,000-pound weight of the current AAV.
“By increasing the weight you have a secondary and tertiary effects which better protect Marines. We are also bringing in a new power train, new suspension and new water jets for water mobility,” Rivera said.
A new, stronger transmission for the AAV SU will integrate with a more powerful 625 HP Cummins engine, he added.
The original AAV is engineered to travel five-to-six knots in the water, reach distances up to 12 nautical miles and hit speeds of 45mph on land – a speed designed to allow the vehicle to keep up with an Abrams tank, Corps officials said.
In addition, the new AAV SU will reach an acquisition benchmark called “Milestone C” in the Spring of next year. This will begin paving the way toward full-rate production by 2023, Rivera explained.
The new waterjet will bring more speed to the platform, Rivera added.
“The old legacy water jet comes from a sewage pump. That sewage pump was designed to do sewage and not necessarily project a vehicle through the water. The new waterjet uses an axial flow,” Rivera said.
The new, more flexible blast-mitigating seats are deigned to prevent Marines’ feet from resting directly on the floor in order to prevent them from being injured from an underbelly IED blast.
“It is not just surviving the blast and making sure Marines aren’t killed, we are really focusing on those lower extremities and making sure they are walking away from the actual event,” Rivera said.
The seat is engineered with a measure of elasticity such that it can respond differently, depending on the severity of a blast.
“If it’s a high-intensity blast, the seat will activate in accordance with the blast. Each blast is different. As the blast gets bigger the blast is able to adjust,” Rivera said.
In total, the Marines plan to upgrade roughly one-third of their fleet of more than 900 AAVs.
The idea with Amphibious Assault Vehicles, known for famous historical attacks such as Iwo Jima in WWII (using earlier versions), is to project power from the sea by moving deadly combat forces through the water and up onto land where they can launch attacks, secure a beachhead or reinforce existing land forces.
Often deploying from an Amphibious Assault Ship, AAVs swim alongside Landing Craft Air Cushions which can transport larger numbers of Marines and land war equipment — such as artillery and battle tanks.
AAVs can also be used for humanitarian missions in places where, for example, ports might be damaged an unable to accommodate larger ships.