Let’s be honest with ourselves, if video games were to depict the average day for a grunt, they would be boring. Even if they showed field training, there are still a lot more tedious things going on than shooting guns and blowing things up. The reality is that in the modern era, military video games like Call of Duty or Battlefield lied to everyone about military life.
If you joined because you thought it would be fun based on a video game, you might feel robbed. You probably cleaned more floors than battlefields and you probably sprayed more window cleaner than bullets. Infantry life isn’t as exciting as you thought, is it?
There’s definitely a lot you do outside of combat that you hope will never make it into any video games because it does, it will be a terrible experience for everyone involved.
Digging the fighting holes will make you rage-quit.
(U.S Marine Corps Photo by Cpl. David Diggs)
Digging fighting holes
Easily at the top of the list. Can you imagine paying for a bad ass looking military shooter game just to end up spending half of it digging a hole to shoot from?
In real-life, it probably takes you ten hours because three hours in you discovered the world’s biggest rock and you spent the last seven hours using a tiny shovel to cut through it like it’s California in 1850 and you found some gold in that bad boy.
Press “F” to slightly bend your knees so you don’t pass out.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jerrod Moore)
If you think un-skippable tutorials are bad, just be glad you don’t have to stand still for two hours waiting for your company Gunnery Sergeant try and figure out how to say, “To all who shall see these presents, greetings,” as if it was written in Hebrew.
Spades Simulator 19?
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Jackson)
This is the life of a grunt: you spend most of your day sitting in your room waiting for someone to give you a task. Usually they end up telling you to clean something thirty minutes before you’re supposed to be cut loose for the day. And it will take you until Midnight.
Funny enough, video games are just one of many things to do while you stand-by so what would you do in a video game that had this?
Imagine this scenario as the loading screen between missions.
(U.S Marine Corps Photo by Lance Cpl. Patrick Osino)
To be fair, Far Cry 2 had a mechanic and you would have to clean your weapon periodically or it would jam on you. What we mean is going through a Call of Duty campaign and then the post-credit mission is to spend 14 hours at the armory cleaning everything because you just put the entirety of the Department of Defense’s ammunition store through it in a single go.
Before you can even go on a mission, you would have to do this for an entire week.
(U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Cpl. Stormy Mendez)
Would you pay for a video game that forced you to spend at least 25% of your play time at the base theater listening to your chain of command lecture on different subjects that they’re vaguely qualified to speak on? Maybe that could be a downloadable content release that comes out after everyone stops playing it.
Imagine if every update just erased your swim qual data.
(U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Gunnery Sgt. Robert Brown)
Part of the real-life tutorial is being taught survival swimming in boot camp but the military thinks after two years you’ll forget so they make you do it again. It’s like getting through that one water level you always hated (you know what we mean) just to do it again after a few missions.
A Russian fighter jeopardized the safety of the airmen aboard a US Navy surveillance plane during an “unsafe” intercept over the Mediterranean Sea June 4, 2019, 6th Fleet said in a statement.
A Russian Sukhoi Su-35 intercepted a US Navy P-8A Poseidon aircraft off the coast of Syria, making multiple passes near the American plane. The second of the three interactions “was determined to be unsafe due to the SU-35 conducting a high speed pass directly in front of the mission aircraft, which put our pilots and crew at risk,” the Navy said.
The intercept lasted 28 minutes.
“This interaction was irresponsible,” 6th Fleet explained, adding that the US expects Russia to abide by international standards. “The U.S. aircraft was operating consistent with international law and did not provoke this Russian activity,” the Navy further stated.
A US Navy P-8 Poseidon.
(Photo by Darren Koch)
Russia has denied engaging in any form of misconduct. “All flights by Russian aircraft were conducted in accordance with international rules for the use of airspace,” the Russian defense ministry argued, according to Russia’s state-run TASS News Agency.
Moscow claims that it detected an air target in international waters above the Mediterranean approaching its Tartus naval base, in Syria; Russia has supported Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad in the country’s brutal civil war. The Su-35 was dispatched from Hmeymim Air Base to identify the aircraft. The Russian defense ministry said that the aircraft returned to base after the US aircraft changed course.
Last year, the US Navy accused the Russian military of conducting two “unsafe” intercepts above the Black Sea.
In one incident in January 2018, a Russian Sukhoi Su-27 fighter closed to within 5 feet of a US Navy EP-3 Aries aircraft before crossing directly in front of it. In November 2018, the Russians again got “really close” to another US aircraft.
“There’s just absolutely no reason for this type of behavior,” a Department of Defense spokesman said at the time.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Army is issuing Soldiers a new small arms 5.56 ammunition magazine designed expressly for the M4/M4A1 carbine and M16 family of weapons.
The 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, WA, was the first unit to receive the new “Enhanced Performance Magazine (EPM), as free issue In July,” said Anthony Cautero, Assistant Product Manager for the M4/M4A1 Carbine.
Other units are acquiring smaller quantities through the standard supply system.
Cautero said the regiment received 6,800 magazines in July.
More than 49,000 of the new magazines will be issued to other units at JBLM before the end of the year, he said.
Army engineers and scientists optimized the EPM to work with the M4/M4A1, M16 rifle, and standard military 5.56mm small arms round, the M855A1.
The M855A1, known also as the Enhanced Performance Round (EPR), has been in use since 2010.
Following the EPR’s release, engineering tests of M4/M16 rifles firing the M855A1 showed that the weapons were sensitive to the EPR’s steel tip.
A Picatinny Arsenal, N.J. engineering team subsequently made a design change to the magazine that corrected this issue.
The EPM eliminates weapon wear caused by the steel-tipped M855A1 at the upper receiver/barrel extension interface, a condition discovered during laboratory testing.
Soldiers insert the EPM into the magazine well of a carbine’s lower receiver that positions rounds for feeding.
The forward moving bolt and bolt carrier assembly strips the rounds from the magazine and feeds them smoothly into the chamber for firing.
Soldiers also can use the new magazine with the previous standard military 5.56mm round, the M855.
The EPM is tan-colored and has a blue-gray follower. The latter is the spring-loaded plastic component that positions each round up into the lower receiver of the weapon. Each magazine holds a maximum of 30 rounds.
Tests show that the EPM increases system reliability and durability.
It also ensures optimal performance in M4/M4A1 and M16 weapons when used with the EPM and EPR, Cautero said.
The Army expects to field more than 1.8 million of the new magazines over the next 12 months.
Center Industries of Wichita, Kansas, is the manufacturer.
Cautero said the Army has received more than 700,000 of the new magazines from the company to date.
The Navy has had a change of heart about the new expeditionary floating base sailing to the Fifth Fleet. The vessel USNS Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller (T ESB 3) will become USS Lewis B. Puller (ESB 3), becoming a commissioned warship.
No matter the designation, in essence, the Kevin Costner box-office bomb “Waterworld” — where people were living on supertankers because ocean levels rose and covered almost all the land — partially become reality.
The Puller is a 78,000-ton vessel capable of operating up to four Sikorsky CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters. It has a crew of 145 and will be commanded by a Navy captain. It can also accommodate up to 298 additional personnel. Unlike the Exxon Valdez from “Waterworld,” the Puller is propelled by diesel-electric engines that give her a top speed of 15 knots.
It’s part of an ongoing program within the Navy and Marine Corps to create offshore bases for troops to execute raids and amphibious operations where countries are reluctant to base U.S. troops. Think of them as floating versions of the Chinese artificial islands cropping up in the South China Sea.
According to a report by USNI News, the decision to make the Puller a commissioned warship is due to requirements of the law of armed conflict. The current afloat base in the region, the Austin-class amphibious ship USS Ponce (AFSB(I) 15, ex-LPD 15), is a commissioned warship that has supported mine countermeasures and special operations forces.
“Without going into specific details on missions USS Ponce carried out, warship status for ESB will greatly enhance the combatant commander’s flexibility in using the ship to respond to emergent situations,” Navy Lt. Seth Clarke told USNI News. “Without this status, there would be significant limitations on ESB’s ability to support airborne mine countermeasure and special operations missions.”
The Lewis B. Puller will operate alongside the Ponce for a while, until Ponce returns to Norfolk for a 2018 decommissioning. While some assets will be transferred during that time, one item that won’t be is the prototype Laser Weapon System on board the Ponce.
As the US military builds up its forces in the Middle East, America’s top diplomat has been privately warning the Iranians that the death of even a single US service member at the hands of Iran or one of its proxies would trigger a military response, The Washington Post reported on June 18, 2019, citing US officials.
In May 2019, the US detected signs of possible Iranian aggression targeting US forces and interests in the Middle East. The US responded by deploying the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group and a bomber task force to the US Central Command area of responsibility.
White House national security adviser John Bolton issued a statement on May 5, 2019, saying that the military assets deployed to the region were meant “to send a clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime that any attack on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force.”
Two days later, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made an unscheduled trip to Baghdad, where he delivered the warning that one American fatality would be enough to trigger a counterattack, The Post reported. Pompeo, a former US Army officer, has been a major player, together with Bolton, in shaping the US “maximum pressure” strategy directed at Iran.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
More US military assets have since been moved into the region, and more are on the way in the wake of suspected limpet mine attacks on tankers that the US blames on Iran. US military leaders revealed on June 18, 2019, that the US does not plan to carry out a unilateral military response to the tanker attacks.
Gen. Paul Selva, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said any military action taken in response to the tanker attacks would “require an international consensus,” something the US military has been trying to secure through the release of evidence it says points to Iran’s culpability.
“If the Iranians come after US citizens, US assets or [the] US military, we reserve the right to respond with a military action, and they need to know that,” the country’s second-highest-ranking general told reporters. “The Iranians believe that we won’t respond, and that’s why we’ve been very clear in our message.”
The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Zachary S. Welch)
Iran is “lashing out against the international community,” but the Iranians “haven’t touched an American asset in any overt attack that we can link directly to them,” he added.
“What happens if Americans are killed? That changes the whole thing,” a senior Trump administration official told The Washington Post. “It changes everything.”
Pompeo, who appears to be taking the lead on the standoff with Iran amid a reshuffling of senior leadership at the Pentagon, visited US Central Command on June 18, 2019, the same day acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan withdrew his name from the nomination for defense secretary and said he would be stepping down.
“We are there to deter aggression. President Trump does not want war,” Pompeo said. “We will continue to communicate that message while doing the things that are necessary to protect American interests in the region.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The US has imposed new sanctions on Iran, the first since President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal.
The new measures target six individuals and three companies said to be funneling millions of dollars towards an elite unite of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.
The US Treasury Department, acting jointly with the UAE, also accused Iran’s central bank of helping the IRGC access hundreds of millions in US currency which it held in foreign banks to avoid crippling sanctions.
“The Iranian regime and its central bank have abused access to entities in the UAE to acquire US dollars to fund the IRGC’s malign activities, including to fund and arm its regional proxy groups, by concealing the purpose for which the US dollars were acquired,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.
Iran’s central bank was not formally sanctioned in the action, but the Treasury has recently said it will reimpose a number of widespread sanctions aimed at crippling oil and banking sectors in the coming months.
The IRGC is a powerful arm of Iran’s armed forces, established after the Iranian Revolution in 1979. The sanctions specifically take aim at the IRGC’s Quds Forces, which operate the groups overseas operations, including in Syria. They are said to have been behind recent rocket attacks launched against Israel in the Golan heights.
The move came just says after Trump’s decision to pull the US out of the Iran nuclear deal on May 8, 2018. The agreement — signed with the United Kingdom, Russia, France, China, Germany, and the European Union — promised Iran relief from sanctions in exchange for limiting its nuclear program.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Spending an hour listening to “After Action with Max and Paul” –a podcast about national security, military life, and other random bullsh*t – is like spending an hour with Max and Paul themselves. While you’re listening, you genuinely feel as if you’re hanging out with your best veteran friends… if your best veteran friends are prominent members of the Marine Corps veteran community, that is.
Max Uriarte is the mind behind “Terminal Lance,” a Marine Corps-based comic strip he created while he was still in the Corps. He also created Terminal Lance’s crowdfunded offshoot, “The White Donkey.” Since being published in 2016, “The White Donkey” has become a New York Times bestseller and Uriarte is working on an “omnibus” of Terminal Lance strips.
The two are very busy. And they are really good friends. And it shows as you listen to their podcast.
“Me and Max hang out quite a bit and we always have these conversations” Szoldra says. “We’re just talking about the news or what’s going on in the military space, and it always bounces around so much. One day we both realized, hey, we should record this. This might be something people would like to listen to. So, we did.”
For all the joking about their other projects, they are extremely grounded in reality and it shows in what they choose to talk about — some of the most divisive wedge issues among the military-veteran community. The Trump trans-ban, North Korea, and whatever else may have come up that week, for example.
The issues many veteran-related blogs and websites are polarized about Max and Paul laugh and riff on – then they inject a dose of reality or humor to the discussion.
Paul: Most of the arguments against women in the infantry are really dumb. They could be dismissed pretty easily. Most of them against are basically like “men are shitty.” Or, like, “Oh, they’re gonna inconvenience everybody ’cause they gotta use different toilets,” or something. Really, like that’s gonna be so difficult?
Maximilian: I think what’s funny is men … we can get super feminist, political about this because this is sort of a larger issue too. … You know, men get so worried about women’s genitals. They’re like, “How are they gonna handle their period?” Let them worry about it.
Paul: They already go to the field. They already go to basic training.
Maximilian: “They’re bleeding down there. I don’t know, it’s a problem. What are they gonna do? I don’t think they should be there.” I don’t know. They handle it.
Paul: “And they attract bears. You know that, right? It’s science. Okay?”
Maximilian: I think there could be a discussion about the logistical difficulties, but it’s one of those things where we’re so past the point of debate. You can’t go back with it now. Right now it’s more like, “How do I make this work?”
Paul: Yeah, and everybody’s still yelling about, “Women shouldn’t be the infantry.” It’s like, well-
Maximilian: They’re already out there.
It’s not all about serious issues with Max and Paul. The same conversation recounted above eventually evolves into a discussion about women in the infantry in “Starship Troopers,” movies in general, and then dragons.
As with most discussions that turn to politics, not everyone will agree with Max. Or Paul. Or Max and Paul. But what you get is a really hilarious and irreverent back and forth that will make even the most closed-minded person crack a smile. They may even rope in one of their Marine friends via phone or Skype (in their second episode, they call Jack Mandaville, star of “Range 15” and outspoken “former Marine”).
“We’re sort of both leveraging our kind of pseudo-celebrity status to get the coolest guests that we can get,” Uriarte laughs. “We got a lot of great people coming on the show. Everyone seems to like it a lot.”
But there is something for everyone, not just Marines. And not just veterans. Max and Paul are two very talented, educated, and witty individuals — and it shows in their work, especially “After Action With Max and Paul.”
Here’s Mandatory Fun’s interview with Max Urierte in which he explains the “After Action” podcast.
Some Coast Guard families began receiving back pay Jan. 28, 2019, while bracing for the possibility that another government shutdown on Feb. 15, 2019, could again leave them scrambling to cover bills and put food on the table.
In Oregon, Stacey Benson, whose husband has served 19 years in the service, said back pay from the 35-day government shutdown was in her family’s account Jan. 28, 2019.
Coast Guard officials said they are working to deliver back pay by Jan. 30, 2019, to all of the more than 42,000 Coast Guard members affected by the longest government shutdown in history.
Benson, who helped start up “Be The Light” food banks for struggling Coast Guard families during the shutdown, said the food banks essentially closed Jan. 27, 2019, after President Donald Trump signed a bill Jan. 25, 2019, opening the government for three weeks while Congress and the White House seek agreement on funding for a border wall.
(Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Matthew S. Masaschi)
However, Benson said that volunteers are “making arrangements” to restart the food banks “just in case” the government shuts down again Feb. 15, 2019.
“If it happens, we’re prepared for the worst,” she said.
At the food bank in Astoria, Oregon, Benson estimated that 50,000 to 70,000 pounds of goods had been collected for distribution, including “pounds and pounds and pounds of ground beef and huge bags of dog and cat food.”
The shutdown strained donors’ resources to the point they’re asking for donations themselves.
Brett Reistad, national commander of the American Legion, said efforts by the group to assist Coast Guard families had essentially drained the veterans organization’s Temporary Assistance Fund.
“I’ve been in the Legion 38 years,” he said in a phone interview, “and I’ve not experienced an instance like this.”
Reistad added that the Legion was reaching out to supporters to replenish the fund.
During the shutdown, the Legion distributed more than id=”listicle-2627427178″ million from the fund in the form of grants of 0 to id=”listicle-2627427178″,500 to needy Coast Guard families, Reistad said. Since Jan. 15, 2019, the organization had approved about 1,500 grants to a total of 1,713 families — specifically targeted at the 3,170 children in those families, he added.
Coast Guard Cutter Resolute.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Michael De Nyse)
“We try to stay out of politics” as a veterans service organization, Reistad said, but “we have to recognize the possibility of this happening again.”
He asked anyone interested in replenishing the Temporary Assistance Fund to visit Legion.org for more information.
The White House was standing firm Jan. 28, 2019, on the president’s demand for .7 billion to fund an extension of the southern border wall. Trump said over the weekend that he would allow the government to shut down again or declare a national emergency to take money from the military budget if Congress doesn’t agree to fund the wall.
At a White House briefing Jan. 28, 2019, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said the solution is to “call your Democratic member of Congress and ask them to fix the problem. This is a simple fix.”
She said Trump “is going to do what it takes” to provide border security.
He would prefer to do that through legislation, Sanders said but, if Congress balks, “the president will be forced to take a different path.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
In the 241 years since the US declared independence from the English in 1776, the uniforms of those serving in the US Army have changed drastically.
Over the years, as the nation grew, uniforms, too, have evolved to fit the times and take advantage of changes in tactics and technology. In some cases, as this paper from US Army History notes, the changes were minor affairs, while in other cases, the look of the US Army was radically changed.
While carrying a ruck sack may sometimes feel like the equivalent of carrying a refrigerator on your back, a ruck sack is not able to provide a stable, temperature-controlled environment for lifesaving blood products that might be needed in remote or deployed environments.
The XVIII Airborne Corps and the Armed Services Blood Program are partnering to identify soldiers with blood type O who have low levels of antibodies in their blood. These individuals have the ability to provide an immediate blood donation to an injured person of any blood type that needs a transfusion at or near the point of injury.
“We are taking individuals with type O blood, who are already considered universal donors for packed red blood cells, and testing the levels of antibodies in their blood,” said Lt. Col. Melanie Sloan, director, Fort Bragg Blood Donor Center. “Everyone has antibodies. They are naturally occurring and can attach themselves to transfused blood cells. The titer testing helps identify individuals with lower levels of these antibodies.”
The Army is currently using the standard of 1 to 256 for the level of antibodies in the individuals identified as low titer O. When a person with blood type A or B needs blood and is receiving blood from a type O donor, the lower level of antibodies will make it easier for the body to accept the different blood type. Low titer O blood can be given to anyone in need, regardless of their blood type.
Sgt. Charles Moncayo, 82nd Airborne Division Band, get his blood drawn as part of the low titer O testing at a blood drive hosted by the 82nd Airborne Division Artillery (DIVARTY), June 7, 2019.
(Photo by Eve Meinhardt)
1st Lt. Robert Blough, the physician assistant for the 82nd Airborne Division Artillery (DIVARTY) and a former Special Forces medical sergeant, arranged for soldiers in his unit to get tested for low titer O and also helps with mobile training teams to teach others how to perform field blood transfusions. He said he is passionate about implementing this program across the force because he has seen first-hand how it can save a life.
“In 2007, I had an Iraqi get shot in lower abdominal area,” said Blough. “He was bleeding out internally, not overly fast, but there was nothing I could do to stop the bleeding inside him. The MEDEVAC got delayed. We were sitting on a mountaintop with this guy and I did not have the ability to transfuse blood to save his life.”
Blough said that experience led him to volunteer for the working group spearheading the efforts to identify and screen fresh whole blood donors within the XVIII Abn. Corps.
The ability to transfuse blood while on the battlefield or at a remote location is hardly new and its effectiveness has been proven throughout history.
“We were doing this in 1918 during World War I,” said Lt. Col. George Barbee, deputy corps surgeon, Task Force Dragon, XVIII Abn. Corps. “We were still doing whole blood transfusions in World War II up through the conflicts in Korea and Vietnam.”
Barbee said that the Army transitioned from whole blood to component therapy in the 1970s. He said that while breaking the blood down into components is effective for treatment of some disease processes, it’s not a feasible option for an immediate need for blood in the field.
“We have done a lot of studies to see what the best method was for saving lives through transfusion,” he said. “They pointed back to whole blood.”
Sgt. Charles Moncayo, 82nd Airborne Division Band, get his blood drawn as part of the low titer O testing at a blood drive hosted by the 82nd Airborne Division Artillery, June 7, 2019.
(Photo by Eve Meinhardt)
The ability to identify low titer O soldiers provides an agile and flexible approach to accessing the lifesaving measures that whole blood provides. The ASBP is increasing the amount of low titer O whole blood that it stocks on its shelves for rapid deployment and emergency measures.
However, blood needs to be stored in a temperature-controlled environment and bags of blood are not always readily available in a time of crisis. The pre-screened and identified soldiers provide an instant supply if one of their peers is injured and needs a transfusion.
Each of the identified soldiers is regularly tested for a variety of blood-borne diseases to ensure their safety and the safety of others. Patient privacy still applies for identified donors. If they are removed from the roster, the information is kept confidential and only revealed to the patient.
While the identification of being a “walking blood bank” might seem a little odd for the soldiers who have this universal blood type, they are instrumental to efforts to improve survivability and mobility for the Army. Barbee hopes to someday see the program implemented across the Department of Defense.
“We completely support the XVIII Airborne Corps’ whole blood initiative,” said Col. John J. Melvin, chief nurse and chief of clinical operations, U.S. Army Forces Command Surgeon’s Office. “It closes the gaps that we see on the battlefield for blood supply at role one and conditions of prolonged field care. In order to provide the best opportunity of survival for our soldiers, the whole blood program is essential for our successful treatment of combat casualties.”
Staff Sgt. Timothy Dawson was trying to get some rest before work the next day. The phone rang twice before he answered it. His neighbor, who lives just above his apartment complex on the hill, told him the fire was really close and they were evacuating.
That neighbor was 1st Lt. Mike Constable, a pilot with the 146th Airlift Wing, Channel Islands Air National Guard Station, California. Dawson said he could see Constable and his roommates packing things into their cars.
The Thomas Fire started on Dec. 4, 2017 in Santa Paula, near Thomas Aquinas College. Driven by Santa Ana winds gusting up to 70 mph, the flames screamed across the hillsides toward Ojai and Ventura. Numerous fires leapfrogged across Ventura and Los Angeles Counties the following day.
Dawson’s three-level, 52-unit apartment complex burned to the ground a few hours later.
Ironically, Dawson is a C-130J Hercules crew chief for the 146th AW, one of five wings in the Air Force equipped with the module airborne firefighting system, or MAFFS. This system is loaded onto C-130s and is designed to fight the very thing that took his home, wildfires.
The 146th AW was activated Dec. 5 to fight what became the largest California wildfire by size in the state’s recorded history, covering 281,893 acres. The Thomas Fire is now 100 percent contained.
“We got the word and everybody sprung into action. Our maintenance folk got the airplane ready for us, our aerial port guys went and got the MAFFS units pulled out and loadmasters got the airplanes ready. It was really a well-oiled machine on that day. We got things done really quickly,” said Senior Master Sgt. Phil Poulsen, a loadmaster with the 146th AW.
Most of the Airmen stationed at Channel Islands ANGS are from Ventura County or the surrounding area. Approximately 50 people from the 146th AW evacuated their homes during the fire and five Airmen lost their homes.
“I can see the smoke from my house and we know people who live there,” Poulson said. “My daughter went to daycare up there and I think I flew over that house. I think it’s gone. So it really hits close to home when you are this close to home.”
The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or CAL FIRE, requested MAFFS aircraft and personnel support through the state’s governor and the Adjutant General of the state’s National Guard. Once activated, CAL FIRE incident commanders assigned to the Thomas Fire, and based at the Ventura Fairgrounds, generate the launch orders for the MAFFS. The aircraft sit ready at Tanker Base Operations, a few miles south of the fairgrounds at Channel Islands Air National Guard Station.
Once requested, the C-130s would join the fight at a designated altitude in the protected flight area, typically 1,500 feet above ground. An aerial supervisor, or air attack, would fly at about 2,000 feet, directing and controlling the aircraft. Lead planes, at 1,000 feet, guide the tankers to their drop points, approximately 150 feet above the ground.
“Once we enter the fire traffic area, we join on the lead plane. He’ll typically give us a show me [puff of smoke] which shows us where he’s intending us to drop,” said Lt. Col. Scott Pemberton, a C-130J pilot with the 146th AW. “We try to be very precise with that because you know it’s a high value asset and you get one shot at it.”
The mission requires the crews to fly the C-130s very close to the fires.
“You’re taking the fight directly to the ground,” Pemberton said. “We are 150 feet above the ground at 120 knots, at the edge of the airplane’s envelope. You’re demanding a lot of yourself and your fellow crewmembers. So that’s why you are typically very highly trained and are very prepared to do this mission.”
The MAFFS can hold 3,000 gallons of retardant, which is released from a nozzle placed in the left rear troop door of the aircraft. It takes approximately 15 minutes to load retardant into the MAFFS, another 15 minutes to reach the Thomas Fire, 10 more to join the lead plane and drop and then another 15 minutes to return to base. With 10 hours of daylight and two planes, the 146th AW drops an average of 60,000 gallons of retardant each day.
“Many times if you are close to a fire line and you’re doing direct attack you’ll see the guys standing down there,” Pemberton said. “On the second, third or fourth drop you’ll come by and you will see that you have gotten close enough to where they are a different color. But I’ve also seen the whites of their eyes where they’re diving behind their bulldozer because you’re that close, and they know that the retardant is coming.”
Still, the dangers of this mission are not lost on Pemberton.
On July 1, 2012, MAFFS 7, which belonged to the North Carolina Air National Guard’s 145th Airlift Wing based at the Charlotte-Douglas International Airport, crashed while fighting the White Draw Fire in South Dakota’s Black Hills. Four of the six crewmembers aboard died.
“There was a thunderstorm approaching from the north and as they were waiting for the lead to coordinate and get his bearings… The thunderstorm moved closer and closer,” Pemberton said. “They made a first run and I think they got off half of their retardant.”
As they made their second run, they had a wind shear event and a microburst took away their lift and forced them to fly straight ahead into the terrain.
“As a result of that incident, we completely changed our training. We incorporated a lot of the wind shear escape maneuvers, and we built new seats for the loadmasters in the back and made crashworthy seats for those crewmembers,” Pemberton said.
This training and the 146th AW’s capabilities benefit everyone involved in the wildfire fighting community, too.
The 146th AW plays a big role in extinguishing fires, said Tenner Renz a dozer swamper with the Kern County Fire Department, but it’s something he sees on almost every fire. Whether a 100-acre or a 250,000-acre fire, the guard shows up.
“Some of these guys are crazy. I mean dipping down into some of these canyons, flying through smoke, buzzing treetops,” Renz said. “They have a talent that most people don’t have.”
Having the MAFFS capability means the 146th AW can be federally activated to support firefighting operations around the United States by the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho. An Air Force liaison group, led on a rotating basis by one of the five MAFFS unit commanders, staffs the center.
This wide-ranging operational experience and capability gives CAL FIRE an extra capability when things are at their worst.
“We currently have low humidity, Santa Ana winds, we haven’t had rain in a number of days and we’re in areas that haven’t burned in 50-60 years,” said Dan Sendek, MAFFS liaison officer for CAL FIRE. “You can never have enough equipment for every eventuality. What the guard brings to us is that surge capacity when we’re in a situation where we need everything we can get.”
Six days after he lost his home, Dawson was back at work.
“The routine of going about the mission and getting things done is probably better,” Dawson said. “I needed to get back and get involved in the fire mission. The show must go on. The world doesn’t stop spinning and the guard doesn’t stop flying missions.”
For Dawson, it’s also a chance to combat the fire that took his home and save some of his neighbor’s property.
Dawson and his wife were able to return to their apartment a few days after the fire destroyed it, however, they were not able to search for personal items because the fire was still smoldering.
“Every single tenant in the 52 units was able to get out ahead of the fire. When we went back for the first time it was it was pretty emotionally taxing,” he said. “There were two stories worth of apartments that collapsed into a carport. There’s nothing left that we could really find.
“To me, then and even now, it still feels a little surreal. I know it’s happening to me, but it feels like it’s happening to someone else.”
As the confetti of the New Year celebration is swept away, love begins to take over. We watch the red and pink heart covered “things” fill the stores in anticipation of February 14th – Valentine’s Day. The history of this day is long and can be traced back to ritualistic goat sacrificing for fertility long before we heard the ruminants of “roses are red and violets are blue” poems and exchanged sweet cards.
Weird sacrifices aside, the modern-day Valentine’s Day is aimed at celebrating love. Gone are the days of it just being about the special someone in your life. Now, Americans are also buying gifts for family members, children’s classmates, coworkers, and even 27% of Americans are celebrating with gifts for their pets!
The National Retail Federation reports that 2020 will be the biggest spending year for Valentine’s Day; the average person is planning to spend upwards of $196.31 each this February 14. Although spending is definitely up, that same report showed that only half of Americans are actually celebrating the holiday down from 61% in years past. Those that are choosing to rebel against all things V-Day related in strong protest against what they feel is an over-commercialized and single person ostracizing holiday.
For a military spouse, this day can come with its own set of challenges, especially if their service member is deployed. When the service member is gone, military spouses are already fighting internal debilitating mental health battles and balancing already overloaded plates. The idea of celebrating a day which is traditionally aimed at couples – hurts. But who says love has to hurt?
Love has long been associated with kindness. Did you know that random acts of kindness have been found to increase heart health by lowering blood pressure for the person performing the act? That same study also found that it reduces feelings of stress, anxiety, and increases happiness. This year, random acts of kindness week kicks off on February 13th – the day before Valentine’s Day! It’s a sign.
So, despite the disdain for cupid’s day – whatever your reasons – you can make it your own special kindness-filled day. Here’s are 5 ways to spread the love this Valentine’s Day:
Go buy those annoyingly pink cards and candies, then leave them for strangers to find. Their smiles will make you forget how much you dislike V-Day, promise.
Give a valentine to your community
Remember that park filled with trash? Clean it up. That foul-mouthed graffiti on the wall? Scrub it off. Love doesn’t have to be directed at a person, go love on your community.
Visit a nursing home
Feeling blue about being alone? I promise the residents of your local nursing homes are even more lonely. Go spend some time with those that are forgotten, you’ll feel better for it. One study found that those that are kind to others have reduced feelings of depression.
Go serve a meal
The best way to the heart is through the stomach, right? Go feed a meal to those with next to nothing. Volunteers taper off after Thanksgiving and Christmas – shelters are desperate for help to continue their good work. Find your local homeless shelter and get to work.
The Humane Society is always in need of someone to love on the animals in their care. Did you know that when humans love on dogs, the love hormone oxytocin increases for both man and their best friend? Go walk some dogs and snuggle some kittens.
This Valentine’s Day, try and check your automatic reflex to grimace as you walk through the stores covered in pink. Instead, make the day your own special day filled with love and kindness. What are you waiting for?
“I humbly accept his offer,” Bolton, who also works for the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, tweeted March 22, 2018. “The United States currently faces a wide array of issues and I look forward to working with President Trump and his leadership team in addressing these complex challenges in an effort to make our country safer at home and stronger abroad.”
However, defense and arms control experts have expressed extreme reservations about slotting Bolton into this role, which he is slated to begin April 9, 2018. One arms control expert even labeled the appointment a “pretty much a national security emergency.”
A major concern is Bolton’s long-held and recently promoted views in support of a preemptive strike on North Korea. He appears ready to use force in attempt to halt North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles.
“It is perfectly legitimate for the United States to respond to the current ‘necessity’ posed by North Korea’s nuclear weapons by striking first,” Bolton wrote in a Feb. 28, 2018 opinion piece published by the Wall Street Journal.
Bolton went even farther during a September 2017 segment on Fox News: “The only diplomatic option left is to end the North Korean regime by effectively having the South take it over.”
Yet defense experts say any preemptive attack would trigger an overwhelming retaliatory response from North Korea against South Korea, Japan, and US military installations.
According to conservative estimates, hundreds of thousands of South Koreans would die within hours, and possibly millions of people in the region if North Korea were to deploy nuclear weapons.
How a preemptive strike on North Korea could end in disaster
There are two different violent responses North Korea could choose if the US were to attack. One option would be to use conventional artillery weapons— such as explosive mortars and rockets — and possibly chemical weapons like VX nerve gas. North Korea is known to have many reinforced bunkers armed with such munitions.
Kori Schake, who studies military history and contemporary conflicts at the right-leaning Hoover Institution, discussed this possibility on a Nov. 17, 2017 episode of the Pod Save The World podcast.
“[Suppose] in the space of, say, three hours, we could destroy all of the 8,000 to 10,000 hardened sites of North Korean artillery that Seoul, South Korea, is in range of,” she said. “Even in that [scenario] — which would be a level of military virtuosity unimaginable — you’re still probably talking 300,000 dead South Koreans.”
The second option would be much worse: North Korean leaders could potentially deploy and launch the short-range nuclear weapons that the country has developed.
“[I]f the ‘unthinkable’ happened, nuclear detonations over Seoul and Tokyo with North Korea’s current estimated weapon yields could result in as many as 2.1 million fatalities and 7.7 million injuries,” Michael J. Zagurek Jr. wrote in an October 2017 analysis for 38 North, a project of the The US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.
This is because Seoul’s 25 million residents, including tens of thousands of US forces, are just 35 miles from the North Korean border. The death and injury figures do not take into account the loss of life north of the Korean Demilitarized Zone.
Jeffrey Lewis, a nuclear policy expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, previously told Business Insider that he doesn’t think North Korea “would ever deliberately use the nuclear weapons unless they thought they were being invaded.”
Lewis — who publishes Arms Control Wonk, a site about nuclear arms control, disarmament, and nonproliferation — and many other experts worry about how North Korean leader Kim Jong Un would respond to any kind of attack, perceived or real.
“The North Koreans, when they write official statements about what their nuclear posture or doctrine is, the phrase they use is ‘deter and repel,'” he said, explaining that the country’s nuclear arsenal has become its primary way of deterring conflict.
“But ‘repel’ means if the deterrent fails, and the United States launches an invasion, they will use nuclear weapons to try and repel the invasion — to try to destroy US forces throughout South Korea and Japan.”
It remains to be seen how Bolton’s coming appointment will influence pending denuclearization talks between North Korea, South Korea, and the US.
A spokesperson for Bolton declined to comment for this story.