An active-duty US Marine captain wrote a stinging op-ed for the Marine Corps Gazette, going through all the problems he sees with the Department of Defense and the Marine Corps in addition to recent failures in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The biggest problem, according to Capt. Joshua Waddell, is “self-delusion.”
“Let us first begin with the fundamental underpinnings of this delusion: our measures of performance and effectiveness in recent wars,” he wrote. “It is time that we, as professional military officers, accept the fact that we lost the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
The active-duty infantry officer, who served with and lost Marines under his command with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines, in Afghanistan, didn’t come to this conclusion lightly. He said it took several years for him to accept that, with the goal of improving the system.
A case in point, he says, is a comparison of the US military with other adversaries.
The Pentagon’s budget dwarfs the combined defense spending of the next 10 countries. The Army and Marine Corps are arguably the best-trained fighting forces in the world. The Air Force has the most high-tech aircraft and weaponry, while the Navy maintains nearly 20 aircraft carriers — far more than adversaries like Russia and China that have only one each.
These stats should mean the US military is unstoppable, but the budget, talk of being the best in the world, and other claims it makes don’t square with measures of effectiveness, Waddell writes.
“How, then, have we been bested by malnourished and undereducated men with antiquated and improvised weaponry whilst spending trillions of dollars in national treasure and costing the lives of thousands of servicemen and hundreds of thousands of civilians?” he wrote.
“For example, a multibillion-dollar aircraft carrier that can be bested by a few million dollars in the form of a swarming missile barrage or a small unmanned aircraft system (UAS) capable of rendering its flight deck unusable does not retain its dollar value in real terms. Neither does the M1A1 tank, which is defeated by $20 worth of household items and scrap metal rendered into an explosively-formed projectile.
“The Joint Improvised Threat Defeat Organization has a library full of examples like these, and that is without touching the weaponized return on investment in terms of industrial output and capability development currently being employed by our conventional adversaries.”
His article isn’t just a critique; Waddell offers several solutions to get the military out of the “business-as-usual” mindset that looks good in PowerPoint briefs but doesn’t translate to success on the ground.
While military leaders typically complain to Congress that constrained budgets have a “crippling” effect on the military, Waddell says the military should work more efficiently with the money it has. He gives an example of a nation already doing this: Russia.
Moscow’s military budget is about $52 billion, versus Washington’s proposed defense budget of $583 billion. Yet with far less money, Russia has been a consistent thorn in the US’s side in Syria, Ukraine, and now Afghanistan. That’s not to mention Moscow’s success in cyberwarfare.
“This is the same Russian military whom the RAND Corporation has estimated would be unstoppable in an initial conventional conflict in the Baltic states, even against the combined might of the NATO forces stationed there,” Waddell wrote. “Given the generous funding the American people have bequeathed us to provide for the common defense, is it so unreasonable to seek an efficient frontier of that resource’s utility?”
Waddell’s critique includes a call to fix inefficiencies between the Defense Department getting gear to war fighters, as some have to buy things they need because they don’t get there before they deploy. Waddell also calls for an audit of the Marines to see whether there are redundant efforts among contractors.
“There is no reason we should be paying twice for the same work or, as is often the case, paying government personnel for work that they have instead outsourced to more capable contractors for tasks within the government worker’s job description,” he wrote. “I would be willing to bet that a savvy staff officer with access to these position and billet descriptions as well as contracting line items could save the Marine Corps millions of dollars by simply hitting Control+F (find all) on his keyboard, querying key tasks, and counting redundancies.”
It’s unclear how much of an effect this op-ed would have on any changes. The Marine Corps Gazette is read mostly by senior Marine leadership, but whether that translates to taking this captain’s advice in an institution that is resistant to change is an open question.
“I have watched Marines charge headlong into enemy fire and breach enemy defenses with the enemy’s own captured IEDs in order to engage in close combat,” Waddell wrote. “This same fighting spirit from which we draw so much pride must be replicated by our senior leaders in leading comprehensive reform of our Corps’ capabilities and in creating a supporting establishment truly capable of fostering innovation.”
South Korean President Moon Jae-in met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on April 27, 2018, in a historic summit that observers have viewed with both trepidation and optimism.
April 27, 2018’s summit is the latest development in a fast-moving march toward diplomacy on the Korean Peninsula, following what had been a tumultuous year for the region.
Shaking hands in front of a crowd of journalists and photographers, Kim and Moon made history as they greeted each other in what was the first meeting between leaders of North Korea and South Korea in 11 years.
Moon is the third South Korean president to meet with North Korea’s leader. Presidents Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun held meetings with North Korea in 2000 and 2007, respectively.
Kim and Moon paused for photographs at the concrete steps of the military demarcation line before making their way into South Korea’s portion of the demilitarized zone. It marked the first time since the end of the Korean War in 1953 that a North Korean leader crossed the border into the South.
The two also stepped across the border into North Korean territory after Moon asked Kim when he would “be able to cross over,” to which Kim replied, “Then shall we cross over now?”
Arriving at the Peace House, a conference building in South Korea’s part of the border village of Panmunjom that will host the talks, Kim signed a guest book, writing: “A new history starts now, an age of peace, from the starting point of history.”
Amid a flurry of camera flashes in the Peace House, the two leaders gave brief statements and exchanged pleasantries, while Kim called for “frank” discussions.
“I say this before President Moon and many journalists here that I will hold good discussions with President Moon with a frank, sincere, and honest attitude and make a good outcome,” Kim said, according to South Korea’s Yonhap News.
Moon echoed the sentiment.
“The moment [Kim] crossed the military demarcation line, Panmunjom became a symbol of peace, not a symbol of division,” he said, according to Yonhap News.
Later in the day, the two leaders planted a commemorative pine tree, using soil and water from mountains and rivers in their respective countries, according to a statement from South Korea’s presidential Blue House.
In a joint statement in the afternoon, Moon and Kim agreed to achieve “complete” denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and work toward officially ending the Korean War with a peace treaty; the war is technically ongoing because it ended in an armistice agreement.
“The two leaders declare before our people of 80 million and the entire world there will be no more war on the Korean Peninsula and a new age of peace has begun,” the joint statement said.
Though the statement was broadly worded, it outlined some plans to address lingering issues between the two nations, including the reunification of families divided during the Korean War and a goal to end the antagonizing propaganda broadcasts at the border.
How the two Koreas got here
The journey to the Peace House has been fraught with uncertainty, particularly after heightened provocations from North Korea in 2017.
In addition to firing at least 23 missiles in 2017, North Korea put the progress of its nuclear weapons program on full display, testing a miniaturized hydrogen bomb in September 2017.
But amid North Korea’s ratcheting up its missile program, US President Donald Trump displayed no qualms about lobbing equally provocative rhetoric back at the North, threatening “fire and fury” and dropping less-than-subtle hints about retaliation from Washington should Pyongyang hit a US target with one of its missiles.
The back-and-forth stoked fears that a conflict on the Korean Peninsula might be inevitable.
And at the beginning of 2018, it looked as though Kim was ready to keep the action going. He said in an address on New Year’s Day: “The entire United States is within range of our nuclear weapons, and a nuclear button is always on my desk. This is reality, not a threat.”
(Government of South Korea photo)
The North warms up to its neighbors and the US
The aggressive posture didn’t last.
Kim soon dispatched an envoy of North Korean athletes and performers to the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, in February 2018. His sister also attended and met with Moon during the festivities, delivering a message that helped pave the way for April 2018’s summit.
North Korea’s conciliatory tone has extended beyond its southern neighbor. Following a meeting between South Korean and North Korean intelligence officials in Pyongyang, South Korea delivered a message to the US from Kim: He would like to meet with Trump.
Trump accepted the request, and preparations for a meeting have been underway. Trump, who would be the first sitting US president to meet with a North Korean leader, said the gathering with Kim could happen as early as May 2018, though the location has not been announced.
In a statement after Moon and Kim’s initial meeting, the White House called the summit in South Korea “historic.”
“We wish the Korean people well,” the White House said. “We are hopeful that talks will achieve progress toward a future of peace and prosperity for the entire Korean Peninsula. The United States appreciates the close coordination with our ally, the Republic of Korea, and looks forward to continuing robust discussions in preparation for the planned meeting.”
In March 2018, Kim visited Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing, marking Kim’s first meeting with a world leader since he assumed power in 2011.
Moon and Kim’s meeting has critical implications for the future of the Korean Peninsula.
North Korea had already made some concessions ahead of the summit, including a declaration that it would stop missile and nuclear tests and drop its previous demands for US troops to withdraw from the peninsula.
Among some symbolic gestures, such as formally ending the Korean War, one of Moon’s priorities will be to reach a consensus on denuclearization.
“It’s going to take a lot of time and negotiation to see how flexible North Korea will be on this question,” Mintaro Oba, a former US State Department diplomat involved in Korean affairs, told Business Insider.
“That should be something to probe for after the summit rather than the summit itself. There’s many more meetings, many more talks, to find out common ground and see where there can be flexibility.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
There’s a veteran’s service initiative in Chicago that is literally saving children’s lives.
As part of the “Safe Passage” program, a non-profit called Leave No Veteran Behind deploys veterans to troubled areas of Chicago to watch over kids on their way to and from school. The organization repays student loan debt for service members in exchange for community service projects like this one, and also helps with employment and transitional jobs.
“We’re here faithfully; we’ve been here since day one,” veteran Bernard Cooks told NPR. “Our intention is to be here until the last day so kids can figure out that, ‘Hey, there’s somebody that actually cares about our safety,’ and they can feel confident going up and down these streets.”
In response to the widespread violence among youth in parts of Chicago, LNVB approached the Chicago school system to see if veterans could help. Tipped off about repeated violent incidents on the corner of 35th and Martin Luther King Drive, LNVB deployed 20 veterans to the location to stand guard, positively engage with youth and maintain the peace. Several weeks of calm led to expansion, and now, more than 400 veterans have participated in the Safe Passage program, positioned at several hot spots for crime in tough Chicago neighborhoods. On any given school day, about 130 veterans patrol the streets. As a result, the Chicago police has seen a significant decline in violence in the communities served.
114 children were murdered in Chicago from 2010 to 2014, CBS News reported. Many were injured or killed by gangs. Watch how Leave No Veteran Behind is helping to bring these numbers down:
This post is reprinted with permission from NationSwell, new digital media company focused on American innovation and renewal.
Almost 50,000 service members are homeless, but this man is working to change that.
“They had our backs, let’s keep the shirts on theirs” is more than just a motto for Mark Doyle. It’s the business model on which he built Rags of Honor, his veteran-operated business.
Originally a consultant, Doyle was deployed to Afghanistan in 2010 as a forensic accountant for the Army. After returning to the U.S., he saw the same men and women who had given their lives for their country struggling to survive. In fact, only one-quarter of returning soldiers between the ages of 19 and 25 were employed. Even worse, many were homeless or at risk of losing their homes.
“I could never square when I got back the commitment that they made every day, with the reality of their life when they came home,” Doyle says.
Founded in 2012, Rags of Honor is a silk-screen printing company based in Chicago that provides employment and other services to veterans. In the three years since its inception, Rags of Honor has grown from four employees to 22, all but one of whom are veterans at high risk of homelessness.
French President Emmanuel Macron criticized the US and urged Europe to forge its own path forward in its collective defense against Russia, according to reports.
In a speech to French ambassadors, he warned that increased nationalism is driving the US to abandon its European allies.
“The partner with whom Europe built the new post-World War order appears to be turning its back on this shared history,” he said.
His remarks stand at odds against recent US military efforts to counter increased Russian activity. Sparked by Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis’ newest National Defense Strategy, military officials are reinforcing their forces in Europe and the Atlantic.
Mattis’ new strategy maintains that “inter-state strategic competition, not terrorism, is now the primary concern in U.S. national security.”
To comply with this shift, the US Navy in August 2018 relaunched its Second Fleet, a Cold War-era force known for its history of countering Soviet threats in the Atlantic. Its revitalization, coupled with an increased presence of US ships in the Black Sea, are the Navy’s direct responses to what officials are labeling as resurgent Russian activity in the region. At the fleet’s reactivation ceremony, the Navy’s top official, Adm. John Richardson, noted the threat of a resurgency in Russia.
“The nation, and the Navy, are responding,” he said.
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) and the Blue Ridge-class command and control ship USS Mount Whitney (LCC 20) sail in formation in the Black Sea during exercise Sea Breeze on July 13, 2018. Sea Breeze is a U.S. and Ukraine co-hosted multinational maritime exercise held in the Black Sea and is designed to enhance interoperability of participating nations and strengthen Maritime security within the region.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Justin Stumberg)
The Defense Department recently committed almost million in funds to an air base in Romania, according to Defense News. Although the US does not maintain its own base in the country, the Romanian forces at Camp Turzii have often hosted US forces for exercises and training. According to the report, these funds are “specifically designated to deter Russian aggression.”
Despite these efforts, Macron remains skeptical that the US will defend its European allies. According to a Reuters report, he prodded the EU to discard its reliance on the US, urging financial and strategic autonomy.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Army is developing its weapons, technologies and platforms with a greater emphasis on being ready for great-power, mechanized force-on-force war in order maintain cross-the-board readiness and deter near-peer adversaries from unwanted aggression.
While the service aims to be prepared for any conceivable contingency, to include counterinsurgency, counterterrorism and hybrid-type conflicts, the Army has been shifting its focus from 15-years of counterinsurgency war and pivoting its weapons development toward major-power war.
“We are excellent at counterinsurgency,” Lt. Gen. Michael Williamson, Military Deputy, Assistant Secretary of the Army – Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, told Scout Warrior in an exclusive interview. “We’re developing systems to be prepared for the full range of potential conflict.”
As a high-level leader for the Army’s weapons, vehicle and platform developmental efforts, Williamson explained that some technologies are specifically being engineered with a mind toward positioning the service for the prospect of massive great-power conflict with mechanized forces, armored vehicles, long-range precision weapons, helicopter air support and what’s called a Combined Arms Maneuver approach.
Combined Arms Maneuver tactics use a variety of combat assets, such as artillery, infantry and armored vehicles such as tanks, in a synchronized, integrated fashion to overwhelm, confuse and destroy enemies.
While the Army naturally does not expect or seek a particular conflict with near-peer nations like Russia and China, the service is indeed acutely aware of the rapid pace of their military modernization and aggressive activities.
As a result of its experience and skill with counterinsurgency fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army’s training, doctrine and weapons development is sharpening its focus on armored vehicles, long-range precision weapons and networking technologies to connect a force dispersed over a wide area of terrain.
Another key aspect of the Army’s future strategy is called Wide Area Security, an approached grounded in the recognition that large-scale mechanized forces will likely need to operate and maneuver across much wider swaths of terrain that has been the case in recent years. Having a dispersed force, fortified with long range sensors, armor protection, precision weapons and networking technologies, will strengthen the Army’s offensive approach and make its forces a more difficult, less aggregated target for enemies.
New High-Tech Army Platforms – JLTV AMPV
While the Army remains focused on being needed for counterinsurgency possibilities across the globe and hybrid-type wars involving groups of terrorists armed with conventional weapons and precision-guided missiles — the service is identifying, refining and integrated technologies with a specific mind to attacking enemies and protecting Soldiers in major-power war, Williamson explained.
Major, great-power war would likely present the need for massive air-ground coordination between drones, helicopters and ground vehicles, infantry and armored vehicle maneuver formations and long-range weapons and sensors. The idea is to be ready for enemies equipped with high-end, high-tech weapons such as long-range rocket, missile and air attack capabilities.
As evidence of this approach, Williamson pointed to some of the attributes of the Army’s new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, or JLTV, and Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle as platforms well-engineered for large-scale mechanized warfare.
The JLTV, for instance, is engineered with additional armor, speed, suspension, blast-protection and ground-clearance in order to withstand enemy fire, mines, IEDs and roadside bombs. These same protection technologies would also enable the vehicle to better withstand longer-range attacks from enemy armies far more capable than those encountered in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The vehicle is being built to, among other things, replace a large portion of the Army’s Humvee fleet.
The JLTV represents the next-generation of automotive technology in a number of key respects, such as the ability to design a light tactical, mobile vehicle with substantial protective ability to defend against a wide range of enemy attacks.
The vehicle is designed from the ground up to be mobile and operate with a level of underbody protection equivalent to the original MRAP-ATV (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected — All Terrain Vehicle) vehicle standards. Also, the vehicle is being designed with modular armor, so that when the armor is not needed we can take it off and bring the weight of the vehicle down to drive down the operating costs, Army officials have explained.
The modular armor approach gives the vehicle an A-kit and B-kit option, allowing the vehicle to integrate heavier armor should the war-threat require that.
With a curb weight of roughly 14,000 pounds, the JLTV will provide protection comparable to the 25,000-pound M-ATV, thus combining the mobility and transportability of a light vehicle with MRAP-level protection. The vehicle can reach speeds greater than 70-MPH.
The vehicle, made by Oshkosh Defense, is also built with a system called TAK-4i independent suspension designed to increase off-road mobility in rigorous terrain – a scenario quite likely should there be a major war. The JLTV is equipped with next-generation sensors and communications technologies to better enhance Soldiers’ knowledge of a surrounding, fast-moving dynamic combat situation.
TAK-4i can be described as Variable Ride-Height Suspension, explained as the ability to raise and lower the suspension to meet certain mission requirements such as the need to raise the suspension in high-threat areas and lower the suspension so that the vehicles can be transported by Maritime preposition force ships.
Also, the JLTV will be able to sling-load beneath a CH-53, C-130 or CH-47 under standard conditions. Sling-loading the vehicle beneath a large helicopter would give the Army an ability to conduct what they called Mounted Maneuver – an effort to reposition forces quickly on the battlefield in rough terrain which cannot be traversed another way.
Oshkosh, based in the Wisconsin city of the same name, last summer won a $6.7 billion Army contract to begin to produce about 17,000 of the light-duty JLTVs for the Army and Marine Corps beginning in the first quarter of fiscal 2016, which starts Oct. 1.
The services plan to buy nearly 55,000 of the vehicles, including 49,100 for the Army and 5,500 for the Corps, to replace about a third of the Humvee fleets at an overall estimated cost of more than $30 billion, or about $559,000 per vehicle, according to Pentagon budget documents as cited in a report in Military.com.
When compared with earlier light tactical vehicle models such as the HMMWV, the JLTV is being engineered with a much stronger, 250 to 360 Horsepower engine (Banks 6.6 liter diesel engine) and a 570-amp alternator able to generate up to 10 kilowatts of exportable power. In fact, due to the increase in need for on-board power, the vehicle includes the integration of a suite of C4ISR kits and networking technologies.
The JLTV, which can be armed with weapons such as a grenade launcher or .50-cal machine gun, has a central tire inflation system which is an on-the-fly system that can regulate tire pressure; the system can adjust tire pressure from higher pressures for higher speed conditions on flatter roads to much lower pressures in soft soil such as sand or mud, JLTV engineers explain.
Also, instead of having a belt-driven alternator, the vehicles are built with an integrated generating system that is sandwiched between the engine and transmission in order to increase efficiency.
Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle
The Army is also preparing to take delivery later this year of its new infantry carrier platform called the Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle, or AMPV.
Built by BAE Systems, the platform is intended to replace the Vietnam-era M113 infantry carrier; several variants are planned, including a General Purpose Vehicle, Mortar Carrier Vehicle, Mission Command Vehicle, Medical Evacuation Vehicle and Medical Treatment Vehicle.
Overall, the Army plans to build roughly 3,000 AMPVs at a cost of $1 million to $1.7 million each.
The platform is designed to transport troops, evacuate injured Soldiers, escort logistical convoys and maneuver alongside larger vehicle such as Abrams tanks. The AMPV is designed with the speed to maneuver such that it can increase its chance of avoiding Anti-Tank Guided Missiles. An ATGM is the kind of conventional weapon the Army would be likely to face in a hybrid or great-power engagement. The vehicle is also armored in order to reduce its vulnerability to long-range enemy weapons.
The AMPV is a tracked vehicle built on a Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle chassis; it represents the Army’s push to be prepared for the full-range of conflict. For example, the Army is divesting some of its fleet of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, or MRAPs, specifically engineered for an IED or roadside bomb environment. While being ready for that possibility is still important to the Army – and still very much a future possibility — the service does not need to keep its full inventory and is instead preparing for a wider-range of possible wars.
The General Purpose AMPV transports two crew members and six passengers. It is armed with a 50-cal crew-served weapon and carry one injured Soldier on a litter.
The Mortar variant uses a crew of two with two Mortar technicians and an ability to fire 120mm rounds; the Medical variant carries a crew of three and six walking passengers.
The vehicle is also engineered with high-tech, software programmable radios designed to transmit IP packets of information across the force in real time; it has a vehicle intercom, driver’s vision enhancer and a radio and satcom communications network called Warfighter Information Network – Tactical.
These technologies, along with a force-tracking technology (Blue Force Tracker) displaying icons showing friendly and enemy force positions on a moving digital map, give the vehicle an ability to function as a node on a large-scale battlefield network. These kind of systems will allow the AMPV crew to conduct mission-command functions on the move, share combat-relevant information in real time and use sensor to detect enemy fire at longer ranges.
The AMPV also has a DUKE v3 electronic jammer engineered to identify and jam the signal of an electronically-detonated roadside bomb.
No other aircraft or air defense system in the world can touch it.
Stealthy, fast, incomparably lethal, the F-22 Raptor is without a doubt the deadliest and most advanced fighter jet ever built. And the Air Force, after a lengthy congressional-backed review, will not be getting any new Raptors to supplement its undersized fleet.
The Raptor, built by Lockheed Martin, was originally created as a follow-on to the F-15 Eagle, the previous mainstay of the Air Force’s fighter fleet. Taking in the strengths of the Eagle and improving vastly with new capabilities such as thrust vectoring for supermaneuverability built into a platform optimized for stealth, the Raptor was everything fighter pilots hoped for and dreamed of.
It would be able to fly the air superiority mission like no other, while also being able to carry out air-to-ground strikes with ease.
Initially, the Air Force planned on buying over 750 units to replace its massive Eagle fleet. Over time, that number was drawn down significantly, thanks to evolving missions and changing threat scenarios. By 2009, Congress voted to cap the Raptor’s overall production run at 187, severely below the minimum figure of 381 units the Air Force projected it would need to fulfill the air superiority mission.
According to Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson, the sheer costs alone makes restarting the Raptor production line, defunct since 2012, completely unfeasible. Revamping manufacturing spaces in addition to rebuilding and redesigning jigs and the tooling necessary to build further Raptors would cost anywhere between $7 to $10 billion, and that’s only the tally on the infrastructure required. Estimates on each Raptor’s flyaway price rang up a whopping $200 million per unit cost, a $60 million jump over the aircraft’s unit cost when its production run ended. The study on bringing the F-22 line back to life was ordered by Congress in April 2016.
Though not wholly unexpected, the recommendation to not pursue a restart of the Raptor line will reduce the Air Force’s options in retaining dominance in its air superiority mission. Earlier this year, the service let on that the F-15C/D Eagle will more than likely face an early demise by the mid-2020s, thanks to an expensive fuselage refurbishment deemed impractical by its brass.
Eagles have long served the Air Force as its dedicated air supremacy fighter, excelling in the mission in the 1990s where it first tasted combat in the Persian Gulf, and later in the Balkans. The Eagle fleet was originally to be overhauled and kept in service until the early 2040s, when it would be replaced by a new 6th generation fighter.
Instead, the Air Force will move on with its plan to refurbish and extend the lives of its F-16 Fighting Falcons, multirole fighters which can also fly the air superiority mission with a considerable degree of success. Critics, however, argue that the F-16 is unequal to the aircraft it seeks to supplant. Smaller, shorter-range, and limited in terms of the amount of munitions it is able to carry, the Fighting Falcon has still served the Air Force and Air National Guard faithfully since the late 1970s and beyond.
A possible byproduct of this news could be the Air Force’s push to develop its 6th generation fighter on an accelerated timeline, bringing it into service earlier than expected. This would minimize the reliance the service would have to place on its aging F-16s, while bringing online a fighter built to work in tandem with incoming next-generation assets like the F-35 Lightning II. This would also potentially reduce the burden placed on the F-22 to shoulder more of the Eagle’s prior workload once it is retired, keeping the small Raptor fleet viable and in service longer.
Old Glory traveled through 10 states and touched more than 8,000 hands on its 4,216 mile journey across America this year. Now the third annual Old Glory Relay across the United States has come to an end.
Organized by Team Red, White Blue, the national event spans 62 days and brings together runners, cyclists, walkers and hikers who have a shared interest in connecting with veterans and civilians in the communities they call home.
“We really wanted this to be a unifying event for the organization and to demonstrate the power and the inspiration that comes with a community of veterans working on an epic undertaking together,” said Team RWB Executive Director Blayne Smith. “We figured if we could run a single American flag averaging 60 miles a day … that would be a demonstration of the good that we could do together if we all worked together formed as a team and committed to a big goal.”
With support from incredible members and sponsors like Microsoft, Westfield, The Schultz Family Foundation, Amazon, Salesforce, Starbucks and La Quinta Inn Suites, the event raised more than $1,250,000! Team RWB will then use the donations to help establish new chapters across the United States and to sponsor events where veterans and community members with a shared interest in social and physical activities can get together for a little PT and camaraderie.
But the Old Glory Relay takes that connection one step further, linking together Team RWB’s 210 chapters and over 115,000 members with their love for the Stars and Stripes.
“This is all about connecting folks to the American flag,” said Donnie Starling, Team RWB’s national development project manager. “One hand-off after another, under the symbol of Old Glory.”
“People see the flag, and they see different things,” remarked Navy veteran Sean Kelly. “But when they see people together in their community, they’re drawn to it. I think it’s an interesting time in our country – and to see a positive force that tries to pull people together, that’s a super important mission that I’m excited to be a part of.”
The Old Glory Relay began on Sept. 11 under the Space Needle in Seattle. Runners carried the flag through the Pacific Northwest, through California and across the desert Southwest and deep south.
The relay ended on Veterans Day in Tampa. And while it was a long journey through some grueling country, the feeling of accomplishment showed through from all the participants.
For Shawn Cleary, a runner in Arizona who delivered the flag to the Tucson team to finish out the Phoenix leg, being part of Team RWB has helped him to get to know a culture he wasn’t a part of as a civilian but had always respected as a military child.
“My life before Team RWB was kind of a college lifestyle,” Cleary says. “It started about two and a half years ago, I wanted to get healthy again, and I was starting to run.”
A friend suggested Cleary run with Team RWB. “I was just hooked,” he says.
There are tens of thousands of veterans and civilians alike who have gotten “hooked” and found a home with Team Red, White Blue. Through the organization, they continue to give back to one another and the community at large – and have an incredible time doing so!
There are many ways to get involved with Team Red, White Blue, so join the team and get started today. There are always local events happening, and keep an eye out for Team RWB’s national events like the Old Glory Relay!
Legendary blues guitarist B.B. King died today at the age of 89. King was renowned for his signature playing style and his singing voice. He was also one of the first blues “crossover” artists, making a big dent on the rock music charts with his cover of “The Thrill is Gone,” which became a hit for him in 1969. Over the years King shared the stage with many major acts including Aerosmith, the Rolling Stones, and U2.
King was also a military veteran, although he only served for a short time. He was inducted into the U.S. Army toward the end of World War II but released immediately following boot camp after officials ruled him as “essential to the war economy” based on his experience as a tractor driver.
Now the slowly melting ice and snow has uncovered the wreck of the doomed Military Air Transport Service plane. It was found two miles away from the spot of the crash, slowly moved over the years by the receding Colony Glacier.
“The glacier essentially held these things in a capsule,” Elizabeth Feeney, a spokeswoman for the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, told the Los Angeles Times. “Many of the things that we get back are easily identifiable.”
This includes Col. Noel Elmer Hoblit, whose remains were returned to his family in 2012. Hoblit was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.
Hoblit’s granddaughter, Heidi Noel Hoblit-Graham, says her grandmother, Virginia, and her family were never the same after the crash.
“My grandmother was, towards the end of her life, an alcoholic,” Graham recalls. “The crash gave her post-traumatic stress and she became a different woman.”
Both of Graham’s grandparents were 45 at the time of the crash. Heidi Graham eventually found a box of letters her grandfather sent to her grandmother. The box also included jagged newspaper clippings, hastily cut out and put away.
“It was life-changing to read through these love letters, through every newspaper article that my grandmother saved,” Graham says. “Maybe she felt like she had to to save the memory but couldn’t go back and face it herself. Maybe she thought she would be able to one day, but she just never did.”
She never remarried, never even dated again.
Hoblit’s remains were buried on what would have been his wedding anniversary. Two of his sons, retired Air Force Col. Jerry Hoblit and retired Air Force Lt. Col. Fred Hoblit — who joined the service because of their father’s legacy — were at Arlington to receive his flag.
“My dad has early stages of dementia and he knows it,” Graham says. “He just turned 80, he knows that he’s not quite firing on the same really high intellect that he once did. He asked me to be his person to help plan this stuff.”
It was an emotional experience for the two sons. Their father had a grave marker at Arlington National Cemetery for years. Then their mother was interred there. Now they’re finally in the same place.
“I think that that was an important thing for my dad,” Graham says. “I think my uncle was so broken from having lost his father that I don’t think he’s ever really recovered.”
Many families have since been reunited with their loved ones’ remains since the glacier started to recede in 2012. But time is running out for the families of the nearly two dozen remaining crewmembers and passengers.
The wreckage is moving into a 600-foot-deep lake. Once the wreck is in the lake, the rest of the bodies will not be recoverable.
“The lake is too deep,” Graham says. “They don’t have the technology to be able to go that deep and get the remains and because it’s moving, they’re only able to go up there for two weeks out of the year in the summer to find remains.”
A 20-year-old Lance Cpl. of Britain’s Coldstream Guards was right on target in December 2013. His quick shooting prevented a major offensive by Taliban fighters when he hit the trigger of an enemy suicide vest – with a round from his L115A3 rifle.
The UK’s Telegraph reported that his unit was hundreds strong during a joint patrol with Afghan counterparts in Helmand Province, near Karakan. They came under heavy fire from a Taliban ambush. The commanding officer of the 9/12 Royal Lancers, Lt. Col. Richard Slack, did not give the name of the sniper, but acknowledged his decisive action.
“The guy was wearing a vest. He was identified by the sniper moving down a tree line and coming up over a ditch,” said Slack. “He had a shawl on. It rose up and the sniper saw he had a machine gun. … They were in contact and he was moving to a firing position. The sniper engaged him and the guy exploded.”
It was the lance corporal’s second shot of his tour. When he hit the vest’s trigger, the man exploded, taking out five more of his fellow fighters. He was 930 yards away.
The sniper’s first shot killed an enemy machine gunner during the same engagement. That shot was from more than 1,400 yards away.
When the smoke cleared, British forces found a second vest containing 44 pounds of explosives.
Holly Watt of the Telegraph called it “one of the dwindling number of gun battles between British forces and the insurgents.”
Kings Mountain High School teacher Hailey Spearman was made an honorary recruiter for the Shelby Army Recruiting Center at a ceremony on Fort Jackson, S.C. on April 22.
Spearman attended a Future Soldier event with her local Shelby recruiter, Staff Sgt. Casey Raza, and some of her students who have joined the U.S. Army this school year. They received first-hand experience of what Army basic training entails.
Spearman teaches English Language Arts and coaches the women’s track and field team at KMHS.
Lt. Col. Robert Garbarino, U.S. Army Recruiting Battalion Columbia Commander, said both teacher and recruiter work together to help students find their options for life after high school.
“Ms. Spearman is a model for what a community advocate does for our recruiting efforts,” Garbarino said.
He deputized her by giving her his Army Recruiting Badge in front of over 250 Future Soldiers and their guests. He also presented her with a plaque to thank her for her efforts to promote awareness on Army opportunities. Garbarino said he was pleased to recognize Spearman after hearing how she goes the extra mile for her students.
Raza said that Spearman has been instrumental to the process.
“I wanted to reach as many students as possible to show them all of their options,” Raza said. “She allowed me to give presentations during her English classes and to students who are on her track team.”
Spearman said Raza puts the needs of each student first.
“She has a way of building positive relationships with students and therefore, our students look up to her and respect her opinions concerning the Army,” Spearman said.
It’s not uncommon in war movies to see a pilot heroically struggle to save the lives of wounded crewmen on board a damaged plane as he brings her to the carrier or base. At the end of the 1976 movie Midway, for example, Matt Garth (as played by Charlton Heston) dies as he ends up on the wrong side of this struggle and suffers a bad ramp strike. Thankfully, not all such stories are so grim. In a recent incident, then-Capt. Kim “Killer Chick” Campbell successfully brought a shot-up A-10 back to base during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
But here’s something you may not know: These heroic actions don’t just take place during times of war. In peacetime, there are similar emergencies that force a crew to bring a damaged plane back to base – and it requires some heroic flying. One incident that our loyal readers know about involved an AV-8B Harrier with a nose gear failure. Capt. William Mahoney received the Air Medal in 2015 for pulling off the landing.
Well, the crew of a Navy EA-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft recently pulled off a much more impressive feat and were recognized with the Air Medal for their actions. Lieutenants Jason Hirzel and Sean Noronha of Air Test and Evaluation Squadron Nine were flying their Growler from Whidbey Island Naval Air Station to the Navy’s test facility at China Lake on Jan. 29, 2018. Suddenly, their environmental control systems failed at 25,000 feet. They were blinder than proverbial bats after a mist filled their cockpit and temperature dropped to 30 below zero, causing the instruments and canopy to ice over.
“This is a situation that absolutely would have justified ejection from the aircraft,” a Navy spokesman said. “But the aircrew persevered through the extreme conditions and risked their lives to ensure a safe recovery of the aircraft.”
This amazing feat was accomplished by using a Garmin watch and a big assist from the ground control team at Whidbey Island.
The two crewmen suffered minor injuries, including frostbite. One has returned to flight status, the other is expected to do so soon.