This proposed legislation could make it easier for troops to receive care packages - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

This proposed legislation could make it easier for troops to receive care packages

While deployed, there’s always a bit of joy that buzzes around the squad when a care package arrives. Troops gather around their squad leader as they disperse the sweets, trinkets, and amenities given by the charitable folks back home. It’s not uncommon for battle-hardened warfighters to genuinely crack an enormous smile when they receive something that reminds them of home.

Recently, certain regulations consolidated the shipping rates for packages being sent to an Army Post Office (APO), Fleet Post Office (FPO) or Diplomatic Post Office (DPO) mailing address — which only put added financial strain on those kind-willed folks sending packages. The costs can also really add up for charities who send mass quantities of care packages. Ultiltaemy, this means fewer care packages being sent to the troops still fighting overseas today.

There is a glimmer of hope. U.S. Congressman Donald Norcross of New Jersey’s First District recently introduced the “Care Packages for Our Heroes Act of 2019,” or H.R. 400, that aims to greatly reduce the costs and spread more cheer among the troops.


This proposed legislation could make it easier for troops to receive care packages

The secret to make a bunch of grown badasses smile like children? Girl Scout cookies…

(Photo by Steven L. Shepard, Presidio of Monterey Public Affairs)

All shipping rates for packages that crossed different shipping zones drastically increased January, 2018. While a package going to Michigan from California saw an increase of .60, any package sent from Smalltown, USA, to troops stationed in the Middle East had to pay nearly double.

Logistically speaking, the care package left the hands of postal employees long before they were dispersed at mail call. Any package sent would arrive at a postal gateway before being given to military personnel to complete its journey to a remote destination. The added costs are mostly meaningless seeing as the package is delivered by US military personnel once it leaves the US.

Congressman Tom MacArthur of New Jersey’s Third District tried last year to reverse these increases with a similar bit of legislation — Care Packages for Our Heroes Act of 2018, or H.R.6231. He aimed to curtail the costs and make it much cheaper to send troops a care package. This legislation would have listed any package to (or from) an APO/FPO/DPO address as Zone 1/2, making the weight of the package a non-factor in shipping costs so long as the contents fit inside a flat-rate box. This bill, unfortunately, did not succeed and MacArthur was unsuccessful in his reelection campaign.

The cost to send care packages remains unreasonably high, and organizations like the Operation Yellow Ribbon of South Jersey have had to reduce the number of packages sent purely because of the financial red tape.

This proposed legislation could make it easier for troops to receive care packages

Because our troops are still out there, and they need your support.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Meredith Brown)

Now the torch to raise the morale of troops has been passed to fellow New Jersey Congressman Donald Norcross, a chair on the 115th Congressional Committee of Armed Services.

He’s proposed “Care Packages for Our Heroes Act of 2019,” which aims to cut the red tape and make the price of sending a care package comparable to the cost of sending a letter.

This bill will positively affect the lives of the countless troops still in harm’s way. Please contact your representative and let them know that you support “Care Packages for Our Heroes Act of 2019”, or H.R. 400.

MIGHTY HISTORY

‘Gold Ancient Mariner’ is the Coast Guard officer with the most sea time

Cmdr. Stephen Matadobra holds the distinction of being one of the Coast Guard’s first officers in the service to have earned the permanent cutterman status (earned in 1987), and he will soon hold the title of the Coast Guard’s 15th Gold Ancient Mariner in May 2018.

The Gold Ancient Mariner title dates back to 1978 in which the Coast Guard recognizes the officer with the most sea time, an honorary position that serves as a reminder of the call to duty on the high seas.


In September 2018, Matadobra will celebrate 41 years of Coast Guard service, in which time he climbed the enlisted ranks from a seaman to a boatswain’s mate before becoming a chief warrant officer. From there he climbed the officer ranks to captain.

Hailing from the seaside Brooklyn neighborhood of Coney Island, New York, Matadobra joined the Coast Guard at 17 because of his interest in marine biology. Once assigned to his first cutter however, he struck boatswain’s mate and never looked back.

“Every cutter was unique,” said Matadobra.

As a junior enlisted member, Matadobra was involved in law enforcement and search and rescue operations during the mass migrations of the Cuban Mariel Boatlift of 1980. Later assigned to an 82-foot patrol boat out of Florida, Matadobra took part in the salvage operation immediately following the collision and sinking of the Coast Guard Cutter Blackthorn in 1980 in Tampa Bay. Twenty-three Coast Guard members perished that day – the service’s worst peacetime loss of life.

This proposed legislation could make it easier for troops to receive care packages
The U.S. Coast Guard buoy tender USCGC Blackthorn.

In his 41 years of service, Matadobra has experienced peaks and valleys of our organization that have helped shape his leadership style.

When asked about mentors throughout his career, Matadobra wistfully recalled a few master chief petty officers and chief warrant officers who gave him “swift kicks in the butt,” but ultimately pointed to his peers as the trusted pillars upon which he leans, specifically citing Capt. Doug Fears, with whom he served on the Coast Guard Cutter Hamilton.

Having advanced from seaman to commander, Matadobra has embodied each station’s specific operational responsibilities and perspectives. When asked about his biggest impressions from having transitioned from enlisted member to officer, he described a concept that he’s coined as “Big Coast Guard” – that is, the big picture frameworks in which the commissioned among us must navigate. If the enlisted world has more to do with the: who, what, when and where aspects, then the officer’s world is more dominated by the why’s.

Matadobra recalled a story Master Chief Petty Officer Kevin Isherwood once told him about a new fireman aboard a cutter who was instructed by his supervisor to go down below at a certain time every afternoon to open a particular valve. The fireman did as he was told, albeit without understanding why. As such, it was easy for him to do it begrudgingly – seen as a chore, primarily. Only after months of this repetitive chore did his supervisor tell him that the valve he opened every night was one that allowed the cooks to prepare dinner with hot water, as well as route hot water to the showers for the rest of the crew. In this new-found understanding of “why” the fireman’s entire perspective shifted and he operated under a renewed sense of duty and purpose.

This proposed legislation could make it easier for troops to receive care packages
The USCGC Hamilton.

“Leaders help their middle and junior folks understand ‘why,’ and understand their role in ‘Big Coast Guard,'” said Matadobra.

Professionalism and proficiency is also at the forefront of his agenda.

“As an advocate for the cutterman community, and the Coast Guard at large, I continue to preach the obligations of professionalism and proficiency,” said Matadobra. “Our platforms are so much more technically complex than they used to be, and it takes smart people to run them and to maintain proficiency.”

In fact, Matadobra will appropriately be assuming responsibilities at the Enlisted Personnel Management division in his next assignment, helping to further shape the future of our enlisted workforce.

This article originally appeared on the United States Coast Guard. Follow @USCG on Twitter.

MIGHTY FIT

Engineers develop new strength-based physical readiness program

Company D, 31st Engineer Battalion, at Fort Leonard Wood is one of a small handful of training units piloting a new concept in physical readiness mirrored on characteristics of the new Army Combat Fitness Test.

The Strength Training Program was developed by the Maneuver Center of Excellence Directorate of Training and Doctrine’s Training and Education Development Division at Fort Benning, Georgia, who looked at an assessment of Soldier physical fitness in relation to the Army Physical Fitness Test.

“The APFT does not adequately assess the domains of muscular strength, explosive power, speed, agility, flexibility and balance,” said Capt. Jeffry O’Loughlin, Company D commander. “This new physical training program was developed to better prepare a Soldier’s readiness for the demands of the modern battlefield by focusing on all aspects of combat fitness — similar to the aim of the ACFT.”


According to Maj. Donny Bigham, head strength coach for the Tactical Athlete Performance Center at Fort Benning and developer of the program, the pilot’s purpose is two-fold.

“First, it will increase lethality and survivability through physical dominance,” he said. “Second, it will increase readiness by reducing musculoskeletal injuries in order to improve a unit’s mission capability in the operational force.”

According to O’Loughlin, the program has a balanced design to attain the new physical readiness training goals to develop strength, endurance and mobility. The current fitness model has 47 aerobic sessions, 18 anaerobic sessions, zero strength sessions and zero mobility sessions.

“The Strength Training Program Delta Company implemented consists of 16 aerobic sessions, 16 anaerobic sessions, 19 strength sessions and 19 mobility sessions,” he said. “It deliberately integrates more strength and mobility workouts into the schedule to increase physical readiness in all aspects. The current model only builds muscular endurance — we instead instruct proper form while lifting heavier weight. Correspondingly, trainees are better prepared to complete warrior tasks and battle drills, such as casualty extraction.”

The program allows for strength and endurance development into the performance of basic military skills such as marching, speed running, jumping, vaulting, climbing, crawling and combatives.

This proposed legislation could make it easier for troops to receive care packages

Staff Sgt. Daniel Yeates, a drill sergeant with Company D, 31st Engineer Battalion, demonstrates to trainees the proper technique for a kettlebell bent-over row. The company is piloting a new concept in physical readiness called the Strength Training Program, which is designed to reduce injuries throughout Basic Combat Training.

(U.S. Army photo by Capt. Jeffry OLoughlin)

“The ACFT will utilize six assessments at a minimum to capture all of the essential attributes of a Soldier to ensure nothing is overlooked in training the Soldier as a tactical athlete,” Bigham said. “The combination of fitness components, along with the performance fitness skills provide a better picture of the true functional competence required to physically dominate any mission related tasks. This program ensures exercise order, variation and the specificity necessary to be successful on today’s battlefield.”

As part of the new program, an assessment divides trainees into three ability groups — advanced, trained and untrained — and the results seen so far in Company D over 18 months show an overall increase in APFT scores and decrease in injuries. From 2018 through the most recent training cycle to be completed, Company D went from 26 injuries to 11, eight, seven, and finally just four. At the same time, O’Loughlin saw average physical training scores jump from 212 to 227 (237 to 248 in advanced individual training).

O’Loughlin said he feels much of that success can be equated to this new way of thinking in Army physical training.

“This program is not just about lifting kettlebells,” he said. “We also consider active recovery with mobility sessions with rollers and balls to break up adhesions and scar tissue to speed up the healing process and help prevent over-training.”

According to Bigham, seven training units have completed the program so far, and currently all trainees assigned to the 198th Infantry Brigade at Fort Benning are piloting the program as of Oct. 1 of this year. Across the board, he’s seeing injury numbers halve, while APFT failure rates are about a third of what they were previously

“Physical training should be the number one aspect when it comes to improving lethality on the battlefield,” he said. “It must be mandatory to ensure Soldiers have the tools in their kit bag to win the last 100 yards. This strength-based program will be a force multiplier that will increase lethality, combat effectiveness, moral and ethical decision making, overall readiness and survivability on any battlefield that enemies pose a threat to our nation.”

This article originally appeared on Army.mil. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

C-ARTS: High-velocity training at sailor’s point of need

C-ARTS ushers in a new standard in mobile, interactive training, designed to meet the instructional needs and expectations of tech savvy Sailors, accustomed to learning through hands-on classes that exploit augmented, virtual, and mixed reality learning tools.


The C-ARTS facility is located on the waterfront at NNS and also nearby Newport News Shipbuilding for Sailors assigned to PCU John F. Kennedy. Since December, the USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) has been conducting multiple underway test and training evolutions, as part of an 18-month phase of operations known as Post-Delivery Test and Trials (PDT&T), scheduled to continue through mid-2021. The crew on this first-in-class aircraft carrier are certifying fuel and on-board combat systems as well as exercising the flight deck, launching and arresting aircraft as part of critical aircraft compatibility testing. In preparation for these complex tasks, many Sailors have attended unique training courses, conducted at the C-ARTS facility.

“As the first new aircraft carrier design in more than 40 years, Gerald R. Ford is integrating advanced warfighting technologies essential for air dominance in an era of great power competition,” said Downey. “Sailors can’t wait to receive training on these systems. C-ARTS provides the capability to bring high-velocity instruction to crews at the Sailor’s point of need.”

When the Carrier-Advanced Reconfigurable Training System launched its first course in 2018, C-ARTS instructors guided technicians through the complexities of fiber optic cable repair. Since then, more than 500 Sailors have completed 17 courses logging more than 5,700 total classroom hours.

Interior Communications Specialist 1st Class Jessica Diaz, assigned to CNAL and the first billeted instructor assigned to the Ford Center of Excellence, participated in the C-ARTS ceremony demonstrating her training proficiency of the high-velocity learning opportunity for Sailors assigned to Ford-class aircraft carriers.

“As the lead instructor I am responsible for building curriculum that is both hands-on and interactive while utilizing the augmented, virtual, and mixed reality learning tools,” said Diaz. “The training is currently tailored to the 29 new systems including the Advanced Weapons Elevators, Machinery Control Monitoring System, and Plasma Arc Waste Destruction System found on the Ford Class Carrier but there is unlimited potential to be used fleet wide.”

The 1,000-sq-ft reconfigurable classrooms offer “high-velocity” learning—integral to the Sailor 2025 concept of providing ready relevant learning at the sailor’s point of need. C-ARTS provides innovative tools for delivering the right training at the right time in the right way to crews in modern, spacious spaces—all in the shadow of the ships on which sailors serve.

As the Command Master Chief assigned to the future USS John F. Kennedy, Wright brings a credible amount of experience to the table. Having served on board the Enterprise, Nimitz, and Ford class aircraft carriers he is witnessing the warrior ethos today’s Sailors display.

This proposed legislation could make it easier for troops to receive care packages

“Technology is a vehicle that Sailors continue to benefit from,” said Wright. “I am happy to serve on a Ford-class aircraft carriers knowing that through C-ARTS we have brought the training to the Sailors on the waterfront. This form of high velocity learning will allow us to fulfill the vision of the Sailor 2025 concept in building warriors who serve at sea.”

The training site consists of two stand-alone, 53-foot trailers, which may operate either in pairs—with one unit providing an electronic classroom and the other a maintenance lab—or independently. Adjustable classroom configurations can accommodate 16 students, each training on two 24-inch touch screen monitors, with instructors teaching a single class or two classes of eight students. In the lab, eight students perform tasks from portable workbenches using 24-inch touch-screen monitors.

Delivering training at the Sailor’s point of need helps to mitigate impacts to Sailors’ work/life balance. In the case of the C-ARTS facility at Naval Station Norfolk, CVN 78 Sailors can walk 1,200 ft. from pier 11, where the CVN 78 is berthed. Two other units are also located at Newport News Shipbuilding, walking distance to Pier 3, where the John F. Kennedy (CVN 79) is under construction. A fifth 1,000-sq-ft classroom unit is planned to join the C-ARTS location at NS Norfolk in Spring 2021..

This article originally appeared on All Hands Magazine. Follow @AllHandsMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why this new program is the smartest thing the VA has done recently

Let’s be completely honest: Getting veterans the help they need is a tricky task. What works for one person may not work for another. Simply telling veterans they have the option to seek help if they need it is important, yes, but it’s not going to pull those who are blind to their own struggles out of the shadows.

There are many veterans who can personally attest to the successes and benefits of the fine mental health professionals within the Veterans Administration. There are others, however, who end up opt for heart-breaking alternatives to talking about their feelings with a stranger. There’s no easy solution to getting help to those who don’t seek it and there’s no magic wand out there that can wish away the pain that our veteran community suffers daily.

But the first step is always going to be opening up about the pain.


This proposed legislation could make it easier for troops to receive care packages

As a community, we’re trained to never, ever be a burden on anyone else while also being willing to move Heaven and Earth if it means saving our comrade. At its heart, that’s what Operation Resilience is about.

(U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Jose A. Torres Jr.)

A new pilot program within the Veterans Health Administration called “Operation Resilience” aims to get veterans who’ve been lost since exiting the service to open up to the people who understand their struggles most: their comrades.

The idea behind Operation Resilience is simple. The VA has partnered with an advocacy group, The Independence Fund, to create events that bring veterans who served in a unit together again. Of course, one of the topics on the agenda at these events is a group therapy session, but it’s much deeper than that.

Dr. Keita Franklin, executive director of the department’s suicide prevention efforts, said in a statement that of the roughly 20 veterans who commit suicide a day, most have little-to-no contact with official VA programs. Finding at least one avenue of approach where someone is willing to talk is the key.

Having those who were there with a troubled veteran during the moments that still haunt them can help on countless levels. And surrounding it all with an event that’s legitimately appealing to veterans makes it a hard opportunity to pass up. When you frame event as a chance for veterans to, let’s say, go drinking at some all-expenses-paid ski resort or something — who could say no?

The group dynamic of the event also plays into the stubbornness of most veterans who have a disdain for seeking help. Now, it’s not just about helping yourself, it’s about helping your brothers- and sisters-in-arms — even if they are the one most in need of help.

This proposed legislation could make it easier for troops to receive care packages

There’s no one on this planet that veterans would rather talk about what’s on their mind than with their fellow veterans.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Kevin Wallace)

The details of the events are still being worked out, but the pilot event will be with Bravo Company, 2-508 Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division this coming April.

It looks like the VA has caught onto the human element of what brings a group of combat veterans together. If, at the end of the day, a single veteran is able to be pulled out of the hole because their guys came together and got them to talk, well that’s a victory in my book.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Tensions high as NATO and Russia drill their militaries

British, French, Italian, and German jets have simulated flight interceptions over Western Europe as part of NATO maneuvers to deter Russian planes from entering alliance airspace.

The NATO drills on Sept. 12, 2018, came at the same time that Russia was showing off its most sophisticated air-defense system as it practiced fighting off a mock attack during military maneuvers of its own, the largest it has ever conducted.

The activity comes amid persistently high tensions between Russia and the West over Moscow’s actions in Ukraine and Syria and its alleged interference in elections in the United States and European countries.


In the NATO drills, fighter pilots from alliance members simulated the interception of a Belgian military transport plane en route to Spain. Visual inspections were made by flying off the wings at speeds of 900 kilometers an hour.

NATO has some 60 jets regularly on alert to defend its airspace. A record 870 interceptions were recorded of Russian aircraft in the Baltic region in 2016.

“NATO is relevant. This is not theoretical,” Spanish Air Force Lieutenant General Ruben Garcia Servert said aboard the Belgian plane.

As he spoke, Italian Eurofighters flew close to the cockpit to simulate interceptions, later joined by British Typhoons and French Mirages.

The European members of NATO are looking to display their commitments to their defense in the face of criticism by U.S. President Donald Trump that alliance members are not contributing enough financially to the alliance.

This proposed legislation could make it easier for troops to receive care packages

President Donald Trump and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

The Western alliance is currently negotiating an agreement that would have each member’s air force defend any other’s airspace under a “single sky” concept.

Currently, each country defends its own airspace, although other members help defend the airspace of the Baltic states, which do not have enough fighter jets of their own.

NATO is planning to hold its biggest maneuvers in 16 years when it conducts the Trident Juncture drills in Norway in October and November 2018.

The drills will feature more than 40,000 troops, including some from non-NATO members Finland and Sweden.

Meanwhile, Russia is conducting massive military exercises across its central and eastern regions, weeklong war games the Defense Ministry said would involve some 300,000 personnel — twice as many as the biggest Soviet maneuvers of the Cold War era.


Russian President Vladimir Putin inspected the drills in eastern Siberia on Sept. 13, 2018, and insisted that they were not targeted at any country.

“Russia is a peaceful nation,” Putin said at a firing range in the Chita region. “We do not and cannot have any aggressive plans,” he added.

On Sept. 12, 2018, the war games involved Russia’s newest S-400 surface-to-air defense system, which NATO considers a threat to its aircraft.

In 2017 Moscow signed a contract to sell the S-400 system to Turkey, angering NATO and particularly the United States, which threatened to suspend delivery of its F-35 stealth aircraft to Ankara.

The drills simulated a “massive missile attack” by an “unnamed enemy,” military official Sergei Tikhonov said.

The exercises, which also involve Chinese and Mongolian soldiers, will run through Sept. 17, 2018.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Ex-Guantanamo prisoners appointed as peace negotiators

The Taliban says it has appointed five militants who spent more than a decade in the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay to be members of its political office in Qatar, where they will take part in any future Afghanistan peace talks.

The five former Taliban commanders — Mohammad Fazl, Mohammed Nabi, Khairullah Khairkhwa, Abdul Haq Wasiq, and Noorullah Noori — were settled in Qatar following their release from the U.S. detention center in Cuba in 2014, but until now had not been directly involved in political activities, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said on Oct. 31, 2018.


The men were released as part of a prisoner exchange in return for former Taliban captive, U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl.

The Taliban announcement came amid gathering momentum for talks to end the 17-year war in Afghanistan.

Qatar has emerged as a principal contact point between the Taliban and the U.S. government. In October 2018, Taliban officials met the recently appointed U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, in the Qatari capital, Doha, where the militants have a political office that serves as a de facto embassy.

This proposed legislation could make it easier for troops to receive care packages

Recently appointed U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad.

They met there in 2018 with U.S. Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Alice Wells.

Taliban officials said the five Taliban commanders were close to the militant group’s late founder, Mullah Mohammad Omar, and are also close to its current leader, Haibatullah Akhundzada.

One Taliban official told Reuters that as former Guantanamo prisoners, they had been subject to restrictions on their movements, but they are now free to travel and attend peace negotiations.

The appointments follow the release by Pakistan in October 2018 of senior Taliban figure Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar.

A Taliban official told AFP the group had requested the release of Baradar and several others at the meeting with Khalilzad.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

7 animals who serve in militaries around the world

From the horses of Chinggis Khan’s army, to Hannibal’s famed elephants, to World War I carrier pigeons, animals have played a crucial role in military operations for centuries.

But despite the technological achievements since Hannibal marched his elephants over the Alps in 218 BCE, militaries still use animals, whether for parades, transport, or weapons detection.

In September 2019, as Hurricane Dorian pummeled parts of the southeastern United States, the team of marine mammals from Strategic Weapons Facility Atlantic in Kings Bay, Georgia, where they patrol the waters for enemy crafts or other intruders, were evacuated to Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division in Panama City, Florida, to ride out the storm.


“At NSWC PCD, we personally understand the trials and tribulations that come with the devastation of a hurricane, especially after Hurricane Michael severely impacted our area in 2018,” Nicole Waters, the Machine Shops Project Manager in Panama City told Navy Times.

“We strongly support the ‘One Team, One Fight’ initiative and will always be willing to help protect any Navy personnel and assets.”

Read on to learn more about the roles animals play in today’s militaries.

This proposed legislation could make it easier for troops to receive care packages

1. A beluga whale was found off the coast of Norway in 2018, sparking suspicions that it was trained as a Russian spy.

The whale was initially found by Norwegian fisherman with a harness strapped to it that read Equipment St. Petersburg, The Washington Post reported at the time. The whale was extremely friendly toward humans, an unusual behavior for a beluga raised in the wild. It was speculated at the time that the whale’s harness may have held a camera or weapons of some sort.

More recently, another whale with a GoPro camera base strapped to it made its way to Norway, where locals named it “Whaledimir.”

This proposed legislation could make it easier for troops to receive care packages

A Navy Marine Mammal Program (NMMP) California sea lion waits for his handler to give the command to search the pier for potential threats during International Mine Countermeasures Exercise (IMCMEX). IMCMEX includes navies from 44 countries whose focus is to promote regional security through mine countermeasure operations in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Kathleen Gorby)

2. The US Navy uses sea lions to recover objects at depths that swimmers can’t reach.

“Sea lions have excellent low light vision and underwater directional hearing that allow them to detect and track undersea targets, even in dark or murky waters,” the US Navy Marine Mammal program explains. They’re also able to dive much further below the water’s surface than human divers, without getting decompression sickness, or “the bends.”

They’re trained to patrol areas near nuclear-powered submarines and detect the presence of adversaries’ robots, divers, or other submerged threats.

This proposed legislation could make it easier for troops to receive care packages

U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program (NMMP) MK7 Marine Mammal System bottlenose dolphin searches for an exercise sea mine alongside an NMMP trainers. NMMP is conducting simulated mine hunting operations in Southern California during Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC), exercise, July 22. Twenty-five nations, 46 ships, five submarines, and about 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel are participating in RIMPAC from June 27 to Aug. 2 in and around the Hawaiian Islands and Southern California.

(SPAWAR Systems Center Pacific)

3. Dolphins, too, are used by the Navy to sniff out mines.

“Since 1959, the U.S. Navy has trained dolphins and sea lions as teammates for our Sailors and Marines to help guard against similar threats underwater,”according to the US Navy Marine Mammal program.

“Dolphins naturally possess the most sophisticated sonar known to science,” the program’s website says. “Mines and other potentially dangerous objects on the ocean floor that are difficult to detect with electronic sonar, especially in coastal shallows or cluttered harbors, are easily found by the dolphins.”

This proposed legislation could make it easier for troops to receive care packages

Office of U.S. Quartermaster, Army Camel Corp training.

4. The Indian Army uses camels in its parades.

It also piloted a program in 2017 to introduce camels as load-bearing animals in high-altitude areas, specifically the Line of Actual Control (LAC) separating Indian-controlled Jammu and Kashmir from the part controlled by China.

The camels could carry 180-220kg loads, much more than horses or mules, and could travel faster too, according to the Times of India.

This proposed legislation could make it easier for troops to receive care packages

U.S. Army Special Operations Soldiers with 2nd Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) ride horseback on a trail during the Special Operations Forces (SOF) Horsemanship Course at Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center (MWTC), Bridgeport, Calif., June 19, 2019. The purpose of the SOF horsemanship course is to teach SOF personnel the necessary skills to enable them to ride horses, load and maintain pack animals for military applications in austere environments.

(US Marine Corps photo Lance Cpl. William Chockey)

5. US special operators train on horses and mules, in case they’re working in particularly rugged environments where vehicles might now be able to go.

Green Berets from Operational Detachment Alpha 595 rode horses in the mountainous, unforgiving terrain of Afghanistan just after the US invasion, earning them the nickname “horse soldiers.”

This proposed legislation could make it easier for troops to receive care packages

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Kevin McMahon, 39th Security Forces Squadron commander, congratulates Autumn, a 39th SFS military working dog, during the latter’s retirement ceremony at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, July 29, 2019. Autumn served seven years at Incirlik and earned the Meritorious Service Medal for her contributions to the mission.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Magbanua)

6. Of course, man’s best friend plays several important roles in the military.


Perhaps the most famous US military dog is Chesty, the English bulldog mascot of the Marine Corps (Chesty XIV retired last year with the rank of Corporal). But Military Working Dogs (MWDs) perform the very serious duties of sniffing out explosives and drugs, and acting as patrols and sentries on military bases.

This proposed legislation could make it easier for troops to receive care packages

(Photo by Doruk Yemenici)

7. The Indian military uses mules and horses for transport in rugged terrains and high altitudes.

As of 2019, the Indian armed forces were using horses and mules to transport supplies in difficult terrain, although plans to replace the four-legged forces with ATVs and drones came up in a 2017 Army Design Bureau report, according to the Hindustan Times.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

This convoy system staffed mostly by African Americans kept the invasion of Europe rolling

The night is dark and cold in the French countryside. The sky is moonless and your headlights are dimmed to hide you from enemy planes. You’ve never driven this route before, but the troops at the front desperately need the supplies you’re carrying, so you hurtle down the bumpy dirt road at 60 mph in your 2.5-ton truck. As the sounds of battle ahead grow louder, you realize you’re nearing your destination; and greater danger.

Overhead, the thunderous roar of airplane engines add to the cacophony of gunfire. You pray that the planes are friendly and that you won’t be strafed or bombed, and drive on into the night.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/c/c6/Red_Ball_Express_Regulating_Point.jpg/310px-Red_Ball_Express_Regulating_Point.jpg

Red Ball Express trucks move through a Regulating Point (U.S. Army photo)

To streamline the flow of supplies, two one-way routes were utilized between the port at Cherbourg to the forward logistics base at Chartres, near Paris. The northern route brought supplies to the front while the southern route was used by returning trucks. These roads were closed to civilian vehicles and both the trucks and the route were marked with red balls. Outside of the designated route, the red balls also gave the trucks priority on regular roads.

THE RED BALL EXPRESS (61 K)

An MP waves on a Red Ball Express convoy next to a sign marking the route (Photo from the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

At the height of its operation, the Red Ball Express consisted of 5,958 vehicles carrying about 12,500 tons of supplies a day. In order to staff this massive logistical effort, soldiers were drawn from other support units and trained as long-haul drivers. For some, it was their first experience behind the wheel. A majority of these men came from the Quartermaster Corps and 75% of Red Ball Express drivers were African-American.

African American members of the World War II Red Ball Express repair a 2.5-ton truck while a crewman at a machine gun keeps watch for the enemy. Photo courtesy Army Transportation Museum.

Soldiers of the Red Ball Express make quick repairs to their deuce-and-a-half truck (U.S. Army photo)

One such driver was James Rookard who was just a teenager when he was assigned as a Red Ball Express driver. “I’ve driven when I couldn’t hardly see, just by instinct. You sort of feel the road,” Rookard recalled. “There were dead bodies and dead horses on the highways after bombs dropped. I was scared, but I did my job, hoping for the best.” In the midst of all the danger, Rookard and other drivers endured a 54-hour long round trip to the front and back with very little rest between trips.

James Rookard, 84, of Maple Heights, flanked by a display case of medals and mementos from his service as a truck driver during World War II, remembers the grueling pace of the Red Ball Express as a great experience but hopes

Rookard with a display case of his medals and mementos from the war (Photo by Brian Albrecht)

To increase their efficiency, drivers often removed the governors from their carburetors which normally restricted their speed to 56 mph. Some drivers even learned to switch seats with their relief driver on the move. “When General Patton said for you to be there, you were there if you had to drive all night,” Rookard attested. The drivers of the Red Ball Express had an important job to do and they got it done.

Members of C Company, 514th Truck Regiment. From left, James H. Bailey, Clarence Bainsford, Jack R. Blackwell, and John R. Houston. John Houston is the father of the late singer/actress Whitney Houston, and runs a company created by her. (Courtesy of the U.S. Army Transportation Museum)Soldiers of C Company, 514th Truck Regiment. From left, James H. Bailey, Clarence Bainsford, Jack R. Blackwell, and John R. Houston, father of late singer/actress Whitney Houston (Photo from U.S. Army Transportation Museum)

Their exemplary performance drew the attention and respect of Allied commanders. “Few who saw them will ever forget the enthusiasm of the Negro drivers, hell-bent whatever the risk, to get Patton his supplies,” one British brigade commander wrote. Even Hollywood took notice, and in 1952, the film Red Ball Express was released. However, the film was not without controversy.

Poster of the movie Red Ball Express.jpg

Promotional poster for the film (Universal Pictures)

During production, the Department of Defense sent a letter to director Budd Boetticher and Universal insisting that the presentation of race relations be modified and “that the positive angle be emphasized.” Boetticher was displeased with the interference.

In 1979, Boetticher explained, “The Army wouldn’t let us tell the truth about the black troops because the government figured they were expendable. Our government didn’t want to admit they were kamikaze pilots. They figured if one out of ten trucks got through, they’d save Patton and his tanks.”

A truck driver fills a tire with air along the Red Ball Express highway during World War II. Photo courtesy Army Transportation Museum.

A soldier fills a tire with air alongside the Red Ball Express highway (Photo from the U.S. Army Transportation Museum)

By November 1944, the port facilities at Antwerp, Belgium were open and enough French rail lines were repaired that the Red Ball Express was no longer required. After shifting 412,193 tons of supplies, the Red Ball Express was shut down on November 16, 1944.

The men of the Red Ball Express were given an enormous task. Only through their enthusiasm, determination, and many sleepless nights were they able to bring their comrades at the front what they needed to fight. The next time you watch Patton, remember the brave men who brought him the supplies to keep his tanks rolling. After all, bullets don’t fly without supply.


MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Air Force destroyed its own ICBM in a missile test

The US Air Force was forced to terminate an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile July 31, 2018, in response to an unsafe “anomaly” that emerged during a test, according to Air Force Global Strike Command.

The 30th Space Wing at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California ordered the destruction of the $7 million ICBM early July 31, 2018, eliminating it over the Pacific Ocean. Global Strike Command refused to comment as the incident is under investigation.


Air Force Gen. John Hyten, head of US Strategic Command, described the test as “perfect,” at least until “somewhere in flight, we saw an anomaly.”

“The anomaly was going to create an unsafe flight condition, so we destroyed the rocket before it reached its destination,” he said at the 2018 STRATCOM Symposium on Aug. 1, 2018, according to Military.com. “It was the smart thing to do.”

Tests occur regularly, but failures are much more infrequent. Hyten told his audience that the last failure happened in 2011, with the one before that occurring in 2009.

Explaining that this is a “rare thing that is in the missile business,” Hyten said that “now we have to go figure out what happened.”

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An unarmed U.S. Air Force Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launches during an operational test at 1:23 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time Monday, May 14, 2018, at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Aubree Milks)

One possibility, and potentially the most likely given the STRATCOM’s chief’s characterization of the incident as the emergence of an “unsafe flight condition,” is that the missile veered off course, forcing a Mission Flight Control Officer’s hand. The motto among the MFCOs is reportedly “track ’em or crack ’em,” according to Popular Mechanics, which sent reporters to observe one of these tests firsthand.

In the initial phase of flight, the MFCO may have only a matter of seconds to make the critical decision to terminate a missile, making that individual the sole decision maker for the weapon’s fate. In the later phases, the officer might act on the consent of his/her superiors.

If the officer detects that the missile will cross any predetermined safety lines, that individual will reportedly “send a function,” causing the missile to crack and spiral into the ocean.

While July 31, 2018’s decision to destroy the ICBM was purportedly “smart,” not every executed self-destruct sequence is intentional.

Human error, specifically the pressing of the wrong button, caused a test of a US missile defense system to end in failure July 2017. A tactical datalink controller on the destroyer USS John Paul Jones accidentally identified an incoming ballistic missile as a friendly system, resulting in the initiation of a self-destruct sequence for the SM-3 interceptor, Defense News reported at the time.

The initial report from the US Missile Defense Agency said that the interceptor missed the target, revealing that the “planned intercept was not achieved.” During a later test in January 2018, an SM-3 Block IIA interceptor fired from an Aegis Ashore missile defense facility in Hawaii also failed to achieve the desired intercept.

Hyten said that July 31, 2018’s test failure is exactly why the US tests its systems. “We have to make sure that things work. We learn more from failures than we do successes,” he said, adding that the unsuccessful test does not weaken America’s offensive capabilities.

“I have a full complement of ICBMs on alert,” he explained.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

After 45 years, Green Beret faces his past in Vietnam – part one

Richard Rice did two tours in the Vietnam War and went on to have the kind of 30 year career in Special Forces that spanned every major conflict and mission of his generation. And in 2017, he went back to Vietnam for the first time since “Vietnam.”

In this episode, Rich visits the Maison Centrale in Hanoi aka “The Hanoi Hilton.”

I could feel Rich going back in time – planning how his MACV-SOG team could rescue the POW’s trapped behind these walls some 45 years ago.

The approach was beautiful. Wide sidewalks around a lake with a floating ancient temple, past a white tulip garden down a tree-lined street full of Sunday revelers and coffee shops and the excitement of abandon. It felt like Paris.


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We turned a corner and then became now deep in our guts and the prison doors were wide open, the scrolled Maison Centrale almost luring us in. We’d been all over Vietnam to date, retracing so many of Rich’s steps of yesteryears and yet here, in this moment, his tension was my tension and we felt trapped. We were just standing there on a sidewalk in front of the Hanoi Hilton beneath the high-rises and the rooftop bars, surrounded by the din of motorbikes and indifference.

There’s nowhere to go, really, if you just want to stand there and feel what it feels like to remember something you wish you could have done, but never did. Five minutes, ten minutes, I can’t remember. But there we stayed. I had a few beers in my ruck and we cracked them open and began another journey back to 2018.

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Rich looked around and said, “You know, I’m gonna chalk this up to an impossible mission. I would have happily volunteered to try to get our guys out, but this is impossible.” And he shook his head once and took a deep breath and his consolation prize was seeing it with his own two eyes.

It’s the only time I’ve ever heard him say the word impossible.

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We raised a toast to those who had sacrificed so much inside those walls, and beyond.

The doors were still open but we didn’t want to go in, but we didn’t want to leave. We took a few pictures, Rich said he couldn’t believe he was standing in front of the Hanoi Hilton, drinking a beer. “Of all the things I ever thought I’d do in life, I never thought I’d be doing this. This is crazy.”

And then there was a family next to us and their young boy, whose shirt said “If I was a bird, I know who I’d shit on,” and he kept making peace signs and goofy faces, just like my son does back home. How do you not laugh?

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The mom said with a big smile, “Are you from America?”
Rich said, “Yes ma’am we are. Are you from here?”

“Yes, Hanoi,” she said, pointing to the ground we were standing on.

So many worlds collided in that moment, and all of them were better for it. It was never and will never be the time to forget, but it was time to move on, to close a circle. A couple pictures with our new friends, one final toast to the fallen, and we were on our way.

A few years back, Rich and I had an immediate connection because we both served in Special Forces. But we became friends as we experienced Vietnam together – the kind of friends you can count on one hand how many you’ll have in your whole life, if you’re lucky.

This proposed legislation could make it easier for troops to receive care packages

He did two tours in the war and went on to have the kind of 30 year career in Special Forces that spanned every major conflict and mission of his generation. A lot of people would call him a hero, a warrior, an American badass, the list goes on.

But all he ever wanted to do was serve America honorably, and earn the respect of the men to his left and right. And he describes himself as lucky to be alive, and then he smiles and says nobody owes him a damn thing. So if you meet him, just call him Rich.

Also read: After 45 years, Green Beret faces his past in Vietnam

This article originally appeared on GORUCK. Follow @GORUCK on Twitter.

Articles

The Army wants the Stryker to be more survivable and lethal

The Army’s is looking for new weapons and capabilities for Stryker armored combat vehicles in addition to the improved hulls and 30mm cannons already being added to the vehicles.


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US Army infantry rushes from a Stryker during training in 2005. Photo: US Navy Journalist 2nd Class John J. Pistone

The effort to up-gun Strykers, typically equipped with .50-cals, Mk. 19 grenade launchers, or M240Bs, has been going on since Sep. 2013. That was when the Army first announced tests of the 30mm weapons.

“(This) maintains a lethal overmatch that we want to make sure our forces have,” Army Lt. Col. Scott DeBolt told Army.mil at a 2014 demonstration of the 30mm cannon. “It has lethality, mobility and protection, and survivability. When we have a firefight, we don’t want it to last 40 minutes. It’d be nice if it lasted 40 seconds. This vehicle provides that 40-second fight.”

The 30mm weapons were approved for installation on 81 Strykers in the U.S. Army Europe 2nd Calvary Regiment amid concerns that Strykers would be outmatched if they went toe-to-toe with Russian armor using only the .50-cal. weapons.

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A US Army Stryker fires a TOW missile during anti-tank training. Photo: US Army Pfc. Victor Ayala

Now, the Army is looking for plans to make the rest of the Stryker fleet more lethal and has requested suggestions from weapons manufacturers. Army Col. Glenn Dean told reporters Feb. 29 that the final plan for upgrading Strykers will likely involve Javelin anti-tank missiles and more 30mm guns.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether Javelins would replace TOW missiles on the M1134 Anti-Tank Guided Missile Vehicle or be fielded as a new anti-tank Stryker variant. The TOW missiles currently deployed on M1134s have a longer range but smaller warheads than Javelin missiles. Also, the Javelin can target helicopters and surface vessels that the TOW missile would be unlikely to hit.

The Stryker successfully fired the Javelin in industry tests in 2010.

The Army has also toyed with the idea of using the 30mm cannons to give Strykers a better shot against enemy air assets such as helicopters and low-flying drones.

“We start to get 30mm Stryker airburst munitions, that might have some air defense capability,” Army Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations David Markowitz said during an Association of the United States Army panel in Feb. 2016.

Regardless of what the Army decides is the Stryker’s next weapon configuration, the effort to upgrade flat-bottomed Strykers with V-shaped hulls will continue. The improved hulls grant increased protection for the crew during mine and IED strikes.

popular

9 reasons why you should have joined the Army instead

If you didn’t pick the U.S. Army that day you walked through your local strip mall mulling over which branch to choose, then you missed out.


Let’s face it. The demonym most people use for troops and service members is soldier. And there’s a damn good reason for that!

#1. We do awesome sh*t constantly.

Can you believe that civilians actually pay to go camping or to the shooting range?

You can forever play the “Oh, you think that is cool? Well I did…” stories in the lunch room at work.

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This is just a Thursday for us. (U.S. Army Photo by Visual Information Specialist, Erich Backes)

#2. Because James Earl Jones.

The Marines may have Kylo Ren from the new Star Wars films, but we had his grandpa, Darth Vader.

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Who else can claim they have two Emmys, a Golden Globe, an Oscar, two Tonys, and a Ranger Tab?

#3. No one ever wanted to dress up as a Marine, Sailor, or Airman as a kid.

Kids running around with toy guns? They’re playing Army.

G.I. Joe? Mostly associated with the Army.

Those little green Army men? You get my point.

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You never see these guys eating crayons, so you know they’re not Marines (Image by 41330 from Pixabay)

#4. We actually get to play with our cool toys.

Show of hands. How many airmen and sailors actually got to fly the planes or steer the ships their branch is known for doing? Now how many soldiers got to use the weapons our branch is known for using? Thought so.

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Photo by U.S. Air Force civilian photographer Justin Connaher

#5. The Army has style.

We have always had the freshest looking uniforms throughout military history. Even when you’ve low crawled in the mud, Army uniforms look better than whatever the hell the Navy calls their blueberry uniforms.

Related: This is what you should know about the return of the ‘pinks and greens’

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Photo by Catherine Lowrey

#6. Our boy, Captain America, is one of the most recognizable fictional characters.

Show a picture of Captain America to nearly anyone. I bet you that they can tell you exactly what his name is and his branch of service.

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His hair and uniform are definitely out of regulations, but screw it. Once you have a Combat Infantryman Badge you can pretty much get away with whatever. (Film distributed by Paramount Pictures)

#7. No guts. No glory.

Yeah. Things suck some times. No denying that.

But if you don’t embrace the suck, live the suck, love the suck, and become the suck — you don’t have the privilege of calling yourself a bad ass.

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These are some of the best times and the worst times we ever had. (U.S. Army Photo by Maj. Kamil Sztalkoper)

#8. You personally get to deliver 5.56mm of freedom at a max effective range at 500 meters to piece of sh*t terrorists.

Every branch has POGs (Persons Other than Grunt.) Every branch has a version of a grunt. The Army has the highest “Hooah Sh*t” per capita. At least our POGs try to elevate themselves above their “glorified cheerleader” status.

The only down side is knowing that when you get out, you will never be as bad ass as you were when you were doing “Hooah Sh*t.”

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#9. Almost every iconic General officer in American history was in the Army.

Crack open a history book. Nearly every great General gained their notoriety in the U.S. Army. You’re in good hands.

Not to discredit the other branches who have given our country the best military tacticians the world has ever seen (because this list is done ‘tongue in cheek’ and at the end of the day, we’re all brothers and sisters on the same team).

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Related: 9 reasons you should have joined the Air Force instead

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