Navy surface combatants conduct 'Top Gun'-like training - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Navy surface combatants conduct ‘Top Gun’-like training

Ships from the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group and other cruiser-destroyer units based at Naval Station Norfolk sailed into the Atlantic in November 2018 for the East Coast’s first Surface Warfare Advanced Tactical Training, or SWATT, exercise with a carrier group.

SWATT is a relatively new addition to the Navy’s training repertoire, and it comes a years-long period in which the force was focused on anti-piracy and other high-sea policing operations rather than on a high-end fight against a sophisticated adversary.


SWATT exercises are led by warfare-tactics instructors from the Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center, or SMWDC, which was set up in 2015 to help the Navy develop experts in surface warfare operations.

The exercises are meant to take place in between ship exercises where a crew trains and qualifies for its missions and advanced exercises where an entire amphibious ready group or carrier strike group gathers to train.

Navy surface combatants conduct ‘Top Gun’-like training

Culinary Specialist First Class Marcus Madison stands watch on the bridge of the guided-missile destroyer USS Nitze, Nov. 3, 2018.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist Seaman Nikki Custer)

The idea is deploy instructors, both senior and junior surface warfare officers with specific training, to train with other sailors in the group, imparting advanced knowledge of weapons and tactics — similar to the Navy’s “Top Gun” training for aviators.

“Warfare Tactics Instructors (WTI’s) improve ships’ proficiency in carrying out missions in the surface, anti-submarine, integrated air and missile defense, and information-warfare domains,” said Lt. Cmdr. Nick Van Wagoner, a WTI and lead planner for the exercise.

SWATT exercises also provide training for amphibious warfare and mine warfare.

Instructors aim to inculcate a process of planning, briefing, executing, and debriefing among a ship’s crew. “This model utilizes a crawl-walk-run approach,” Van Wagoner said, “allowing teams to build and develop skills as they move from basic to more advanced events.”

Crew teams receive “over-the-shoulder mentoring” through SWATT drills, the Navy said.

Setting up SMWDC three years ago was “the beginning of an important cultural shift in the surface fleet to rapidly increase surface force tactical proficiency, readiness, and combat capability,” Rear Adm. Dave Welch, the SMWDC commander, said in a Navy release.

Navy surface combatants conduct ‘Top Gun’-like training

An MH-60S Seahawk helicopter crewman watches simulated fast-attack craft approach the USS Kearsarge during a Surface Warfare Advanced Tactical Training (SWATT) exercise, June 24, 2018.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Ryre Arciaga)

Carrier strike groups and amphibious ready groups based on the West Coast have already gone through SWATT exercises. In 2018, the amphibious ready group based around the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge carried out the first SWATT exercise for an ARG based on the East Coast.

The Lincoln carrier strike group’s SWATT exercise helps fulfill the Navy’s training vision, Welch said.

“This first East Coast CSG SWATT represents our commitment to the entirety of the surface force,” he said in the release. “SWATT provides a critical path for warfare and strike group commanders to develop the combat capability needed by our numbered fleet commanders to compete effectively in an era of great-power competition.”

Those numbered fleets include established commands like 7th Fleet, which oversees the Pacific, and 6th Fleet, which oversees Europe and the eastern half of the Atlantic Ocean. A recent addition is 2nd Fleet, which was reactivated in May, 2018 to oversee the East Coast and the northern and western Atlantic Ocean.

As with SWATT, the reactivation of 2nd Fleet was part of preparations to fight an opponent who can fight back.

Navy surface combatants conduct ‘Top Gun’-like training

An E-2D Hawkeye prepares to launch from the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman in the North Sea, Sept. 30, 2018.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Thomas Gooley)

“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 at the reactivation ceremony.

The Navy has made a number of changes in response to that competition, including shuffling carrier deployments to inject some unpredictability into their operations — part of the “dynamic force employment” concept touted by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

In July 2018, the USS Harry S. Truman and its strike group returned to Norfolk after just three months at sea rather than the typical six-month deployment.

In October 2018, the Truman sailed north of the Arctic Circle, the first carrier to do so since the early 1990s, where it joined forces from every other NATO member for exercise Trident Juncture, which NATO officials have said is alliance’s largest exercise since the Cold War.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Britain’s top-tier operators open their ranks to women

Britain has announced that women can now apply to join the ranks of the Special Air Service and Special Boat Service, their top-tier special operations units, as part of a phased opening of close-combat jobs to women that has been underway since 2016.


Navy surface combatants conduct ‘Top Gun’-like training

A British 22nd Special Air Service member speaks with an F-18D during a simulated Hellfire missile launch during training in 2001.

(U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Rick Bloom)

This will bring the British military in line with other military forces around the world, including the U.S., where more jobs have been opened to women over the past few years.

But, as with other top-tier military units in the west, it’s unclear when the first female candidate will complete training. In the U.S., only a handful of women have made it through Ranger School, and none have been accepted into the Navy SEALs, Army Special Forces, and similar units.

Currently, the British forces have had about three dozen women accepted into armored roles. Now, they can apply to join the Royal Marines and infantry, which opens the door to the SAS and SBS in the future.

Today I attended a land power demonstration on Salisbury Plain, which involved some of the first women to join the Royal Armoured Corps. I am very proud of the work our military does and opening all combat roles to women will ensure we recruit the right person for the right role.pic.twitter.com/pguaeViRcR

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There was a short-lived experiment around the turn of the millennium to see how some of the female support staff for the SAS would fare in actual training, but they appear to have ended it without any persons completing all the events — but it’s worth noting that the experiments were never designed to actually recruit female persons into the SAS, only to see how they would perform in some of the events.

Now, however, the goal is to get women into the training funnel and into the combat forces.

Navy surface combatants conduct ‘Top Gun’-like training

Members of the British Special Air Service in the African desert in World War II.

(British Army Film Photographic Unit Capt. Keating)

The British SBS was founded in 1940 and the SAS in 1941. Both were created to lead elite commando raids against targets in World War II, primarily German forces but the occasional attack on Italian forces did take place.

In one now-famous series of attacks, the SAS mounted up to 10 large machine guns per Jeep and then drove a column of jeeps in lightning raids against German airfields, destroying dozens of aircraft per raid and tipping the air balance over Africa back in favor of the Allies.

The SBS, meanwhile, launched a daring but ultimately unsuccessful attempt to kidnap Rommel from his desert headquarters.

Both services saw personnel cuts after the war but were eventually re-built over the decades after the war to face new threats. Both services have seen extensive service in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, but the British government rarely comments on their activities.

They often work with top-tier U.S. units like Delta Force and SEAL Team 6, but the details of these engagements are rarely released into the public sphere.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This insane law would force everyone who wanted a war to go fight it

In 1916, the people of the United States were not feeling good about the rest of the world. President Woodrow Wilson easily won re-election on the slogan, “He kept us out of war” as World War I raged on in Europe and elsewhere. The Mexican Revolution threatened to pull the United States back into conflict in the American Southwest. On top of all that, the U.S. military was a conscripted, third-rate power; a far cry from the professional, all-volunteer force that we enjoy today.

But it was almost an Army comprised only of those who wanted to go to war in the first place.


Navy surface combatants conduct ‘Top Gun’-like training

Five months after his inauguration, we were at war. Just sayin’.

The Constitution of the United States says only that the U.S. Congress can declare a state of war. There are no formal rules for how and when the Congress can do so, only that they can. In one instance, the President signed the legislation for war, and in others, it simply passed as a resolution. In 1916, the Congress had only declared war three times: against Britain in 1812, Mexico in 1848, and against Spain in 1898. The American people were not looking forward to a potential war in Europe, no matter who was on the other side.

Especially a concerned group of citizens from Nebraska, who created legislation that would change how the United States declared war – and who would fight it.

Navy surface combatants conduct ‘Top Gun’-like training

“Get in, loser. We’re going to liberate Belgium.”

This proposed amendment to the Constitution outlined the process of declaring war as a national referendum, a direct vote by American citizens, where the majority would decide if the country was going to war or not. If the war referendum passed, all those who voted in favor of the war would be enlisted to fight that war.

Folks in Nebraska were surprised by how much popular support their proposed amendment received. The petition to submit the amendment to Congress had so many signatures, scraps of paper had to be added after the fact to ensure they all ended up on the document. While deciding who fights a war is very important, declaring a state of war comes with many automatic legal triggers, many of which have likely kept Congress from declaring war in the past few decades. An official state of war has not been declared since World War II.

Navy surface combatants conduct ‘Top Gun’-like training

That face you make when you can still use the Tonkin Gulf Resolution to bomb Southeast Asia.

While the rules for how the United States conducts itself in a declared war versus an undeclared use of military force vary greatly, the rules for who fights the wars do not. All American male citizens are required to register for Selective Service at age 18, but the draft has not been used as a means of military recruiting since 1973, and was finally ended by President Gerald Ford in 1975. Ever since, the U.S military has been an all-volunteer force.

The question that has come out of the formation of an all-volunteer military in the past few years is one of disproportionate representation. If only certain segments of the American population have to fight the wars of the future, is it easier for a political class to launch unnecessary wars if they don’t have to be personally affected by its manpower needs? Those Nebraskans might have had a good point.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Air Force delays moving forward with E-4B Doomsday plane replacement effort

The U.S. Air Force is delaying the official solicitation for its E-4B Nightwatch replacement, citing a new acquisition strategy approach.

In an update last week, the service said it recently classified its Survivable Airborne Operations Center, or SAOC, Weapon System program — intended to replace the infamous nuclear command-and control aircraft commonly known as the “Doomsday” plane — as an Acquisition Category 1D program.


That category covers major procurements, typically costing billions of dollars. The “D” classification requires a defense acquisition executive, who reports to the defense or deputy defense secretary, to oversee the program.

Because of the change, the request for proposal “originally planned for release in December 2020 is delayed,” according to the presolicitation notice. The service said additional timeline details would be forthcoming.

Last December, Congress authorized .6 million for the SAOC’s research and development.

The Air Force and the Navy — which oversees the E-6B Mercury fleet, a companion aircraft to the E-4B — want to consolidate the two aircraft’s missions.

The E-4B, also known as the National Airborne Operations Center, can be used by the president and defense secretary to execute operations in the event of a nuclear war; the E-6B “looking glass” aircraft serves as an airborne communications relay between the Pentagon’s National Command Authority and U.S. nuclear submarine, bomber and missile forces.

The Navy keeps 16 E-6B aircraft, which are based on a commercial Boeing 707 and began flying in the early 1990s. The Air Force has four E-4Bs, which are modified versions of the Boeing 747 and have been in service since the 1970s.

Traditionally used by defense secretaries for transport around the world, the aging Nightwatch had to ditch that secondary mission because too many E-4Bs required maintenance, according to a report from DefenseOne. The website noted that the E-4B and the two planes used by the president are among the oldest 747-200s still flying.

Small fleets are a drain on the service because they drive up operational costs, according to a 2019 report, “The Air Force of the Future: A Comparison of Alternative Force Structures,” by Todd Harrison, director of the Aerospace Security Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“[The problem] that the Air Force has right now, which is making its operating costs so much higher, is because they have so many small fleets,” he said.

The E-4B was built to withstand an electromagnetic pulse in the event of a nuclear blast. The Air Force is hoping for the same hardened architecture in its replacement.

“In case of national emergency or destruction of ground command control centers, the SAOC aircraft will provide a highly survivable command, control and communications platform to direct US forces, execute emergency war orders, and coordinate actions by civil authorities,” according to the service’s initial notice, posted last December.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

MIT technology could reduce the number of nukes in the world

Even in peaceful times, stockpiled warheads can pose a danger if they’re accidentally set off or fall into the wrong hands. Plus, there’s always a chance conflict could escalate, which is why many experts support dismantling nuclear warheads around the world.

But most arms-control treaties don’t require warheads to be inspected, since the process could reveal military secrets. And even if inspections were required, nuclear experts worry that nations could try to fool inspectors by offering imitation warheads.

To eliminate the risk that countries would lie about this, two MIT researchers have come up with a novel way to verify that a warhead is authentic — all without revealing how the weapon was built.


The scientists describe the new technology in a paper published in the journal Nature Communications. Their method uses neutron beams: streams of neutrons that can plunge deep into a warhead and reveal its internal structure and composition, down to the atomic level.

The technology, if implemented, could encourage countries like Russia and US to allow their warheads to be inspected and verified as real before they get dismantled.

Nations typically don’t inspect warheads 

The US and Russia recently dissolved the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which kept both countries from possessing, producing, or testing thousands of land-based missiles. Shortly after, each nation conducted a missile test, stoking fears of a nuclear arms race similar to the Cold War.

Navy surface combatants conduct ‘Top Gun’-like training

(Defense Ministry)

During the Cold War era, the US and Russia built up their arsenals of nuclear warheads. By 1967, the US had acquired the most warheads in its history — around 30,000. The Soviet Union reached its peak warhead supply in 1986, when it had around 45,000.

When the Cold War ended in 1991, the nations agreed to dismantle some of these weapons, but they didn’t allow each other to inspect the actual warheads. Instead, they showed proof that the devices that carried these warheads, such as missiles and aircrafts, had been torn apart — which meant that the warheads couldn’t be deployed.

The US, for instance, cut off the wings of B-52 bombers and splayed them out in a “boneyard” in the Arizona desert. Russian officials could then verify via satellite that the planes were out of commission.

Navy surface combatants conduct ‘Top Gun’-like training

A B-52 bomber.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Sarah E. Shaw)

Today, the US and Russia each have around 4,000 warheads left in their military stockpiles, in addition to around 2,000 warheads each that are “retired,” or ready to be dismantled. The Federation of American Scientists estimates that Russia is dismantling up to 300 retired warheads per year, but confirming that number isn’t easy.

That’s where the technology from the MIT researchers comes in.

The tool captures a warhead’s unique shadow, not classified details

The MIT researchers’ tool can detect isotopes like plutonium, which are found in the core of a warhead, since those atoms release specific wavelengths of light. These measurements then pass through a filter that scrambles and encrypts them. This allows a warhead’s unique structure to get probed without any resulting 3D image of its exact geometry. (It’s kind of like looking at a shadow of the warhead rather than the object itself.)

Navy surface combatants conduct ‘Top Gun’-like training

W80 nuclear warhead.

(Public domain)

The researchers estimate that the scan can be completed in less than a hour.

The test’s encryption process is more secure than encrypting information on a computer, which can be hacked.

If nations are confident that their military secrets are safe, the researchers said, they could be more inclined to allow their warheads to be inspected. Of course, the method would need to be more thoroughly vetted before it could be implemented, they added.

But eventually, they said, it could help to “reduce the large stockpiles of the nuclear weapons that constitute one of the biggest dangers to the world.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

A Vietnam veteran re-enlisted to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan

Don Nicholas joined the military twice. The second time was for a reason soldiers don’t often give. His first enlistment began as a Marine in 1971. He spent the war on an aircraft carrier and didn’t set foot in South Vietnam until the war was over. He re-enlisted to land a spot as an embassy Marine in Saigon in 1974. He was on the second-to-last American helicopter leaving the city as it fell in 1975. He left active duty in 1978.

In 2004, he came back. The Marines thought he was too old at age 52. But for the Army Reserve, he was just what the doctor ordered. Literally.


It’s really not a fascination with war itself,” Sgt. Nicholas, who became a podiatrist in the intervening years, told the Wall Street Journal. “It’s more trying to keep people from getting killed. I’m taking the spot of some 19-year-old.”
Navy surface combatants conduct ‘Top Gun’-like training

The now-Army NCO Nicholas’ Marine Corps Saigon Embassy ID photo.

(Don Nicholas)

In 2011, he was 59 years old, the oldest of 6,000 troops in the 25th Infantry Division sent to eastern Afghanistan. He tried for years to get back into the military after his service ended. He tried during Desert Storm and again after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. It wasn’t until the height of the Iraq War that the Army was ready to take a man of his skill and advanced age.

Though “advanced” is a term used only because the Army’s average age of enlistees back in 2004 was somewhere between 30 and 35. Nicholas’ wife says his return to service actually replenished his youthful vigor.

He doesn’t want the other 19-year-olds to go,” Mrs. Nicholas said. But “it makes him 19 again. He finds youth in the military.”
Navy surface combatants conduct ‘Top Gun’-like training

Don Nicholas in Afghanistan.

(Fox News/Daily Mail UK)

After his initial re-enlistment in 2004, he was sent to Iraq for 11 months. After a brief stay back at home, he redeployed to Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley, among other places. At age 60, he would be ordered out of the battlefields of Afghanistan due to age restrictions. Instead, he fought to stay in Kunar Province of Afghanistan for another year, pushing back against the military’s attempted mandatory retirement. He has only seen 16 years of active service and wants to complete 20 years.

If I have my chance to stay in and complete my 20 years. I absolutely would,” he told the Daily Mail. “Probably would stay in a few more years after that if I could.” As of 2011, he was hoping his podiatry practice could get him attached to a medical unit.
MIGHTY TRENDING

6 reasons being E-4(ish) mafia is the best

Every military branch makes it plain where exactly you stand. It is worn on your uniform, printed on your CAC, you are greeted by it every day. “It” is rank and it plays a significant role as it entails your duties and expectations, job notwithstanding. It seems one rank reigns supreme in every service, though.


Below are 6 of the top reasons why being top of the lower enlisted ranks is the best rank.

Related:5 reasons MPs hate on firefighters

6. It’s the “25” of ranks

25 is the age that many of us have the time of our lives. We are far enough removed from teenage angst and the crap that often associates with it but still a lot more than a few wake-ups away from the big three-oh.

Old enough to get good insurance rates, but young enough to fit in most everywhere.

That is the Air Force’s Senior Airman. That is the Marine’s Lance Corporal. That is the Army’s Specialist. This is the Navy’s Seaman (heh). It’s far enough removed from boot but quite a ways from retirement.

Navy surface combatants conduct ‘Top Gun’-like training
A toast to the good life. (Image from Warner Bros’ The Great Gatsby).

5. Watch and learn

This is the perfect rank to watch and learn.

You may have been mentored and exposed to some supervisory duties earlier (if you weren’t assigned to a POS) but it’s at this level where you are allowed to flex some of what you’ve learned.

Sometimes that power comes in an official supervisory capacity, sometimes as a makeshift assistant to your actual supervisor. It’s like being a Non-Commissioned Officer, but with training wheels.

Navy surface combatants conduct ‘Top Gun’-like training
A SrA trying to explain how things go to a brand new Airman. (Image from Warner Bros’ Caddyshack).

4. Respect

The opinion of the Senior Airman/Specialist/Lance Corporal is respected. Those beneath the look up to them, or they should anyway, and those who outrank them will look to them as the bridge between the NCO and junior enlisted tiers.

It is literally the best of both worlds.

Navy surface combatants conduct ‘Top Gun’-like training
When you finally gain respect. (Image from Toonami’s Dragon Ball Z).

3. Introductory supervisory roles

As stated above, you may have some actual, official supervisor duties depending on how long you’ve been there and what type of performance you’ve turned in to that point.

Even if you haven’t been granted such access, you are still going to be entrusted with certain responsibilities just based on the necessity for you to grow up and fill the role.

Navy surface combatants conduct ‘Top Gun’-like training
A SSgt explaining the basics to their prized SrA.

2. You know all the tricks

At this point, you know what you’re supposed to be doing and how to do it, most of the time. You also know exactly what you’re not supposed to do…and what rules will really get you in trouble.

You know how to maximize your sleep and how to quickly get your uniform together. You can commit large passages of regulation to memory, verbatim. You know what you’re doing and what you want to do.

Good news is you’ve mastered this rank just in time to promote. Now the game changes.

Navy surface combatants conduct ‘Top Gun’-like training
All SrA watching younger Airmen think they’re getting away with something. (Image from Paramount Pictures’ Willy Wonka the Chocolate Factory).

Also read: 7 of the top surprises veterans face going to school

1. Perfect purgatory

You rest in nearly a perfect position.

You’ve been in for a some time now and have likely earned a good amount of respect and responsibility and that feels great. Conversely, you’re still junior enlisted yourself and won’t be thrown into the deep end just yet.

How is this better than being an NCO? From my experience in the Air Force, Staff Sergeants are typically viewed in a more infantile manner than the Senior Airman.

I know, it doesn’t make any sense. Still, it is a fact of life.

Navy surface combatants conduct ‘Top Gun’-like training
Glorious freedom. (Image from Warner Bros’ 300).

MIGHTY TRENDING

Turkey sticks with plans to get Russian missiles, kill Kurds

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu says Turkey may buy U.S. Patriot missile systems if conditions are right, but insists such a deal would be impossible if Washington forces Ankara to cancel its agreement to purchase S-400 antiaircraft missiles from Russia.

In an interview with Turkey’s NTV on Jan. 10, 2019, Cavusoglu said his NATO-member state will not accept the United States imposing conditions in regard to its deal to buy the Russian-made surface-to-air defense systems.

Meanwhile, in another sign of deteriorating relations between Ankara and Washington, Cavusoglu said a military operation Turkey was planning against U.S.-backed Kurdish militia in northern Syria did not depend on a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria.


Cavusoglu told NTV it was not realistic to expect the United States to collect all of the weapons it had supplied to Syrian Kurdish fighters who are viewed by Ankara as terrorists.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s announcement in late December 2018 that he planned to withdraw some 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria stunned U.S. allies and led to the resignation of U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

Navy surface combatants conduct ‘Top Gun’-like training

Former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

(DOD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

But U.S. national security adviser John Bolton told Turkish officials in Ankara on Jan. 8, 2019, that Turkey’s assurance it won’t attack the U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters was a “condition” for the withdrawal.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused Bolton of making “a very serious mistake” with the demand.

“We cannot make any concessions in this regard,” said Erdogan, who vowed that “those involved in a terror corridor” in Syria “will receive the necessary punishment.”

The U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units form the backbone of the opposition Syrian Democratic Forces and have been fighting alongside U.S. troops against Islamic State militants in northeastern Turkey.

But Ankara insists those Syrian Kurdish fighters are linked to the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK), a group that is banned in Turkey and has been considered a terrorist group by the United States since 1997.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Vice President Pence delivers commencement address to Air Force Academy class of 2020 and first cadets to join Space Force

Vice President Mike Pence, the head of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, delivered on Saturday the commencement address to the 62nd class of Air Force Academy graduates, which was modified due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“America is being tested,” Pence said. “While there are signs we are making progress in slowing the spread, as we stand here today, more than 700,000 Americans have contracted the coronavirus, and tragically, more than 30,000 of our countrymen have lost our lives.”


He added: “But as each of you has shown in your time here, and as the American people always show in challenging times, when hardship comes, American comes together. We rise to the challenge and the courage and compassion and generosity of the nation you will defend are shining through every day.”

Pence’s remarks came the same day as New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in New York, the US state hardest hit by COVID-19 pandemic, was “past the plateau” as the number of hospitalizations resulting from the novel coronavirus has continued to fall.

The vice president told the graduates they would now “commence [their] duties to defend this nation against all enemies foreign to us,” evoking President Trump and calling the novel coronavirus the “invisible enemy.”

“Class of 2020 – this is your day,” VP tells graduating cadets, seated 8 feet apart in accord with social distancing.pic.twitter.com/WAcCsbpago

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Pence addressed the academy’s 2020 class in person at the Saturday afternoon ceremony, which occurred on US Air Force grounds in Colorado Springs, Colorado despite past reports that the vice president had considered sending pre-taped video remarks in lieu of an in-person appearance, according to CNN.

All gatherings in Colorado are currently prohibited under Gov. Jared Polis’ stay-at-home order.

To comply with social distancing, the Air Force Academy graduates marched into the ceremony six feet apart and were seated eight feet apart. No family members or other spectators were allowed to attend the closed ceremony. The ceremony, which lasted about an hour and thirty minutes, was previously scheduled to occur on May 28 but occurred Saturday — six weeks earlier than scheduled.

“You know your family couldn’t be here because of the extraordinary times in which we live,” Pence said. “We know they’re watching from afar.”

The ceremony was live-streamed on Facebook and YouTube so spectators could tune-in.

United States Air Force Academy Graduation 2020

www.youtube.com

Pence brought attention to the 86 graduates who would become the first Air Force Academy graduates to work as part of President Trump’s Space Force, which was officially established at the end of last year.

“We are a nation of courage,” the vice president said. “With the courage strength and compassion of the American people, we will get through this. We will protect the most vulnerable and we will heal our land.”

He added: “The American people are doing their duty now comes your turn to do yours: to defend the people of this nation, and this we know you will do. For long after the coronavirus is defeated, your mission will go on.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why taking care of people is key to success on battlefield

Gen. James McConville smiled as he reminisced of when he was chosen to lead the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), before he became its longest-serving commander.

It was the same week in 2011 he commissioned his eldest son into the Army after he graduated as an ROTC cadet from Boston College.

But perhaps the most proud was his father, a former enlisted sailor who had served in the Korean War and then spent nearly 50 years working at the Boston Gear factory.

At the ceremony, his father, Joe, was asked by a local newspaper how he felt about his family’s generations of military service.


Sixty years ago, he told the reporter, he was a junior seaman on a ship. And today, his son was about to command a famed Army division and his grandson was now a second lieutenant.

“‘What a great country this is,'” McConville recalled his father saying. “I don’t think I could have said it better.”

McConville, who was sworn in as the Army’s 40th chief of staff on Aug. 9, 2019, said he credits his father for inspiring him to join the military.

Navy surface combatants conduct ‘Top Gun’-like training

(Photo by Spc. Markus Bowling))

After high school, McConville left Quincy, a suburb of Boston, and attended the U.S. Military Academy, where he graduated in 1981. Since then his 38-year career has been marked with milestones and key assignments.

McConville has led multiple units in combat before most recently serving as the 36th vice chief of staff under Gen. Mark Milley, who will be the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He also oversaw the Army’s G-1 (personnel) and legislative liaison offices.

The idea of serving the country was sparked by his father, who, now nearing 90 years old, still passionately shares stories of his time in the military.

“I was always amazed that a man who I had tremendous respect for, who had tremendous character, just really loved his time serving in the Navy,” the general said.

Currently with three children and a son-in-law in the Army, McConville and his wife, Maria, a former Army officer herself, are continuing the family business.

People first

The sense of family for McConville, though, extends beyond bloodlines.

As a father and a leader, McConville understands the importance of taking care of every person in the Army, which he calls the country’s most respected institution.

“People are the Army,” he said of soldiers, civilians and family members. “They are our greatest strength, our most important weapon system.”

Fine-tuning that weapon system means, for instance, providing soldiers with the best leadership, training and equipment through ongoing modernization efforts.

As the vice chief, McConville and current acting Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy supervised the development of Army Futures Command’s cross-functional teams.

Designed to tackle modernization priorities, the CFTs revamped how the Army procures new equipment. The teams allow soldiers to work directly with acquisition and requirements experts at the start of projects, resulting in equipment being delivered faster to units.

Modernization efforts are also changing how soldiers will fight under the new concept of multi-domain operations.

“When I talk about modernization, there are some that think it is just new equipment,” he said. “But, to me, it is much more than that.”

Navy surface combatants conduct ‘Top Gun’-like training

The family of Gen. James McConville poses for a photo during a promotion ceremony in honor of his son, Capt. Ryan McConville, in his office at the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., May 2, 2019.

(Photo by Spc. Dana Clarke)

He believes a new talent management system, which is still being developed, will help soldiers advance in their careers.

As the Army pivots from counterinsurgency missions to great power competition against near-peer rivals, the system could better locate and recognize soldiers with certain skillsets the service needs to win.

“If we get them in the right place at the right time,” he said, “we’ll have even a better Army than we have right now.”

The talent of Army civilians, which he says are the “institutional backbone of everything we do,” should also be managed to ensure they grow in their positions, too.

As for family members, he said they deserve good housing, health care, childcare and spousal employment opportunities.

“If we provide a good quality of life for our families, they will stay with their soldiers,” he said.

Winning matters

All of these efforts combine into a two-pronged goal for McConville — an Army that is ready to fight now while at the same time being modernized for the future fight.

“Winning matters,” he said. “When we send the United States Army somewhere, we don’t go to participate, we don’t go to try hard. We go to win. That is extremely important because there’s no second place or honorable mention in combat.”

Readiness, he said, is built by cohesive teams of soldiers that are highly trained, disciplined and fit and can win on the battlefield.

“We’re a contact sport,” he said. “They need to make sure that they can meet the physical and mental demands.”

To help this effort, a six-event readiness assessment, called the Army Combat Fitness Test, is set to replace the current three-event Army Physical Fitness Test, which has been around since 1980.

Navy surface combatants conduct ‘Top Gun’-like training

Gen. James McConville, the Army vice chief of staff, swears in recruits during a break in the Army-Navy football game in Philadelphia, Dec. 8, 2018.

(Photo by Sean Kimmons)

The new strenuous fitness test, which is gender- and age-neutral, was developed to better prepare soldiers for combat tasks and reduce injuries. It is expected to be the Army’s fitness test of record by October 2020.

Soldiers also need to sharpen their characteristic traits that make them more resilient in the face of adversity, he said.

Throughout his career, especially in combat, McConville said he learned that staying calm under pressure was the best way to handle stress and encourage others to complete the mission.

In turn, being around soldiers in times of peace or war kept McConville motivated when hectic days seem to never end.

“Every single day I get to serve in the company of heroes,” he said. “There are some people who look for their heroes at sporting events … or movie theaters, but my heroes are soldiers.

“My heroes are soldiers because I have seen them do extraordinary things in very difficult situations,” he added. “I’m just incredibly proud to serve with them.”

And given his new role overseeing the entire Army, he is now ultimately responsible for every single one of those “heroes.”

“I know having three kids who serve in the military that their parents have sent their most important possession to the United States Army,” he said, “and they expect us, in fact they demand, that we take care of them.”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

This Civil War vet was the real hero of the O.K. Corral shootout

It was the moment in history that every Western film has tried to emulate. The Earp brothers, Wyatt, Virgil, and Morgan, and their friend, Doctor John Henry Holliday, made their stand in October, 1881, against the outlaw Cochise County Cowboys who had been terrorizing the streets of Tombstone, Arizona.

As the clock struck 3:00, Marshal Virgil Earp issued a warning to the outlaws, telling them to “throw up [their] hands.” Moments later, shots rang out and black smoke filled the narrow streets. A half-minute later, three of the five outlaws had been gunned down and the other two ran like hell. The heroic lawmen stood tall.

Moviemakers and novelists have flocked to this moment and heaped praise onto Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday — and that’s not without good reason. I mean, their lives and friendship make for a goldmine for potential stories and, if you want some protagonists who’ve earned an abundance of cool points, they’re your huckleberries. What’s not to love about a couple of gunslinging bros laying down the law in the Wild West?

Yet, noticeably absent from the spotlight is the man who actually confronted the outlaws. The actual lawman of the group (not just appointed as one) who actually knew the ins and outs of gunfighting: Marshall Virgil Earp, Wyatt’s older brother.


Navy surface combatants conduct ‘Top Gun’-like training

The 83rd Infantry were renown for their sharpshooting skills. Something that would prove useful in the Wild West.

(National Park Services photo)

Virgil’s story begins a week after his 18th birthday on July 26, 1861, when he joins the Union Army. He’d fallen in love and fathered a child with Ellen Rysdam in secret. Her parents strongly disagreed with her choice in him but they married anyway. They’d spent time together raising their daughter, Nellie Jane, before he was mustered into the Illinois Volunteer Infantry for three years.

When the Civil War broke out, he was reassigned into the 83rd Illinois Infantry and sent down to Tennessee. Detailed records are gone with time, but he did something to earn a court-martial and was docked two weeks of pay. By that point, his loving wife was informed that he’d fallen in combat by her father before being unceremoniously shuffled toward a guy he did approve.

After Virgil returned from the war, his wife and daughter vanished with the new man. He did what any recently-returned veteran would do at the time and ventured west to ease his heartache. This is when he reunited with his brothers, Wyatt and Morgan, and met an unusually badass dentist by the name of Doc Holliday in Dodge City, Kansas. In Dodge City, Virgil used his military experience to become a deputy town marshal.

Navy surface combatants conduct ‘Top Gun’-like training

For historical perspective, this was Tombstone and the one street was where the showdown happened.

He’d soon get the heck outta Dodge when he was informed that the Cochise County Cowboys down in Prescott, Arizona Territory, were causing mayhem. On one of his first patrols, he first encountered the outlaw gang robbing a stagecoach at the edge of town. He picked up his Henry rifle and plucked them off from a great distance.

He was promptly given the role of Prescott’s night watchman and was later elected as constable for his hard-line stance against the outlaws. Virgil wrote to his brothers, who were in need of work. that a new silver-mining town, Tombstone, was perfect for them, and so they headed south. The U.S. Marshall over Arizona appointed Virgil as the Marshal of the Tombstone District of Pima County. His main goal was to stop all of the coach robberies that occurred between Prescott and Tombstone.

In order to keep the rates of violence and crime down, Virgil enacted an ordinance that prohibited deadly weapons in Tombstone. All weapons must be turned into a stable or saloon upon entering town. This ordinance, as you might imagine, didn’t stop the Cowboy gang from harassing innocent bystanders and making constant threats against the lives of the Earp brothers.

Everything came to a head on October 26, 1881, after the outlaws refused to drop their weapons at Virgil’s command.

Navy surface combatants conduct ‘Top Gun’-like training

And the scene of that infamous gunfight is now the biggest tourist trap in the area, bringing money into the middle-of-nowhere town.

(Photo by Ken Lund)

Once upon a time, Wyatt Earp was a lawman. But his days of being officially on the blue side ended in Dodge City and Witchita. In Tombstone, Virgil had appointed Wyatt as his temporary assistant, along with Morgan and Doc as temporary “special policemen.”

It should be noted that prior to the gunfight at the O.K. Corral, Morgan and Doc had never been in any documented firefights, and Wyatt Earp had only one officially under his belt — but all three had remarkable track records in fist fights. Virgil. however, was well-versed in firefights. It should also be noted that while everyone else was using their iconic (but tiny) western revolvers, Virgil was unloading his big-ass coach gun into the outlaws, despite being shot through the femur.

Navy surface combatants conduct ‘Top Gun’-like training

Sam Elliot played Virgil in 1993’s ‘Tombstone,’ which we think is a pretty well-deserved tribute.

(Buena Vista Pictures)

The gunfight came to an end and the lawmen rose victorious — but the fighting would continue. For their actions that day, they were all reprimanded. Virgil continued as marshal over Tombstone after being cleared of all wrongdoing.

The Cowboys would unrelentingly go after the Earps. Virgil would later be severely wounded by three shotgun-wielding assassins who simultaneously fired on him. This attack ended his career in law enforcement and he ceded marshal duties to his brother, Wyatt. Assassins killed Morgan Earp a few months later.

Wyatt and Doc would eventually bring those responsible to justice and their names would be remembered throughout history for being the toughest lawmen in the West. Virgil needed many years to recuperate, but never fully recovered.

He would eventually cross paths with his former-wife, Ellen, and his daughter when he was an old man. There wasn’t any bad blood, and he was happy to meet three grand-kids he never knew existed.

Articles

The devastating 105mm cannon is back on the AC-130 gunship

The AC-130 just got its signature weapon back – and many in the public may not have known it was gone.


According to a report by Strategypage.com, the decision ends a 12-year hiatus on the powerful cannon, which has been used on versions of the Spectre gunship since 1972 – along with two 20mm Vulcan cannon and a 40mm Bofors anti-aircraft gun in the AC-130H. The AC-130U replaces the two 20mm guns with the 25mm GAU-12 used on the AV-8B Harrier.

Navy surface combatants conduct ‘Top Gun’-like training
An AC-130U gunship from the 4th Special Operations Squadron, flies near Hurlburt Field, Fla., Aug. 20. The AC-130 gunship’s primary missions are close air support, air interdiction and force protection. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Senior Airman Julianne Showalter)

The decision had been made to halt use of the 105mm gun in favor of missiles like the AGM-114 Hellfire and AGM-176 Griffin as well as the GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb. The problem was, the need for guns didn’t go away. The Air Force started out by adding the 30mm Bushmaster II chain gun. This helped out, especially when troops were in close contact or there was a need to avoid collateral damage.

The gun’s rounds were also a lot cheaper than the missiles – even though the guns are only really useful at night.

The “boots on the ground” and the crews, though, kept making the case to bring the 105mm gun back. So, the Air Force tested a new mount for the 105mm gun. While previous incarnations of the AC-130 had the gun mounted to the side, now the gun will be fired from the rear of the plane.

Navy surface combatants conduct ‘Top Gun’-like training
AC-130W Stinger II gunship (USAF photo)

While this puts an end to the famous pylon turn, it also means the AC-130 can hold twice as many 105mm howitzer rounds as it used to.

Testing of the new mount was finished in 2017, and will go on the new AC-130J Ghostrider, which will replace older AC-130H, AC-130U, and AC-130W aircraft by 2021.

Articles

This is why the Navy wears bell bottoms, and it’s not for fashion

The Navy dress uniform — also known as “cracker jacks” — is one of the most iconic symbols in the military today. You can spot a Navy sailor from a mile away after they don the familiar dressing.


Every piece of the uniform from head-to-toe has some symbolic or practical use — and the famous bell bottoms are no different.

During the ’60s and ’70s, bell bottoms were all the rage in fashion culture as men and women of all ages walked the streets with the popular look.

Related: This is why sailors have 13 buttons on their trousers

Navy surface combatants conduct ‘Top Gun’-like training
A girl in the 1970s sporting some fashionable bell buttons near a beach. (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

But the fad didn’t make its debut on a famous red carpet or in an elegant fashion show — it’s the brilliant invention of the U.S. Navy.

Although no one has been officially accredited with inventing the bell bottom trouser, the flared out look was introduced for sailors to wear in 1817. The new design was made to allow the young men who washed down the ship’s deck to roll their pant legs up above their knees to protect the material.

Navy surface combatants conduct ‘Top Gun’-like training
Young sailors aboard a ship play tug-of-war in their classic bell bottoms. (Source: Pinterest)

This modification also improved the time it took to take them off when the sailors needed to abandon ship in a moments notice. The trousers also doubled as a life preserver by knotting the pant legs.

Also Read: This is why some Marines wear the ‘French Fourragere,’ and some don’t

Years later in 1901, the Navy authorized the first use of denim jumpers commonly known as “dungarees.” This new fabric was approved to be worn by both officers and enlisted personnel.

The dungarees also featured the unique bell bottom look and are considered iconic in their own right.

What’s your favorite Navy uniform? Comment below. And don’t forget to submit your photos in the comment section wearing your dress uniform.

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