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Navy ship defense weapon upgraded to destroy small boats

Navy ship defense weapon upgraded to destroy small boats
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The U.S. Navy is pursuing a massive, fleet-wide upgrade of a shipboard defensive weapon designed to intercept and destroy approaching or nearby threats such as enemy small boats, cruise missiles and even low-flying drones and aircraft, service officials said.

The Phalanx Close in Weapons System, or CIWS, is an area weapon engineered to use a high rate of fire and ammunition to blanket a given area, destroying or knocking enemy fire out of the sky before it can reach a ship. The Phalanx CIWS, which can fire up to 4,500 rounds per minute, has been protecting ship platforms for decades.

The weapon is designed to counter incoming enemy attacks from missiles, small arms fire, drones, enemy aircraft and small boats, among other things. It functions as part of an integrated, layered defense system in order to intercept closest-in threats, service officials explained.

“Phalanx provides a ‘last ditch’ gun-based, close-in defense to the Navy’s concept of layered defense,” Navy spokesman Dale Eng told Scout Warrior.

The weapon is currently on Navy cruisers, destroyers, aircraft carriers and amphibious assault ships, among other vessels. The upgrades are designed to substantially increase capability and ensure that the system remains viable in the face of a fast-changing and increasingly complex threat environment, Navy officials said.

The overhaul in recent years has consisted of numerous upgrades to the weapon itself, converting the existing systems into what’s called the Phalanx 1B configuration. At the same time, the CIWS overhaul also includes the development and ongoing integration of a new, next-generation radar for the system called the CIWS Phalanx Block IB Baseline 2, Navy officials explained.

The Block 1B configuration provides defense against asymmetric threats such as small, fast surface craft, slow-flying fixed and rotary-winged aircraft, and unmanned aerial vehicles through the addition of an integrated Forward-Looking Infra-Red (FLIR) sensor.

The Navy is now upgrading all fleet Phalanx Block 1B Baseline 0 and 1 Close-In Weapon Systems to the latest Phalanx Block IB Baseline 2 configuration, Eng said. The plan is to have an all CIWS Phalanx Block IB Baseline 2 fleet by fiscal year 2019, he added.

The Navy has also embarked on a series of planned reliability improvements (known as Reliability-Maintainability-Availability Kits) in order to keep the CIWS fleet population viable and affordable for the next several decades, Eng said.

An upgrade and conversion of an older CIWS Phalanx configuration to Phalanx Block IB averages around $4.5 million per unit and a Block IB Baseline 2 radar upgrade kit averages $931,000 per unit, Navy officials said.

The Phalanx Block IB configuration incorporates a stabilized Forward-Looking Infra-Red sensor, an automatic acquisition video tracker, optimized gun barrels (OBG) and the Enhanced Lethality Cartridges (ELC), service officials added.

Navy officials said Block IB provides ships the additional capability for defense against asymmetric threats such as small, high speed, maneuvering surface craft, slow-flying fixed and rotary-winged aircraft, and unmanned aerial vehicles.

The FLIR also improves performance against anti-ship cruise missiles by providing more accurate angle tracking information to the fire control computer, officials added.

MIGHTY CULTURE

VA celebrates nurses during National Nurses Week 2020

This National Nurses Week, we salute the over 100,000 VA nurses who work tirelessly every day to serve our nation’s Veterans — and have continued to demonstrate their commitment and dedication throughout this historic global situation.

“VA nurses are fiercely dedicated to our mission of providing excellent care to America’s heroes, which is especially vital during this time,” said Shawanda Poree, program manager of nurse recruitment and resources at VA. “We couldn’t care for the 9 million Veterans enrolled in VA care without them.”


At VA facilities from coast to coast, our nurses consistently advocate for Veterans and ensure they receive the best care.

This year, in honor of Florence Nightingale’s 200th birthday, National Nurses Week is also part of the World Health Organization’s “Year of the Nurse and Midwife,” recognizing the hard work of the world’s nurses.

‘No better feeling’

“There’s no better feeling than caring for the Veteran. You get to know them and they become like your family,” said Sarah Lueger, a nurse manager who serves Veterans at the VA Eastern Kansas Health Care System. “It’s a way for me to give back to them for what they’ve done for us.”

At 100,000-strong, the VA nursing corps is the largest in the nation. Together, they provide continuous, compassionate care and positively impact the lives of Veterans — 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

“The people who work at VA really have a strong passion for what they do, and that is infectious to those around us,” said Karalie Gantz, an inpatient acute psychiatry nurse manager at Topeka VA.

VA nurses practice in a variety of care-delivery settings, including acute, ambulatory, mental health care, telecare and outpatient clinics.

“Within our health care system, there are [so many] different departments and different opportunities that, once you’re here, you can find [your] niche. There really is a place for everyone at VA,” Gantz said.

Grow, lead and innovate

Nurses are a critical part of Veteran treatment teams. They sit on leadership boards and collaborate across disciplines to improve patient outcomes. At all of our 1,250 sites, nurses have a voice at the table with physicians and leadership and help improve patient care.

“Working at VA is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I’ve grown into the nurse that I am now, the leader that I am now,” Lueger said.

We encourage nurses to take advantage of opportunities to accelerate their training. Three available opportunities include:

  • The VA Learning Opportunities Residency (VALOR) Program gives outstanding registered nursing students who have completed their junior year in an accredited clinical program the opportunity to develop their skills at a VA-approved health care facility. More than 50% of VALOR participants are hired as new registered nurses in VA and usually start above the entry-level salary rate established for new graduates.
  • Through the Education Debt Reduction Program, nurses with qualifying student loans receive reimbursements of up to 0,000 over a five-year period. Payments cover tuition and other reasonable expenses, including fees, books, supplies, equipment, materials and laboratory costs.
  • Under the National Nursing Education Initiative (NNEI), part- or full-time VA registered nurses employed for at least one year can receive up to ,117 toward the pursuit of an associate, bachelor’s or advanced nursing degree, including tuition, registration fees and books.

A wealth of resources, including mentoring and preceptor programs, also encourage promotion of staff nurses to executive-level positions.

VA nurses also have the chance to innovate and research. Nurses are helping VA become a leader in telehealth and embracing scientific exploration to come up with new ways to serve Veterans.

Work at VA today 

During Nurses Week 2020 and all year long, we celebrate and thank the VA nurses who are pursuing careers with purpose and making a difference in Veterans’ lives.

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

MIGHTY SPORTS

Fitness test is only one part of Army’s new health push

While the Army Combat Fitness Test will be the largest overhaul in assessing a soldier’s physical fitness in nearly 40 years, it is just one part of the Army’s new health push, says the service’s top holistic health officer.

This month, the entire Army will begin taking the diagnostic ACFT — with all active-duty soldiers taking two tests, six months apart, and Reserve and National Guard soldiers taking it once. Then, a year later, the six-event, gender- and age-neutral test is slated to become the Army’s official physical fitness test of record.

To best prepare for the test, Army leaders encourage soldiers to take an integrated health approach to their training regimen.


Navy ship defense weapon upgraded to destroy small boats

Sgt. Steven J. Clough, battalion medical liaison with the 223rd Military Intelligence Battalion, performs a deadlift during an Army Combat Fitness Test in San Francisco, Calif., July 21, 2019. Clough, who serves as a master fitness trainer for the battalion and is a level three certified grader for the ACFT, has been helping prepare the battalion for the new test.

(Photo by Spc. Amy Carle)

Holistic health and fitness

The integrated approach, Holistic Health and Fitness — known as H2F — is a multifaceted strategy to not only ace the ACFT, but improve soldier individual wellness, said Col. Kevin Bigelman, director of Holistic Health and Fitness at the U.S. Army Center for Initial Military Training.

The well-rounded components of H2F include: physical training, proper sleep and nutrition, and mental and spiritual readiness.

These pillars are “similar to a house,” Bigelman said. Meaning that, each element of a house — the roof, walls, floor, etc. — are equally essential for its prosperity, like how each aspect of H2F is critical to combat readiness, and having success on the ACFT.

However, the gravity of H2F transcends the ACFT, which falls into the physical aspect, and has become “a culture change within the Army,” Bigelman said.

“H2F is changing the way soldiers view themselves,” he added. “It is made up of both physical and nonphysical domains, wrapping them into a single governance structure.”

The initiative, originally announced in 2017, was designed to enhance soldier lethality by rolling up various domains of health to complement each other and prepare soldiers for future warfare, he said.

Navy ship defense weapon upgraded to destroy small boats

(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Amy Carle)

Properly trained

The Army’s most important weapon system is its soldiers, he said. So, to overmatch the enemy in multi-domain operations, Soldiers must demonstrate the superior physical fitness required for combat by training properly in all aspects of holistic fitness, including the ACFT.

The ACFT will provide “a snapshot of the strength, power, agility, coordination, balance, anaerobic capacity, and aerobic capacity of a soldier,” Bigelman said. Limited in scope, “the current APFT doesn’t fully measure the total lethality of a soldier how the ACFT does.”

Due to this, soldiers should train the way they’ll be tested, Bigelman said.

“The ACFT measures all the domains of physical fitness,” said Dr. Whitfield East, a research physiologist at CIMT. “Soldiers should train based on those standards.”

Navy ship defense weapon upgraded to destroy small boats

California National Guard Soldiers with the 223rd Military Intelligence Battalion complete the Sprint Drag Carry event during an Army Combat Physical Fitness test

Be well rested

The best training plan is ineffective without adequate sleep, Bigelman said, adding, “You’re not going to perform as best you can, physically, on the ACFT if your sleep is incorrect.”

Neglecting sleep can take a negative toll on the body. Sleeplessness can affect performance during high-intensity workouts, like the ACFT, he said. In addition, it can affect a soldier’s mood, their hormone and stress levels, and it doesn’t let the body fully recover or repair its muscles.

Adequate sleep can improve productivity, emotional balance, brain and heart health, the immune system, and vitality, according to the National Institutes of Health.

For maximum optimization, officials encourage soldiers to get at least eight hours of sleep.

Navy ship defense weapon upgraded to destroy small boats

Spc. Melisa G. Flores, a paralegal specialist with the 223rd Military Intelligence Battalion, performs a leg-tuck during an Army Combat Physical Fitness test hosted at Abraham Lincoln High School in San Francisco, California, July 21, 2019. Flores, who has competed in the Best Warrior competition and won recognition for fitness, said the ACFT has challenged her in new ways.

(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Amy Carle)

Eat right

Nutrition is a vital component of training, said Maj. Brenda Bustillos, a dietician at the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command. “How we get up and feel in the morning, how we recover from exercise, how we utilize energy throughout the day” is all optimized through understanding, and implementing, proper nutrition.

Proper nutritional habits will “enhance a soldier’s ability to perform at their fullest potential,” she added.

Regarding the ACFT, soldiers “should always train to fight,” Bustillos said, and they should do more than “Eat properly the night before an ACFT.” Proper nutrition should not be viewed as a diet, but as a lifestyle choice.

That said, nourishment immediately before an ACFT is also important. “Soldiers should never start the day on an empty tank,” she said.

Navy ship defense weapon upgraded to destroy small boats

Spc. Melisa G. Flores, a paralegal specialist with the 223rd Military Intelligence Battalion, receives coaching from a grader about the proper form for hand-release push-ups during an Army Combat Physical Fitness test hosted at Abraham Lincoln High School in San Francisco, California, July 21, 2019.

(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Amy Carle)

Clear your mind

When you toe the line on test day, it’s natural to feel anxiety, East said. Before the stopwatch starts, soldiers should clear their minds, take a deep breath, and try thinking positively.

As common as anxiety is, he said, confidence is built by properly preparing for the ACFT. For example, soldiers should not start training a week before their test or else their mental fitness can be as affected as any other component of holistic health.

In addition, during the months leading up to a test date, soldiers should do mock tests to know where they stand. These small steps can be giant leaps for an individual’s mental fitness, he said.

Soldiers cannot perform “as best as they can physically” on the ACFT without implementing a holistic approach, Bigelman said.

With soldiers expected to train harder to meet readiness goals, experts are available to them, he said, noting that physical therapists, athletic trainers, and other professionals can now be found at most brigade and battalion levels to take their training to the next level.

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

Articles

Watch a flying tour of Britain’s new aircraft carrier

Great Britain once had the most powerful Navy in the world, but since 2010, they haven’t had a single aircraft carrier.


That changed earlier this week.

The HMS Queen Elizabeth — the largest and most powerful carrier the Royal Navy has ever built — set sail on June 26 for the first time.

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Photo courtesy of the Royal Navy.

With a price tag of about $3.8 billion, it’s also Britain’s most expensive ship ever built. Still, the juice might be worth the squeeze.

“I think there are very few capabilities, by any country, that are as symbolic as a carrier strike capability,” commanding officer Captain Jerry Kyd told reporters on June 26. “These are visible symbols of power and power projection.”

Manned by a crew of 1,000 sailors, the ship is 919-feet long, weighs 65,000 tons, and can hold 40 jets.

Check out the aerial footage of the ship:

Articles

The Browning Automatic Rifle cut down enemies from WWI to Vietnam

It was one of the most beloved and abused weapons in the history of warfare. The Browning Automatic Rifle was the weapon of choice for infantrymen, vehicle crews, and even gangsters from its debut in World War I, through two World Wars and Korea to the jungles of Vietnam.


The BAR was invented by its namesake, John Browning, in 1917 for use in World War I. The Army, newly arrived in Europe to fight on the Western Front, was told that machine guns were the way to go in the new war, and America agreed.

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Army 2nd Lt. Val Browning stands with the Browning Automatic Rifle designed by his father. (Photo: Army Heritage and Education Center)

One of the first soldiers to carry the BAR into combat was Browning’s own son, 2nd Lt. Val Browning. Browning and his men employed the weapon at the Meuse-Argonne offensive to good effect just like thousands of other soldiers in the war.

In the mud-filled trenches of World War I, the rifle was known for its reliability despite the conditions. When troops hit an enemy trench line, they could be reasonably sure that the rifle would spit its 20-40 rounds of .30-06 per magazine without jamming or overheating.

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A group of U.S. Marines patrol Okinawa in 1945. The Marine on point is carrying the Browning Automatic Rifle. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)

Just as important, the BAR was very accurate for such a light automatic weapon. It was employed in a counter-sniper role by shooters firing quick bursts at known or suspected enemy positions, suppressing or killing the enemy.

Rounds from the BAR hit with enough force to pierce up to .375 inch of steel plate, meaning it could penetrate the armor on most French light tanks stolen by the Germans.

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A U.S. Marine fires the Browning Automatic Rifle in World War II. (Photo: U.S. Archives)

In World War II, the attributes that made the BAR so great for trench-fighting also made it great for sweeping Nazis and Japanese soldiers from bunkers. It was mostly chambered in .30-06 that left the barrel at 2,682 feet per second.

It was so respected in World War II that, according to War Is Boring, soldiers “acquired” extra BARs to give themselves more firepower than their units were allotted — a single BAR per squad.

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A U.S. infantryman uses a Browning Automatic Rifle to fire on Chinese troops during the Korean War. (Photo: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

While the Browning was able to reprise its World War II infantry role in Korea, the 1957 debut of the M60 machine gun forced the BAR from the top spot in Vietnam. Still, it was a valuable asset for special operators and as a weapon for vehicle crews.

For instance, the BAR was one of the weapons Underwater Demolitions Team-13 members used to fight off Viet Cong guerillas during a riverine ambush.

But that was the swan song for the BAR in American service. The M249 was introduced into the American arsenal in 1984, nine years after the Vietnam War ended. When the Invasion of Panama took place in 1989, it was M60s and M249s that sprayed lead downrange in the BAR’s stead.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army says Strykers can be hacked

The US Army’s upgunned Strykers were developed to counter Russian aggression in Europe, but while these upgraded armored vehicles bring greater firepower to the battlefield, they suffer from a critical weakness that could be deadly in a fight.

The improved Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicle – Dragoons deployed with the 2nd Cavalry Regiment in Europe have the ability to take on a variety of threats, but there’s one in particular that the powerful new 30mm automatic cannons can’t eliminate.


Navy ship defense weapon upgraded to destroy small boats

The new Strykers’ vulnerability to cyberattacks could be a serious issue against top adversaries.

(Photo by 1st Lt. Ellen Brabo)

“Adversaries demonstrated the ability to degrade select capabilities of the ICV-D when operating in a contested cyber environment,” the Pentagon’s Office of the Director of Test and Evaluation (DOTE) said in a January 2019 report, according to The War Zone.

Simply put, the vehicles can be hacked.

It’s unclear who has been doing the hacking because “adversaries” is an ambiguous term. The adversaries could be simulated enemy forces in training exercises or an actual adversarial power such as Russia. The new Stryker units are in service in Germany, where they were deployed in late 2017, according to Army Times.

The military typically uses “opposing force” or “aggressors” to refer to mock opponents in training exercises. The use of the word “adversaries” in the recent report could indicate that the Army’s Strykers were the target of an actual cyberattack.

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The development of the new Strykers began in 2015.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. John Onuoha)

It’s also unclear which systems were affected, but The War Zone said that it appears the most appealing targets would be the vehicle’s data-sharing, navigation, or digital-communications systems because a cyberattack on these systems could hamper and slow US actions on the battlefield, threatening US forces.

These “exploited vulnerabilities,” the recent report said, “pre-date the integration of the lethality upgrades,” such as the replacement of the M2 .50 caliber machine guns with the 30mm cannon, among other upgrades. This means that other Stryker variants may have the same fatal flaw as the upgunned versions, the development of which began in 2015 in direct response to Russian aggression.

US forces have come face to face with Russian electronic-warfare threats before.

“Right now, in Syria, we are operating in the most aggressive EW environment on the planet from our adversaries,” Gen. Raymond Thomas, head of US Special Operations Command, said April 2018.

Navy ship defense weapon upgraded to destroy small boats

(Photo by Sgt. Timothy Hamlin)

He said these activities were disabling US aircraft. “They are testing us everyday, knocking our communications down, disabling our EC-130s, etc.”

NATO allies and partner countries have also encountered GPS jamming and other relevant attacks that have been attributed to Russia.

The recent DOTE report recommended the Army “correct or mitigate cyber vulnerabilities,” as well as “mitigate system design vulnerabilities to threats as identified in the classified report.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

US pressure fails to fracture Armenia, Iran relationship

Acting Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian says he made clear to U.S. national-security adviser John Bolton that Armenia will pursue its national interests and maintain “special relations” with its neighbor Iran.

Addressing the Armenian parliament on Nov. 1, 2018, Pashinian said he told Bolton when he visited Yerevan in October 2018 that Armenia is a landlocked nation that does not have diplomatic relations with either neighboring Turkey or Azerbaijan, so it must retain “special relations” with its other two neighbors — Iran and Georgia — which he said are Armenia’s only “gateways” to the outside world.


“I reaffirm the position that we should have special relations with Iran and Georgia that would be as far outside geopolitical influences as possible. This position was very clearly formulated also during my meeting with Mr. Bolton, and I think that the position of Armenia was clear, comprehensible, and even acceptable to representatives of the U.S. delegation,” the Armenian leader said.

Bolton visited the Caucasus nations of Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan in October 2018 in part to push for compliance with the sanctions that the United States is reimposing on Iran’s oil and financial sectors on November 5 after withdrawing from Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers in April 2018.

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U.S. national-security adviser John Bolton.

(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

In an interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian Service on Oct. 25, 2018, Bolton said he told Pashinian that the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump will enforce sanctions against Iran “very vigorously.” For that reason, he said, the Armenian-Iranian border is “going to be a significant issue.”

“Obviously, we don’t want to cause damage to our friends in the process,” Bolton added.

Pashinian told the parliament that his response to Bolton was: “We respect any country’s statement and respect the national interests of any country, but the Republic of Armenia has its own national and state interests, which do not always coincide with the interests and ideas of other countries, any other country.

“Let no one doubt that we are fully building our activities on the basis of Armenia’s national interest – be it in our relations with the United States, Iran, Russia, all countries.”

Pashinian made his remarks in response to a lawmaker’s question about what effect the U.S. sanctions on Iran would have on Armenia.

Days after his talks with Pashinian and other foreign leaders, Bolton conceded that the White House is unlikely to achieve its stated goal of reducing Iran’s oil exports to “zero” under the sanctions.

“We understand, obviously, [that] a number of countries — some immediately surrounding Iran, some of which I just visited last week, others that have been purchasing oil [from Iran] — may not be able to go all the way to zero immediately. So, we want to achieve maximum pressure [on Iran], but we don’t want to harm friends and allies either, and we are working our way through that,” Bolton told the Alexander Hamilton Society in Washington on Oct. 31, 2018.

A hard-liner who has pushed for the toughest possible sanctions on Iran, Bolton’s remarks suggested for the first time that the White House may be preparing to grant waivers from the sanctions to some countries like India, Turkey, and South Korea that have requested them.

Still, Bolton insisted that the sanctions already are having a powerful effect on Iran’s economy, in particular helping to cause a collapse in Iran’s currency, the rial, in 2018.

“Already, you see reduction in purchases in countries like China that you would not have expected — countries that are still in the nuclear deal [with Iran]. We have also seen Chinese financial institutions withdrawing from engaging in transactions with Iran. European businesses are fleeing the Iranian market. Most of the big ones are already out,” he said.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

How one flag can put the spotlight on many veteran issues

In the hearts of patriots all across this great country of ours, Old Glory isn’t just a piece of red, white, and blue cloth — it’s a symbol. A symbol of freedom, democracy, and the American way of life. No one knows this better than the military community, who go to war with the flag on their shoulders. Even after service, you’d be hard-pressed to find a veteran who doesn’t have a flag displayed in their home in one way or another.

Today, Old Glory is touching the lives of thousands as it makes its away across the country, carried by veterans, troops, and patriots alike on a trek from Boston, Massachusetts, to sunny San Diego, California. Over ten thousands pairs of hands will have carried the flag as it moves across twenty-four states and over 4,300 miles. Along the way, The Stars and Stripes are bringing attention to many of the issues that the veteran community faces.

This is Team RWB’s Old Glory Relay.


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The best way to get everyone’s attention? By making a large event that runs from September 11th to November 11th. ​

(Team RWB)

Every participant in the Old Glory Relay is running to support their own cause, but all of these causes are important to the veteran community. Chief among these issues are the disastrously high suicide rate within our community, the struggles of isolation, sedentary lifestyles, finding meaningful post-service employment, and combating the stigma surrounding veterans seeking help for mental issues.

There’s no simple solution to any of these problems. There’s no magic wand to wave and make them disappear. It takes a serious conversation within the community. And this conversation can only happen when we all come together and make our voices heard in a singular, booming voice — and that’s exactly what the 10,000 men and women carrying the flag across the country are doing.

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If you miss your time in the airborne, don’t worry: They have skydiving events as well.

(Team RWB)

Recently, We Are The Mighty chatted with Tom Voss, an Army veteran and member of Team Red, White Blue (or Team RWB) who will be carrying the flag across the finish-line on Veterans Day, November 11, 2018. Voss is no stranger to participating in events to raise awareness for veteran issues. A couple years back, he and another Iraq War veteran walked across the country to put that much-needed spotlight on important issues.

“It’s always important to pay homage and pay our respects to all the men and women that came before us.” said Tom. “Look at the American Flag — that’s what it represents. It represents the men and women who have sacrificed everything, the families that have sacrificed everything so that we are able to live the lives that we do today.”

Team RWB’s mission is to enrich the lives of America’s veterans. They do this by connecting veterans to their community through physical and social activity. Outside of massive events, like the Old Glory Relay, local Team RWB chapters assist local communities in smaller ways, like placing flags at the Kentucky Veterans Cemetery, building housing areas with Habitat for Humanity in Los Angeles, putting on Range Days in Grand Rapids, Michigan, all to bring veterans together within their communities.

The veterans who participate in these events get a sense of camaraderie that they’ve been missing since their departure from active-duty life — but the door is always open to civilians, too.

The Old Glory Relay is like a perfect encapsulation of everything great about Team RWB. Veterans, active duty troops, and civilian patriots are banding together for a great cause. In addition to bringing attention to many of the issues that the veteran community faces, they’re also helping bridge the ever-expanding civilian-military divide.

“I think what it comes down to is, veterans are open and willing to share their stories. But you have to ask. Coming from a place of non-judgement and not just saying, ‘thank you for your service,’ but really asking, ‘what happened during your time in Iraq or Afghanistan? Because I weren’t there. I don’t know. All I know is what I saw on the news.’ Coming from a genuine place like that from the civilian standpoint is really important.”

If you’re in the area, be sure to catch Tom Voss and the rest of Team Red, White, Blue as they cross the finish line in San Diego, California on November 11th.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Watchdog report says US trainers watched ‘Cops’ and ‘NCIS’ to help train Afghans

Deficiencies in Afghanistan’s security forces, including the military and police, are getting renewed attention as the US administration considers sending more than 3,000 additional troops to the country.


President Donald Trump held talks on Sept. 21 with his Afghan counterpart, Ashraf Ghani, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York City, where both expressed optimism about the planned increase in US troop numbers.

The US has spent $70 billion training Afghan forces since 2002 and is still spending more than $4 billion a year, according to a report from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan  Reconstruction, published on Sept. 21.

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Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani (left) and US President Donald Trump. Image from Radio Free Europe.

Despite those sums, Afghan security forces are struggling to prevent advances by Taliban fighters, more than 16 years after the US invaded Afghanistan to topple the Taliban government that gave al-Qaeda the sanctuary where it plotted the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

According to US estimates, government forces control less than 60 percent of Afghanistan, with almost half the country either contested or under the control of fighters.

The report said US forces focused on carrying out military operations during the initial years after the 2001 invasion, rather than developing the Afghan army and police.

When the US and NATO did look to develop the security forces, they did so with little input from senior Afghan officials, according to the report.

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Afghan National Mine Removal Group soldiers zero weapons during marksmanship training. USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Matthew B. Fredericks.

“The report does not surprise us. We’ve been hearing about these irregularities for many years now, and many here in Afghanistan have witnessed it,” Habib Wardak, an Afghan security specialist, told Al Jazeera from Kabul.

“When the idea of creating the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) came up, it was a rapid building up of the army. The government was recruiting anyone from militias to warlords.

“In 2010 and 2011, the focus was on building the capabilities of assets. We’ve seen a helicopter pilots going in and teaching Afghan security forces how to battle insurgency, which is ridiculous.

“You have a military which is fighting the war, but no one is raising questions that at what cost is the Afghan army fighting the Taliban.”

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More than 500 Afghan National Army soldiers stand in formation during the graduation of the 215th Corps’ Regional Military Training Center’s Reception, Staging, Onward Movement and Integration training. DoD Photo by Sgt. Bryan Peterson.

At one point, the report said, training for Afghan police officials used PowerPoint slides from US and NATO operations in the Balkans.

“The presentations were not only of questionable relevance to the Afghan setting, but also overlooked the high levels of illiteracy among the police,” the report said.

John Sopko, the head of SIGAR, said that one US officer watched TV shows such as Cops and NCIS to understand what to teach Afghan officials.

He said the US approach to Afghanistan lacked a “whole of government approach” in which different agencies, such as the state department and Pentagon, coordinate efforts.

The inability of embassy officials in Kabul to venture far outside their secure compound also affected oversight and coordination, he said.

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DoD Photo by Sgt. Bryan Peterson

“The rules of engagement what President Trump is talking about might be able to contain Taliban up to certain extent, but it’s not the Afghan army in true essence that will be able to contain or confine the Taliban and not let them advance,” Wardak told Al Jazeera.

Afghan police and army units in 2015 took over from NATO the task of providing security for the country.

According to SIGAR, 6,785 Afghan soldiers and police officers were killed between January 1 and November 12, 2016, with another 11,777 wounded.

Even those partial numbers showed an increase of about 35 percent from all of 2015 when some 5,000 security forces were killed.

Still, Sopko credited the Afghans for “fighting hard and improving in many ways”, but stressed the US and NATO have to do a better job helping them.

Articles

This World War II vet got his wallet back after losing it 70 years ago

We Are The Mighty is excited to partner with Paramount Pictures on #AlliedStories, a digital program inspired by the new Robert Zemeckis film Allied, starring Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard – in theaters November 23rd.  Within #AlliedStories users can upload photos of their family from the 1940s, including your military photos, war letters, personal stories…anything 1940s. Below is an amazing story about how one Army veteran got back his wallet and personal photos 70 years after he lost it in France. Submit your own stories and photos at alliedstories.com or post on your social channels using #AlliedStories! 


Eligio Ramos was an Army private making his way across Europe with the 250th Field Artillery Unit in 1945. During a night in an Austrian farmhouse, he lost his wallet filled with receipts, photos, and his identification.

Seventy years later, his daughter was surprised to read a letter from an Austrian doctor looking to re-unite the wallet with its owner. Dr. Josef Ruckhofer told the Department of Veterans Affairs how he found the wallet while cleaning out his farmhouse.

“It was in June this year, we removed some of the old wooden planks from the backside wall,” said Ruckhofer. “When I looked to the bottom, I found this old leather wallet, a little bit dirty, but still okay. I opened the wallet and found a lot of old photographs, stamps, papers and an American Soldier’s ID card from 1945 with his name, birth year and hometown in Harlingen, Texas.”

Ruckhofer had to do some internet sleuthing to find the original owner, but Ramos finally got his wallet back in June. On August 4, he shared the stories behind the photos with his family and others at a ceremony at the Fresno VA Hospital.

The wallet contained a lot of photos and memories, from pictures of his unit and newborn babies to receipts from his time in Europe.

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Eligio Ramos WWII veteran lost wallet receipts and ID. Photo: Courtesy of Fresno VA Hospital

 

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Photo: Courtesy of Fresno VA Hospital

Ramos was in the Army from 1942 to 1945.

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Photo: Courtesy of the Ramos Family

He fought with the 250th Artillery helping to liberate starving prisoners,” said his son, Rosando Ramos.

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Eligio Ramos and his platoon. Photo: Courtesy of the Ramos family.

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Photo: Courtesy of the Ramos Family

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Photo: Courtesy of Fresno VA Hospital

One of the photos was of the farmhouse the platoon stayed in where Ramos left the wallet.

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Photo: Courtesy of Dr. Joseph Ruckhofer

Standard documents from Army life in World War II, like ID cards and a rations receipt, were also in the wallet.

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Photo: Courtesy of Fresno VA Hospital Carmichael Yepez

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Photo: Courtesy of Fresno VA Hospital

For more information, see the full story of the Ramos wallet at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

And don’t forget to share your photos and stories at alliedstories.com or post on your social channels using #AlliedStories.

“Allied” is the story of intelligence officer Max Vatan (Pitt), who in 1942 North Africa encounters French Resistance fighter Marianne Beausejour (Cotillard) on a deadly mission behind enemy lines. Reunited in London, their relationship is threatened by the extreme pressures of the war. 

MIGHTY TRENDING

David Goldfein is the leader the military needs right now

Another Memorial Day has come and gone and, along with it, comes another report from the family of a service member who was killed in action about encountering a man in civilian clothes at Arlington National Cemetery. Calling himself Dave, the man talked to a Gold Star spouse for a bit, then moved on.

The wife of the fallen service member had no idea she was talking to Gen. David Goldfein, the 21st Chief of Staff of the Air Force.

She only found out because her friend noticed the coin that “Dave” left on the headstone of her husband — the coin of his office. She posted the story on social media some time later, which was confirmed by the popular Air Force Facebook page Air Force amn/nco/snco.

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That’s the kind of person General Goldfein is. This isn’t an isolated incident. On Memorial Day 2017, an airman at Arlington spotted a man in his dress blues walking among the graves at Section 60 — the resting place for those who fell in Iraq or Afghanistan — putting his hand on each for a moment of reflection.


When he reached a sobbing widow, he embraced her and talked to her for a while. It was General Goldfein. The post also appeared on Air Force amn/nco/snco.

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I guess he tried to go more incognito in 2018 by wearing civvies, but was still recognized.
(Facebook photo by Cody Stollings)

Cody Stollings, the airman who recognized Gen. Goldfein, introduced himself and talked to the general for a bit. It turns out General Goldfein keeps the names of every airman who is killed under his command in a book. Each year, he visits them at Arlington to pay his respects.

For many Americans, the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Niger, and Somalia have become a fact of life. When news about OIF, OEF, OAE, or OIR hits, no one really listens anymore. The acronyms change, but everything else stays the same. This is the cost of endless war. Andrew Bacevich, a historian and retired colonel whose son died in Iraq, said it best,

“A collective indifference to war has become an emblem of contemporary America.”

Bacevich has also noted that those who aren’t serving in the U.S. military are encouraged to support the troops, but no one ever “stipulates how this civic function is to be performed.”

Those in charge of prosecuting the wars, however, should find it relatively easy to support the troops — by reaching their objective and bringing those troops home. But the Chiefs of Staff don’t hold that kind of command authority. They’re in an advisory position for the National Security Council.

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In case we forgot who is on that council.

In a time where the War in Afghanistan seems like it will never end and new hot spots seem to pop up all the time, it’s good to know the Air Force has someone at the top who’s seen and fought in war and knows that the people who die fighting them are more than numbers on a PowerPoint slide.

It’s nice to know that someone at the top really gives a shit.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why it’s not worth vets hunting down ‘stolen valor’ offenders

It is now officially time we all had a talk about this ‘Stolen Valor’ craziness.


A while back, I was at the airport in Chicago passing through on business and I had just finished dinner and was standing up in the process of paying my bill. I was a middle aged guy with a heavy five o’clock shadow, physically fit without looking super athletic, and wearing civilian clothes – honestly, I didn’t much look like a soldier.

As I turned to go, this huge kid reeking of beer and at least a few percentage points over his tape test walked right up on me and blocked me from leaving, ’10th MTN, huh?’ It took me a few seconds to register I had a tiny 10th MTN pin on my backpack which I had forgotten about. Before I could answer, he jabbed his finger at the pin and got super aggressive, ‘What Battalion were you in? Who was your Commander?” I already had my wallet out and I pulled my ID card and held it out and told him to ‘back’ off. He took a look, apologized and he left.

My encounter ended well for me but it didn’t end so well for Marine veteran Michael Deflin. This Fallujah vet couldn’t produce an active duty CAC card on request from some Air Force dude and therefore he got the crap kicked out of him. He suffered a broken leg and jaw in the process. Prior to him and his friend beating Deflin down, the USAF guy accused him of ‘Stolen Valor’.

Congratulations, we have now started conducting fratricide on our own.

Stolen Valor is a real problem but not a new one – folks have lied about their service for personal and political gain after the Civil War and after both World Wars. It should be exposed when it is found. But the whole business of exposing those who lie about their service has become increasingly sordid with legions of veterans self-appointing themselves as ‘Valor Custodians’ fighting the good fight trying to find the next sad sack guy lying about being a SEAL cyber-ninja at the local Mall food-court.

I use to roll my eyes at these antics but now they have gotten dangerous. Stolen Valor fratricide folks: you’re the reason why we can’t have nice things.

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Part of what makes this so laughable is that some of the loudest members of the mob are people who were FOB warriors downrange. They are the dudes you see at the PX or the Atlanta Hartsfield Airport wearing their absolutely pristine condition 400 dollar tactical packs with the ‘Major League Infidel’ patch, the always ridiculous camo cap with a subdued American flag on the velcro, and drinking a giant Monster while telling everyone who will listen about that ‘one time in Iraq, I did xxxxxx and I’m totally not making it up!’

The truth is they never left the wire on their one OIF/OEF tour – but I sure as hell hear them lying…oops, I mean exaggerating about what they have done downrange in the orderly rooms, at the PX food court, on social media, and in the customs line at Ali al Salim Air Base. Come on, guys, you don’t think we notice? You don’t think we haven’t heard multiple variations of the same story our entire career?

For many of you out there in the mob, I would say check your own shot group before you starting calling out others.

It is time to stop the nonsense. Your service makes you part of a unique grouping of Americans, but it doesn’t make anyone a hero despite what John Cena told you when you saw him on the USO tour at the Bagram Clamshell, you know, right before salsa night – the real heroes are at Arlington or Walter Reed.

Nor does it give you a right to be a jerk to others. If you think someone is lying about their service, the first thing you should do is chill and regard the situation. Separate the innocuous from the consequential. Tall tales and ‘war stories’ have been around since the beginning of time and mostly they are harmless. I would be lying if I told you I haven’t told one in my life. Unless it involves decorations, tabs, or awards which they didn’t receive, the stories generally aren’t worth your time to correct or worry about.

If you are still convinced they are rotten and they are truly disgracing the service of others like the civilian who wears a uniform and misrepresents himself at a public event or the guy who wears a Purple Heart or Silver Star they didn’t earn, then don’t confront them – the proper course of action is call Law Enforcement, local FBI field office, your chain of command, or the service investigative offices (CID, NCIS, OSI). They are the trained professionals who know how to handle these sorts of cases. It is becoming increasingly obvious many folks don’t.

And for God’s sake, take off the subdued velcro flag hats.

Articles

Chinese Navy carries out brazen heist of American UUV

The People’s Liberation Army Navy stole an American unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) conducting oceanographic research Thursday in plain view of a U.S. Navy vessel about fifty miles from Subic Bay in the Philippines.


According to a report from the Washington Examiner, the brazen heist took place in international waters as the oceanographic research vessel USNS Bowditch (T AGS 62), a Pathfinder-class ship.

The BBC reported that the vessel responsible for the heist was ASR-510, identified in Combat Fleets of the World as a Dalang III-class “rescue and salvage” ship. The Chinese vessel apparently came within 500 yards of the Bowditch, lowered a small boat and seized the littoral battlespace sensing (LBS) glider.

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Daniel Braun, left, Eric Sanchez and David Barney, Systems Center Pacific engineers at Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR), perform pre-deployment inspections on littoral battlespace sensing gliders aboard the Military Sealift Command oceanographic survey ship USNS Pathfinder (T-AGS 60). Each glider hosts a payload suite of sensors that will measure the physical characteristics of the water column as the glider routinely descends and ascends in the ocean. The gliders will be deployed during an at-sea test aboard Pathfinder Oct. 22-Nov. 5. (U.S. Navy photo by Rick Naystatt)

In a statement, Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said, “Bowditch made contact with the PRC Navy ship via bridge-to-bridge radio to request the return of the UUV. The radio contact was acknowledged by the PRC Navy ship, but the request was ignored.  The UUV is a sovereign immune vessel of the United States. We call upon China to return our UUV immediately, and to comply with all of its obligations under international law.”

According to a 2010 Navy release, the LBS glider can operate for up to eight months on a lithium battery. The data gathered by these gliders assist in everything from special operations to mine warfare to anti-submarine warfare.

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USNS Bowditch (T-AGS 62) — Navy file photo of the T-AGS 60 Class Oceanographic Survey Ship, USNS Bowditch. Her mission includes oceanographic sampling and data collection of surface, midwater and ocean floor parameters; launch and recovery of hydrographic survey launches (HSLs); the launching , recovering and towing of scientific packages (both tethered and autonomous), including the handling, monitoring and servicing of remotely operated vehicles (ROVs); shipboard oceanogaphic data processing and sample analysis; and precise navigation, trackline maneuvering and station keeping to support deep-ocean and coastal surveys. There are 5 ships in this class. (U.S. Navy photo)

This is not the first time the Bowditch has been involved in a maritime incident with the People’s Liberation Army Navy. Globalsecurity.org noted that a week before the 2001 EP-3 incident in which a People’s Liberation Army Navy Air Force J-8 Finback collided with a U.S. Navy electronic surveillance plane, a Chinese frigate came very close to the unarmed vessel. The Bowditch, which is manned by a civilian crew, also was involved in incidents in 2002 and 2003.

China claims ownership of the South China Sea, marking its claims with a so-called “Nine-Dash Line.” An international panel rejected Chinese claims earlier this year in a case brought by the Philippines. The Chinese boycotted the process, and have since armed a number of artificial islands in the disputed region. Shortly after the ruling was issued, Chinese forces rammed and sank a Vietnamese fishing vessel in the disputed waters.

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