Number of American troops wounded fighting ISIS spikes - We Are The Mighty
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Number of American troops wounded fighting ISIS spikes

Newly-released data from the Department of Defense shows an alarming spike in the number of American personnel wounded in the fight against ISIS.


Since October, at least 14 US troops were wounded in combat operations under Operation Inherent Resolve — nearly double the number wounded since the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria began in August 2014. At least 8 Americans were killed in combat since the campaign began, while 23 have died in “non-hostile” events.

Number of American troops wounded fighting ISIS spikes
Green Berets rehearse close quarters combat. (U.S. Army photo by 3rd Special Forces Group)

The Pentagon’s quiet acknowledgement of a spike in casualties was first reported by Andrew deGrandpre at Military Times.

The increase in combat wounds — which can be caused by small-arms fire, rockets, mortars, and other weaponry, though the Pentagon does not release specifics of how troops are injured — lines up with ongoing offensives against ISIS in the Iraqi city of Mosul and its Syrian capital of Raqqa.

US military officials have often downplayed the role of American troops in the region, saying they are there mainly to “advise and assist” Iraqi and Kurdish personnel fighting on the front lines.

The military has more than 5,000 troops on the ground in Iraq currently, a number which has steadily crept up since roughly 300 troops were deployed to secure the Baghdad airport in June 2014.

With 15 combat injuries, the Marine Corps has the most wounded in the campaign so far. The Army, Navy, and Air Force had 11, 3, and 1 wounded, respectively.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

5 rifles that almost replaced the M4/M16…and one that did

With the Army’s Next Generation Squad Weapon Project, the days of the M4 Carbine and M249 SAW may be numbered. The prototypes from General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems Inc., Textron Systems, and Sig Sauer are vying to replace both 5.56mm weapon systems in infantry and close-combat units. All three NGSW candidates utilize a 6.8mm round, though their designs and mechanics vary greatly. While the NGSW Project is a departure from the M4/M16 family, it is certainly not the first time that the Army or military in general has attempted to find a new rifle.

Number of American troops wounded fighting ISIS spikes

The prototypes for the Army’s Next Generation Squad Weapon (U.S. Army)

Number of American troops wounded fighting ISIS spikes

The SPIW on display at the Aberdeen Proving Ground Museum (Public Domain)

1. Special Purpose Individual Weapon

The Special Purpose Individual Weapon was an Army program that began in 1951 to develop a flechette-firing rifle. I know what you’re thinking: the M16 wasn’t even adopted until 1964. So how can the SPIW have been a potential replacement for the M16?

Well, Project SALVO was the Army’s first attempt to create the SPIW with the intent of arming soldiers with a weapon that fired small projectiles in large volumes at a high rate of fire, hence its name. Though flechette rounds were tested, the conclusion of Project SALVO was to adopt the Armalite AR-15 as the M16 rifle. However, research and development of the SPIW continued with Project NIBLICK. Now trying to replace the newly adopted M16, the Project NIBLICK also aimed to develop a grenade launcher to complement the flechette-firing rifle. AAI, Springfield Armory, Winchester Arms, and Harrington Richardson all submitted their own unique entries for the SPIW. T

hough none of the submissions were deemed to be effective combat weapons, the grenade launcher from the AAI design was further developed and was eventually as the M203 40mm grenade launcher.

Number of American troops wounded fighting ISIS spikes

Top to bottom: AAI, HK, Steyr, and Colt ACR prototypes (Public Domain)

2. Advanced Combat Rifle

Started in 1986, the Advanced Combat Rifle program aimed to replace the M16 with a more accurate rifle. AAI, Colt, HK, Steyr, Ares Inc., and McDonnell Douglas Helicopter Systems all received development contracts, but only the first four companies advanced to the weapon testing phase. The AAI entry utilized a flechette round which, despite the addition of a sound suppressor, created a louder muzzle blast than the M16.

The HK entry was the innovative caseless ammunition G11 which many people will remember from the video game Call of Duty: Black Ops. Steyr submitted a flechette-firing bullpup design that bore a superficial resemblance to the AUG. Colt’s ACR prototype was the most conventional, as it was a highly modified version of the existing M16 design with the addition of a new sight, a hydraulic buffer, and a collapsing buttstock. The Colt ACR also utilized an experimental “duplex round”, a single cartridge with two small bullets in it, to increase the rifle’s volume of fire. However, the “duplex rounds” resulted in decreased accuracy at long range, defeating the purpose of the ACR. In the end, none of the ACR prototypes met or even approached the 100% improvement over the M16 that the program aimed for.

Number of American troops wounded fighting ISIS spikes

A soldier with the XM29 Block 3 prototype (U.S. Army)

3. Objective Individual Combat Weapon/XM29

In the aftermath of the ACR program, the Army started the Objective Individual Combat Weapon program. The central idea of the OICW program was to develop an infantry rifle that allowed the user to engage targets behind hard cover with the use of airburst munitions. This idea was refined to combine the airburst, low-velocity cannon with an assault rifle.

The kinetic rounds of the rifle could engage a target directly and, if the target retreated behind cover, the airburst munition could be employed instead. By the early 2000s, contract winner Heckler Koch had resigned the XM29, which featured a 20mm High Explosive Air Bursting launcher and a short-barrel 5.56x45mm NATO rifle. However, the 20mm HEAB was found to be inadequately lethal and the short barrel of the rifle did not generate enough muzzle velocity to be as effective as a standard infantry rifle. The XM29 was also too large and heavy to be carried by a rifleman on the frontlines. The XM29 was shelved in 2004.

Number of American troops wounded fighting ISIS spikes

Army Chief of Staff, General Peter J. Shoomaker, and Sergeant Major of the Army Kenneth O. Preston fire the compact variant of the XM8 at Fort Benning, August 2004 (U.S. Army)

4. XM8

Designed by Heckler Koch, the XM8 was an offshoot of the shelved XM29. The grenade launcher part of the project went on to be developed into the XM25 Counter Defilade Target Engagement System. The XM8 was a configurable weapon system that allowed the user to set it up as an infantry rifle, a short-barreled personal defense weapon, and even a bipod-equipped support weapon.

The XM8 also featured an integrated sight and IR laser aiming module/illuminator. Over 200 developmental prototypes were delivered to the military. However, testing yielded numerous complaints including the short battery life of the integrated sight and IR module, ergonomic issues, heavy weight, and a hand guard that would melt after firing too many rounds. Following this first phase of testing, the military requested funding for a large field test, which Congress denied. The project was put on hold in April 2005 and formally canceled on October 31 later that year.

Number of American troops wounded fighting ISIS spikes

Soldiers fire the HK HK416 (U.S. Army)

5. Individual Carbine

The Individual Carbine competition began in 2010 and sought to replace the M4 carbine in the US Army. The Army solicited manufacturers to submit rifles that provided accurate and reliable firepower, could be fired semi or fully-automatic, possessed integrated Picatinny rails, and was fully ambidextrous. Though the competition did not specify a caliber, any submissions not chambered in 5.56x45mm NATO or 7.62x54mm NATO had to be supplied with ammunition by the manufacturer.

Submissions for the competition included Robinson Armament Co.’s XCR, LWRC’s M6A4, Remington’s ACR (not to be confused with the ACR program), FN Herstal’s FN SCAR, Colt’s CM901, Beretta’s ARX-160, Adcor Defense’s A-556, and HK’s HK416, among others. Over the course of testing, some companies backed out after the Army announced that the winner would have to turn over technical data rights to the Army; others dropped out for financial reasons. By Phase II testing, only FN, HK, Remington, Adcor Defense, Beretta, and Colt remained in the running.

Though Phase II was completed, Phase III was halted in 2013 by questions regarding the program’s cost and necessity. With M4A1 carbines set to be purchased through 2018, the Army began to rethink carbine acquisition. On June 13, 2013, the Individual Carbine competition was formally cancelled on the grounds that none of the submissions met the minimum scores to continue to the next phase of the evaluation.

Number of American troops wounded fighting ISIS spikes

A Marine armed with an M27 IAR covers his team in Afghanistan (U.S. Marine Corps)

6. M27 Infantry Assault Rifle

The Marines pride themselves on their ingenuity. Their ability to improvise, adapt, and overcome us part of what makes them such a lethal fighting force. The Corps demonstrated this ability with their acquisition and fielding of the M27 Infantry Assault Rifle. In 2006, the Marine Corps issued contracts to manufacturers to replace the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon with a more mobile Infantry Assault Rifle. Submissions included IAR variants of the FN SCAR and HK416 as well as the Colt IAR6940. In 2009, the HK416 won the competition and began a five-month final testing period before it was formally designated as the M27 IAR in the summer of 2010.

In May 2011, General James Amos ordered the replacement of the M249 SAW by the M27 IAR and limited fielding began. Though the 30round magazine-fed M27 could not provide the sustained suppressive fire that the belt-fed M249 SAW could, the M27’s increased accuracy and reliability offset the rate of fire. In early 2017, Commandant of the Marine Corps General Robert Neller announced that he wanted to equip every 0311 Marine rifleman with the M27 IAR. To meet this demand, the Corps issued a request for 11,000 M27 IARs from HK. Chris Woodburn, deputy of the Maneuver Branch, Fires and Maneuver Integration at Marine Corps Combat Development Command, said, “The new order will replace all M4s in every infantry squad with an M27, except for the squad leader.”

The change would also include Marine infantry training battalions. The deal was finalized in 2018, with the Marines purchasing just over 14,000 M27 IARs. In 2019, the Marine Corps reported that the last of the M27s would be delivered and issued to every infantryman from platoon commander and below by mid-2021. While the M27 will replace the M4 as the standard-issue rifle for the Marine Corps infantry, non-infantry Marines will continue to field the M4 for the foreseeable future. Still, it could be argued that the Marine Corps succeeded in replacing the M4 in a short period of time where the Army failed over a period of decades of programs and competitions. If anything, the NGSW goal of replacing the M4 and M249 with a single weapon system appears to have been lifted from the Marine Corps acquisition and fielding of the M27 IAR.

Only time will tell if the Army will succeed in replacing the M4 through the NGSW Project, or if it be the latest in a long line of failed attempts.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia accuses Navy of controlling devastating drone swarm

Russian Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin said a January 2018 drone swarm attack on a Russian military base in Syria had been commanded from a US Navy P-8A Poseideon, Russian media reported.

A swarm of 13 drones on Jan. 5, 2018, and Jan. 6, 2018, targeted Hmeymim air base and Tartus Naval Facility, but Russia repelled the attacks, it said at the time.

Russia’s Ministry of Defense released photos of fixed-wing, unsophisticated drones that the US doesn’t acknowledge as part of its inventory.


Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, described the allegation as “very alarming,” Radio Free Europe reported.

“Any suggestion that U.S. or coalition forces played a role in an attack on a Russian base is without any basis in fact and is utterly irresponsible,” the Pentagon responded at the time.

The Poseidon P-8A does have the capability to communicate with drones, but it’s entirely unclear if it can command a fleet of 13 drones. Russia initially displayed the drones after the attack, but did not produce any hard evidence that they communicated with the US Navy.

Number of American troops wounded fighting ISIS spikes

Russian Ministry of Defense display of the drones that allegedly took part in the attack.

Russia has some of the world’s best air defenses around its bases in Syria, which Igor Korotchenko, editor-in-chief of Russia’s National Defense journal, told Russian media contributed to the attack.

The US “pursued several goals,” with the alleged attack, said Korotchenko.

“There were three such goals: uncovering the Russian air defense system in Syria, carrying out radio-electronic reconnaissance and inflicting actual harm to our servicemen in Syria,” he said.

Without citing evidence or sources, Korotechenko alleged the US carried out the attack to uncover “the strong and weak points in our air defense system in Syria.”

In April 2018, the US would attack targets in Syria suspected of participating in chemical weapons attacks on civilians, but Russian air defenses stood down.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

US-Taliban peace talks end with ‘real strides made’ but no deal

The longest round of peace talks between the United States and the Taliban has ended with “real strides” being made but without an agreement on troop withdrawals from Afghanistan, U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad said on March 12, 2019.

“The conditions for peace have improved. It’s clear all sides want to end the war. Despite ups and downs, we kept things on track and made real strides,” Khalilzad said on Twitter, adding that another round is possible later this month after the 16 days of negotiations in Qatar’s capital, Doha.


But Khalilzad said “there is no final agreement until everything is agreed.”

U.S. and Taliban negotiators have been attempting to hammer out the details of the framework agreement reached in January 2019.

The main disagreements are over four interconnected issues, including the Taliban breaking off ties with groups designated as terrorists by Washington; the timetable of a U.S. military withdrawal; a cease-fire in Afghanistan; and an intra-Afghan dialogue that would include the Taliban and government representatives.

A U.S. State Department spokesman said negotiators made “meaningful progress” during the talks.

The spokesman said the Taliban agreed that peace will require agreement on counterterrorism assurances, troop withdrawal, and a cease-fire.

“Progress was achieved regarding both these issues,” said a Taliban spokesman, referring to the U.S. troop withdrawal and assurances that foreign militants would not use Afghanistan’s territory to stage future terrorist attacks.

Neither side mentioned any progress made on reversing the Taliban’s refusal to negotiate with the government in Kabul. The militant group says the Western-backed government is a U.S. “puppet” that must be toppled.

Afghan Chief Executive: Foreign Troops Still Needed ‘Until War Over’

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The Afghan government has been angered and frustrated at being sidelined at the peace talks.

Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah told RFE/RL that he was skeptical of the Taliban’s motives and urged Washington to keep troops in the country until a formal settlement that includes the Kabul has been signed with the militants.

Abdullah also said Afghans were “concerned” that the Kabul government has been sidelined from the talks in Qatar but insisted it had not caused a rift with Washington.

“Unless the Afghan government has direct negotiations with the Taliban, Afghan people have the right to be concerned,” Abdullah, who is the de facto prime minister in the national unity government, said in an interview in Kabul on March 12, 2019.

“The Taliban wants to use these peace talks for political and propaganda purposes instead of using this as a step towards peace,” he added.

U.S. President Donald Trump wants to pull out the roughly 14,000 American troops in Afghanistan and has tasked U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad with reaching a settlement with the militants.

During a round of talks in Doha in January 2019, U.S. and Taliban negotiators reached the basic framework of a potential peace deal in which the militants would prevent international terrorist groups from basing themselves in Afghanistan in exchange of a withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan.

But Abdullah urged Washington to keep U.S. forces in Afghanistan until a comprehensive peace settlement is reached between the United States, the Taliban, and Kabul.

“The Taliban wants foreign troops to leave Afghanistan,” he said. “It’s also the demand of the Afghan people. But our opinion, and that of the Afghan people, is that until the war is over and peace is restored, there is a need for the presence of these troops.”

U.S. and other foreign troops have been in Afghanistan since an October 2001 invasion that brought down the Taliban government after it refused to hand over Al-Qaeda terrorists, including Osama bin Laden, who launched the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Meet the moms overcoming challenges of breastfeeding in the military

Breastfeeding moms who also work face plenty of challenges, from a lack of dedicated pumping areas to unsupportive supervisors and colleagues. Things can be even tougher if your job is as a member of the armed forces, as Robyn Roche-Paull learned firsthand.

Per Romper, Roche-Paull was in the Navy when she had her baby in the 1990s, an era in which there were no breastfeeding policies, no deployment deferments, and just six weeks of maternity leave. When she returned to work, she had no time or place to pump, and she resorted to using dirty, chemical-filled supply closets that often didn’t lock.

A female supervisor even told here that she was “making all the women look bad with me asking for time to pump every three to four hours.” Yikes.


“There were no books on this subject, and no one to talk to about the questions and struggles I was facing,” she recalls, so when she left the Navy in 1997 she decided to fix that. She became a lactation consultant and created a Facebook group to collect stories from military moms that eventually became a book, Breastfeeding in Combat Boots.

“The page was way more successful than I ever dreamed, which in turn made me realize that I could have a website with all this information freely available to the public.”

The project morphed into a non-profit organization, also called Breastfeeding in Combat Boots, that provides resources to moms struggling to breastfeed while enlisted.

“Being successful with breastfeeding is a challenge. They have to overcome not only cultural issues, but finding time and place to pump, how to ship milk home from overseas, travel, deployments, and possibly exposure to hazardous materials, not to mention maintaining weight and physical fitness standards.”

And just as importantly, it’s a supportive community that can help moms realize that it is possible to balance the obligations of military service and motherhood, often through simply sharing photos of breastfeeding or pumping in uniform.

“These are moms who have decided that serving their country — a sacrifice in itself — is very important, but so is making sure that their babies receive their breast milk even if that means shipping their milk home from Afghanistan for six months,” Roche-Paull says.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

Articles

Adaptive sports camp helps wounded warriors reach new heights

One by one, the veterans made their inaugural trip up the steep mountainside armed with harnesses and ropes.  For most of them, rock climbing was a brand new experience, yet they were scrambling up and repelling down the cliff face at Hartman Rocks in Gunnison, Colorado, with barely a semblance of a beginner’s nerves. Amid shouts of encouragement and good-humored banter, the Airmen were bonding. While they’d been strangers just the day before, they’d already become a team.


Traveling from different areas of the U.S., the eight Air Force wounded warriors, sponsored by Team Racing for Veterans’ (R4V), arrived at an adaptive sports camp in Crested Butte, Colorado, to participate in three unfamiliar sports: rock climbing, fly fishing and mountain biking. The biannual camps give wounded veterans a chance to prove to themselves they can adapt to and overcome any current limitations, from amputations to post-traumatic stress.

Number of American troops wounded fighting ISIS spikes
Military veterans ascend a 50-foot-tall mountainside during an adaptive sports camp in Crested Butte, Colo. The full day of rock climbing at the Hartman Rocks encouraged team building and camaraderie among the group of wounded warriors. While there, the veterans received lessons on safety, etiquette, knots, belaying, rappelling and climbing technique. | Photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.

For those attending the camp, it was a chance to network with other wounded warriors who wanted to get out of their comfort zones, take on new challenges, and pursue a sense of normalcy.

In addition to sharing their common goals and adaptive sports experiences at the camp, the wounded warriors had a chance to get to know each other in a relaxed setting during their down time. Instead of staying in a hotel where they would be scattered throughout the building, the Airmen stayed in a large ranch-style home that was donated for the camp’s use. During some of their meals and at the close of each day, the wounded warriors could gather in a common area and talk.

Number of American troops wounded fighting ISIS spikes
Military veterans share their individual stories during dinner at an adaptive sports camp in Crested Butte, Colo. Each night of the camp ended with reflection and therapeutic conversations. | Photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.

While engaging in one such casual conversation in the living room with four other veterans, Staff Sgt. Gideon Connelly, a 175th Wing chaplain assistant with the Maryland National Guard, found himself smiling and feeling at ease. The openness he displayed was something new, because Connelly had grown up building walls around himself that no one could get through.

As a child, his experiences in the foster care system left him unwilling to depend on others. Though he was eventually taken in by his aunt and uncle, Connelly still found himself disappointed after witnessing his relatives getting robbed by other children they had adopted.

“Watching those kids grow up, how cruel and jagged they could be, it just pushed my trust in people away a lot more,” Connelly said.

“Before these guys,” he indicated the other wounded warriors, “you had no shot for me to trust you.”

Unexpectedly, the injuries that brought Connelly into the wounded warrior family were causing him to change for the better, he said.

On July 5, 2011, Staff Sgt. Gideon Connelly’s life took an abrupt turn after a motorcycle accident on the streets of Baltimore. As a result of the crash, Connelly lost his left leg below the knee, his right knee required a partial replacement, and his right arm had to be artificially restructured.

Number of American troops wounded fighting ISIS spikes
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Richard W. Rose Jr. (Ret.) and Staff Sgt. Gideon Connelly celebrate after climbing a 50-foot mountain. | Photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.

“The first couple years were hard,” he said. “It was like gut-wrenching pain in my arm when I was lifting weights, curling, or anything like that, just because there wasn’t much muscle around the metal.”

Eventually he was able to build his strength back up, but by the time the doctors could take out the hardware in his arm, bone had grown over it and become fused to the metal. Because of this, Connelly opted not to have it removed.

“I’ve adapted to it,” he said. “I’ve adapted with my leg, my knee, and the arm was another thing. I just had to get over it.  Cold affects it, but you move your wrist around a little bit and keep going. I’m all about adapting and overcoming everything. I’m not going to let anything stop me from doing what I want to do.”

Three years after his injury, Connelly became involved in the world of adaptive sports and attended an AFW2 camp. Striving for more, he was also selected to represent the Air Force during the 2014 Warrior Games in shot put, discus, and the 100- and 200-meter sprints. It was at this competition that he met a group of wounded warriors and began to finally let down his guard.

Two years later, his wounded warrior family remains important to him – it is a group of people he keeps in touch with nearly every single day.

Although Connelly is busy training in pursuit of his dream of running track at the Paralympic Games, he leapt at the opportunity to try new sports at a Team R4V mountain adventure.

Number of American troops wounded fighting ISIS spikes
Retired Tech. Sgt. Jessica Moore rides her bicycle down a mountain trail during an adaptive sports camp in Crested Butte, Colo. The camp participants spent two full days completing bicycle trails and endurance activities. | Photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.

“Mountain biking: that was the sport that brought everybody together today,” Connelly said. He found it inspiring to watch the guys zooming down the mountain tracks on hand cycles.

“The trails are probably 20 inches wide – the same as their wheel base – and they are just flying,” he added. “Watching them struggle, but still make it up and down the hills, it was awesome!  It was definitely team building and it brought us that much closer together.”

Ricky Rose Jr. knew that the sports therapy aspect of Team R4V’s camps would help him physically, but he hesitated to participate.

After being medically discharged from the Air Force as a staff sergeant, Rose thought about attending a wounded warrior camp. It was an idea that had run though his mind many times before but what always stopped him were questions: Did he deserve to go? Would he even fit into the group?

When Team R4V invited him to their fall camp, Rose decided to set those doubts aside and give it a go.

At first he was nervous, but after realizing many people in the house shared the same medical conditions he did, Rose began to feel more comfortable. He found there was relief in being surrounded by people who’d gone through tough situations — from battling cancer to being shot in Afghanistan – because they could all relate to one another.

“While each individual’s circumstances are different in the grand scheme, we’re all fighting the same demons,” Rose said. “That’s been the most beneficial part of this camp; you feel comfortable talking to somebody that you know has been there and done that.”

At the camp, much of the conversation and bonding begins over food.

Number of American troops wounded fighting ISIS spikes
Retired Staff Sgts. Richard W. Rose Jr. and Nicholas Dadgostar joke during an adaptive sports camp in Crested Butte, Colo. | Photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.

With a focus on overall wellness, Team R4V cooks healthy meals for the wounded warriors each day, and encourages them to eat breakfast and dinner together. At the kitchen table, sharing a meal and talking about the day’s events, the Airmen got to know each other better. As they talked, Rose felt a sense of camaraderie return, one that he’d missed since the last day he’d hung up his Air Force uniform.

“I wasn’t expecting us to come together as a family as quickly as we did,” he said. “We all realized pretty quickly that we’re all Airmen and we’re all in this together.”

Surrounded by people who could empathize with his journey, Rose spoke about his experiences in the Air Force and the daily challenges he continues to face as a wounded warrior.

During his time in service, Rose deployed three times, once to Kuwait and twice to Iraq.  Employed as a combat photographer, his objective was to document the war through the experiences of the troops with whom he was embedded – the good times, the bad times, and everything in between.

“They didn’t send us on missions where we would just sit on base all day,” he said. “They’d send us on missions where crap was going to hit the fan, or there was a really good chance of it.  More times than not, we were attacked … we got blown up what seemed like almost every mission.  It felt like almost every day could have been the day you died because we lost a lot of people too. War is just nasty, and I got to help show that as honestly as I could to people.”

While deployed, Rose captured thousands of images, braving firefights and mortar attacks to accomplish his job. In 2007, Rose was named one of the Air Force’s 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year, in part for his dedication in the combat zone – a place seared into his memory by the very tool he used to perform his mission.

Number of American troops wounded fighting ISIS spikes
Retired Staff Sgt. Richard W. Rose Jr. holds a portion of his daily dose of medication, which he takes to deal with post-traumatic stress disorder. | Photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.

“The hardest thing, and I didn’t know this until after a lot of therapy and a lot of different doctors, but I didn’t realize, as a photographer, how many of those images I took were just going to stay in my brain,” Rose said. “I just kind of thought I’d take a picture and then they’d go away, but they don’t.”

Even at home, he was unable to turn his mind away from the combat zone. Feeling unstable, Rose asked for help. He went to see a doctor and was ultimately diagnosed with a TBI and PTSD.

PTSD is an anxiety disorder that presents a variety of negative effects, such as flashbacks, nightmares, and intrusive thoughts and memories. Military members with PTSD can become hyper-vigilant, angry and depressed. Sights and sounds, such as large crowds, random crazy noises, and sudden flashes of light – can mentally bring them back to the combat zone and trigger an unconscious response.

“PTSD is horrible,” Rose said. “Imagine never being able to feel comfortable or like everything is alright. Every day is a challenge because I don’t know how my body and mind will react to whatever happens that day. Will I see, touch, or smell something that will give me an instant flashback and turn me into a different person? Will my conversations lead to nightmares? Do I feel like killing myself today? That’s what it’s like.”

Number of American troops wounded fighting ISIS spikes
Staff Sgt. Gideon Connelly, a 175th Wing chaplain assistant with the Maryland Air National Guard, leaps over a mountainside area during an adaptive sports camp in Crested Butte, Colo. Connelly lost his left leg after a motorcycle accident a few years ago, but he didn’t let it stop him from competing in sports. | Photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.

The temporary home in Colorado is quiet and isolated from outside stimuli. The intensity and focus needed to learn new sports is designed to wear the Airmen out and give them the ability to be calm.

“I haven’t really had a bad thought since I’ve been here, other than being exhausted and tired (from the day’s activity),” he laughed, adding, “I haven’t really had a trigger or nightmare or anything since I’ve been here. It’s been peaceful, very peaceful.”

The physical, mental and emotional benefits of regular exercise have been proven time and time again, which is why Team R4V staff said they provide support to veterans through a wide variety of physical activities. Rehabilitation though adaptive sports has been an idea at the forefront of the organization since its conception.

Inspired by a friend who coached the Air Force Wounded Warrior Program’s team for the Warrior Games, a Defense Department competitive adaptive sports event for injured, ill and wounded service members, Bethany Pribila, Team R4V’s founder and CEO, decided to start a non-profit organization that would enable veterans from every branch of the military to benefit through participation in sports.

Number of American troops wounded fighting ISIS spikes
Military veterans leave the Hartman Rocks during an adaptive sports camp in Crested Butte, Colo. The full day of rock climbing at the Hartman Rocks encouraged team building and camaraderie among wounded warriors who’d experienced post-traumatic stress disorder, amputations and other injuries. | Photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.

Team R4V provides wounded warrior athletes with funding for races and events, but it is their own sports camps, which they host in partnership with the Crested Butte Adaptive Sports Center, that holds a special place in the heart of the organization.

At the camp’s end, Pribila reflected that everything had gone as envisioned.  She had witnessed the wounded warriors supporting one another, cheering each other on, and forming lasting bonds. Though the Airmen had arrived as strangers, when they left, it was as friends and as family.

Articles

First female Tomcat pilot turns trials into successes

 


Number of American troops wounded fighting ISIS spikes

The F-14A Tomcat was a hard airplane to land aboard an aircraft carrier. Engine response was slow. A wingtip-to-wingtip distance of nearly 70 feet meant there wasn’t much room to deviate away from the centerline of the landing area on the flight deck. Any lateral stick input caused the airplane to yaw in the opposite direction, which forced the pilot to simultaneously feed in rudder to counter. The velocity vector on the heads-up display wasn’t accurate enough to be used as a flight path marker. The tail hook-to-eye distance was more than any other airplane in the wing, which made any vertical corrections very precarious in the endgame.

And for her crime of doing well in flight school, then-Ensign Carey Lohrenz was selected to fly Tomcats, the first female naval aviator to get orders to that community. And by accepting those orders, Lohrenz embarked on a pioneer’s journey, one that had more ups and downs than anyone could have predicted, and one that would have crushed the spirit of the average American woman.

But Carey Lohrenz isn’t an average American woman.

Lohrenz developed a love of sports while growing up in Green Bay, Wisconsin. While she claims she wasn’t a tomboy, she played little league hockey on boy’s teams until high school. (“I quit when they started taking a little too long to get off of me after a check,” she jokes.) After that she took advantage of her six-foot-tall stature and joined the volleyball and basketball teams.

At the same time another love was growing inside of her: aviation. Her father was an airline pilot who’d flown C-130s in the Marine Corps, and her mother was a flight attendant. Both she and her older brother were determined to fly, and they often discussed the best routes to make a career out of flying.

But Lohrenz didn’t discuss her dream with anyone else. “I didn’t want their doubts about what females could do at that time to taint my dream,” she said.

So as soon as she had her Psychology degree from the University of Wisconsin in hand, she followed her brother’s lead and applied for the Navy’s Aviation Officer Candidate School. Months later she reported to Pensacola, Florida for flight training.

Her brother was just over a year ahead of her in the training pipeline, and in spite of the fact he selected the transport community (and ultimately wound up flying E-6s) she wanted to fly tactical jets. And because her performance was at the top of her class, she got what she wanted.

But her selection for jet training came with some inherent tension. The combat exclusion law that prevented females from being assigned to carrier-based squadrons was still very much in place in the early 1990s. The only jets that females were piloting were shore-based EA-6s that flew missile profiles against surface ships for training.

“I got a lot of ‘why are you here?’ questions from instructors and fellow flight students,” Lohrenz said.

But she was undeterred and pressed on with an eye on what she hoped might happen. “If combat billets opened up I wanted to be in a position so that nobody could say I got a slot simply because I was a girl but because I was qualified,” she said.

But in spite of her hope and planning, it wasn’t looking good as she neared the end of her flight training.

“I got a call six weeks before I was supposed to get my wings that the combat exclusion clause hadn’t been lifted and there was no place for me to go,” Lohrenz said.  “I could get out of the Navy or go to a non-flying job.”

She hung up the phone and went back to her scheduled flight brief and fought the instinct to cry.

The next day she went to her commanding officer and asked him to find “a third way.”

“I wasn’t taking no for an answer,” she said.  And because she’d done well her CO went to bat for her.

But he didn’t have to try too hard because about that same time the combat exclusion law went away. Lohrenz pinned on her Naval Aviator’s Wings of Gold and got orders to VF-124, the F-14 training squadron at NAS (now MCAS) Miramar in southern California, the first female to go right from winging to Tomcats. (The other females were transferred from the EA-6 community.)

But the challenges for Lohrenz didn’t end there.

“I got to Miramar as the trifecta of bad things were happening,” she said.

There was the fallout from the Tailhook scandal that resulted in careers ending for several high-ranking and popular fighter crews. There was a Navy-wide reduction in force happening that was forcing people out of the service against their will. And there was disappointment in the Tomcat community about the fact that the F-14 wasn’t getting upgraded.

One of the instructors posted two articles on the main bulletin board in the ready room: One about how the upgraded F-14 was being cancelled, and one that highlighted that the cost to retrograde ships for females was $200 million.

“There was a lot of animosity that had nothing to do with me but merely my presence,” Lohrenz said. “It wasn’t an easy environment.  It took an unwavering belief that I had the ability to do the job.”

She had the first hiccup in her flight training toward the end of the VF-124 syllabus, failing to qualify the first time she tried landing the Tomcat on the carrier. But she wasn’t alone. About 75 percent of her class failed the first time, primarily due to the weather conditions that resulted in rough seas that made an already difficult task of landing a beast of an airplane on the ship for the first time even harder.

Lohrenz focused on her additional training and qualified without any issues the second time through.

She joined her first fleet squadron – VF-213 “Blacklions” – at the most rigorous phase of pre-deployment training, one of two female pilots in the squadron.

The other female pilot was Lt. Kara Hultgreen. Hultgreen was senior to Lohrenz and had come to the Blacklions by way of the EA-6 community.

“Because she had a lot of flight hours people assumed she was experienced,” Lohrenz said.

Two months into Lohrenz’ tour tragedy struck.  Hultgreen’s Tomcat had an engine stall in the landing pattern behind the carrier, and she lost control and crashed. While the backseater managed to initiate ejection in time to save his own life, Hultgreen was killed.

The mishap became a lightning rod of emotions and political agendas. Experienced pilots believed Hultgreen had mishandled a basic inflight emergency and that her death was her own fault. Others resented the level of effort that was put into recovering the Tomcat from the bottom of the ocean.

“Nobody addressed the details of the situation and it caused a lot of people to feel less valuable and hurt morale,” Lohrenz said. “And there was a bit of a leadership vacuum that could have nipped the whole thing in the bud.”

Lohrenz was now the sole female carrier-based fighter pilot.

“If I thought the spotlight was bad before it was now nuclear fusion level,” she said.

She was caught in a lose-lose matrix of sorts. “If I was stoic people thought I didn’t care,” she explained. “And if I showed emotion people thought I was a bitch.”

The atmosphere on the carrier was increasingly uncomfortable, even insulting, as the deployment wore on. Female crew were made to take pregnancy tests after every in-port period. The admiral in charge stated in a very public forum that the reason he supported women aboard ships was “because they made the carrier smell better.”

She tried to simply do her job, to fly the airplane and perform as a normal first-tour junior officer should, but that ultimately wasn’t enough to overcome the forces around her.

“To be cryptic about it, the rug was yanked out from under me by a cadre of people who didn’t want women in the military . . . period,” Lohrenz said.

She saw a shift in her commanding officer’s attitude. Her previous landing grade performance that had characterized her as a normal first tour pilot dealing with an airplane that was just plain hard to control now had her listed as “unsafe and unpredictable.”

“I was set up,” she said.

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Carey Lohrenz giving one of her keynote addresses.

Lohrenz was given an evaluation board that pulled her out of the Tomcat community and assigned her to fly small propeller-driven transports from a shore base. She left the Navy shortly after that.

But in spite of the challenges and the emotional turmoil, Lohrenz has used the experience as a pivot point.  “I went from Mach 2 to mom to entrepreneur,” she said.

During the course of being a homemaker, which included being a wife to a FEDEX pilot and raising four kids, she found herself increasingly being sought after for business advice, especially that pertaining to organizational change.

Lohrenz connected the dots and – after a short and semi-chaotic stint with a consulting firm run by military aviation alums – she launched Carey Lohrenz Enterprises. She is now in high demand as a consultant and keynote speaker.

Her efforts are anchored by her book Fearless Leadership that outlines her approaches to both business and life. The book is organized around the three fundamentals of “real fearlessness” — courage, tenacity, and integrity — and offers Lohrenz’ take on how to stay resilient through hard times.

And Lohrenz’ life would suggest that staying resilient is something about which she knows a thing or two.

Articles

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones

Number of American troops wounded fighting ISIS spikes
Naval Research Labs


Air Force scientists and weapons developers are making progress developing swarms of mini-drones engineered with algorithms which enable them to coordinate with one another and avoid collisions.

Senior Air Force officials have said that the precise roles and missions for this type of technology are still in the process of being determined; however, experts and analyst are already discussing numerous potential applications for the technology.

Swarms of drones could cue one another and be able to blanket an area with sensors even if one or two get shot down. The technology could be designed for high threat areas building in strategic redundancy, Air Force Chief Scientist Gregory Zacharias told Scout Warrior in an interview.

Groups of coordinated small drones could also be used to confuse enemy radar systems and overwhelm advanced enemy air defenses by providing so many targets that they cannot be dealt with all at once, he said.

Zacharias explained that perhaps one small drone can be programmed to function as a swarm leader, with others functioning as ISR (intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance) platforms, munitions or communications devices. He also said there is great strategic and tactical value in operating a swarm of small drones which, when needed, can disperse.

“Do you want them to fly in formation for a while and then disaggregate to get through the radar and then reaggregate and go to a target? They can jam an enemy radar or not even be seen by them because they are too small. The idea is to dissagregate so as not to be large expensive targets. In this way if you lose one you still may have 100 more,” he explained.

An area of scientific inquiry now being explored for swarms of drones is called “bio-memetics,” an approach which looks at the swarming of actual live animals — such as flocks of birds or insects — as a way to develop algorithms for swarming mini-drone flight, Zacharias added.

“It turns out you can use incredibly simple rules for formation flight of a large flock. It really just takes a few simple rules. If you think of each bird or bee as an agent, it can do really simple things such as determine its position relative to the three nearest objects to it. It is very simple guidance and control stuff,” Zacharias said.

Number of American troops wounded fighting ISIS spikes

Also, small groups of drones operating together could function as munitions or weapons delivery technology.  A small class of mini-drone weapons already exist, such as AeroVironment’s Switchblade drone designed to deliver precision weapons effects.  The weapon, which can reach distances up to 10 kilometers, is engineered as a low-cost expendable munition loaded with sensors and munitions.

Air Force plans for new drones are part of a new service strategy to be explained in a paper released last year called “autonomous horizons.”  Air Force strategy also calls for greater manned-unmanned teaming between drones and manned aircraft such as F-35s. This kind of effort could help facilitate what Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has said about mini-drones launching from a high-speed fighter jet.

In the future, fighter aircraft such as the F-35 or an F-22 may be able to control drones themselves from the cockpit to enhance missions by carrying extra payload, extending a surveillance area or delivering weapons, Air Force scientists have said.

Zacharias explained this in terms of developments within the field of artificial intelligence. This involves faster computer processing technology and algorithms which allow computers to increasingly organize and integrate information by themselves – without needing human intervention. Human will likely operate in a command and control capacity with computers picking the sensing, integration and organization of data, input and various kinds of material. As autonomy increases, the day when multiple drones can be controlled by a single aircraft, such as a fighter jet, is fast approaching.

Drones would deliver weapons, confront the risk of enemy air defenses or conduct ISR missions flying alongside manned aircraft, Zacharias explained.

Pentagon Effort

The Pentagon is in the early phases of developing swarms of mini-drones able launch attacks, jam enemy radar, confuse enemy air defenses and conduct wide-ranging surveillance missions, officials explained.

The effort, which would bring a new range of strategic and tactical advantages to the U.S. military, will be focused on as part of a special Pentagon unit called the Strategic Capabilities Office, or SCO.

While the office has been in existence for some period of time, it was publically announced by Defense Secretary Ashton Carter during the recent 2017 budget proposal discussions. The new office will, among other things, both explore emerging technologies and also look at new ways of leveraging existing weapons and platforms.

Carter said swarming autonomous drones are a key part of this broader effort to adapt emerging technologies to existing and future warfighting needs.

“Another project uses swarming autonomous vehicles in all sorts of ways and in multiple domains.  In the air, they develop micro-drones that are really fast, really resistant.  They can fly through heavy winds and be kicked out the back of a fighter jet moving at Mach 0.9, like they did during an operational exercise in Alaska last year, or they can be thrown into the air by a soldier in the middle of the Iraqi desert,” Carter said. “And for the water, they’ve developed self-driving boats which can network together to do all kinds of missions, from fleet defense to close-in surveillance, without putting sailors at risk.  Each one of these leverages the wider world of technology.”

Navy Effort

Meanwhile, the Office of Naval Research is also working on drone-swarming technology through an ongoing effort called Low-Cost Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Swarming Technology, or LOCUST. This involves groups of small, tube-launched UAVs designed to swarm and overwhelm adversaries, Navy officials explained.

“Researchers continue to push the state-of-the-art in autonomy control and plan to launch 30 autonomous UAVs in 2016 in under a minute,” an ONR statement said last year.

A demonstration of the technology is planned from a ship called a Sea Fighter, a high-speed, shallow-water experimental ship developed by the ONR.

Army Defends Against Mini-Drones

While swarms of mini-drones clearly bring a wide range of tactical offensive and defensive advantages, there is also the realistic prospect that adversaries or potential adversaries could use drone swarms against the U.S.

This is a scenario the services, including the Army in particular, are exploring.

The Army launched swarms of mini-attack drones against battlefield units in mock-combat drills as a way to better understand potential threats expected in tomorrow’s conflicts, service officials said.

Pentagon threat assessment officials have for quite some time expressed concern that current and future enemies of the U.S. military might seek to use massive swarms of mini-drones to blanket an area with surveillance cameras, jam radar signals, deliver weapons or drop small bombs on military units.

As a result, the Army Test and Evaluation Command put these scenarios to the test in the desert as part of the service’s Network Integration Evaluation, or NIE, at White Sands Missile Range, N.M.

The mini-drones used were inexpensive, off-the-shelf commercial systems likely to be acquired and used by potential adversaries in future conflict scenarios.

The drones were configured to carry special payloads for specific mission functions. Cameras, bomb simulators, expanded battery packs and other systems will be tested on the aircraft to develop and analyze potential capabilities of the drones, an Army statement said.

The mini-drones, which included $1000-dollar quadcopters made by 3-D Robotics, were placed in actual mock-combat scenarios and flown against Army units in test exercises.

Number of American troops wounded fighting ISIS spikes

“Acting as a member of the opposing force, the drones will be used for short-range missions, and for flooding the airspace to generate disruptive radar signatures. They will also be used as a kind of spotter, using simple video cameras to try and locate Soldiers and units,” an Army statement from before the exercise said.

There were also plans to fit the drones with the ability to drop packets of flour, simulating the ability for the swarm to drop small bombs, allowing the drones to perform short-range strike missions, the Army statement said.

“Right now there’s hardly anyone doing swarms, most people are flying one, maybe two, but any time you can get more than one or two in the air at the same time, and control them by waypoint with one laptop, that’s important,” James Story, an engineer with the Targets Management Office, Program Executive Office for Simulation, Training and Instrumentation, said in a statement last Fall. “You’re controlling all five of them, and all five of them are a threat.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why the military wants more spy planes from Congress

The commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific told Congress he lacks the spy aircraft needed to verify any “denuclearization” agreement that might come out of the proposed summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un.


“I don’t have enough because there isn’t enough to go around,” Adm. Harry Harris, commander of U.S. Pacific Command, said of the available intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) assets at a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee March 15, 2018.

In response to questions from Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Nebraska, Harris said Navy P-3 Orion surveillance aircraft, Air Force RC-135 Rivet Joint signals intelligence, and WC-135 Constant Phoenix “sniffer” aircraft are vital to his mission monitoring North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

Also read: US officials warn that North Korea will test another missile soon

All three aircraft are “critical to intelligence collection,” he said, adding the WC-135 is taking on added importance following the stunning announcement that Trump had agreed to meet with Kim.

“I don’t know where we’re going to end up with the talks,” Harris said, “[but] I do see demand increasing, clearly” for the use of the WC-135 and its ttop-secretequipment that can collect atmospheric samples and determine whether nuclear testing has taken place.

The WC-135 “helps me understand the nature of North Korea’s nuclear testing,” he said.

Number of American troops wounded fighting ISIS spikes
The WC-135W. (Photo by U.S. Air Force)

The problem with ISR assets, Harris said, is that other combatant commands want them and they must be allocated by the Pentagon’s Joint Staff.

“The WC-135, I have to ask for it and, when I ask for it, I get it,” he said.

Harris had a suggestion for Trump that is a wrinkle on President Ronald Reagan’s “trust but verify” axiom for arms reductions negotiations. In the case of talks with North Korea, “I think it’s distrust but verify,” he said.

“We have to enter this eyes wide open,” Harris said, but “the fact that we’re talking at all has a positive framework about it. We haven’t lost anything by talking … the opportunity to engage has value itself regardless of the outcome.”

Related: How the Navy will enforce North Korean sanctions

South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who set the stage for the potential Trump-Kim summit by inviting North Korea to the Winter Olympics and then getting an offer from Kim to meet, pushed ahead with preparations for the negotiations.

Moon’s chief of staff, Im Jong-seok, said a high-level negotiating team would meet with North Korean counterparts later in late March 2018 to lay the groundwork and set the agenda for Moon’s anticipated meeting in April 2018 with Kim at the Panmunjom peace village in the Demilitarized Zone, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported.

Number of American troops wounded fighting ISIS spikes
President Donald J. Trump and President Moon Jae-in of the Republic of Korea. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

“This inter-Korean summit should be a turning point for fundamentally addressing the issue of peace on the Korean peninsula,” Im said.

Yonhap quoted Moon as saying, “Our firm stance is that we can’t make concessions [on denuclearization] under any circumstances and conditions” in the negotiations.

Trump caused a flap on his own agenda for the talks in mid-March 2018 when his comments at a private fundraiser leaked. He appeared to suggest that he might pull U.S. forces out of South Korea unless the U.S. received more favorable terms on trade agreements.

“We have a very big trade deficit with them, and we protect them,” he said, The Washington Post reported. “We lose money on trade, and we lose money on the military. We have right now 32,000 soldiers on the border between North and South Korea. Let’s see what happens.”

Trump glossed over the trade issue in a phone call to Moon on March 16, 2018 in which he renewed his commitment to go ahead with the summit, probably at the end of May 2018, although a time and place have yet to be set.

A White House readout of the phone call said Trump “reiterated his intention to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un by the end of May 2018. The two leaders expressed cautious optimism over recent developments and emphasized that a brighter future is available for North Korea, if it chooses the correct path.”

Number of American troops wounded fighting ISIS spikes
Kim Jong Un.

In his appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Harris was characteristically blunt on issues in the region.

Harris noted that his testimony would be his last before the committee. He will soon retire after 39 years of service and has been nominated by Trump to be the next ambassador to Australia.

On the North Korea talks, Harris said, “As we go into this, I think we can’t be overly optimistic on outcomes. We’ll just have to see where it goes if and when we have the summit. North Korea remains our most urgent security threat in the region.”

“This past year has seen rapid and comprehensive improvement in North Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear capabilities despite broad international condemnation and the imposition of additional United Nations security resolutions,” he said.

“It is indisputable that KJU [Kim Jong-un] is rapidly closing the gap between rhetoric and capability,” Harris added. “The Republic of Korea and Japan have been living under the shadow of North Korea’s threats for years; now, that shadow looms over the American homeland.”

He scoffed at the notion that the Trump administration had been considering a so-called “bloody nose” strategy that would involve limited strikes on North Korea to rein in Kim’s nuclear ambitions.

“We have no bloody nose strategy. I don’t know what that is. The press have run with it,” Harris said.

“I’m charged with developing, for the national command authority, a range of options through the spectrum of violence, and I’m ready to execute whatever the president and the national command authority directs me to do, but a ‘bloody nose’ strategy is not contemplated,” he said.

More: This is why you can’t trust North Korea’s new charm offensive

The strategy that does exist, Harris said, is for full-spectrum warfare that would obliterate the North Korean threat.

“We have to be ready to do the whole thing, and we are ready to do the whole thing if ordered by the president,” he said.

By way of farewell, Harris said that during his time at PaCom, “I have had the tremendous honor of leading the soldiers, sailors, Marines, airmen, Coast Guardsmen, and Department of Defense civilians standing watch for the largest and most diverse geographic command.

“These men and women, as well as their families, fill me with pride with their hard work and devotion to duty. I’m humbled to serve alongside them,” he said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why the Navy secretary will go toe-to-toe with his top officers

In 2017, the Navy and Marine Corps hit the wall, with a string of deadly accidents on the sea and in the air. In 2018, we’ll see whether the overstressed sea services start saying “no” to missions.


That means battles both in the Pentagon and on the Hill. The newly named Secretary of the Navy, Richard Spencer, seems to be charting a collision course with joint commanders, who he says have run the services ragged with too many missions, and with the Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986, which gave joint headquarters preeminence over the four armed services in many areas. In recent years Congress and the Pentagon have restored some of the service chiefs’ authority over weapons acquisitions, but they haven’t questioned the basic balance of power set in law some 31 years ago. Now the Strategic Readiness Review which Spencer commissioned has put changing Goldwater-Nichols on the table.

How to make the case for change? “We’ll start every conversation with 17 dead sailors,” Spencer pledged in September. But 17 deaths is just the beginning. While Spencer was talking specifically about two deadly surface ship collisions this summer, transport aircraft crashes killed 19 Marines in July and August. In response, the Commandant, Gen. Robert Neller, ordered rolling safety stand-downs at all Marine aviation units.

Number of American troops wounded fighting ISIS spikes
Damage to the port side is visible on the Guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain after colliding. (Photo by U.S. 7th Fleet Public Affairs.)

This summer was just a particularly lethal spike in a long-running trend. Crashes of a C-2 transport and a T-45 trainer killed five more Navy personnel just since fiscal year 2018 began on October 1st. Three naval aircraft have been lost in accidents since Oct. 1, another three damaged.

In fiscal 2017, Navy aircraft suffered 10 Class A Mishaps involving permanent disability, loss of life, or more than $2 million in damage. The Marines, with a much smaller air fleet, suffered another 10. Long-term, both services have seen rising accident rates ever since 2013, when the Budget Control Act abruptly cut funds for training and maintenance. The Marines in particular have seen their accident rate — which has long been higher than the Navy’s — more than double over the last two years.

As costly as these accidents are, and as devastating as these deaths have been, the biggest potential catastrophe is a force unready for combat. Early in 2017, the sea services admitted that 53 percent of all naval aircraft were grounded for maintenance, rising to 62 percent for strike fighters and 74 percent of Marine Corps F-18 Hornets. As for surface ships, both a former deputy secretary of defense and a panel of retired captains have publicly argued that the recent series of accidents — not just the two fatal ones — shows a force struggling with basic seamanship, let alone the complex skills required to fight an enemy fleet. Meanwhile the third pillar of the Navy, the submarine branch, has avoided deadly accidents but still has an unprecedented proportion of its boats idled awaiting maintenance: Ready submarines are consumed by day-to-day missions for the joint commanders, leaving few boats in reserve to “surge” in a major war.

Also Read: So, parts of our helicopters are falling on children now

Time Money

So what do the Navy and Marine Corps need? The most precious commodity is time: time to catch up on training, time to clear up the maintenance backlog. But time is finite, and every day spent getting ready is one less day out doing missions. The services’ concern for readiness — particularly for major wars — conflicts directly with the theater commanders‘ need for naval presence. The current Pentagon process effectively gives the joint commanders a blank check for how heavily forces are committed around the world, with little provision for the services to throw a yellow flag and say “too much.” That’s the system Sec. Spencer seems ready to challenge.

Money would help too, of course. More money for maintenance and training would help readiness, but, less obviously, so would more money for modernization. Buying new ships and aircraft could let the Navy and Marines retire aging, unreliable equipment, which drags down readiness because it’s down for maintenance too often.

Number of American troops wounded fighting ISIS spikes
Aviation Electronics Mate Airman Adam Lowery (front) and Aviation Electronics Technician Airman Tyler Humphries (back) conduct routine maintenance on an MH-60S Sea Hawk assigned to the Merlins of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 3. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jesse L. Gonzalez).

Or you could use the new ships and planes to increase the size of the force. Growth improves readiness by spreading the workload over more units, giving each more time for training and maintenance. (Of course, that assumes that the workload doesn’t go up too, and that training and maintenance funds go up proportionately instead of being spread thinner over the larger force). The Chief of Naval Operations himself, Adm. John Richardson, said that building more ships would help prevent future accidents, because with more ships at work, none of them would be worked as hard.

Building a bigger fleet is a long-term solution, however, with estimates ranging from 18 years to about 35. And despite President Trump’s encouraging rhetoric, the administration struggled to add just one new ship to the 2018 budget — which Congress hasn’t yet managed to fund, even as we start the second quarter of the federal fiscal year.

For now, then, the Navy and Marine Corps have to improve readiness without a larger force or even additional training and maintenance money. That means their only option is to take on fewer missions — which is why Sec. Spencer has to challenge Goldwater-Nichols.

Articles

WW2 vet dies while visiting country from which he fought 71 years earlier

Number of American troops wounded fighting ISIS spikes
Marvin Rector visiting the Battle of Britain museum shortly before his death. (Photo: Susan Jowers)


Ninety-four-year-old Melvin Rector had one last item on his bucket list: He wanted to return to England where he’d served as a B-17 crewman. So earlier this month he hopped on an airliner and flew across the Atlantic to a place where he’d come of age 71 years earlier.

As reported by Florida Today, Rector was scheduled to visit his former base RAF Snetterton Heath in Norfolk but started the tour at the Battle of Britain Bunker in the Uxbridge area of London that first day.

“He walked out of that bunker like his tour was done,” said Susan Jowers, 60, who first met Rector when she served as his guardian during a 2011 Honor Flight trip to Washington, D.C.

As he walked out, Rector told Jowers that he felt dizzy, according to Florida Today. Jowers took hold of one of Rector’s arms while a stranger grasped the other.

Number of American troops wounded fighting ISIS spikes
Rector at his radio operator console aboard at B-17 during a bombing raid. (Photo: Rector family archives)

Rector died quietly there just outside the bunker. When the locals found out about it, they made sure his memory was honored appropriately.

“They just wanted something simple, and when I found out a little background about Melvin, there is just no way that we were just going to give him a simple service,” funeral director Neil Sherry told British ITV Network. “We wanted it to be as special as possible.”

Though no one knew him, the Royal Air Force, U.S. Air Force and historians in London attended and participated in the funeral with military honors.

“He certainly got a beautiful send-off,” Jowers said. “People everywhere, from Cambridge to London heard his story.”

U.S. Army Maj. Leif Purcell told ITV he thought he and a few other U.S. military personnel would be the only ones to attend the funeral, but was surprised.

“The representation from the Royal Air Force and the British Army that I saw here was phenomenal,” he said.

A funeral service for Rector, a father of six, is set for 11 a.m. June 9 at First Baptist Church of Barefoot Bay, Florida. Jowers told Florida Today that his remains were being repatriated on May 31.

Jowers, who said Rector became like a father to her after their first meeting in 2011, summed up his passing with this thought: “He completed his final mission.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Did acting SECDEF just throw shade at the F-35?

Acting Secretary of Defense Pat Shanahan took a swipe at the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter in a off-camera briefing at the Pentagon Jan. 29, 2019.

Shanahan, a former Boeing executive, has been accused of bias toward his former company, which lost the bid for the development of a fifth-generation stealth fighter jet to competitor Lockheed Martin.

“Am I still wearing a Boeing hat? I think that’s just noise,” the acting secretary said Jan. 29, 2019, responding to the allegations. But, then he took a thinly-veiled jab at the F-35.


“I’m biased towards performance. I am biased toward giving taxpayers their money’s worth. The F-35 unequivocally, I can say, has a lot of opportunity for more performance,” he explained, possibly suggesting that the aircraft is not quite where it needs to be.

Shanahan has signed an ethics agreement recusing himself from participating in matters pertaining to Boeing, a major US defense contractor.

Number of American troops wounded fighting ISIS spikes

An F-35 Lightning II performs aerial maneuvers during a combat power exercise at Hill Air Force Base Nov. 19, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class James Kennedy)

His latest comments on the fighter, which were relatively diplomatic, are nothing compared to what he reportedly said in private meetings while serving as the deputy secretary of defense.

A former senior Defense Department official recently told Politico that Shanahan has described the F-35 as “f—ed up” and said its maker, Lockheed Martin, “doesn’t know how to run a program.”

“If it had gone to Boeing, it would be done much better,” that same former official recalled Shanahan saying, according to Politico.

Lockheed beat out Boeing in the Joint Strike Fighter competition around the turn of the century, with the Department of Defense ultimately picking Lockheed’s X-35 — which later became the F-35 — over Boeing’s X-32 in 2001.

During its development, the F-35, a costly project which could cost more than id=”listicle-2627524757″ trillion over the course of its lifetime, has faced constant criticism for a variety of problems. The F-35 is generally considered the most expensive weapons program in US history.

Number of American troops wounded fighting ISIS spikes

A formation of F-35A Lightning IIs, from the 388th and 419th Fighter Wings, fly over the Utah Test and Training Range as part of a combat power exercise on Nov. 19, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee)

“The F-35 is our future,” he said in September 2018 at the Air Force Association’s Air, Space Cyber Conference.

“I think we can all agree that it is a remarkable aircraft, with eye-watering capabilities critical to the high-end fight,” he added. “I tip my hat to its broad team of government, industry, and international partners. Having worked on programs of similar size and complexity, I have enormous respect for your talent and commitment.”

Despite these decidedly kind words, his comments Jan 29, 2019, seem to suggest that the F-35 has left a lot to be desired.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

You should go update your (hacked?) WhatsApp

WhatsApp was hacked, and attackers installed sophisticated spyware on an unknown number of people’s smartphones.

The Facebook subsidiary, which has 1.5 billion users, said it discovered in early May that “an advanced cyber actor” infected an unknown number of devices with the malware.

The Financial Times, which first reported on the issue on May 13, 2019, said bad actors exploited a vulnerability to install the surveillance technology by calling the target through WhatsApp, giving them access to information including location data and private messages. Even if the target didn’t pick up, the malware was able to infect the phone.


The FT reported that the spyware was developed by Israel’s NSO Group, whose Pegasus software is known to have targeted human-rights activists. In a statement to the FT, the firm denied any involvement in the WhatsApp hack.

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“This attack has all the hallmarks of a private company known to work with governments to deliver spyware that reportedly takes over the functions of mobile phone operating systems,” WhatsApp said in a statement to the FT.

“We have briefed a number of human rights organizations to share the information we can, and to work with them to notify civil society.”

In a statement sent to Business Insider, a spokesman added: “WhatsApp encourages people to upgrade to the latest version of our app, as well as keep their mobile operating system up to date, to protect against potential targeted exploits designed to compromise information stored on mobile devices. We are constantly working alongside industry partners to provide the latest security enhancements to help protect our users.”

A notice on Facebook said the issue affected Android phones, iPhones, and Windows phones. An update to resolve the issue was released on May 13, 2019, and users are being urged to update regardless of whether they have had any suspicious call activity.

Citing a source, the FT reported that the US Department of Justice was notified about the hack last week.

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

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