In its journey to improve the lives of veterans through health care research and innovation, VA recently reached a major milestone with enrollment of its 750,000th veteran partner in the Million Veteran Program (MVP) — a national, voluntary research initiative that helps VA study how genes affect the health of veterans.
The milestone, which was reached April 18, 2019, is the result of years of outreach, recruitment and enrollment efforts to help to bring precision medicine to the forefront of VA health care.
“While having 750,000 Veteran partners is a momentous achievement, there is still much work to be done,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “MVP is on track to continue the march to 1 million veteran partners and beyond in the next few years.”
From its first enrollees in 2011, the program has successfully expanded into one of the largest, most robust research cohorts of its kind in the world. MVP was designed to help researchers understand how genes affect health and illness. Having a better knowledge of a person’s genetic makeup may help to prevent illness and improve treatment of disease.
The enrollment milestone is significant because as more participants enroll, researchers have a more representative sample of the entire veteran population to help improve health care for everyone. Enrollees in the program include veterans from all 50 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and Guam. MVP also has the largest representation of minorities of any genomic cohort in the U.S.
Research using MVP data is already underway with several studies, including efforts focused on understanding the genetics of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), diabetes, heart disease, suicide prevention and other topics. Several significant research findings have already been published in high-impact scientific journals. The knowledge gained from research can eventually lead to better treatments and preventive measures for many common illnesses, especially those common among combat veterans, such as PTSD.
MVP will continue to grow its informatics infrastructure and expand its partner base, to include veterans beyond those enrolled in VA care. VA is also working on a collaboration with the Department of Defense (DoD) to make MVP enrollment available to DoD beneficiaries, including active-duty service members.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
Gunfire sounds in the background. In an adjacent alleyway, Islamic State snipers keep watch for movement. On the roof above our heads the Iraqi Security Forces are pouring fire into buildings occupied by the terrorists.
Five members of the Iraqi Federal Police sit on chairs and boxes in a street, sheltered from the battle. One of their colleagues is busy trying to pry open a box of .50 caliber ammo, as another man feeds a belt of bullets into the squad’s machine gun. It’s the sixth month of the battle to re-take Mosul and coming up on the third anniversary of Iraq’s war against ISIS.
In the battle for Mosul, the Iraqi Army has deployed a variety of its best units, including the 9th Armored Division, the black-clad Special Operations Forces, and the Federal Police.
The name may conjure up traffic stops and men rescuing kittens from trees, but in the Iraqi context “federal police” is a mechanized infantry unit: thousands of men in dark blue camouflage with Humvees and machine guns. Accompanying them is another elite unit called the ERD, or Emergency Response Division.
Together they have done the heavy lifting since January, when the operation to liberate West Mosul began. Street-by-street they have fought to dislodge what remains of the “caliphate.” There are fewer than 1,000 ISIS fighters left, according to the Iraqis and their American-led coalition allies. But these are the hard core — many of them foreign fighters, such as the Chechen snipers who have been dealing death on this front for months.
ISIS has burrowed into the Old City of Mosul, into buildings that date back hundreds of years. Here they are making one of their last stands around the Nuri Mosque, where Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared his so-called caliphate in 2014.
They’ll fight to the death in the basement of the mosque, an Iraqi officer thinks.
Lieutenant Col. John Hawbaker, commander of a combat team of the 82nd Airborne Division, which is advising and assisting the Iraqi forces, served in Iraq during the surge of 2005-2006, when America was fighting the Iraqi insurgency. He says the contrast today is extraordinary.
Ten years ago the Iraqi Army was more limited than today.
“The Federal Police are extremely professional and disciplined and capable, and that’s one of the biggest differences from 10 years ago,” he declares. The U.S.-led coalition that is helping to defeat ISIS stresses that the Iraqis are fully in charge of the operation and they are the ones leading it.
Jared Kushner and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford were in Baghdad on April 3 to illustrate the high priority the U.S. puts on Iraq’s efforts to crush ISIS.
That’s obvious on the ground. Although the coalition provides artillery and air support, there is no visible presence of coalition forces at the front. It is Iraqis carrying the fight.
The older Iraqi officers have been fighting ISIS in Fallujah, Ramadi, and other cities for the last two years. They say the battle for Mosul is difficult, because ISIS cannot retreat there and has to fight to the last man. But they’ve seen more serious battles in 2015 when ISIS was stronger.
Their men have been forged in this war. As we crawled through holes smashed in the walls of houses to make our way to the roof of one position, soldiers were in each room. One team was looking out for snipers, another preparing RPGs, and others catching a bit of rest on cots. On the roof, soldiers are unlimbering an SPG-9, a kind of long-barreled cannon on a tripod that fires RPGs through a small hole cut in the wall.
“The ISF have victory in hand — it is inevitable; they know it and ISIS knows it. Everyone can see and knows they will win,” says Hawbaker.
ISIS was like a shot in the arm for Baghdad; it provided the existential threat that has led to the creation of an increasingly professional, stronger army that is more self-assured than it was before 2014. The next years will reveal if Iraq can build on that success.
Congressional decision-makers are working with the Navy to explore massively speeding up construction of its emerging fleet of new amphibious assault ships as part of an urgent push to expand the overall fleet faster and address an enormous deficit of available amphibs.
A July 3, 2018 Congressional Research Service report, titled ” Navy LPD-17 Flight II (LX[R]) Amphibious Ship Program: Background and Issues for Congress,” says the currently proposed Navy plan to buy the second LPD-17 Flight II Amphib in 2020 may need to be accelerated to fall within the services’ 2019 budget.
The Navy currently has slightly more than 30 amphibious assault ships the fleet, and plans to reach 38 in coming years; However, the current plan still falls short of meeting the global requirements of combatant commanders, Navy leaders say.
While Navy officials are clear to tell Warrior Maven that the service does not comment on pending legislation related to Congressionally-authorized funding, service leaders have been quite vocal about the Navy and Marine Corps need for more amphibs for many years now.
“Navy and Marine Corps officials have testified that fully meeting U.S. regional combatant commander requests for day-to-day forward deployments of amphibious ships would require a force of 50 or more amphibious ships,” the Congressional report states.
The first LPD-17 Flight II ship, formerly called the LXR, is being acquired this year. Speeding up procurement of the second ship of this new class of amphibs helps address the Navy’s shortage of amphibious assault ships and further expedites the Navy’s planned fleet expansion to 355-ships.
LX(R) concept based on the LPD-17 design
The Navy plans new LPD-17 Flight II amphibs to replace its current fleet of Dock Landing Ships, or LSD 41s, which have functioned for years as a support ship in an Amphibious Ready Group. This strategic move to replace Dock Landing Ships with an LPD 17-like hull seems to speak to a Navy effort to expand amphibious capability to adjust to a new, fast-changing threat environment.
The demand for amphibs is in part so great, because the versatile ships are needed for combat and a wide range of humanitarian and non-combat missions.
“Although amphibious ships are designed to support Marine landings against opposing military forces, they are also used for operations in permissive or benign situations where there are no opposing forces. Due to their large storage spaces and their ability to use helicopters and landing craft to transfer people, equipment, and supplies from ship to shore without need for port facilities,” the CRS report writes.
New Navy LPD-17 Flight II — future amphib strategy
The Navy hopes to add much greater numbers of amphibious assault ships to the fleet while simultaneously adjusting to a modern threat landscape which will require more dis-aggregated operations and require single Amphibious Ready Groups to perform a much wider range of missions. Modern near peer adversaries increasingly posses long range sensors and precision-guided munitions, a phenomenon which will require much more operational diversity from ARGs.
The Navy used to be able to deploy up to five ARGs at one time, however the fleet is no longer the size it used to be in the 1980s and the service is working on a strategy to get by with fewer ARGs and as fewer amphibs overall. As a result, the Navy needs more ships that have the technological ability to operate independently of an ARG if need be.
LCAC-55, a Navy Landing Craft Air Cushion
(U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Sarah E. Ard)
The modern threat environment contains a wider range of contingencies to include counterterrorism operations, counter-piracy, humanitarian missions, disaster response, and full-scale amphibious combat operations against near-peer adversaries. This requires that the three ships in an ARG have an ability to disperse when necessary and operate independently. The Navy and Marine Corps increasingly explains that modern missions require more split or dis-aggregated operations.
A lead Amphibious Assault Ship, a Dock Landing Ship, or LSD, and the San Antonio-class LPD 17 amphibious transport dock are both integral to an Amphibious Ready Group, which typically draws upon a handful of platforms to ensure expeditionary warfighting technology. The ARG is tasked with transporting at least 2,200 Marines and their equipment, including what’s called a Marine Expeditionary Unit, or MEU.
The 684-foot long LPD 17s can hit speeds of 22 knots and carry four CH-46 Sea Knights or two MV-22 Osprey aircraft. The LSD, or Dock Landing Ship, also travels around 20 knots however it is only 609-feet long and not equipped to house aircraft.
Both the LPD 17 and the LSDs have well-decks for amphibious operations along with the ability to launch Landing Craft Air Cushions, or LCACs. However, the LPD17 weighs close to 25,000 tons and the LSD is only 16,000 tons.
The 1980’s-era LSD dock landing ships consist of eight Whidbey Island-class 609-foot long ships. The 15,000-ton ships, configured largely to house and transport four LCACs, are nearing the end of their service life, Navy developers say.
While the mission of the existing Dock Landing Ship (LSD) is primarily, among other things, to support an ability to launch Landing Craft Air Cushions, or LCACs, for amphibious operations, the new LPD-17 Flight II ship will have an expanded mission to include more independent missions. LCACs are ship to shore connector vehicles able to transport Marines and equipment from ship-to-shore beyond the horizon. LCACs can even carry M1 Abrams tanks over the ocean.
An Amphibious Transport Dock, or LPD, is designed to operate with greater autonomy from an ARG and potentially conduct independent operations as needed. An LSD is able to operate four LCACs and the more autonomous LPD 17 can launch two LCACs.
USS Saipan LHA-2 amphibious assault ship
(U.S. Navy photo)
Developers explain that the LPD-17 ship will have a much wider mission set than the fleet of LSD ships it is replacing.
As a result of this wider mission requirement for the LX(R), the ship is being engineered with greater aviation and command and control technologies that the LSD 41 ships it is replacing.
Additional command and control capabilities, such as communications technologies, will allow the ship to reach back to the joint force headquarters they are working for, stay in with the parent ship and control the landing force, Navy and Marine Corps developers added.
Having more amphibs engineered and constructed for independent operations is seen as a strategic advantage in light of the Pacific rebalance and the geographical expanse of the region. The widely dispersed territories in the region may require a greater degree of independent amphibious operations where single amphibs operate separately from a larger ARG.
Corps officials explain that the greater use of amphibious assault ships is likely as the Marine Corps continues to shift toward more sea-based operations from its land-based focus during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
At the same time, Navy and Marine Corps leaders are quick to acknowledge that there is a massive shortfall of Amphibious Assault Ships across the two services. In recent years, senior service leaders have said that if each requirement or request for amphibs from Combatant Commanders worldwide were met, the Navy would need 50 amphibs.
The Navy currently operates only roughly 30 amphibs and plans to reach 38 by the late 2020s.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
Congressman John Lewis lost his battle to pancreatic cancer on July 17, 2020. He was an icon for the civil rights movement but more than that, he was a continuous beacon of hope for peace and social justice.
On Lewis’ passing, President Donald Trump ordered flags to be flown half-staff. In a White House proclamation, the president stated, “As a mark of respect for the memory and longstanding public service of Representative John Lewis, of Georgia, I hereby order, by the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, that the flag of the United States shall be flown at half-staff at the White House and upon all public buildings and grounds, at all military posts and naval stations, and on all naval vessels of the Federal Government in the District of Columbia and throughout the United States and its Territories and possessions through July 18, 2020. I also direct that the flag shall be flown at half‑staff for the same period at all United States embassies, legations, consular offices, and other facilities abroad, including all military facilities and naval vessels and stations.”
Born in 1940 to sharecroppers in rural Alabama, Lewis would go on to become a prominent and iconic figure in the fight for equality. He was one of the speakers at the March on Washington during Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech. Lewis was one of the original Freedom Riders during this time. He was beaten and arrested multiple times during these nonviolent protests.
Lewis marched with King from Selma to Montgomery, on what became known as “Bloody Sunday.” Lewis and others were assaulted with nightsticks by Alabama State Troopers while the protestors were kneeling and praying. Lewis’ skull was fractured from the beating. This incident is what pushed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to come to pass. Lewis was a witness when it was signed into law.
Lewis bore the scars from all of these events for the remainder of his life.
After the civil rights movement, Lewis became a congressman and served Georgia for over 30 years. He fought for the Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C., which took 15 years. President Obama awarded Lewis the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011 for his life’s work.
In December of 2019, he announced that he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He released a statement, saying, “I have been in some kind of fight – for freedom, equality, basic human rights – for nearly my entire life. I have never faced a fight quite like the one I have now…So I have decided to do what I know to do and do what I have always done: I am going to fight it and keep fighting for the Beloved Community. We still have many bridges to cross.”
Lewis’ passing comes just a year after the U.S. Navy celebrated his legacy by naming one of their newest fleet of ships after him. He was a humble man and in one interview, shared his disbelief that the honor was being bestowed upon him. While attending the ceremony to celebrate one of the new ships Lewis said, “We need great ships, like this one, to carry our men and women in our continued work for peace, because we are one world.”
In those words, hope resonates. Following his passing, the spirit of his legacy will continue to live on and the world will remember this icon by continuing his work for justice – and peace.
“He was a selfless leader, a brother and a friend.”
That is how Stuart Hollingsworth remembers Staff Sgt. Travis Atkins, the former 10th Mountain Division (LI) soldier who posthumously received the Medal of Honor during a ceremony at the White House on March 27, 2019.
Hollingsworth, a former staff sergeant assigned to 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, had first met Atkins a month before their deployment to Iraq in August 2006. He said that Atkins was originally with another company, but he was needed to serve as a team leader in D Company.
“He was training his previous team for combat, and was such a master of his craft, that he was able to step into another team leader role and earn the trust of everyone he met,” Hollingsworth said.
“My first impression of him was that this man was very much an authoritative leader. He led from the front and led by example — never asking anyone to do anything he wouldn’t do himself.”
Soldiers kneel to pay their respects during a memorial ceremony June 7, 2007 at Camp Striker for Staff Sgt. Travis Atkins, who was killed June 1, 2007 by a suicide bomber near Sadr Al-Yusufiyah, Iraq.
(Photo by Spc. Chris McCann, 2nd BCT PAO)
Hollingsworth said that theirs was a tight-knit team, and they developed a bond that would carry them forward into combat.
“Staff Sgt. Atkins was a huge proponent of team camaraderie and unity,” Hollingsworth said. “We would do everything as a team — we moved as a team, trained as a team, ate, slept — everything.”
With that, it was easy to learn everything there was to know about his teammates, and Hollingsworth said that Atkins spoke constantly about his son Trevor.
“He was very much a family man, always talking about them,” Hollingsworth said. “I would also say that he probably loved his men almost as much, if not the same.”
That camaraderie and the love he had for his team is demonstrative of his actions on June 1, 2007, when Atkins sacrificed his life to shield his fellow soldiers from a suicide bomber. Atkins had engaged in hand-to-hand combat with the insurgent who had resisted a search, and then threw himself on top of the suicide bomber to bear the blast of the detonation.
A soldier from 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, stands in front of the monument honoring 2-14 infantry soldiers who died in service to their nation.
(Photo by Mike Strasser, Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs)
Hollingsworth said that every soldier learns the words to the Soldier’s Creed, but some of those words impact him more now because of Atkins.
“There’s that one phrase — ‘I am a guardian of freedom and the American way of life’ — that has more meaning to me today than ever before,” he said.
In November 2007, Atkins’ name was among those added to the 2-14 infantry monument at Fort Drum. Atkins’ heroism received national attention when he was honored with the Distinguished Service Cross during a Veterans Day ceremony at Fort Drum in 2008.
Hollingsworth had attended both ceremonies, but he said that words failed him upon meeting Trevor, who was 12 at the time.
“I was not able to adequately describe to Trevor how much I appreciated his father, what he meant to me and how truly great a man he was,” Hollingsworth said. “So being here at the Medal of Honor ceremony, I am incredibly grateful to be in the presence of the Atkins family. To have this opportunity to spend this time with them is a great honor.”
President Donald Trump revealed new details about a mystery missile during an address at West Point Saturday, appearing to offer new insight into a high-speed weapon he previously called the “super duper missile.”
In mid-May, Trump boasted about US military strength from the Oval Office, and in the process, he announced that the US is building a new missile faster than anything currently available.
“We’re building incredible military equipment at a level that nobody has ever seen before. We have no choice with the adversaries we have out there,” the president said.
“We have — I call it, the ‘super duper missile,'” Trump said, explaining that he “heard the other night, 17 times faster than what they have right now, when you take the fastest missile we have right now.”
“You’ve heard Russia has five times and China’s working on five or six times. We have one 17 times, and it’s just gotten the go-ahead,” he said.
The prevailing view of the president’s remarks was that the president was referring to some type of hypersonic weapon. The Department of Defense said in a statement shortly after the president’s announcement that the Pentagon “is working on developing a range of hypersonic missiles to counter our adversaries.”
Hypersonic weapons are able to travel at high speeds and along unpredictable flight paths, making them difficult for traditional air-and-missile defense systems to intercept. The development of these weapons has become a point of competition between the US, Russia, and China.
Speaking to the graduating class of 2020 at the US Military Academy at West Point Saturday, Trump provided new information on the weapon he boasted about last month.
“We are building new ships, bombers, jet fighters, and helicopters by the hundreds. New tanks, military satellites, rockets and missiles, even a hypersonic missile that goes 17 times faster than the fastest missile currently available in the world.”
He said that the missile can strike a target 1,000 miles away, striking within 14 inches of center point. These appear to be the most specific details to date about the missile in question.
Trump’s description of the new missile as being 17 times faster than the fastest missile currently available in the world is likely an exaggeration or a misunderstanding, for while hypersonic systems tend to be faster than some missiles, such as Tomahawk cruise missiles, they tend to be slower than some ballistic missiles.
For instance, the US Air Force’s LGM-30 Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile can hit speeds as high as Mach 23, over 17,600 mph. A weapon able to travel at speeds 17 times faster than that would be unbelievably fast.
“We have the superfast missiles — tremendous number of the superfast. We call them ‘superfast,’ where they’re four, five, six, and even seven times faster than an ordinary missile,” he said at the time.
The US conducted a test of a hypersonic glide vehicle in March, verifying a design that will be used to develop weaponry expected to come online in the next few years.
An Army spouse has found her purpose after overcoming homelessness and creating her own organization that gives back.
When Marla Bautista was 18 years old, she was thrown out of her home by her abusive step-father with only a trash bag of clothes and a teddy bear that belonged to her deceased mother. For almost two years she lived a transient lifestyle staying in shelters, with friends and on the streets. It was the generosity of a local Catholic church that changed the trajectory of Bautista’s life.
“There were volunteers who handed out sandwich bags with hygiene items and they didn’t want anything from us. It was just ‘this is for you because you need it.’ And that was something that truly touched my heart. I promised myself that if I ever overcame that situation of homelessness that I would do the same,” she said.
Bautista and her husband, Staff Sgt. Ulisses Bautista, started serving their community as a family in 2011 and would later become The Bautista Project Inc. They began by using their own funds to distribute meals and hygiene bags for the homeless. Their nonprofit now provides basic living essentials, educational resources, support groups, veterans services and community resources for reintegration.
The impact they’ve created near their assigned duty stations has fostered an environment where the homeless can feel like they belong. With this, PCS’ing affects the Bautistas differently.
“Every time we move, we feel like we are leaving a community behind,” she said. But due to the vast amount of homeless in the U.S., there is always a new part of the community to impact.
In the state of Florida alone there are over 28,000 homeless Americans, of which 1500 are local to Hillsborough County in Tampa where the Bautistas currently reside. Although homelessness in America has decreased by 12% since 2007, according to the National Society to End Homelessness, there are still over 567,000 homeless people in the US.
The Bautistas have served the homeless population in Germany, Colorado Springs, New York and now Tampa.
Within a week of PCS’ing to south Florida, they were volunteering in a shelter.
“We have to reintegrate ourselves in that new community,” she adds.
Consistency matters. Her entire family goes out twice a month with meals and care packages, and instead of giving and going, they sit and interact with the locals in need. They get to know them and eventually build friendships.
In 2018 Bautista, with a desire to do more, began reaching out to her fellow military spouses and Facebook friends. With their help, her nonprofit has been able to provide winter jackets, gift a color printer to a shelter, create a small library of free books, raise funds to host a Christmas party at a homeless shelter getting what she calls “real gifts” for the attendees and shelter volunteers and distribute disposable masks. They also continue to collect uniforms to make belonging blankets for homeless youth in group homes or shelter setting.
The Army has been a vehicle allowing them to help in different parts of the world and Bautista’s husband shares her passion for giving to those in need, including homeless veterans. The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs reports that as of January 2019 there were 37,085 homeless veterans in the U.S.
Bautista doesn’t judge any of them. “We’ve all fallen on hard times before. It just looks different for everyone,” she said.
One simple thing that she says anyone can do to start giving back is to purchase four gift cards at an essentials store or fast-food restaurants.
“That’s just and you can hand those out,” she says, adding that something this small can provide a meal for a person and the act can change their life.
To donate to The Bautista Project Inc. visit www.thebautistaprojectinc.org. You can purchase items from their Amazon Wishlist or donate directly to their nonprofit.
The nuclear threshold is crossed when a supply convoy gets hit with a nuclear-tipped torpedo. Nuclear detonations occur at Beale Air Force Base and Warsaw, Poland. Kaliningrad is destroyed by a Trident missile.
This sobering video is about an hour – but well worth the time to watch.
Watching the events unfold in this fictional video should be a solemn reminder of the importance of nuclear deterrence, strong defensive postures, and, above all, strong international diplomatic relationships.
Imagine the tension of being a British soldier waiting to be evacuated from the beaches of Dunkirk as the Nazi Wehrmacht closed in around you and your mates. Now imagine somehow being left behind after all 340,000 of your fellow troops were led back to Britain.
May joined the service in 1940, after World War II broke out. He enlisted to become a driver with the 13-division strong British Expeditionary Force in France. The British mission on continental Europe in the early days of the war did not go well. After Nazi Germany invaded Poland in September, 1939, the French and British declared war almost immediately. Just as fast, the British Expeditionary Force began arriving in France.
By June, 1940, they were all being evacuated by any British subject who had a boat that could float. Most of them, anyway.
The effort to rescue the trapped Allied troops was dubbed “Operation Dynamo” and was a mission to pick up distressed British, French, and Belgian troops waiting on the beaches at Dunkirk. By May 10, 1940, Nazi Germany had captured all of Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands. They were already in control of much of Northern France and had the Allied forces on the ropes.
As the Nazis moved to push the Allies into the sea, British citizens and Royal Navy ships mounted the massive impromptu rescue effort, pulling any troops they could fit in their craft, and ferrying them back across the channel. Not everyone survived the wait on the beaches, as they were constantly harassed by the Nazi luftwaffe and threatened by German ground forces.
British troops waiting for evacuation on the beaches of Dunkirk.
In Dynamo, the British expected to be able to save some 30,000 to 45,000 troops who would then defend the British home islands. Using a still-unknown number of “little ships” piloted by civilians, they managed to save ten times that number. It truly was a miracle.
But James May and six of his fellow soldiers were somehow left behind. They did what any quick-thinking, resourceful bunch of soldiers would do in a lawless area with an determined enemy bearing down on them: They stole a car and beat it.
In their own, smaller version of the Miracle at Dunkirk, the group managed to drive out of the war zone in their stolen vehicle, evading the Wehrmacht for a full six days before finding a boat and captain that would ferry them home to England.
He was stationed in Northern Ireland for much of the war but he had his chance to hit the beach of France once more, and again as a driver. This time, however, he was driving a British DUKW amphibious vehicle, landing British troops in the battle to crack the walls of Hitler’s Fortress Europe.
Around 36 BCE, Chinese forces from the Han Dynasty fought a group of rebels called Xiongnu at a fortress in what is now Kazakhstan.
During the battle, the Chinese noticed their enemy employed a strange but distinctive formation. One historian at the battle recalled a unit that formed a unique “fish-scale“-style of protection using their shields.
Some modern historians think that “fish scale” was a Roman phalanx.
The battle took place in a city that was once known as Liqian, now a part of Gansu province in Northern China. And strangely, people living where the old city once stood are known to have interesting genetic traits unlike people in the rest of the country.
Aqualine noses, green eyes, and fair skin are just a few of the features found among the villagers of Zhelaizhai, where the ancient city once stood.
Some historians believe the people of Zhelaizhai are descended from the Roman Legionaries who fought with the Han Chinese.
Just 17 years before the battle in Kazakhstan, Parthians fighting the Romans at the Battle of Carrhae (in modern-day Turkey) delivered one of Rome’s most crushing defeats. They captured 10,000 legionnaires and sent the powerful Roman General Marcus Licinius Crassus packing (parts of him, anyway).
The theory does have naysayers. Some believe the DNA could be the result of contact from Silk Road trading between Rome and the Far East. Others say Caucasian Huns and warriors with other racial backgrounds fought through this area of Asia at the time.
At least one expert believes there just isn’t enough physical evidence to say these Chinese are descended from Roman legionaries.
“For it to be indisputable, one would need to find items such as Roman money or weapons that were typical of Roman legionaries,” Maurizio Bettini, an anthropologist from Siena University, told La Repubblica. “Without proof of this kind, the story of the lost legions is just a legend.”
Unless you’re an avid shooter, there tends to be only a handful of ammunition types a person can list off the top of their heads, and even fewer if we’re talking specifically about rifles. Although there’s a long list of projectiles to be fired from long guns, the ones that tend to come to mind for most of us are almost always the same: 5.56 and 7.62, or to be more specific, 5.56×45 vs. 7.62×39.
National militaries all around the world rely on these two forms of ammunition thanks to their range, accuracy, reliability, and lethality, prompting many on the internet to get into long, heated debates about which is the superior round. Of course, as is the case with most things, the truth about which is the “better” round is really based on a number of complicated variables — not the least of which being which weapon system is doing the firing and under what circumstances is the weapon being fired.
This line of thinking is likely why the United States military employs different weapon systems that fire a number of different kinds of rounds. Of course, when most people think of Uncle Sam’s riflemen, they tend to think of the 5.56mm round that has become ubiquitous with the M4 series of rifles that are standard issue throughout the U.S. military. But, a number of sniper platforms, for instance, are actually chambered in 7.62×51 NATO.
The new M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle chambered in 5.56 during the Marine Corps’ Designated Marksman Course
(Official Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Levi Schultz)
So if both the 5.56×45 vs. 7.62×39 rounds are commonly employed by national militaries… determining which is the superior long-range round for the average shooter can be a difficult undertaking, and almost certainly will involve a degree of bias (in other words, in some conditions, it may simply come down to preference).
For the sake of brevity, let’s break the comparison down into three categories: power, accuracy, and recoil. Power, for the sake of debate, will address the round’s kinetic energy transfer on target, or how much force is exerted into the body of the bad guy it hits. Accuracy will be a measure of the round’s effective range, and recoil will address how easy it is to settle the weapon back down again once it’s fired.
The NATO 5.56 round was actually invented in the 1970s to address concerns about the previous NATO standard 7.62×51. In an effort to make a more capable battle-round, the 5.56 was developed using a .223 as the basis, resulting in a smaller round that could withstand higher pressures than the old 7.62 NATO rounds nations were using. The new 5.56 may have carried a smaller projectile, but its increased pressure gave it a flatter trajectory than its predecessors, making it easier to aim at greater distances. It was also much lighter, allowing troops to carry more rounds than ever before.
7.62×39 (Left) and 5.56×45 (Right)
The smaller rounds also dramatically reduced felt recoil, making it easier to maintain or to quickly regain “sight picture” (or get your target back into your sights) than would have been possible with larger caliber rounds.
The 7.62x39mm round is quite possibly the most used cartridge on the planet, in part because the Soviet AK-47 is so common. These rounds are shorter and fatter than the NATO 5.56, firing off larger projectiles with a devastating degree of kinetic transfer. It’s because of this stopping power that many see the 7.62 as the round of choice when engaging an opponent in body armor. The 7.62x39mm truly was developed as a general-purpose round, limiting its prowess in a sniper fight, however. The larger 7.62 rounds employed in AK-47s come with far more recoil than you’ll find with a 5.56, making it tougher to land a second and third shot with as much accuracy, depending on your platform.
Hard to beat the ol’ 5.56 round.
(Official Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Julio McGraw)
So, returning to the metrics of power, accuracy, and recoil, the 7.62 round wins the first category, but the 5.56 takes the second two, making it the apparent winner. However, there are certainly some variables that could make the 7.62 a better option for some shooters. The platform you use and your familiarity with it will always matter when it comes to accuracy within a weapon’s operable range.
When firing an AR chambered in 5.56, and an AK chambered in 7.62, it’s hard not to appreciate the different ideologies that informed their designs. While an AR often feels like a precision weapon, chirping through rounds with very little recoil, the AK feels brutal… like you’re throwing hammers at your enemies and don’t care if any wood, concrete, or even body armor gets in the way. There are good reasons to run each, but for most shooters, the 5.56 round is the better choice for faraway targets.
Much to the joy of most airmen and the disdain of most soldiers, it looks like the Air Force is going to officially adopt the Army’s OCP uniform. Meanwhile, I’m just sitting here on the sidelines wondering if they’ll steal the Pinks and Greens as well (since, you know, they technically wore them, too, back when they were the Army Air Corps).
Have a good weekend, everyone! Enjoy yourself. Go see Deadpool 2 if you want. Just don’t do anything that Deadpool would do — that’s how you get random bullsh*t tacked on to safety briefs.
The Department of Defense says the service branches aren’t spending enough taxpayer dollars to fund their morale, welfare, and recreation (MWR) programs, according to a memo sent to each of the services last month.
Military Times reported this week that Todd Weiler, assistant defense secretary for manpower and reserve affairs, sent the memo to each branch to remind them that they were responsible for using a specific percentage of taxpayer funds to operate MWR programs.
“These standards are not optional and are not subject to Military Department waiver,” Weiler wrote.
MWR programs are required to receive a percentage of funding from Congress through either appropriated funds or non-appropriated funds, or a combination of the two.
The DoD requires that programs determined to be “Category A” must receive 85 percent of funding from taxpayer dollars. “Category A” are considered “mission sustaining programs” and “promote the physical and mental well-being of the military member,” according to Military One Source.
“Category B” requires 65 percent of operational costs to come from taxpayer dollars. Those programs consist of community support programs like child development centers, which charge families for use and therefore get some funding from customers.
“Category C” are programs that are nearly fully self-funded and include golf courses, base clubs, and recreational lodging. These programs are authorized some limited appropriated funds.
Weiler had previously sent a memo in June to remind the services to return their feedback on MWR funding by August, but both the Army and the Navy missed their deadlines.
Rather, the Army decided to cut $105 million from MWR funds, and the Navy only sent feedback on its Category A funding.
“I thought we needed to up our communication,” Weiler said in response to the Army’s planned slashing of the MWR budget.
The executive director of The National Military Family Association, Joyce Raezer, told Military Times that, due to budget cuts, sequestration, and changes to various other budgetary items, she believed families didn’t expect much from the services. “There are too many other worries,” she said.
Of the services, only the Marine Corps did not meet the 85 percent requirement, coming in at 77 percent of Category A program expenses funded by taxpayer dollars.
Every service fell short of utilizing the required percentage of taxpayer funding for Category B programs.
Weiler called out the Air Force specifically for not having met the requirements for four straight years, with no plan in place to correct the issue.
In the memo sent to the Army, Weiler asked Army Secretary Eric Fanning to halt the planned $105 million cut, a plea that was accepted and approved by Fanning. The Army plans to complete an analysis of its MWR programs and funding later this year.
Military.com reported that Colonel James Love told them that the $105 million cut would go into effect once the Pentagon approved the Army’s requested changes. He blamed a lack of “good business” practices, such as not raising prices for MWR programs, for the decision to cut the Army MWR budget.
“It’s good for families,” Love told Military.com. “But it’s not sustainable.”