Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF's flawed new tankers - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told Pentagon acquisition officials in November that he is “unwilling (totally)” to accept flawed KC-46 tankers from Boeing, which is leading the effort to replace the aging KC-135 tanker aircraft, according to Bloomberg.


Mattis has had limited involvement in the Pentagon’s weapons programs, but he is the latest defense chief to comment on the 16-year-long effort to replace the Air Force’s tanker.

Boeing won a contract to develop the new tanker in 2011, and the Air Force expects to buy 179 KC-46s. But the $44.5 billion program has been plagued by technical problems and cost overruns.

Under the contract signed with the government, Boeing is responsible for costs beyond the Air Force’s $4.82 billion commitment. So far, the defense contractor has eaten about $2.9 billion in pretax costs.

The KC-46 program has been stymied by delays for years.

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers
Secretary of Defense Ash Carter receives a tour of a Boeing KC-46 at at the Boeing facilities in Seattle, March 3, 2016. (U.S. Navy photo by Tim D. Godbee)

In summer 2014, Boeing was hit with nearly a half-billion dollars in overruns related to wiring problems in the first program’s first four airplanes. The test version, the 767-2C, which was not outfitted with any refueling systems, was supposed to take its first flight in June 2014, but missed that date, taking the air for the first time during the final days of that year.

In mid-2015, issues with the plane’s fueling system added another half-billion-dollar accounting charge for Boeing.

Also Read: This Air Force plane will be over 100 when it flies to the boneyard

In the middle of 2016, it was announced that Boeing would miss its contractual deadline to deliver 18 of the KC-46 tankers to the Air Force by August 2017 due to numerous technical issues. Though the tanker was able to refuel F-16 fighter aircraft at that point, a major issue was refueling the Air Force’s huge C-17 cargo plane, which put “higher than expected” pressure on the aerial boom extended by the tanker to distribute fuel.

A technical solution to the boom issue was developed over the following months, but another major problem — this time a “category one” deficiency — arose during testing in late 2016, when the refueling boom was found to have scraped the surface of the aircraft taking on fuel.

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers
(Concept image from Boeing)

Though the damage was minor, the problem not only posed a threat to the aircrews involved but also risked compromising the low-observable coating on stealth aircraft like the F-22 and F-35 fighters. A KC-46 with a refueling boom contaminated by stealth coating may also have to be grounded. The Pentagon’s undersecretary for acquisition, Ellen Lord, said the issue was still under investigation as of November.

Two other “category one” deficiencies — considered less serious — were also found at that time, but the Air Force has said progress has been made on both.

Boeing’s president and CEO of defense and security said on December 2 that the company will miss a self-imposed deadline to give the Air Force the first KC-46 tanker by the end of 2017.

The firm is contractually required to deliver 18 certified KC-46s and nine refueling pods by October 2018.

Despite issues, the KC-46 has been praised by Department of Defense officials and the Government Accountability Office.

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers
A KC-135, which is slated to be replaced by the Boeing KC-46… eventually. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tara Fadenrecht)

Mattis himself in recent days has complimented Boeing’s cooperation with the Pentagon.

“I reinforced that the Air Force was not going to accept tankers that weren’t completely compliant with the contract,” Mattis said of his note during a press briefing en route to Kuwait on Dec. 3, according to Bloomberg. Boeing has been “excellent,” Mattis said, adding that there hadn’t been any “pushback” from the contractor

“The Air Force needs tankers done right. The American taxpayer expects tankers done right, and Boeing is committed to tankers that are done right,” Mattis told reporters. “We’ll get there. It’ll be the best tanker in the world.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

US Navy hospital ship arrives in Los Angeles to help with ‘hotbed’ surge of coronavirus cases

A US Navy hospital ship arrived in Los Angeles, California on Friday morning, days after President Donald Trump approved its deployment to bolster coronavirus response efforts.

During a press conference on Sunday afternoon, Trump confirmed that the USNS Mercy, a hospital ship docked in San Diego, will be “immediately” deploying to the port of Los Angeles within a week. Trump and his administration described California as a “hotbed” for potential coronavirus cases in the coming days.


“The men and women of the USNS Mercy and the United States Navy are honored to be here in Los Angeles supporting FEMA, the state of California, and the city in their ongoing COVID-19 relief efforts,” Navy Rear Adm. John E. Gumbleton said at a press conference on Friday.

FEMA administrator Peter Gaynor on Sunday said that despite earlier indications the Mercy was deploying to Washington, the ship would have the “greatest impact” in California based on the potential need for hospital beds there. As of Friday, Washington state has the fourth-highest number of coronavirus cases in the US, behind New York, New Jersey, and California.

California ranks third as of Friday, with over 4,000 cases and 82 deaths. Gov. Gavin Newsom asked Trump in a letter last week to “immediately deploy” the Mercy. Newsom cited the state’s 126 new positive cases at the time, a 21% increase within a single day. Newsom’s office has estimated that 56% of Californians, or 25.5 million people, will test positive within two months.

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Gaynor reiterated that the Mercy will focus on alleviating the burden from local hospitals dealing with coronavirus patients. Like the USNS Comfort, which is deploying to New York in the coming weeks, the Mercy will intake trauma cases, according to Defense Secretary Mark Esper.

“Even though there are more cases right now in Washington, the projected needs for beds in California is five times more [than] that of Washington,” Gaynor said. “The Mercy will be used to take pressure off of local hospitals, other medical needs — and not for treating COVID-19 cases.”

The ships have made several humanitarian deployments, including to Puerto Rico for relief efforts after Hurricane Maria in 2017, and to Indonesia after a devastating earthquake in 2005.

The ships are staffed by dozens of civilians and up to 1,200 sailors, according to the Navy. Both ships include 12 fully equipped operating rooms, a 1,000-bed hospital, a medical laboratory, and a pharmacy. The ships also have helicopter decks for transport.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of January 3rd

Hope you guys enjoyed your block leave. It’s always nice to go back home, relax, grow that pathetic excuse of a two-week beard, and not have to think about anything military-related until that inevitable flight back to your installation.

Hope nothing big happened in those two weeks… Oh… F*ck… Nevermind… Literally everything went to sh*t while you were trying to hook up with your old high school fling because it’s time to get your packing list in order.

Now would be a good time for you to smoke one if you got one because the sh*t hit the fan big time. Unless you’re under 21. We can’t have law-breaking juveniles in our ranks while we’re about to head into another major conflict.


And this entire vacation, I was just waiting to make a joke about the Space Force finally being a thing but noooOOOooo. Anyways, here are some memes.

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers

(Meme via Infantry Follow Me)

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers

(Meme via 1st Civ Div)

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers

(Meme via Untied Status Marin Crops)

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers

(Meme via US Army WTF Moments Memes)

Real talk: If we go to Iran, it would be a separate conflict from the GWOT as it’s nation vs nation instead of fighting terrorism. So that would mean we’d realistically get to add a star to our CIBs/CABs/CMBs, right?

That may weigh heavily on my decision to reenlist…

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers

(Meme via Call for Fire)

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers

(Meme via Team Non-Rec)

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers

(Meme via Not CID)

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers

(Meme via Hooah My Ass Off)

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers

(Meme via Lost in the Sauce)

There’s building character and then there’s risking your troop’s health and lively to appease an antiquated version of what the “military was like back in your day.” 

Don’t let anyone fool you. The sweatpants we wore with our PTs back in the BDU era were the comfiest things ever.

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

MIGHTY FIT

This Army vet started a supplement company dedicated to education

Before John Klipstein joined the Army, he smoked a pack a day and his PT test run time was roughly 23 minutes — which accounts for the time spent throwing up on the side of the track. The military turned that around. The newly-minted 13B found a love for fitness and pushing his body to the limit. After leaving the military, he developed a line of supplements to help others do the same — safely.


During his first deployment, Klipstein and his friends handled the stress by working out. In his time at the gym, he noticed a lot of soldiers taking a lot of different supplements — some of which could be found on the military’s banned supplement list. Klipstein was interested in why those expensive jugs of pre-workout were confiscated — what exactly their ingredients were.

By the time his second deployment rolled around, he was making his own pre-workout using ingredients he ordered himself. Now that he was in the role of squad leader, it was his job to confiscate banned substances. He used the opportunity to educate his troops on the dangers of those banned ingredients. Sadly, shortly after his deployment ended, an NCO in their unit died during a five-mile run. The cause was cardiac arrest — caused by a pre-workout supplement.

“This happens all the time in the military,” Klipstein says. “Heavy stimulants mixed with extreme heat and intense training can be very dangerous and soldiers end up dying from it.”

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers
Klipstein and his platoon. He’s the one smiling in the center.
(Courtesy of John Klipstein)

“Sometimes, supplements may be effective but have questionable safety profiles.” says Jennifer Campbell, an Army veteran, Certified Personal Trainer, and Master of Science in Nutrition Education. “Remember Hydroxycut back in the early 2000s? Its active ingredient was Ephedra, which was banned by the FDA in 2004.”

So, when Klipstein started UXO Supplements after leaving the Army, he made it UXO’s mission and vision to provide safe and effective formulas for supplements while educating people on how to use them the right way.

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers
Klipstein in one of many educational videos on the UXO blog.

“With UXO you get clean energy with clinical amounts of researched and proven ingredients” he says. “All products are manufactured in an FDA approved lab, so you will not find any banned substances. In fact, we have all products 3rd-party tested before they hit the shelves to ensure they are safe for our consumers.”

“Knowledge of a supplement’s legality, safety, purity, and effectiveness is critical,” Campbell says. “Unlike food, the FDA does not review supplements for safety and effectiveness before they are marketed. The manufacturers and distributors of dietary supplements are responsible for making sure their products are safe before they go to market.”

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers
UXO has developed a full line of safe supplements.

Klipstein left the Army as an E6 promotable after herniating two discs and banging up his knee but UXO’s other business partner remains in the service, keeping up with the fitness trends that affect the military the most. Even though John Klipstein isn’t rucking up and down mountains and patrolling villages on maneuver missions anymore, he’s still working to keep himself — and his veteran-owned business — in shape and taking care of his brothers- and sisters-in-arms.

“The most important thing about being a vet-owned business is giving back to the veteran community,” Klipstein says. “We do it with a quality product and solid education. We also offer them a 25 percent discount.”

Just use the coupon code MILSUPPS25 at when checking out at UXOSupplements.com. He also invites the military-veteran community to tell him what they think of his products.

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers
Klipstein talks about pros and cons of multivitamins on the UXO blog

Fitness and Nutrition expert Jennifer Campbell also adds that some supplement manufacturers aim to pursue the most inexpensive raw material from suppliers that will pass under the given certificate of analysis to minimize the cost of goods. She backs Klipstein’s insistence on supplement education.

“Do your research,” she says.

John Klipstein isn’t about to let another soldier fall to poor or unethical supplements. He’s happy to post his ingredients — and explain how lesser supplements are trying to be deceptive with their ingredient lists. He, like Campbell, warns of things like “proprietary blends” and implores supplement seekers to find third-party reviewed ingredients in the products they purchase.

UXO products are tasty and provide the energy and recovery they promise. The military discount is great because it makes the products extremely affordable. On top of that, before purchasing, UXO Supplements tells you everything you need to know about the type of product you’re buying as well as the formulation and purpose of the specific item you’re interested in. It’s a great intro to workout supplements, from start to finish.

Klipstein wants all his clients to be healthy, happy, and of course, repeat customers. The UXO Blog says it all.

“There is nothing better than receiving positive feedback from veterans and athletes alike. Our goal is to deliver a great product with an amazing taste. We will never sacrifice our values or our quality to try and make a quick dollar.”

Articles

5 everyday items with military roots

These items make our lives easier every day, but none of them would exist without their military beginnings.


1. Duct Tape

The miracle tool was invented in 1942 as a way to waterproof ammunition cases. Soldiers fighting World War II quickly realized the tape they used to seal their ammo had a number of other uses.

For better or for worse. And for the record, it was originally known as “duck tape,” because the tape was adhesive stuck to waterproof duck cloth. The strength and durability make it the ideal tape for hilarious pranks.

2. EpiPen

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers

The autoinjector pen used to help fight off allergic reactions has its design roots in U.S. military Nuclear-Biological-Chemical warfare operations. The same technology which injects epinephrine into a bee-sting victim was developed to quickly give a troop a dose of something to counter a chemical nerve agent.

3. Beer Keg Tap

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers
Tap that. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

This one is actually kind of backwards. Richard Spikes was an inventor with a number of successful creations by the time he invented the multiple-barreled machine gun in 1940. He invented the weapon using the same principles as his first invention, the beer keg tap.

4. The Bikini

The inspiration for this one is more for the name than the item itself. In the late 1940s, a car engineer name Louis Réard developed a swimsuit he was sure would be the smallest bathing suit in the world. Expecting the spread of his design to be an explosive one, he called the suit the Bikini, after Bikini Atoll, the lonely Pacific Island where the West conducted nuclear weapons tests.

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers
The bikini might also be a mind control device to get you to do things you don’t want to do. Like eat lettuce.

5. WD-40

Meaning “Water Displacement, 40th Formula,” WD-40 was first developed to keep the very thin “balloon” tank of Atlas Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles from rusting and otherwise corroding. The tanks had to be inflated with nitrogen to keep them from collapsing.

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers

WD-40 remembers its roots: last year the company led a fundraising and awareness campaign, using its can to help fight veteran unemployment through the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Hire Our Heroes initiative to help find meaningful employment for transitioning veterans.

Lists

5 reasons why ‘Bangin’ in Sangin’ was like the Wild West

In October 2010, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines started clearing the Taliban insurgency from the Sangin District in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan. Once 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines handed over the area of observation to 3/5, things escalated quickly, making this campaign one of the bloodiest in American history.


Marines who headed out to clear the enemy-infested area were met by a dangerous environment and an extremely complicated IED threat — as a result, casualty rates climbed.

Eventually, the actions of the Marines of 3/5 were unofficially dubbed, “Bangin’ in Sangin.” The narrative that unfolded there was very close to that of a story set in the Wild West. Here’s why:

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers

Marines of 3/5th Marine patrol through unpredictable, enemy terrain in Sangin, Afghanistan.

Paved roads were scarce

In most parts of the world, people drive on paved roads with designated lanes. Well, for British and American forces, the only option was to drive and patrol on roads made from loose gravel. The main roads in the district were described as nothing more than “wide trails.”

Since the majority of the Sangin population uses animals to haul their cargo, in the troops’ perspective, it was like jumping into a time machine and transporting back to the Old West.

The local cemeteries

How many Westerns have we seen where the cowboys, on horseback, encounter an eerie cemetery as they travel through uncharted land? Too often to count, right?

Well, Sangin was no different. Many of the graves were decorated with rocks and flags tied to wooden staves — just like the movies.

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers

HM3 Mitchell Ingolia, assigned to 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment conducts a security patrol through the dangerous area known as Sangin, Afghanistan.

(Photo by U.S. Marine Cpl. David Hernandez)

The nasty terrain

In many Westerns, the cowboys add days to their journeys because of some unmarked obstacle blocking their path, forcing them around.

In Sangin, the rough terrain provided for some unique challenges. Harsh conditions plus the fact that mud structures can be destroyed and rebuilt quickly made keeping maps current nearly impossible.

The locals lived in tribes

In the old days, Native Americans lived in settlements and did every they could to make ends meet while answering to the chief of the tribe. In Afghanistan, Marines commonly patrolled through similar villages — and the locals answered to their Islamic religious leader, known as the “Mullah.”

Though modern in many ways, social organization on the local level remains tribal.

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers

U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jose Maldonado (left) and Cpl. Rocco Urso (right), both with India Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, provide over watch security during an operation in Sangin Valley, Afghanistan, on Oct. 7, 2010. The Marines conducted a two-day operation to clear insurgents from the Wishtan area.

(USMC photo by Cpl. David Hernandez)

The Marines lived like cowboys

When Marines left the wire for several days, they packed ammo, food, and their sleeping system. Since they didn’t know where they were going to be sleeping each night, Marines found rest in places most people couldn’t even imagine.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Army Veteran recalls his time as POW during Vietnam

On Dec. 8, 2020, U.S. Army Veteran David Harker will celebrate his 75th birthday. He may recognize the accomplishment while on his daily five mile walk, or by taking a drive in his 47-year-old car – a 1973 Corvette he’s owned since it was given to him by classmates when he returned from Vietnam after spending more than five years as a prisoner of war.

A native of Lynchburg, Virginia, Harker is the third of seven children. He was an athlete in high school and received his associate’s degree from Bluefield College before transferring to Virginia Tech in 1966. By 1967, however, his fortunes had changed.


David Harker stands next to the 1973 Corvette he received.

Drafted

“I was doing my junior year at Virginia Tech and my grades were low, so I had to take a quarter off in 1967 and during that time, because I wasn’t a full-time student, I had to let the government know. They got me,” he said.

When the draft notice came, Harker’s father, an electrical engineer took the news hard.

“My dad was really upset. He had worked for a power company during World War II and so was exempt from the draft,” Harker recalled. “I didn’t think about the possibility of being killed. My dad’s supervisor said he could get me in the National Guard, but I thought that would be shirking my responsibility. I was called on to serve my country and that’s what I was going to do.”

After basic and advanced infantry training, Harker was approached and offered an opportunity to go to Officer Candidate School.

“I was interested in flying helicopters, but they said I’d have to extend for another year or two, so I said, ‘no, I’ll do my two and go home’.”

Heading to Vietnam

The trip to Vietnam brought Harker through Hawaii, and Guam, before landing in Vietnam Nov. 15, 1967. The recollection of arrival is still fresh even 53 years later.

“There were men on the airstrip who had finished their year and were going to take the plane we had arrived on back home. So, they open the door and it was such a rude awakening when the door opened. The oppressive heat – and I’m sure Vietnam Vets will tell you – the country had a smell of its own.”

The soldiers on their way home watched them deplane and Harker heard them say, ‘there’s my replacement.’

“They wished us well,” Harker said.

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers

David Harker stands next to the 1973 Corvette he received.

Although trained on a vehicle-mounted recoilless rifle, Harker was made an infantryman upon arrival in-country and reassigned from the 9th Infantry Division to the 196th Light Infantry Brigade. Six weeks later, he was a POW.

“I was in the 3rd of the 21st in an area of operations at Que Son,” Harker said. “We operated out of a fire base, with one company pulling security while the other three were out doing search and destroy missions. While out, we’d move about 1,000 meters a day and get resupplied every fourth day with c-rations if the helicopters could get through.”

As a 22 year old, Harker was among the older men in his unit. His commanding officer, Capt. Roland Belcher, told the company while they were enjoying in-country RR at brigade headquarters in Chu Lai, that he was proud of the work they were doing.

“Captain Belcher had been in a province southwest of Saigon where we were providing security for elections,” Harker said. “He said it meant a lot to him that we were able to do that – to make sure those people could go to the polls and not get hurt. I remember that because he died in the rice paddies when we were ambushed.”

Harker’s first sergeant, nicknamed Top, was a 41-year old Veteran of World War II and Korea who had earned a Silver Star before joining the company.

“After the ambush, he was the ranking person and he held us together.”

Capture

Harker and his company were on patrol when they broke contact with the enemy in a creek bed. The North Vietnamese unloaded on the unit and killed two men. As the most forward man, Harker was pinned down.

“I’m thinking, ‘I’m going to die.’ Top is behind me telling me to switch to auto and fire. They tried to get behind us and eventually I hear a Vietnamese voice and do a 90 degree and within arm’s reach at the top of this creek bank is an NVA soldier with a pith helmet and Top is there with no helmet. There’s a guy with a rifle telling me to get up. The NVA are stripping everything off us – anything they can use. I tried to bury my M-16 in the creek bed but I think they got it.”

After being taken, Harker was left with a soldier with a sidearm who walked in front of him, leading him away from the creek.

“I thought it was odd he was in front of me and I had been taught that you always try to escape. Next thing I know my hand is over his mouth and I have his arm at his side. I know I have to kill him and do it silently, but his bayonet won’t come out of the scabbard, and by that time my hand has come off his mouth and he’s yelling bloody murder. Before I could get his .45, he stabs me in the side with his bayonet. By that time there are a bunch of rifles pointing at me. I’m surprised they didn’t just shoot me, but they took some commo wire and duck-winged me that night.”

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers

A newspaper clipping from the time shows support from his hometown.

Of the 15 men who entered the rice paddy that evening, only four made it out. More men would join Harker in his prison in the Trung Son Mountain Range where he would spend the first three years of captivity. By Harker’s estimation only about 150 U.S. soldiers were captured in South Vietnam – most of whom were taken during the Tet Offensive.

Harker’s first prison was in Quang Nam Province, a difficult, mountainous country that made food scarce and meant deplorable living conditions for the POWs.

“We buried nine Americans there,” Harker said. “That’s how horrific our living conditions were. We had very little to eat so people died from starvation, infectious diseases – malaria was rampant – dysentery. Between September of 1968 and Jan. 4, 1969, we buried six, including the youngest person we had there, a 19-year-old Marine.

“That first year of adjustment to jungle life was really hard on us. You didn’t know what to do. At first you looked out for yourself, but as time went on, you got more altruistic – you realize, it’s not about me, but about the guy next door and you realize you had to take care of each other. We came together really well in that respect.”

During the Vietnam War only one American doctor was ever taken prisoner. Hal Kushner, who grew up in Danville, Virginia, was injured in a helicopter crash in late November. By Dec. 4, North Vietnamese forces found him and marched him toward the camp where he found, according to a speech he gave in February 2018, “four of the saddest looking American creatures I had ever seen in my life.”

“They wouldn’t let him practice medicine,” Harker said of Kushner. “We couldn’t call him doc, but he was a big source of information and help to us. He led the way and showed us how to nurse and take care of men, and that became our goal – to make people in their last hours and days as comfortable as possible – it was our mission, and he was a big inspiration to us.”

In the mountains the men had to forage for food, mostly the manioc root, also known as kasava root.

“There wasn’t a place to grow food, so most of our calories came from manioc,” Harker said. “We were under a 1-to-1 prisoner-to-guard ratio, and the guards would trade manioc and so we would put baskets on our backs and go back and forth over miles of mountain trails carrying 70-80 pounds of root. It’s amazing to think that we could even do it, but we did what we had to do. The little bit of rice they gave us as a ration wasn’t enough to keep a bird flying, so the roots kept us going.”

The guards of Trung Son didn’t physically abuse their prisoners. They didn’t need to.

“We were separated from civilization in the middle of nowhere and we couldn’t communicate; had no food, and no medical attention – that’s torture enough for an individual. We were interrogated when we were captured,” Harker said, “but we knew the Code of Conduct and so we’d give that information. But they’d have a guy with a lantern and they’re asking for information about your unit, it’s size, and I just kept repeating. They didn’t pursue it much. They wanted to get us away from the battlefield but a few days later they did it again. When you have a rifle and you’re in front of the enemy, it’s different. But if they put a blindfold on you and all you can hear is round being chambered – that’s different too. In the north they beat pilots and used a lot of torture techniques.”

Moving day

On Feb. 1, 1971 there were a dozen men still alive in the mountains and they were taken in groups of six to begin their march north up the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Harker watched battalions of Vietnamese troops heading south during the 60-day march, as they ground out 10 to 15 miles a day. During the journey an interpreter would give them extra rice.

“He was a military guy who had fought in Laos as a 17-year old in the early 1960s, and he looked out for us. I think he understood the condition – there was a common situation and appreciation among soldiers.”

“We’d get to a camp every day where we got hot white rice – better than we had at the mountain camp. The next morning they’d put a ball of rice on a banana leaf and we’d carry that with us for lunch as we moved. Eventually we were put on a train, in a box car, and taken to Hanoi, to Plantation Garden, an old French plantation with bars in the walls. We were kept in a 15×17 warehouse – six of us on a wooden pallet. Unlike the mountain camp we couldn’t roam around, and the boredom would overtake you and the heat was oppressive, but we had plenty to eat compared to the south. We also had better medical care there as they had a doctor to attend to us.”

In October of 1972 the Vietnamese allowed prisoners to be outside together for the first time since they arrived, and it looked like the war might be over.

“We had a communication system where we’d put a note on the lid of the waste bucket, or use the tap code, and we had to do that because we were only allowed out of our cell for about an hour a day, and never more than one cell was let out at a time. So, when they let everyone out, and then gave us reading material, they knew it was over. Or they thought it was, because before you know it, the doors are all slammed shut again.”

Soon after, Linebacker II started. From Dec. 18-29, 1972, the U.S. Air Force conducted an operation called Linebacker II, a ‘maximum effort’ campaign to destroy targets using B-52 heavy bombers that dropped more than 15,000 tons of ordnance on more than 30 targets.

“B-52s bombed all night long after talks broke down. The SAMs (surface-to-air missiles) shot down a bunch of planes on the third night, after they figured out the flight patterns, and one night they pulled up a deuce and a half and told us to crawl in the back. We thought we were being taken to China.”

Harker would spend his last three months as a prisoner at the Hanoi Hilton.

Repatriation

Half a world away, in Paris, a peace accord was signed January 27, 1973, and soon after Harker and other American POWs heard the news they had longed to hear.

“We were ecstatic,” Harker said. “We’d hear doors open and activity and they came and said, ‘you’re going, and you’re going, and you’re going’ dividing us up into groups that would be repatriated. They gave us western clothing and a travel bag and when they pulled us out of a holding cell wearing our red-striped pajamas we were given the clothes. By noon, nothing had happened. They gave us food and told us the peace agreement was broken – and we were right back down in the depths of despair. But a few days later we got out.

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers

A newspaper clipping shows when David Harker returned home.

“I remember saluting an Air Force general who was sitting with a North Vietnamese officer, and when we saluted, we had been officially repatriated. On the plane home, the pilot told us when we had entered international airspace and there was a great cheer.”

The cheers continued when they landed in the Philippines, Hawaii, and Andrews AFB, Maryland. From Maryland, Harker went to Valley Forge in Pennsylvania where he went through medical treatment and rehabilitation, and he was reunited with his family.

“It was different,” Harker said. “I had brothers who were married, and children had been born, but it was exciting coming home. A private airline flew me and my father back and the local TV station had sent a reporter who interviewed me all the way back. There must have been 10,000 people at the Lynchburg airport when we arrived – I had no idea there would be that welcome and response – my big extended family – the high school band was there. It was a long journey and I was glad to be home and for them to be there for me meant so much. I was led to a blue 1973 Corvette and handed the keys. A group of school mates had gotten together and sold bumper stickers for a dollar each to buy me a car and they handed me the keys and a check for id=”listicle-2647726394″,100.”

Being home with his family, Harker said he learned how much anxiety and frustration and worry his parents went through while he was captive.

“Every POW gets a casualty assistance officer whose job it is to let the family know when they hear something – anything – about their son,” Harker said. “My family never heard anything from their CAO. It wasn’t until 1969, when three prisoners were released that they knew I was alive. My parents found out that a couple of those who were released were at Fort Jackson, and so they went there and got onto base and met with them and heard from them that I was alive. That’s all the knew for five years. So they became involved in the National League of Families who organized and tried to have some involvement with North Vietnam to get information about prisoners and try to make the process more transparent as far as information was concerned.”

Life after war

After he returned from Vietnam, Harker took some time off, but eventually returned to Blacksburg and finished his business degree from Virginia Tech in 1976 and found his way to work as a probation and parole officer. In 1977 he married Linda, his high school sweetheart whom he had dated since 1962.

His family now includes his two children, Megan and husband Mike, and Adam and his wife Anza. David and Linda also enjoy their grandchildren: 13-year old Emily, 11-year old Ethan, and 6-year old Eli, children of Megan; and Adam’s 23-month old daughter Ava.

While Harker is open to discussing his time in Vietnam to serve as an education for younger people, he said it was a part of his life that he’s put behind him.

“Kush and I talk about that all the time – we’re not professional POWs. By the grace of God and the help of other men, we made it out. We all serve our country one way or another. This country is what we love. My life has been a real blessing since then, and the staff at the VA hospital, what they do is marvelous, and I appreciate each one of them. I know they have a heart for those Veterans, or they wouldn’t work there,” Harker said. “I love the Veterans, too, and appreciate their service, and institutions like the VA are a great service to our country.”

In the early 2010s Harker had the Corvette he received in 1973 – the car he and his youngest brother Louie drove across the country after his return – restored. He still drives it today.

“I think of all the love behind it every time I drive it.”

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Borne the Battle: Army Veteran Wayne Hanson, Wreaths Across America

This week’s Borne the Battle features Wayne Hanson, the Chairman of the Board of Directors for Wreaths Across America (WAA).

WAA is a national campaign that coordinates wreath-laying ceremonies at over 1,700 national cemeteries, culminating at Arlington National Cemetery. The three-fold purpose of WAA aims to remember fallen U.S Veterans, honor those who currently serve, and teach children the value of freedom. Here, Hanson explains WAA’s humble beginnings and its rise into the national organization that it is today.


What is Wreaths Across America?

www.youtube.com

In this episode, Hanson discusses his time in the Army and the socio-political atmosphere of when he returned from Vietnam. He talks about transition and his gradual involvement at WAA. Lastly, he shares the four words from a stranger that kept him motivated to work even to this day.

For more information on Wreaths Across America, or for info on how to volunteer, visit the WAA website.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Search underway after 2 Marine Corps aircraft crash

Update: One Marine has been recovered alive but a second unfortunately perished. Five Marines are still missing and search-and-rescue operations are still underway.

A search is underway for the crews of two U.S. Marine Corps aircraft involved in an aerial crash near Japan at 2 a.m. on December 6 during aerial refueling operations.


Japanese aircraft are assisting the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps in the search which, according to reporting from USNI News and CBS, involved a two-seater F/A-18D Hornet and a KC-130J tanker. The Hornet had two crew onboard and the tanker had five crew members, according to CBS.

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers
JMSDF – MCAS Iwakuni Friendship Day 2018

The Marine Corps released a statement after the incident:

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP BUTLER, Okinawa, Japan – Search and rescue operations continue for U.S. Marine aircraft that were involved in a mishap off of the coast of Japan around 2:00 a.m. Dec. 6.

The aircraft involved in the mishap had launched from Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni and were conducting regularly scheduled training when the mishap occurred.

Japanese search and rescue aircraft immediately responded to aid in recovery.

The circumstances of the mishap are currently under investigation. There is no additional information available at this time.

The local time of 2 a.m. in Japan translated to approximately noon EST.

The III Marine Expeditionary Force, based in Okinawa, Japan, is the lead agency for media response, so updates should come from the News section of the Marine website or the III MEF Twitter.

Aerial refueling is, naturally, a hazardous activity but the U.S. military practices this capability regularly as safe aerial refueling is a major combat multiplier, allowing strike pilots to extend their range and patrol times. This is especially true for the Navy and Marine Corps as their planes are often launched from carriers or amphibious assault ships where launch weight is a major factor.

Reducing launch weight can mean a reduction in either fuel or weapons load, but this can be countered by launching with limited fuel and then topping off in flight from a tanker like the KC-130J.

Update: One Marine has been rescued, 2nd Lt. Alyssa J. Morales, a spokeswoman for the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, told Task Purpose.

Update 2: The Japanese Self-Defense Forces has a second Marine who unfortunately perished in the crash. The Marine rescued earlier is now reportedly in stable condition. An earlier version of this update erroneously said that the second Marine had been recovered alive.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is the story behind that F-35 with ‘arctic camouflage’

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist.

Some of our readers asked us to investigate the story behind an F-35 mock-up painted in arctic color scheme, located at Lockheed Martin’s Forth Worth, after the mysterious model was featured on the reputable F-16.net forum.

The mock-up has been sitting in a LM yard, from at least April 2012 to December 2018, when it was moved (the aircraft can still be seen in the latest imagery). Since 2012, photos taken from space show the F-35 model in different locations, along with other test articles and mock-ups, including the X-35 and A-12.


Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers

The LM yard with several mock-ups, including the F-35 in arctic paint scheme.

(Google Earth via Dragon029)

“There aren’t a lot of photos / points in time when the yard was shot from space, but in January 2016, January 2017 and February 2017 it’s also missing from the yard (there are no photos between those 3 times though, so it might have been gone for 13+ months, or it might have just been gone the days, weeks or months that those photos were taken),” says user Dragon029, who also pointed us to the somehow mysterious aircraft.

In this thread you can see all the satellite images Dragon029 has collected: they show all the locations the F-35 mock-up has been in the last 7 years.

As mentioned above, the “arctic F-35” was last moved in December 2018. User hawgwash took a clear shot of the mock-up as it was being moved. Here it is:

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers

The mock-up being moved in December 2018.

(Photo by hawgwash)

We asked Lockheed Martin to provide some details about the mock up and here’s the reply we got from Michael Friedman, a Lockheed Martin spokesman for the F-35 program:

“The image is a model that resembles an F-35A that was originally used to test aspects of our Aircraft Test Facility. The model has since been used in various exercises and testing to include flight line safety and fire suppression testing. The paint scheme, which was created with spare F-16 paint, was chosen by the artisans and is not directly related to the model and its role in the program.”

Mystery solved.

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

8 amazing photos comparing today’s Pearl Harbor to the day of the attack

On December 7, 1941, the US naval fleet stationed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, suffered a devastating attack from the air and sea.


The Japanese assault began around 8 a.m., resulting in the deaths of 2,403 Americans, numerous injuries, and the sinking of four battleships, and damage to many more.

Surprised U.S. service members who normally would have slept in on that Sunday morning or enjoyed some recreation found themselves fighting for their lives.

See More: Unforgettable photos from the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor

In 2013, the U.S. Navy remembered the “day of infamy” with a series of photo illustrations overlaying scenes from that horrifying date with present-day photos.

Now, 76 years after the attack, here’s what Pearl Harbor looked like then and now:

8. Defenders on Ford Island watch for planes during the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.

 

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers
(U.S. Navy photo illustration by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Diana Quinlan)

7. The battleship USS California (BB 44) burns in the foreground as the battleship USS Arizona (BB 39) burns in the background after the initial attack on Pearl Harbor.

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers
(U.S. Navy photo illustration by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Diana Quinlan)

6. Defenders on Ford Island watch for planes during the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers
(U.S. Navy photo illustration by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Diana Quinlan)

5. Hangar 6 on Ford Island stands badly damaged after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers
(U.S. Navy photo illustration by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Diana Quinlan)

4. A view of the historic Ford Island control tower: then and now. The tower was once used to guide airplanes at the airfield on the island and will now be used as an aviation library.

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers
(U.S. Navy photo illustration by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Diana Quinlan)

3. The battleship USS Arizona (BB 39) burns in the background during the attack on Pearl Harbor as viewed from Ford Island.

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers
(U.S. Navy photo illustration by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Diana Quinlan)

2. The Mahan-class destroyer USS Shaw (DD 373) explodes in the background after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers
(U.S. Navy photo illustration by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Diana Quinlan)

1. Sailors on Ford Island look on as the Mahan-class destroyer USS Shaw (DD 373) explodes in the background after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers
(U.S. Navy photo illustration by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Diana Quinlan)

MIGHTY TRENDING

‘America’s Tall Ship’ makes first visit to Norway since 1963

It’s not necessarily the ship that comes to mind when you think about America flexing its muscles abroad to project seapower and dominance.

But when the U.S. Coast Guard’s Barque Eagle, known as “America’s Tall Ship,” came into port here [Oslo, Norway] May 5, 2019, for the first time since 1963, the locals were eager to see it. More than 1,300 people visited the ship May 5, 2019; the vessel sees 90,000 tourists each year, officials said.

The ship trains hundreds of cadets each summer on the basics of navigation and seamanship — something the service believes can still make a tough and ready Coastie despite the emergence of a near-peer power competition.


It’s not always about learning on the newest technology. The Coast Guard thinks some things are just meant to be done old school.

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers

As the sun sets, a crew member acts as lookout aboard Barque Eagle in the North Atlantic, April 2, 2014.

(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class LaNola Stone)

“They don’t come here to learn how to sail, although that is a bonus,” said Chief Petty Officer Kevin Johnson, the training cutter’s command chief, master-at-arms and food service officer for the last three years.

“We’re teaching you how to work as a team,” he said during an hour-long tour of the ship. “And it’s tradition.”

Two groups of 150 cadets each will soon embark on the service’s 12-week summer program. The first group is comprised of third-class cadets, the second of first-class cadets.

The cutter will likely hit its max capacity of 234 crew with each group; 50 enlisted and eight officers man the ship year round. Roughly 40 percent of the trainees are women, Johnson said.

The ship, which has only basic radars for navigation, will also host a number of international cadets during the training program. Members “from as far as Micronesia” have come to learn team building and leadership on the Eagle, designated WIX-327, he said.

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers

Coast Guard Academy cadets learn how to furl sail on the Eagle‘s bowsprit under the tutelage of a petty officer while sailing among the British Virgin Islands in 2013.

(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

Life onboard the ship is meant to give cadets the “life as an enlisted person” experience, demanding strength and discipline, he said. They’ll climb to the top of the mainmast, which towers above the deck at 147 feet. Most cadets know that “someone still has to put the flag up” and furl the sail by hand.

“They still climb the rigging,” Johnson said, adding that the small boats need to be lowered by hand.

He said two cadets have gone overboard during his tenure: one while touching up the hull en route to Ireland and another who lost balance on the rigging and fell into the water.

“They’re both OK,” said Johnson, a 19-year veteran of the service.

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers

Helm station on the U.S. Coast Guard’s Barque Eagle.

The cadets will take their meals in five shifts, retire to the berthing quarters to sleep, and leave the ship to explore cities when “there isn’t work that needs to be done,” he said.

The 295-foot vessel is rooted in training. Built in 1936, it was formerly known as the Horst Wessel and operated by Germany for its cadet training program during World War II before it was captured by the British in 1945. It was then traded to the U.S. a year later.

During a four-year service life extension program, completed last year, more than 1,500 square feet of original German hull plate was removed and replaced, Johnson said. The ship was home-ported in Baltimore, Maryland, while the upgrades were being finished.

The Eagle requires “constant maintenance,” and the cadets and crew know it, he said. During its 19-day trip across the Atlantic en route to Portsmouth in the United Kingdom last week, two sails split during bad weather. One split more than once.

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers

The New York Fire Department vessel, Firefighter, honors the Coast Guard Cutter Eagle as it rests anchored at the Statue of Liberty, Friday, Aug. 5, 2011.

“I think they even got the sewing machines out” to fix them, Johnson said. There are layers of baggywrinkle — old, fringe-like rope — meant to protect the sails from chafing.

The ship has been largely Atlantic-based, sailing to the Caribbean and various European locations. The Eagle has visited Australia, but otherwise hasn’t made its way to other parts of the Pacific Rim. “Not yet, anyway,” Johnson said.

The Eagle, which can hit 17 knots max speed under sail, heads next to Kiel, Germany, to pick up the first summer class of cadets. It will then sail to Copenhagen, Denmark; Antwerp, Belgium; the Netherlands; the Azores; and finally back to the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut, which will be its homeport after this summer.

The German-turned-American trainer will also participate in events marking the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings and the Battle of Normandy on June 6, 2019

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

Articles

The Air Force’s search to find a new ground attack plane is getting intense

The Air Force is 10 days into its “light attack experiment” at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, where four aircraft — AirTractor and L3’s AT-802L Longsword; Sierra Nevada and Embraer’s A-29 Super Tucano; and Textron and AirLand LLC’s Scorpion, as well as their AT-6B Wolverine — have been strutting their stuff.


Air Force pilots already have flown basic surface attack missions in the A-29 and AT-6, according to the service, and conducted “familiarization flights” in the Scorpion and AT-802L as part of the month-long event.

The live-fly exercises will move into combat maneuver scenarios and weapons drops, some of which have already happened.

“This experiment is about looking at new ways to improve readiness and lethality,” Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said in a statement August 9. Goldfein, along with Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, stopped by the event, which the service has been putting together for months.

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers
A Embraer EMB 314 Super Tucano A-29 experimental aircraft flies over White Sands Missile Range. Photo by Ethan D Wagner

How service leaders plan to evaluate the performance of four very different aircraft — from jet to turboprop plane to an armored cropduster — is still to be determined.

The aircraft were on static display for leaders, including Air Combat Command commander Gen. Mike Holmes and Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch, the Air Force’s military deputy for the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Acquisition at the Pentagon, to check out.

Goldfein even flew in the AT-6 and the A-29, according to reports.

“We’re experimenting and innovating, and we’re doing it in new and faster ways,” Wilson said of the experiment, dubbed OA-X. “Experiments like these help drive innovation and play a key role in enhancing the lethality of our force.”

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers
A Beechcraft AT-6 experimental aircraft flies over White Sands Missile Range. Photo by Ethan D Wagner.

Goldfein added, “We are determining whether a commercial, off-the-shelf aircraft and sensor package can contribute to the coalition fight against violent extremism. I appreciate industry’s willingness to show us what they have to offer.”

The service has said the prolonged conflict in the Middle East, with the Islamic State and other extremist groups extending their influence in the region, is the impetus for buying another plane — just one that won’t cost taxpayers a fortune.

“We want to look at a concept so we could have a lower operating cost, a lower unit cost, for something to be able to operate in a permissive … environment than what I would require a fourth- or a fifth-gen aircraft to be able to operate in,” Bunch said in March.

But no matter what the outcome, some in Washington, DC are already pleasantly surprised the Air Force has become more hands-on in potential future weapons and aircraft buying strategies.

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers
Maj. Glenn Meleen, a test pilot for the 40th Flight Test Squadron out of Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, prepares to taxi prior to flight in the Textron Scorpion experimental aircraft. Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Christopher Okula

“The light attack experiment at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, provides an example for how rapid acquisition and experimentation can help our military procure the needed capabilities more quickly, more efficiently, and more affordably than we have in the past,” Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain said.

“Our adversaries are modernizing to deploy future capabilities aimed at eroding the US military advantage — and reversing that trend will require a new, innovative approach to acquisition and procurement,” he said in a statement August 9.

The Arizona Republican in January released his white paper assessment on how the Defense Department should move forward in military spending.

The former Navy pilot stressed that, while the Air Force should sustain its A-10 Thunderbolt II fighter fleet for close-air support, “the Air Force should procure 300 low-cost, light-attack fighters that would require minimal work to develop.”

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers
A Textron Scorpion experimental aircraft sits at Holloman AFB. USAF photo by Christopher Okula

McCain on August 9 stressed his committee has been supportive of the action, and “included $1.2 billion in authorized spending for the program in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018.”

“I am encouraged to see the Air Force using the rapid acquisition authorities that Congress has given the Department of Defense in recent defense authorization bills,” he said. “The light attack aircraft will be an integral part of building our military capacity to combat current threats, and this experiment is a new model for quickly getting our warfighters the capabilities they need to bring the fight to the enemy.”

The event is scheduled to run through August 31.

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