The Navy will reactivate the Atlantic fleet to support NATO - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

The Navy will reactivate the Atlantic fleet to support NATO

Growing tensions with Russia have led NATO and its members to make a number of changes to their military posture on the ground in Europe, and now the US is reactivating its Second Fleet to oversee the northern Atlantic Ocean and US East Coast.

The Second Fleet was deactivated in September 2011 after 65 years of service as part of a cost-saving and organizational-restructuring effort; many of its personnel and responsibilities were folded into US Fleet Forces Command. The announcement of its reactivation came during the change-of-command ceremony for US Fleet Forces Command, to which the Second Fleet commander will now report.


Second Fleet’s return is part of a shift by the US toward preparing for potential great-power conflict — and to counter Russia in particular.

“Our National Defense Strategy makes clear that we’re back in an era of great-power competition as the security environment continues to grow more challenging and complex,” Adm. John Richardson, the chief of US Naval Operations, said on April 4, 2018.

“Second Fleet will exercise operational and administrative authorities over assigned ships, aircraft and landing forces on the East Coast and northern Atlantic Ocean,” Richardson said. It will also plan and conduct maritime, joint, and combined operations and train, certify, and provide maritime forces in response events around the world.

The Navy will reactivate the Atlantic fleet to support NATO
French sailors watch the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush as it transits alongside the French navy frigate Forbin, October 25, 2017.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 3rd Class Matt Matlage)

The fleet will be activated on July 1, 2018, and initially be staffed by 11 officers and four enlisted personnel, eventually growing to 85 officers, 164 enlisted personnel, and seven civilians, according to a memo announcing the change obtained by US Naval Institute News.

Issues such as the rank of the commander and relationship with joint commandant commands remain to be decided.

Also unclear is the future of Fourth Fleet, which is the naval branch of US Southern Command set up in 2008, largely to host Coast Guard law-enforcement detachments. Prior to 2008, the Second Fleet was responsible for operations in Central and South American waters.

The ‘fourth battle of the Atlantic’

Prior to the 2014 seizure of the Crimean peninsula in Ukraine by Russian forces, Navy forces on the US side of the Atlantic Ocean were mainly focused on humanitarian and disaster relief missions as well as drug interdiction.

But Russian naval activity has increased considerably in recent years, with several NATO officials describing it as being at the highest levels since the Cold War. (Though Cold War-era intelligence reports indicate that activity is still far short of Cold War peaks.)

Russia’s navy is also smaller than it was during the Cold War, but Moscow has pursued ambitious modernization efforts, focusing primarily on the Black Sea and Northern fleets. The latter force, based in and around the Kola Peninsula in the Arctic, represents a significant military force a short distance from NATO territory in Norway and contains Russia’s sea-based nuclear forces.

The Navy will reactivate the Atlantic fleet to support NATO
US sailors from Virginia-class attack sub USS California load an MK-48 inert training torpedo at Naval Station Rota, Spain, January 13, 2017.
(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Michael C. Barton)

In 2016, US Navy Adm. James Foggo III, who is now chief of Naval Forces Europe, described tensions between Russia and the US as the “fourth battle of the Atlantic,” following the surface and submarine battles of World War I, World War II, and the Cold War.

“Once again, an effective, skilled, and technologically advanced Russian submarine force is challenging us,” he said. “Russian submarines are prowling the Atlantic, testing our defenses, confronting our command of the seas, and preparing the complex underwater battlespace to give them an edge in any future conflict.”

The US Navy has increased its patrols in the Baltic Sea, the North Atlantic, and the Arctic. US Navy ships have also been more active in the Black Sea to “desensitize Russia” to a US military presence there. US and Russian ships have also operated in close quarters in the eastern Mediterranean, where Russian forces are assisting the Bashar Assad regime in the Syrian civil war.

The Navy is also renovating hangers in Iceland to house P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft there to monitor the Greenland-Iceland-UK gap, a choke point for ships moving between the Arctic and North Atlantic oceans — though that doesn’t necessarily mean a permanent presence will be reestablished there.

NATO is making changes to its command structure in response to increased tension with Russia and to prepare for potential military operations on and around the continent.

In March 2018, Germany announced that the proposed NATO logistics command — which would work to streamline the movement of personnel and material around Europe — would be based in the southern city of Ulm.

The other new command the alliance wants to establish would oversee and protect the North Atlantic. In the event of conflict with Russia, it be responsible for keeping sea lanes open for US reinforcements heading to Europe.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

Check out the awesome planning documents for D-Day

It’s easy now to think of Operation Overlord as fated, like it was the armies of Middle Earth hitting Mordor. The good guys would attack, they would win, and the war would end. But it actually fell to a cadre of hundreds of officers to make it happen and make it successful, or else more than 150,000 men would die for nothing.


The Navy will reactivate the Atlantic fleet to support NATO

(U.S. Army Heritage Education Center)

But the planners of Operation Neptune and Operation Overlord had an insane number of factors to look at as weather, moon and starlight, and troops movements from London to Paris would affect the state of play when the first Allied ships were spotted by Axis planes and lookouts. Planners wanted as many factors on their side as possible when the first German cry went out.

The map above allowed the planners to get a look at what sort of artillery emplacements troops would face at each beach, both during their approaches and landings and once they were on the soil of France.

Looking at all the overlapping arcs, it’s easy to see why they asked the Rangers to conduct the dangerous climbs at Point Du Hoc, why they sent paratroopers like the Band of Brothers against inland guns, and why they had hoped for much more successful bombing runs against the guns than they ultimately got.

Instead, paratroopers and other ground troops would have to break many of the enemy guns one at a time with infantry assaults and counter-artillery missions.

The Navy will reactivate the Atlantic fleet to support NATO

(U.S. Army Heritage Education Center)

Speaking of those bombers, this is one of the maps they used to plan aircraft sorties. The arcs across southern England indicate distances from Bayeux, France, a town just south of the boundary between Omaha and Gold beaches. The numbers in England indicated the locations of airfields and how many fighter squadrons could be based at each.

These fighter squadrons would escort the bombers over the channel and perform strafing missions against ground targets. Bayeux was a good single point to measure from, as nearly all troops would be landing within 30 miles of that city.

But planners were also desperate to make Germany believe that another, larger attacking was coming elsewhere, so planes not in range of the actual beaches were sent far and wide to bomb a multitude of other targets, as seen below.

The Navy will reactivate the Atlantic fleet to support NATO

(U.S. Military Academy)

Diversion attacks were launched toward troops based near Calais, the deepwater port that was the target in numerous deception operations. But the bulk of bomber and fighter support went right to the beaches where troops were landing.

Bombings conducted in the months ahead of D-Day had reduced Germany’s industrial output and weakened some troop concentrations, but the bulk of German forces were still ready to fight. Luckily, the Allies had a huge advantage in terms of weather forecasting against the Axis, and many German troops thought the elements would keep them safe from attack in early June, that is until paratroopers were landing all around them.

The Navy will reactivate the Atlantic fleet to support NATO

(U.S. Army Heritage Education Center)

This map shows additional beaches between the Somme and the Seine Rivers of France along with the length of each beach. These beaches are all to the northeast of the targets of D-Day, and troops never assaulted them from the sea like they did on Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword beaches.

But these beaches, liberated by maneuvering forces that landed at the D-Day beaches, would provide additional landing places for supplies until deepwater ports could be taken and held.

But all of that relied on actually taking and holding the first five beaches, something which actually hinged quite a bit on weather forecasting, as hinted above. In fact, this next two-page document is all about meetings on June 4-5, 1944, detailing weather discussions taking place between all of the most senior officers taking part in the invasion, all two-stars or above.

(Maj. Gen. H.R. Bull, the memo author, uses days of the week extensively in the memo. D-Day, June 6, 1944, was the Tuesday he was referring to. “Monday” was the June 5 original invasion date. Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday were D-Day+1, +2, and +3.)

The Navy will reactivate the Atlantic fleet to support NATO

(U.S. Army Heritage Education Center)

The Navy will reactivate the Atlantic fleet to support NATO

(U.S. Army Heritage Education Center)

This might seem like a lot of military brainpower to dedicate to whether or not it was raining, but the winds, waves, and clouds affected towing operations, the landing boats, fighter and bomber cover, and the soil the troops would fight on.

The fate of France could’ve been won or lost in a few inches of precipitation, a few waves large enough to swamp the low-lying landing craft, or even low cloud cover that would throw off even more bombs and paratroopers. So, yeah, they held early morning and late night meetings about the weather.

Thank God.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Marines’ F-35 will get its first taste of combat in 2018

The F-35B, the STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) variant of the Lightning II 5th generation aircraft, is expected to deploy to the Pacific and Central Command theaters in 2018, the Marine Corps Times reported.


According to Jeff Schogol, the F-35B, that can operate from amphibious assault ships, “is expected to deploy with two Marine expeditionary units to the Pacific and Central Command theaters in the spring and summer. […]  The first deployment will be with the 31st MEU aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp and the second will be with the 13th MEU aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Essex, said spokeswoman Capt. Sarah Burns.”

The first deployment to the U.S. Central Command AOR (area of responsibility) – that includes Iraq, Syria, Iran, Yemen and Afghanistan – has long been anticipated. In 2016, Lt. Gen. Robert Walsh, head of Marine Corps Combat Development Command, told reporters that the service was planning to deploy the F-35B to the CENTCOM area of operations aboard the USS Essex (six more F-35Bs were to deploy to the Pacific aboard the USS Wasp).

The Navy will reactivate the Atlantic fleet to support NATO
An F-35B flies near its base at MCAS Beaufort in South Carolina. | Lockheed Martin

The 2018 deployment follows the relocation of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 (VMFA-121), an F-35B squadron with 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing to MCAS Iwakuni, Japan, from MCAS (Marine Corps Air Station) Yuma, Arizona, on Jan. 9, 2017. Since then, the F-35B have started operating in the region, taking part in local drills as well as some routine “shows of force” near the Korean Peninsula: for instance, on Aug. 30, four U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II joined two USAF B-1B Lancers from Guam onf a 10-hour mission that brought the “package” over waters near Kyushu, Japan, then across the Korean Peninsula.

Interestingly, during that mission, the F-35Bs flew with the radar reflectors used to make LO (Low Observable) aircraft clearly visible on radars and also dropped their 1,000-lb GBU-32 JDAMs (Joint Direct Attack Munitions) on Pilsung firing range. On a subsequent mission on Sept. 18, the aircraft took part in a “sequenced bilateral show of force” over the Korean peninsula carrying “live” AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles in the internal weapons bays.

Now Read: Watch the F-35B execute a vertical landing in rough waters with ease

As already reported, the F-35s would be probably involved in the Phase 4 of an eventual pre-emptive air strike on Pyongyang, the phase during which tactical assets would be called to hunt road-mobile ballistic missiles and any other artillery target that North Korea could use to launch a retaliatory attack (even a nuclear one) against Seoul.

Moreover, during the opening stages of an air war, the F-35Bs would be able to act as real-time data coordinators able to correlate and disseminate information gathered from their on board sensors to other assets contributing to achieve the “Information Superiority” required to geo-locate the threats and target them effectively.

Considered that Marine aviation officials have said that up to half of the current F/A-18 Hornets are not ready for combat, the deployment to the CENTCOM AOR a key step in the long-term plan to replace the legacy F/A-18 Hornet, EA-6B Prowler, and AV-8B Harrier fleets with a total of 353 F-35Bs and 67 F-35Cs by 2032.

The Navy will reactivate the Atlantic fleet to support NATO

In October 2016, a contingent of 12 F-35Bs took part in Developmental Test III aboard USS America followed by the Lightning Carrier “Proof of Concept” demonstration on the carrier on Nov. 19, 2016. During the POC, the aircraft proved it can operate at-sea, employing a wide array of weapons loadouts with the newest software variant and some of the most experienced F-35B pilots said that “the platform is performing exceptionally.” The eventual participation in a real operation such as Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) over Syria and Iraq, albeit rather symbolic, will also be the first opportunity  to assess the capabilities of the platform in real combat. As for the Israeli F-35s, the airspace over the Middle East (or Central Asia) could be a test bed for validating the tactical procedures to be used by the new aircraft in the CAS (Close Air Support) mission with added Intelligence, Surveillance Reconnaissance (ISR) and Command Control (C2) capability.

If committed to support OIR, the F-35B will probably operate in a “first day of war” configuration carrying weapons internally to maintain low radar cross-section and observability from sensors playing both the “combat battlefield coordinators” role, collecting, managing and distributing intelligence data, and the “kinetic attack platform” role, dropping their ordnance on the targets and passing targeting data to older 4th Gen. aircraft via Link-16. More or less what done by the USMC F-35Bs during Red Flag 17-3 earlier in 2017; but next year it will be for the real thing.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How the US can make North Korea back down

While the White House seems to mull over an attack on North Korea, former Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair pointed out that the U.S. military has backed down North Korea before and, if need be, they should do it again.


In written testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee, Blair debunked a few misconceptions popular among the public and policymakers.

While Blair doesn’t think that sanctions have been ineffective, that North Korea will never give up its nuclear weapons, or that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un with an arsenal of nuclear inter-continental ballistic missiles won’t be deterred from attacking the U.S. like the Soviet Union was, he also takes issue with the idea that military force doesn’t work on Pyongyang.

“Military preparedness, and the use of military force are vital components of American policy towards North Korea,” wrote Blair. Citing the U.S. and South Korea’s joint war plan to reclaim the entire peninsula in the event of war, Blair wrote that North Korea would be wary of entering a war it knows it will lose.

The Navy will reactivate the Atlantic fleet to support NATO
U.S. Marines engaged in street fighting during the liberation of Seoul, circa late September 1950. (Image Wikipedia)

“Damage will be heavy on all sides, but there is no question about the outcome,” Blair wrote.

Blair pointed to a history of the U.S. military asserting its dominance over North Korea as evidence that Kim doesn’t want war, and instead wants to keep his provocations below the level that will prompt a strong U.S. response.

North Korea can and has been tamed with force

In 1976, U.S. Army and United Nations personnel went into the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea to trim a tree that blocked the view of U.N. observers. North Korean soldiers showed up and killed two of the U.S. Army officers with their own axes they had set aside while pruning the tree.

Within hours, U.S., South Korean, and U.N. personnel returned with a massive convoy of military vehicles, attack helicopters, and soldiers trained in martial arts with axes. They came without warning and removed the tree entirely. The North Koreans could do little but watch in the face of a resolute, united front against them.

Also Read: 6 of the bravest aviators of the Korean War

“Every time the US-ROK response has been relevant and strong, supported by contingency plan preparations that make it clear that if North Korea escalates the Alliance is ready for major war, North Korea backs down. It will later in the future commit further and different provocations, but it will retreat in the near term,” Blair wrote.

Similarly, in 1994, when the U.S. cooked up plans to bomb a North Korean nuclear reactor, Pyongyang soon submitted to talks, though they ultimately backed out.

What is Pyongyang going to do about it?

In light of that, the U.S. and its allies “should respond promptly and disproportionately to North Korean provocations such as missile tests that land on or near American, South Korean or Japanese territory and nuclear tests in the Pacific Ocean,” Blair wrote, referring to North Korea’s standing threat to detonate a nuclear missile over the Pacific Ocean or to fire missiles at U.S. military bases in Guam.

The Navy will reactivate the Atlantic fleet to support NATO
B-26 Invaders bomb logistics depots in Wonsan, North Korea, 1951

While most experts have dismissed the Trump administration’s reported notion of a “bloody nose” attack on North Korea in response to some provocation as madness that will lead to nuclear war, Blair, who at one point commanded the U.S. military’s Pacific area of operation, disagrees.

If the U.S. responded to some provocation with Pyongyang, Blair argued, “North Korea will understand that the actions are retaliation for what North Korea has done.”

Blair suggested the U.S. and its allies “raise its readiness level so the North Koreans know that if they escalate the confrontation, they risk starting a war they know they will lose.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

Off the pods and into the cubicle: a Special Mission Unit Operator’s transition to civilian life

Master Sergeant George Hand US Army (ret) was a member of the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, The Delta Force. He is now a master photographer, cartoonist, and storyteller.

Eyes roll at the sight of yet another transition story. We all get it; it’s hard to transition from military to civilian life. I have read many a story myself and note positively that everyone brings up a new eureka moment for me that I didn’t experience myself, but that I totally get. My transition story doesn’t boast any novel epiphany though it does come from the aspect of a career SMU pipe-hitter.

“You’re not on the pods anymore, Geo… you need to get off the pods and throttle back a bit. I mean not a bit but a whole, whole lot!” explained my boss, Conan, also from my same SMU in Fort Bragg, NC.


Pods refer to the two benches on the exterior of the MH-6 Little Bird helicopter on which two men on each side of the aircraft can ride into an assault scenario. To many of us, riding the pods into an assault objective hanging on with one arm and lighting up targets on the ground with the other arm was the penultimate of brash aggression and acute excitement of living life on the very edge.

The Navy will reactivate the Atlantic fleet to support NATO

(A complex brown-water insertion of a Klepper kayak. Photo courtesy of the author)

“SMUs will always be around, because no amount of technology will ever replace raw unadulterated aggression.” (SMU Squadron Commander)

I stood tall in my new office cubicle at my new job as a civilian, having just separated from the Service. My job/title was Project Manager. This was my new life, this square. “This is going to be great!” I pallidly promised my psyche. I fervently thanked the creator for the “shower door” on my cube that I could slide closed to prove to the world that I was not really there.

It was plastic, but it was translucent rather than transparent; that is, you could see through it, but only gross shapes rather than defined detail like… a shower door does. If a body were to remain very quiet and still, nobody could detect your presence in the cube. This thing I did fancy.

Carol from HR then stood in my open doorway in her blue office dress to welcome me and list the ground rules — the corporate culture of life in office cube city. She recited those edicts as they appeared chiseled in granite:

• “No, singing or playing of music;

• no cooking food;

• avoid speaker phones

• watch your voice volume

• deal with gas in the restroom

• always knock before entering a cubicle

• no “prairie-dogging”

In fact, whatever it is you find yourself doing in your cube for the moment just stop it!

“Er… no prairie-dogging? Yeah, so… what might prairie dogging be?” I posed.

“Well Mr. Hand, prairie dogging involves the poking of ones head over the top of one’s cubicle walls and… and looking around!” Blue-dressed Carol from HR became a blurred and indistinct pattern from the other side of my show door as I closed it in her incredulous face.

“Well, I never… I AM NOT FINISHED MR. HAND!”

I popped one’s head up over the top of one’s cubicle and explained: “Yes, yes you are finished, Ms. Carol from HR… and please watch your voice volume — TSK!”

Within the hour my shower door flew open and there stood Conan, face awash with concern.

“Woah, now that is a great, big, fat, bulbous-assed no-go here in cube city—entering without knocking… tremendous transgression, Conan!” I warned.

“There was a complaint about you from HR, geo…”

We talked. Conan was right, and there was no dispelling that. I apologized and thanked him. We shook hands as we always did when we parted or met. So with a crappy first morning behind me, I vowed to make the best of the rest. I headed to the break room for a cup of coffee to calm myself down.

The Navy will reactivate the Atlantic fleet to support NATO

(Low-profile office cubicles offer no substantial privacy)

I embraced the notion that there might be nobody in the break room, but my crest fell for there were a man and woman seated at a table enjoying lunch. The noon hour had crept up on me though I scarce remarked. I held my breath and went about for that cup of Joe.

Men are great around just each other, but they get stupid and inclined to comport themselves like jackasses whenever a woman is around too. This fellow saw that I was engaged in an action that was somewhat contrary to break room policy, and he began:

“Excuuuuse me there, partner… but you’re not supposed to…”

“SHUT UP; SHUT THE PHUQ UP, PARTNER!!” I delivered to the man without even turning to look at him, not fully knowing from whence my outburst came.

“I’m screwed!” I thought, “I didn’t check the volume of my voice!” unable to sort through the gravity of which coffee offense I had committed just then. It was not the volume that was the greater offense, rather the content of my delivery.

The woman left the break room immediately at a cantor. Partner remained for the mandatory tough-guy extra seconds, me leaning against the counter, staring at him all the while sipping my incorrect procedurally-obtained break room coffee. He then sauntered out with backless bravado.

My shower door flew open without a knock. Once more, I reeled at Conan’s blatant disregard for cube rules. I endured the pod speech strewn with constant “I’m sorry, Conan” interrupts. This time his speech contained a threat annex to it. I needed to take that seriously. We two shook hands, as we always did when we parted or met.

A few months ago I was riding on the pods doing 90 MPH hanging on with one arm like a rodeo rider, spitting jacketed lead at targets on the ground, sprinting from the touched-down chopper at full speed smashing through doors and lighting up all contents… now I was born again into a world where the penultimate cringe comes from the shrimp platter at the buffet not being chilled down to the proper 54-degrees (Fahrenheit).

I had to turn this thing around, but wasn’t sure how. I accepted my plight with this eight-word phrase, one that I came to lean on in countless occasions: “We’ll just have to figure it out tomorrow.” And so it went for the next 16 years there at that same job.

I didn’t have to re-invent myself as I feared, but I did develop a set of guidelines that would steer my path over the next more than a decade and a half. There were the company rules, and then there were my rules. My rules were better than the company rules. They were simple. Though I never formally wrote them down, I can list them still for the most part:

1. Don’t ever tell anybody what the real rules are

2. Don’t ever hurt anybody in the company or customer base

3. Don’t ever damage any company or customer property

4. Don’t ever wear corduroy pants on a day you might have to run many miles.

5. Don’t ever allow yourself to be stuck in a position with a boss who sucks.

6. Don’t ever cheat entering time into your pay invoice

7. Never litter

8. Never threaten another employee within earshot of a witness

9. Remotely bury any items that could get you fired or that you just don’t want to deal with

10. Never reveal the locations of buried items

11. Eventually, return all clandestinely-acquired tools and equipment

12. (most important of all rules) ALWAYS WORK ALONE!

The Navy will reactivate the Atlantic fleet to support NATO

(The author on left and teammate on right, lift off with an MH-6 for more gun runs, not giving one-tenth of a rat’s ass about the temperature of the shrimp platter.

(Photo courtesy of SMU Operator MSG Gaetano Cutino, KIA)

MIGHTY TRENDING

Dennis Rodman wants to help prevent a war with North Korea

Dennis Rodman, the former basketball star and citizen diplomat wants to meet with President Donald Trump to discuss ways to de-escalate tensions between North Korea and the US.


In an interview with The Guardian, Rodman said he believes that he can be the mediator between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, and that he is willing to go to North Korea to negotiate.

“I’ve been trying to tell Donald since day one: ‘Come talk to me, man … I’ll tell you what the Marshal wants more than anything … It’s not even that much,'” Rodman said. “If I can go back over there … you’ll see me talking to him, and sitting down and having dinner, a glass of wine, laughing and doing my thing.”

The Navy will reactivate the Atlantic fleet to support NATO
Courtesy of Vice

“I guess things will settle down a bit and everybody can rest at ease,” Rodman said.

Rodman posted a photo on his twitter account on Sunday talking about humanitarian work he was doing in Guam and Tokyo. The photo was captioned “Great week of humanitarian work in Guam and Tokyo, Japan now just got to Beijing..Guess what’s next?”

In the photo, Rodman is wearing a shirt that shows him in between Trump and Kim, along with US and North Korean flags and the word “Unite” written under them.

 Rodman told The Guardian that he tried to make his sixth trip to North Korea, but US officials told him not to go. “Basically they said it’s not a good time right now,” he said.

The State Department has issued a travel ban against Americans visiting North Korea in September, after Otto Warmbier’s death.

Read More: 4 times North Korea held American troops hostage

When asked about what Kim wanted, Rodman replied “I ain’t telling you … I will tell [Trump] when I see him.”

The Guardian notes that while the White House has not responded to Rodman’s request, Trump did praise the athlete’s visit to North Korea, calling it “smart.”

“The world is blowing up around us. Maybe Dennis is a lot better than what we have,” he said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

VA and DoD Identification Card Renewal and Issuance Guidance During the Coronavirus Pandemic

VA and the Department of Defense (DoD) have taken action to minimize the number of non-essential required visits to identification (ID) card offices during the coronavirus public health emergency. If you have a VA or DoD ID card that has expired or is getting ready to expire, here are your options.


VA-issued Veteran Health Identification Cards (VHIC):

  • During the COVID-19 pandemic, Veterans enrolled in VA health care who are seeking a brand new VHIC (initial) should contact their local VA medical facility for guidance on going to facility to request a card. Once issued, cards are valid for 10 years.
  • Most Veterans will be able obtain a replacement VHIC (not initial VHIC) by contacting their local VA medical facility and making their request by phone, or they can call 877-222-8387, Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET. Once their identity has been verified, a replacement card will be mailed to them.

DoD-issued ID Cards:

Detailed information concerning DoD ID Card operations during the coronavirus pandemic can be found at the DoD Response to COVID-19 – DoD ID Cards and Benefits webpage (https://www.CAC.mil/coronavirus).

For all information regarding DoD-issued ID cards, please contact the Defense Manpower Data Center Identity and ID Card Policy Team at dhracacpolicy@mail.mil. Limited information follows:

Common Access Cards (CAC) (including military and civilian personnel):

  • DoD civilian cardholders who are transferring jobs within DoD are authorized to retain their active CAC.
  • Cardholders whose DoD-issued CAC is within 30 days of expiration may update their certificates online to extend the life of the CAC through Sept. 30, 2020, without having to visit a DoD ID card office in person for reissue. Directions for this procedure may be found at https://www.CAC.mil/coronavirus under News and Updates / User Guide – Updating CAC/VoLAC Certificates.
  • Cardholders whose DoD-issued CAC has expired will have to visit a DoD ID card office in person for reissuance. Visit http://www.dmdc.osd.mil/rsl to find a DoD ID card office near you and schedule an appointment at https://rapids-appointments.dmdc.osd.mil.

DoD-issued Uniformed Services ID Cards (USID) (including Reservist, military retiree, 100% disabled Veteran, and authorized dependent ID cards):

  • Expiration dates on USID cards will be automatically extended to Sept. 30, 2020, within DEERS for cardholders whose affiliation with DoD has not changed but whose USID card has expired after Jan. 1, 2020.
  • Sponsors of USID card holders may make family member enrollment and eligibility updates remotely.
  • Initial issuance for first-time USID card-eligible individuals may be done remotely with an expiration date of one year from date of issue. The minimum age for first-time issuance for eligible family members has been temporarily increased from 10 to 14 years of age.

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

Articles

Don’t you wish you had these military chefs in your chow hall?

More than four decades later, the military’s premier culinary training event has evolved into something much greater than its meager beginnings.


It is larger — more than 200 competitors compete yearly, substantially more than the few dozen who competed at the start.

The Navy will reactivate the Atlantic fleet to support NATO
Contestants compete in a past Military Culinary Arts Competitive Training event. MCACTE, in its 43rd year, endeavors to improve the skills of military food service personnel thereby enhancing force readiness. (U.S. Military photo)

It is more inclusive — over the years, the Navy, Coast Guard and Air Force and foreign countries have all thrown their hats into the competitive ring.

Its appeal to spectators combined with the camaraderie, spirit and competitiveness of participants has made it one of the most unique military training opportunities in the Defense Department, despite ongoing budget restraints, said Army Chief Warrant Officer 3 J.D. Ward.

“This event is healthy despite a fiscal climate of zero growth,” said Ward, the coordinator for the annual Military Culinary Arts Competitive Training Event scheduled at Fort Lee, Virginia, March 4-9. “We’ve had to reduce the size of the competition and the overall expenditures in order to remain fiscally responsible, but it still remains the largest culinary competition in North America.”

The MCACTE, in its 42nd year, was created specifically to improve the culinary skills of participants — and thus the readiness of the force — in an environment that is intensely competitive yet nurturing and educational. Featured among the American Culinary Federation-sanctioned events, are the Armed Forces and Student Chef of the Year competitions as well as a team event pitting installations and services against one another to determine an overall winner.

In addition to the competitive events that will be ongoing from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, MCACTE features live cooking demonstrations, celebrity appearances and food displays that can be described as varied and illustrative.

Furthermore, the popular Military Hot Food Kitchen Challenge — the event in which the public is invited to try out gourmet-inspired meals prepared during the competition — will make a return appearance. The meals are $5.55 and seats are available on a first-come basis.

The Navy will reactivate the Atlantic fleet to support NATO
A pair of master chefs from the American Culinary Federation judge a meal at the 41st Annual Military Culinary Arts Competitive Training Event (MCACTE). The MCACTE is the largest culinary competition in North America, and has been held since 1973. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Nathan McDonald/Released).

Among the changes to this year’s event is a change in venue. The MacLaughlin Fitness Center here will accommodate this year’s competition rather than the Post Field House, which has hosted portions of MCACTE for more than a decade. The change is expected to have minimal impact on the competition from a competitor and spectator perspective, Ward said.

Among the differences this year include a change in cooking facilities used in the Military Hot Food Kitchen Challenge. The mobile trailers that were standard in the event will not be used this year, but competitors still employ the same cooking equipment. Diners may not even notice the change, Ward said.

“In fact, it may be easier for them to better observe competitors’ cooking,” he said.

Ward, who first competed in MCACTE as a private first class, said the competition is full of highlights, but from his viewpoint, the student team of the year event is the most inspirational.

“These are groups of less-experienced, younger soldiers competing and demonstrating advanced and fundamental cooking skills for the judges,” he said. “It’s a wonderful event because it exposes young service members to the profession in an entirely different light.”

The winners in the student event go on to compare their skills against regional winners at the American Culinary Federation competition in July.

“It’s an opportunity for those young chefs to compete against their civilian counterparts and demonstrate to the civilian sector just how talented military culinarians can be,” Ward said.

The student chef of the year winner also will go on to compete at the same ACF event with the possibility of representing the United States at a 2018 international event in Switzerland.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How a US Air Force veteran went from life-altering disability to Gold Medal adaptive athlete

On Feb. 28, 2015, Staff Sgt. Sebastiana Lopez stepped out of her apartment on an early Saturday morning in Charleston, South Carolina. The humidity was low, making a good day for a motorcycle ride. As she went back into her apartment to swap her car keys for motorcycle keys, she didn’t know it was the first step toward a life-changing moment.

Lopez’s four older siblings served in the US military in different branches. She looked up to them, eventually joining the US Air Force. She served for seven years as a crew chief on C-17s. Lopez’s parents immigrated to the US illegally, and she felt that she owed her country for the new opportunities afforded to her. Joining the military was her way of saying thank you.


As Lopez was coming around a corner of the road on her motorcycle, an armadillo was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Her motorcycle and the armadillo collided causing her to crash into the curb, ejecting her from the bike and directly into a tree. She remembers bear hugging a tree and her leg kicking her in the face, breaking the motorcycle helmet visor. She fell to the ground and a plume of dust erupted. She never lost consciousness.

Lopez was dazed but immediately started thinking about how to survive. She tried to do blood sweeps, but her arms wouldn’t move. She saw that her leg was positioned at an unnatural angle and thought, “Well, that sucks. I probably need to put a tourniquet or something on that.” No matter how she looked at it, she wasn’t able to self-administer aid due to the extent of her injuries.

Her lung was punctured by a broken rib, she had several broken bones, an amputated (above the knee) right leg, lacerated liver, ruptured spleen, and many other internal and external injuries. Lopez was losing blood fast, and every breath felt like a million stab wounds, but she maintained a goal.

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Sebastiana with her family after her accident. Photo courtesy of Sebastiana Lopez.

“So I kind of looked up at the sky, and I’m like, there’s nothing I can do about this except for — keep breathing,” Lopez said.

She focused on each breath, counting in her head while she held her breath to minimize the pain. Then panic crept into her mind: It was a Saturday morning, people were up partying the night before, and it’s unlikely anyone will be awake to find her. Lopez stayed calm but couldn’t help thinking that this might be the end.

“I was pretty happy with the life I had already lived — even though it was very short, 24 years old at the time,” Lopez said. She accomplished what she had always wanted to do, giving back to her country by joining the Air Force. As she settled into being okay with the fact that she was dying, a car drove past.

She said that the first thought that popped into her head was, “That’s a stupid-looking car.” Then she realized that the person driving that car might be her ticket out of there. Luckily, her motorcycle had come to a stop up the road. The bystander saw it and immediately threw his vehicle into reverse. He found Lopez lying next to the tree, and the fear on his face was evident. He panicked, and the first thing he asked her was, “Do you want me to call an ambulance?”

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Side by side (right photo showing initial recovery, left showing extensive recovery) comparison showing just how much Sebastiana has recovered since her crash. Photo courtesy of Sebastiana Lopez.

The ambulance arrived, and even though Lopez couldn’t see him, she recognized the voice of one of the responders. He was an Air Force reserve pilot she had flown with during an operation in Malaysia when they were designated as a backup C-17 for the president while he toured that area of the world. Hearing a familiar voice, especially someone she knew from the military, immediately put her mind at ease. I might make it through this, she thought.

Despite the massive amount of blood loss, Lopez can recall up until the point when the hospital staff wheeled her into the OR. Her heart stopped not long after her arrival at the hospital, but they managed to get her back. She woke up a month later surrounded by her family, and she felt like she might have been in purgatory. A priest was close by and had been waiting to give Lopez her last rites in coordination with her Catholic beliefs.

“They knew telling me the news that, hey, you don’t have a leg anymore, was going to just tear me apart,” Lopez said. “To be quite honest, it didn’t. At least initially because I was just happy to wake up. It didn’t really hit me until a few months later that life was going to get pretty shitty and pretty hard, especially when I lost my hand function in both hands.”

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Shortly after waking up from the coma, Lopez sustained a stroke and lost her speech. Her family added a degree of frustration when they unknowingly talked slowly and loudly to her, thinking she had lost the ability to process information as well. This was one more blow, but it didn’t shake Lopez — it was just another speed bump.

“I was like, Motherfuckers, I understand what y’all are saying — I just can’t verbalize my answer or write it even,” she said, adding that she felt trapped, much like when she was lying on the ground after her crash.

Lopez loves sports, and the driving force to compete again kept her internal fire blazing. As she completed her speech therapy and regained the ability to speak, she started to feel better about herself. Her first steps with her prosthetic leg brought even more confidence.

Even while Lopez completed speech therapy and physical rehabilitation, another battle loomed under the surface. One of the first movements she had to do was rolling from side to side, and whenever she did, the incision from her abdominal surgery would start bleeding. The hospital staff was growing concerned and asked her if she wanted to stop.

“I was like, ‘Hell no, I need to start moving!'” she said.

She recovered to an extent while staying at the Medical University of South Carolina hospital. She described it as similar to a scene out of Kill Bill when Uma Thurman’s character wills herself out of paralysis by saying, “Wiggle your big toe.”

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Sebastiana competing in the Invictus Games. Photo courtesy of Sebastiana Lopez.

Lopez aggressively pursued her exercises while running a consistent temperature of 104 degrees Fahrenheit. From rolling side to side to putting on her socks by herself, she was making progress. But then she started losing energy again and didn’t feel well. Her recovery was coming along, but she lost function in her right arm. She was scheduled to be transferred to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for a higher level of physical rehabilitation.

Her new doctors ran tests and found out that Lopez was septic, which is a widespread, serious infection within the body that can have lethal consequences. She was transferred directly into the ICU.

Once recovered, Walter Reed brought on even harder rehabilitation training — and the results were even better. Lopez worked hard and rep after rep moved closer to her goal of competing again.

She spent hours every day sending signals to her hands and any other part of her body that wouldn’t readily move with her internal instructions. She eventually regained some command over the movement of her fingers.

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Sebastiana Lopez Arellano powers a hand cycle during the 2016 Invictus Games in Orlando. May 9, 2016. DoD News photo by EJ Hersom, courtesy of Sebastiana Lopez.

After her incident, the Air Force enrolled Lopez in what’s called the Casualty Care Program and the Recovery Care Program. She was assigned a Recovery Care Coordinator (RCC). Lopez transferred to outpatient physical rehab, and one day while she was working on different exercises, her RCC walked up to her. She asked Lopez what she thought about doing an adaptive sports camp.

“No, I’m not ready. I’m still rehabbing my hand — I want to be able to wipe my butt first before I go compete or learn a sport,” Lopez responded. Her RCC told her a white lie: “You’re still in the US Air Force, you kind of have to.”

Lopez later found out that wasn’t the case, but she felt that the RCC knew she needed a little push. The RCC signed up Lopez, unbeknownst to her, for a beginner’s adaptive sports camp through the Air Force Wounded Warrior program.

What her RCC said was a beginners camp was actually the tryouts for the Air Force’s Wounded Warrior Games team. Lopez found out once she arrived at the “camp,” but with her no-quit spirit, she persevered and made it onto the team.

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Within a year of her accident, Lopez competed in the Wounded Warrior Games and earned five gold medals for two-hand cycling races, shot put, discus, and sitting volleyball.

“The funny thing about the 2016 Warrior Games, I broke my arm the first day we got there,” she said, laughing. “So I competed the entire week with a broken arm.”

From that first Warrior Games to her most recent competition performance in the 2019 Team USA Parapan American Games, Lopez has achieved her goal of competing again — and then some. In addition to the medals from the 2016 Warrior Games, she went on to medal over 19 times in different events over the course of the next few years, and she even established a world record in discus.

Lopez has defied the physical disabilities that the armadillo caused that fateful Saturday morning in February 2015.

“I might still pursue [Team USA] in the future, between school and everything else — I’m kind of looking into starting a family soon, and I want to focus on that,” Lopez said. “I’m not saying that’s the end of the world for me. I probably will try to pursue it, but maybe 2024 for me.”

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.


MIGHTY TACTICAL

The F-35 is about to get a lot more lethal in air-to-air combat

Lockheed Martin has developed a new weapons rack meant to give the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter a boost in firepower without sacrificing stealth, the defense contractor announced May 1, 2019.

The fifth-generation stealth fighters today carry four AIM-120 radar-guided air-to-air missiles, but the new weapons rack — Sidekick — will allow the aircraft to hold an additional Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile in each of the aircraft’s two internal weapons bays, Lockheed’s F-35 test pilot Tony “Brick” Wilson said at a media briefing, according to Seapower Magazine.


That would raise the number of Amraams the F-35 can carry to six from four, giving the fighter more to throw at an enemy fighter or drone in air combat.

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An F-35A Lightning II test aircraft during a live-fire test over an Air Force range in the Gulf of Mexico on June 12, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Michael Jackson)

The F-35 stores weapons internally to maintain stealth. Presently, a strictly internal loadout allows the fighter to carry up to 5,700 pounds of ordnance.

Internally, the planes can carry a full set of Amraams or a mixture of air-to-air missiles and air-to-surface Joint Direct Attack Munitions.

The aircraft can also operate in “beast mode,” a combined internal and external loadout that allows the F-35 to fly into battle with up to 22,000 pounds of weaponry — but this configuration degrades the jet’s stealth advantage.

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Three F-35C Lightning II aircraft over Eglin Air Force Base in Fort Walton Beach on Feb. 1, 2019.

(U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Shannon E. Renfroe)

Lockheed’s new Sidekick weapons rack will reportedly be available for the Air Force F-35As and Navy F-35Cs but not the Marine Corps F-35Bs. These planes have smaller weapons bays because of a lift fan needed for short takeoff and vertical landing, a requirement for operations aboard US amphibious assault ships.

The F-35 program office first mentioned efforts to add capacity for another Amraam in each weapons bay two years ago. “There’s a lot of engineering work to go with that,” the program’s director explained at the time, according to Air Force Magazine.

Speaking with reporters May 1, 2019, Wilson said the “extra missiles add a little weight but are not adding extra drag.” He also said the F-35 had the ability to eventually carry hypersonic missiles should that capability be necessary.

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

Articles

9 things we miss from our Afghanistan deployments

With possibility of a huge troop surge to Afghanistan coming from the Trump administration, We Are The Mighty asked several OEF combat vets what they missed most from their time “in the suck.” Here’s what they had to say.


Related: 7 items every Marine needs before deploying

Thanks to the Facebook page “Bring the Sangin Boys Back” for contributing.

1. Afghan naan bread

Regardless of the rumors how the bread is pressed (by Afghans’ feet) it was delicious.

Here they’re just mixing the bread. (image via Giphy)

2. Band of Brothers

The lifelong friends you made in combat are priceless, and there’s nothing else like it.

Yup. (images via Giphy)

3. Awesome nights

With a lack of electricity, there was no artificial illumination to spoil the night sky, it made the stars pop even more.

Not an Afghan night sky, but you get the point. (images via Giphy)

4. Low responsibility

You went on patrol, pulled some time on post, worked out, slept and…pretty much that’s about it.

woke right up when sh*t went down. (images via Giphy)

5. You got to blow sh*t up  

The best part of the job while serving in the infantry was delivering the ordnance.

3/5 Get Some! (image via Giphy)

6. Firefights

Getting a chance to put all your tough training to use and put rounds down range at the bad guys was freakin’ epic.

It was that fun. (images via Giphy)

7. Getting jacked

When you’re stuck out in the middle of nowhere and have 24 different of high-calorie MREs to choose from, there’s no better way to pass the time than hitting a gym made of sand bags, 2x4s, and engineer sticks.

1,2,… 12 (images via Giphy)

8. Movie night

Huddling around a small laptop watching a comedy or “Full Metal Jacket” was considered a night out on the town. And we loved it.

And felt like you’re in a real theater… not really.  (images via Giphy)

Also Read: How to make a movie theater with your smartphone on deployment 

9. Making memories

Although you we experienced some sh*tty times, nothing beats looking back and remembering the good ones while having a beer with your boys.

To the good times! (image via Giphy)

Bonus: The emotional homecomings

Leaving your family to deploy sucks, but coming home to them — priceless.

We salute all those who serve. Thank you! (images via Giphy) WATM wishes everyone to stay safe and watch your six. That is all.

Articles

Navy develops laser weapon prototypes for destroyers & cruisers

The Navy plans to arm its destroyers and other ships with high-tech, low-cost ship-board laser weapons engineered to quickly incinerate enemy drones, small boats, aircraft, ships and missiles, service officials told Scout Warrior.


The Office of Naval Research is working on 12-month, $53-million deal with Northrop Grumman to develop a Laser Weapon System Demonstrator through three phases; the phases include an initial design phase, ground-testing phase and then weapons testing at sea aboard a Navy Self Defense test ship, a Northrop statement said.

“The company will design, produce, integrate, and support the shipboard testing of a 150-kilowatt-class solid state (electric) laser weapon system,” the Northrop statement added. “The contract could grow to a total value of $91 million over 34 months if ONR exercises all of its contract options.”

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Northrop Grumman image

Office of Naval Research officials told Scout Warrior an aim of the developmental program is to engineer a prototype weapons for further analysis.

“This system employs multi-spectral target detection and track capabilities as well as an advanced off-axis beam director with improved fiber laser technologies to provide extended target engagement ranges. Improvements of high power fiber lasers used to form the laser beam enable the increased power levels and extended range capabilities. Lessons learned, operating procedures, updated hardware and software derived from previous systems will be incorporated in this demonstration,” Dr. Tom Beutner, director of the Air Warfare and Weapons branch, Office of Naval Research, told Scout Warrior in a written statement a few months ago.

“The possibilities can become integrated prototypes — and the prototypes become reality when they become acquisition programs,” an ONR official said.

It is not yet clear when this weapon might be operational but the intention seems to be to arm surface ships such as destroyers, cruisers and possibly even carriers or an LCS with inexpensive offensive or defensive laser weapons technology.

“It is way too early to determine if this system will ever become operational. Northrop Grumman has been funded to set-up a demo to “demonstrate” the capabilities to senior leadership, who will then determine whether it is an asset worth further funding and turning into a program of record,” a Navy official told Scout Warrior.

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The Afloat Forward Staging Base USS Ponce conducts an operational demonstration of the  Laser Weapon System (LaWS) while deployed to the Arabian Gulf.| U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams

Both Navy and Northrop Grumman officials often talk about the cost advantages of firing laser weapons to incinerate incoming enemy attacks or destroy enemy targets without having to expend an interceptor missile worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Navy officials describe this as getting ahead of the cost curve.

“For about the price of a gallon of diesel fuel per shot, we’re offering the Navy a high-precision defensive approach that will protect not only its sailors, but also its wallet,” said Guy Renard, director and program manager, directed energy, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems.

Meanwhile, the Navy has already deployed one laser system, called the Laser Weapons System, or LaWS, which has been operational for months.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is the first enlisted woman to graduate Sapper Leader Course

Sgt. Hailey Falk is the Army’s first enlisted female soldier to graduate from the rigorous Sapper Leader Course since the program’s inception in 1985.

Falk, 23, received her Sapper Tab, Dec. 7, 2018, after completing the “demanding 28-day leadership development course for combat engineers that reinforces critical skills and teaches advanced techniques needed across the Army.” She is assigned to B Company, 39th Engineer Battalion “Bull Strike,” 2nd Brigade Combat Team “Strike,” 101st Airborne Division, at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.


“Sgt. Falk’s success as the first enlisted [female] graduate represents a step forward in the process of recognizing success in the combat arms field by performance, not by gender,” said Capt. John D. Baer, B Company commander, 39th BEB. “The combat engineer MOS [12 Bravo] opened to females in 2015, and Sgt. Falk’s graduation from the Sapper Leader Course reinforces the wisdom in that decision by proving that both genders can achieve success in the enlisted combat arms career field.

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(U.S. Army photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret)

According to the Army, the mission of the course is to “train and certify the next generation of Sapper leaders, to serve as members of Combined Arms team, through training in small unit tactics and combat engineer battle drills in a physically demanding, stressful and austere environment.”

Sapper Leader Course

Falk was promoted to sergeant in 2017. With a high Army Physical Fitness Test score and a dedication to physical fitness, Falk’s leadership saw her potential to succeed at the Sapper Leader Course.

“Sgt. Falk is an outstanding noncommissioned officer and embodies the be, know, do leadership model and esprit de corps. She accepts the most difficult task without hesitation. As an NCO she leads from the front and drives troops forward to accomplish all missions,” said Staff Sgt. William Frye, Falk’s squad leader.

Each platoon in B Company rallied to help Falk and her fellow soldiers succeed at Fort Leonard Wood.

Among the challenges Falk faced at the leader course was the Sapper physical fitness test. The test is graded by Army standards to the individual’s age and gender. The minimum passing criteria is 230 total score, with no less than 70 points in each event.

The Sapper Leader Course not only challenged Falk physically, but mentally. According to the Army, the Sapper Leader Course is designed “to build esprit de corps by training soldiers in troop leading procedures, demolitions (conventional and expedient) and mountaineering operations. The course culminates in an intense field training exercise that reinforces the use of the battle drills and specialized engineer techniques learned throughout the course.”

At the end of the course, Falk’s instructor delivered the news that she had passed.

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A Sapper Leader Course 06-17 squad detonates a silhouette charge to create an entrance through a wall during urban breaching exercises as part of the course.

(Photo by Stephen Standifird)

“At that moment, that’s when it hit me that I did all this. Now, it didn’t seem hard anymore,” she said. “During it seemed like the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Then, after, I [thought] I could do this again, honestly.”

Baer said Falk’s success should be a challenge to all combat engineers of any gender.

“There are physiological differences between genders, and female combat engineers often have to work harder to meet the strenuous physical demands of combat relative to their male peers. Additionally, the unit’s operational demands prevent an extended preparation time for the school,” Baer said. “Sgt. Falk has humbly taken on these challenges, succeeding purely through hard work and mental toughness.”

As the first female enlisted soldier to graduate from the Sapper Leader Course, Falk said she encourages other soldiers to try it and plans to encourage those under her command to enroll in the school.

“I would say ‘go for it.’ Don’t be scared of failure. As long as you work hard for it and you don’t give up, you can push through it,” she said. “It’s not just you, there are other people who are working to help you get it. All of your battle buddies are earning your tab for you. You can’t just earn it yourself. Everyone has to work together.”

Her Army future

A week after graduation, Falk said she is catching up on her sleep and preparing for her next adventure — attending Pathfinder School in January.

“[I’m] hoping to get as many [Army] schools as I can,” she said. “I’m ready to do anything at this point. I just got through that, I guess I can do anything.”

Her squad leader and company commander agree Falk has a bright future.

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A U.S. Marine climbs a rope while maneuvering through an obstacle course during a Sapper Leaders Course on Camp Pendleton, Calif., October 20, 2017.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Dalton S. Swanbeck)

“With Sgt. Falk graduating Sapper Leader Course, she now has no limits. She has faced and overcome the many challenges of one of the Army’s hardest schools,” Frye said. “Her unit now has one more lethal fighter among the ranks who is now an expert in mobility, counter mobility and survivability, ready to provide her task force with the tools to accomplish the most difficult missions.”

“Graduation from the course represents months of diligent preparation and an exceptional quantity of mental stamina,” Baer said. “Sgt. Falk has exhibited these qualities throughout her career in the 101st, and I suspect this is just the beginning of her success in the military.”

Falk remains humble about her accomplishment and credits her leadership and unit for her success.

“I still don’t think it’s a big deal, [but] I couldn’t have done it without everyone,” she said. “I’m just glad I have the support system back here. My first sergeant, my sergeant major came [to graduation]. A lot of people from the unit came to support. I owe it to all of them because without all the training — even though I didn’t want to do it at the time — the training that we do, that I dread, it ended up paying off.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.