Top officers look into in-flight issues plaguing pilots - We Are The Mighty
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Top officers look into in-flight issues plaguing pilots

Brig. Gen. Edward L. Vaughan is the Air National Guard Special Assistant to Maj. Gen. Scott F. Smith, the Director of Training and Readiness, Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Arlington, Va. The directorate, encompassing seven divisions and the Air Force Agency for Modeling and Simulation, is responsible for policy, guidance and oversight of Air Force operations.

General Vaughan also serves as the lead for the Air Force Physiological Episodes Action Team (AF-PEAT) and co-leads the ad hoc Joint-PEAT, along with Navy Rear Adm. Fredrick R. Luchtman.


General Vaughan completed Reserve Officer Training Corps at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and received his commission as honor graduate from ANG’s Academy of Military Science. He previously served in leadership roles at the squadron, group, wing and higher headquarters levels in both the mobility and combat air forces. General Vaughan commanded the 156th Airlift Wing, Puerto Rico, and Detachment 1 of the 13th Air Expeditionary Group (formerly the 13th Expeditionary Support Squadron), Antarctica.

During an interview with Airman Magazine, Gen. Vaughan discussed his new post leading the joint investigation of Unexplained Physiological Episodes (UPEs) and his experiences as a mobility and combat airman and safety officer.

Interview Topic Navigator

1. What is the PEAT?
2. Physiological Episode Symptoms
3. Physiological Data
4. Pilot Physicians
5. Big Data
6. RPA and Cyber Communities
7. Message to airmen

Airman Magazine: Please tell us about your new job investigating Unexplained Physiological Episodes.

Brig. Gen. Vaughan: As part of my role working in A3T, I’ve been tasked by the A3 Lt. Gen. Mark Kelly to lead the Physiological Episodes Action Team, also known as the PEAT.

PE stands for physiological episode or event. Essentially it’s any anomaly in the interaction among the aircrew, equipment, and environment that causes adverse physical or cognitive symptoms, which may impede the ability to fly..

What we’ve done across the Air Force and all aircraft, but most recently with the T-6 fleet, is to investigate what causes PEs. In some cases an Unknown PE will immediately reveal to us what happened. Maybe there was some sort of contamination in the cockpit due to an oil leak or some other fumes, so we’re able to identify it as a known physiological event.

In other cases, pilots will experience symptoms, come down and land, report them and we don’t know exactly what the cause is until we investigate further.

Top officers look into in-flight issues plaguing pilots

Members of the Navy Physiological Episodes Action Team and Air Force PEAT listen to a discussion between Rear Adm. Fredrick R. “Lucky” Luchtman (left) and Air Force Brig. Gen. Edward L. “Hertz” Vaughan (right) as they lay the ground work for the Joint Physiological Episodes Action Team, or J-PEAT.

(Photo by Scot Cregan)

Airman Magazine: Tell me about the PEAT. What is the structure and objective of the team?

Brig. Gen. Vaughan: The AF-PEAT is Air Force Physiological Episodes Action Team. Now, previously this has been known as the UPE IT or Unexplained Physiological Events Integration Team.
We’re working very closely with our Navy partners and they came up with a pretty good name – Physiological Episodes Action Team. In the interest of both jointness and keeping it simple for all the flying community, we’ve aligned names with the Navy.

Of course, that’s not the only thing we’ve learned from the Navy. The Navy’s had some great success in exploring what happens in physiological episodes, what happens to aviators, and we’ve been able to learn a lot from them and they’ve learned from us as well.

Airman Magazine: How does the PEAT operate?

Brig. Gen. Vaughan: We have two meetings per week. Every Friday the Air Force PEAT meets. Who is on this action team? The answer is those people who are required for that particular meeting.

We’ll have the topics of the week, sometimes we’re looking at specific incidents with airplanes, specific episodes, and other times we may be investigating new equipment that’s coming out, new procedures, new training or maybe there’s the results of an investigation that we’ll need to review. We have standing members of the team, about half a dozen, that are there at every meeting.

Then we have another kind of a second layer of folks, which gets us up closer to 20 people, who come in as needed. That second layer includes folks from the acquisition community or the 711th Human Performance Wing. We don’t necessarily need to have them come to every meeting, but there’s times we really need somebody from human performance wing present. That’s one meeting.

Then immediately following that meeting, we have, what I call the Joint-PEAT. It’s really an ad hoc Joint Physiological Episodes Action Team with the Navy. It is very much a joint effort in that we work closely together and meet weekly to keep a steady battle rhythm so as things come up during the week, if they’re not an emergency or if it’s not something that we’ve got to address right at that minute, we’ll be able to put it together on Friday. We know that once a week we’re going to have a meeting where we can sit down face-to-face and hash these things out.

My Navy counterpart is Rear Adm. Frederick Luckman, he goes by “Lucky”. My call sign is “Hertz”. We immediately got to a Hertz-Lucky professional friendly demeanor. We go through an awful lot of coffee. He and I meet as often as we can to share data. Like I said, we cannot share the information fast enough.

The Navy is doing a lot of good work. They had a series of issues with physiology not only in the F-18, but T-45s, and they’ve had very good success in their T-6 fleet. They have a T-6 fleet that’s about half the size of the Air Force’s. They have slightly different models, some of theirs are newer models, but the oxygen systems are very similar.

The Navy adopted early on, in response to some of the lessons they learned from other airframes, significant maintenance practices in their T-6 oxygen system that we found very useful. We watched the Navy adopt those, saw the results of it and in those cases we’ve been able to adopt it exactly the same way that they have.

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Top officers look into in-flight issues plaguing pilots

Brig. Gen. Edward L. Vaughan, head of the Air Force Unexplained Physiological Events Integration Team, and Rear Adm. Fredrick R. Luchtman, Navy Physiological Episodes Action Team lead, discuss ongoing efforts to minimize the risk of Physiological Episodes.

(U.S. Navy photo by Cmdr. Scot Cregan)

Airman Magazine: How does the timely resolution of PEs, affect training and readiness?

Brig. Gen. Vaughan: Looking at the National Defense Strategy, lethality is the primary objective and, for the Air Force, that equates to readiness. Are we ready to fight? You know, the question is readiness for what? Ready to do what? It’s ready to prosecute the war, ready to fight. In some cases, being ready to go out and influence and be that presence where we need to be.

If we’re having equipment struggles, delays in our programs, or we’re having to stand-down aircraft or cancel missions because of physiological episodes that will get in the way of us being ready. It will get in the way of us executing any plans we may have out there. So it’s important for us to get the information back, put the fixes in, get those funded, fielded and executed as quickly as possible. Once we do that, we’re going to enhance readiness and capability as we grow toward the Air Force We Need.

It also eliminates a distraction. Anytime you have aircraft mishaps of any kind, anytime you have a cluster of these PEs, it’s going to create a distraction, not just for the frontline airman, but for their families, and anybody else associated with it. Anybody involved with the operation and maintenance will have a distraction. That distraction takes our eye off the readiness ball. That’s one of the reasons that you’ll see the PEAT, Physiological Episodes Acting Team, embedded right in A3T. A3T’s tasking is training and readiness.

Airman Magazine: What types of symptoms are commonly associated with PEs?

Brig. Gen. Vaughan: Symptoms span the spectrum of what can happen to people on airplanes. I’ll caveat this with Air Force aviators receive extensive training in physiology and what may happen to them in tactical aviation. All pilots and other aircrew going through their initial training, experience the hypobaric chamber, we call it the altitude chamber. They get used to what it’s like to operate at high altitudes and what happens during decompression. They also have routine refresher training in all aspects of aviation physiology.

One of the main reasons for doing that training is so that each aviator can learn what their individual symptoms will be. No two people will react the same to an aircraft or environmental stimulus and, in fact, the same person may have different reactions on different days based on fatigue, fitness, nutrition, or other personal factors.

It’s important for each aviator to have a sense of what symptoms they might have, especially the early onset symptoms, so they can take early appropriate action to safely recover the aircraft or get out of the environment that’s causing the problem.

Some of these symptoms can range from things like tingling in the extremities, fingers and toes, headaches or nausea. There are actually cases of folks having euphoria, while other folks may become belligerent. They know if you’re flying along and all of a sudden you just feel a little irritated for no particular reason it may be time to check your oxygen system, look at the environment you’re in or determine if that’s caused by something else. Then take appropriate action to mitigate the risk.

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Airman Magazine: You have said that when investigating and mitigating PEs, “We can’t share information fast enough.” Describe what you mean and how that process can be improved?

Brig. Gen. Vaughan: Sharing the right information and then making sense of the information is very important in dealing with this phenomenon. What we do right now in the Air Force is we listen to the pilots. Pilots will land and give us a debrief – What happened? When did it happen? What types of conditions were going on in the airplane?

You’ll find that in the Air Force fleet, and the Navy fleet as well, most of the aircraft have pretty sophisticated sensors when it comes to their engines and other aircraft systems. When they land that information is downloaded, aggregated, and acted upon. Much of the critical data is available real time and available to the pilot for immediate action. Each aircraft is slightly different as technology improves, but the amount of data that we’re able to download from a given flight is enormous. But hard data on the human weapon system is slim to none.

This gets into right into some of the themes of Secretary of the Air Force has talked about going into artificial intelligence, big data analytics. How do we deal with all this data, make some sense of it and not run down the wrong path to get a wrong conclusion?

I will tell you one area though, where we’re still struggling, not only the Air Force, but also the Navy and our colleagues at NASA, is collecting data from the actual human weapon system.

We want to know things like pulse rate, oxygen content in the blood, cognitive functions, any anomalies with eyesight, but these are very hard things to sense independently without interfering with the aviators while they conduct their mission.

That’s a fascinating area of research that’s happening out at the 711th Human Performance Wing at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in conjunction with the Navy Medical Research Unit Dayton. What they’ve started to do, both those labs working together and along with some NASA support, is fielding some prototypes, such as sensors that might go, for example, in the (oxygen) mask or on the pilot’s helmet.

We actually know real-time information about the oxygen system in an airplane. We have sensors on the actual system to know the content of oxygen and other gases that might be presented to the aviator. What we don’t know is what happens in system losses; what happens between the actual oxygen production or the oxygen source and the pilot’s breathing. Furthermore, we don’t know the pilot’s ability to uptake that oxygen. There’s a lot of medical and physiological processes that we need to monitor better.

Top officers look into in-flight issues plaguing pilots

A technique called Hybrid 3D Printing, developed by AFRL researchers in collaboration with the Wyss Institute at Harvard University, uses additive manufacturing to integrate soft, conductive inks with material substrates to create stretchable electronic devices.

(Wyss Institute photo)

Airman Magazine: What does the end state of this research look like? Are you talking about monitoring physiological responses of pilots during missions in real time?

Brig. Gen. Vaughan: That’s absolutely correct. We’d like to get to an end state where the human weapon system is instrumented in such a way that’s noninvasive and nonintrusive. The aviators won’t feel the sensors and it doesn’t interfere with their duties at all, but that that data is available just like you would read all the instruments on an engine. We’re trying to figure out, is that five years from now, two years from now or 20 years from now?

If you think of the human on the loop or in the loop going forward, especially in cyber systems and integrating across all-domain operations, it’s going to be more important than ever to make sure that the human weapon system is keeping up and that we’re able to monitor that.

So we’re looking at sensors that might be wearable. A lot of folks out in the community are familiar with wearable fitness monitors and the chips that go in your shoes if you’re going to run a race to keep track of where you are. One of the challenges we have in aviation is the sensors that might be worn in commercial practice that people might buy at a local store are not suitable for the aviation environment, particularly tactical aviation.

Not only do you have the pressure and temperature anomalies that occur as airplanes travel up and down, but in tactical aviation, fighters, bombers and training aircraft, there’s an awful lot of G-loading. There can be anomalies that go from high altitude to low altitude in very short order and that has a lot of wear and tear on the sensors.
Some sensors are embedded in clothing and depend on contact with the skin. For example, in order to prepare themselves for a mission, aviators will strap down tighter than you might in an automobile to keep them safe, but that may also cause bulges in the clothing that interferes with sensory contact. There’s a lot of research yet to be done and a lot of development ahead of us.

I’m looking forward to the Air Force potentially investing more in that research. I’m especially impressed with our ability to work with our joint partners with the Navy and the Army, which is coming on board later this month, in this PEAT effort. They’ve got a lot of exciting things happening in their aerospace medicine field and then NASA has been a partner throughout. You really can’t beat, from an intellectual capacity standpoint, having partners like the 711th Human Performance Wing and NASA. We’ve got the best partners in the world.

Airman Magazine: Are there other interagency or commercial partners in the research and investigation of PEs?

Brig. Gen. Vaughan: Absolutely. Some of the companies that produce our aircraft have divisions dedicated to human physiology and enhancing the ability of the human to perform in or on the loop. They provide enhancements such as providing sensors and digital displays. In some cases, even an augmented reality display, which we have in many aircraft, where there’s a lens that comes over one eye and not only can you see your environment, but that lens will produce a heads-up display of images that will help you interpret what you’re seeing on the ground.

Not only do we have industry partners that helping us with this, we also have universities and some international partners. Primarily we’re working through the Navy to access the folks that are doing that work on the outside, but we’re going to start working a little more with our international affairs group here in the Air Force to foster those partnerships.

Airman Magazine: Do you see a time when human sensor capability will be baked in rather than bolted on?

Brig. Gen. Vaughan: I think we’re going to get to that point. Right now, we’ve got to be sensitive to the fact, that if we start utilizing every sensor that’s available commercially, we run the risk of interfering with the mission and maybe causing a distraction. The last thing we want to do is have sensors be the cause of problems. We want the sensors to help us solve those problems.

We’re looking at ways to prototype these things. Edwards Air Force Base, for example, where we do a lot of research and development flight testing, has been very instrumental in working with the 711th Human Performance Wing and the system program offices for the airplanes, to include the T-6, F-15, F-16 and others, in doing some remarkable testing that gives us great foundational data. That foundational data is important to determine where we do the development going forward. Also, we recently shook hands on an agreement with the Civil Air Patrol to help us collect, assess, and sort through the many commercially available wearable sensors.

Airman Magazine: What’s the benefit to the force of being able to process and utilize PE data faster?

Brig. Gen. Vaughan: So for example, right now if we have a physiological event in the aircraft, we typically execute emergency procedures, get to a safe backup source of oxygen if it’s available, descend to an altitude where it’s safe to breathe ambient air and then land as soon as possible at the nearest suitable airfield.

Perhaps what will happen in the future, with sensors on board, you may be able to head off that emergency. Sensors may alert the pilots to the fact that they are entering a phase of flight or a set of activities or an environment, where they’re at higher risk of these kinds of anomalies. By alerting the pilot to that, they may be able to mitigate it or avoid a physiological event.

Furthermore, if there is a situation in flight, the sensors on board that gives them real time readings may enable them to do a better job of assessing what’s going on.

But this is where it gets insidious. With physiological events, one serious possible symptom is an inability to assess the situation.

Now that’s a pretty extreme symptom, but you may have those situations come up. In which case, presenting the data to the pilot as numbers or another traditional data format might not be as useful as, maybe, an alert light. There are some programs out there that cause the oxygen mask to vibrate a little bit. We do this with the control stick in airplanes as well. With such an equipped aircraft if you were to get into a stall, the control stick vibrates, They call it a stick shaker. Applying these proven technologies to other areas are all in prototype and being tested.

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Top officers look into in-flight issues plaguing pilots

Zach Demers, an aerospace engineer, demonstrates the Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System (Auto GCAS) in an F-16 flight simulator at the Air Force Research Laboratory, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Brian Ferguson)

Airman Magazine: Weren’t you involved in the adoption of another pilot safety system?

Brig. Gen. Vaughan: Formerly, I served as the Air National Guard’s national director of safety. Part of our safety portfolio is flight safety and in that we have some advanced fourth and fifth- generation aircraft, but we also have legacy systems out there. Systems that don’t have baked-in ground collision avoidance systems.

We worked very hard with the system program office and the Pilot Physician program in the United States Air Force to bring on board these Auto G-CAS systems (Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System). We have confirmed saves in situations where the pilot may have lost awareness. It doesn’t have to be a physiological event. It can be task saturation or other things that cause the pilot to lose awareness of proximity to the ground. Traditional GCAS systems will alert the pilot, such as an X symbol in the heads-up display, letting them know they’re near the ground and need to pull back on the stick.

In the Auto G-CAS, the aircraft sensors can actually determine the point where the pilot can no longer recover, due to the limits of human reaction time, and the system takes over the jet and recovers it for the pilot. As soon as the aircraft is in a safe regime, it returns the control back to the pilot. And that’s also had a couple of great saves for us.

Airman Magazine: You mentioned the Pilot Physician program, what is that and are they involved in the J-PEAT and investigating of UPEs?

Brig. Gen. Vaughan: Pilot Physician is a very unique program in the Air Force and its highly specialized. These are individuals are rated aviators of all sorts, but primarily pilots. Then they go to medical school and change their job category. So they’re no longer primarily pilots for the Air Force, they’re now physicians for the Air Force.

They’ve enabled to help us understand what’s going on both operationally and medically and where those two things meet. In other situations, you have pilots who were trying to describe what’s happening to them in the airplane and then you have medical doctors trying to understand that description. There can be things lost in translation between the communities.

The Pilot Physicians speak both aviation and medicine fluently, are able to identify with the pilots and, in many cases, have flown that exact aircraft being investigated.

Top officers look into in-flight issues plaguing pilots

Lt. Col. Jay Flottmann, pilot physician and 325th Fighter Wing chief of flight safety, explains how a valve in the upper pressure garment and the shape and the size of oxygen delivery hoses and connection points contributed to previously unexplained physiological issues during F-22 flights.

(Photo by Senior Airman Christina Brownlow)

Airman Magazine: Are there specific examples of investigations that benefitted from Pilot Physician experience and expertise?

Brig. Gen. Vaughan: Lt. Col. James “Bones” Flottman was the Pilot Physician directly involved in the F-22 investigation that we did a few years ago. The F-22 had a series of physiological episodes. He was the one that was able, as an F-22 pilot and a physician, to credibly determine that it was a work of breathing issue.

It was a combination of factors, we don’t need to go into all the specifics right here, but he was able to bridge the gap between pilot practices, things they’ve been taught to do and things they did through experience, and what was happening medically. That resulted in improvements in the whole system – improvements in some of the hardware and improvements in the pilot practices. Not only was he able to help the investigation team solve that, he was able to then go back and credibly relate this to the pilots, restoring faith both in the system, in the Air Force process.

There’s another one that is a friend of mine, retired Col. Peter Mapes. Dr. Pete Mapes is a classic Pilot Physician. He was a B-52 pilot and a fantastic doctor, as are all of them. He and I worked closely together on Auto G-CAS, as well as several key people in engineering and operations. He was really the driving force, along with Lt. Col. Kevin Price, at the Air Force and the OSD level to push that development and production through, especially for the legacy aircraft.

He also had a role in many other aviation safety improvements to include helicopters, specifically wire detection. A lot of helicopters have mishaps because they strike power lines. He was instrumental in getting some of those systems put into helicopters and out into the fleet.

He was also instrumental in improving some of the seat designs and some of the pilot-aircraft interface designs as well. Really too many to mention.

Another great a success story for the Air Force, when it comes to the Pilot Physician program is Col. Kathy Hughes, call sign “Fog”. She’s flown the T-38 and A-10, a great flying background, and has been a wonderful physician for the Air Force. She really explored the use, the application and the design of our G-suits and was able to help the Air Force evolve into a full coverage G-suit. So now the G-suits that our fighter aviators fly are more standardized and more effective than the previous generations of flight suits. Thanks, in large part, to her work. I recently met her at aviation safety conference where she is helping commercial interests design better ejection seats.

That’s just three examples. There’s a whole laundry list.

We also have advising both the Navy and Air Force PEAT, Col. William P. Mueller; call sign “Ferris”. Col. Mueller was an F-4 fighter pilot and now one of the top physicians in aerospace medicine. He’s been absolutely invaluable in helping us understand what’s going on with the physiological episodes. He not only sits on the Air Force PEAT, but he also has a permanent membership sitting on the Navy’s PEAT. So he’s part of that joint interaction and offers a fearless perspective on improving training.

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Top officers look into in-flight issues plaguing pilots

Col. Kathryn Hughes, a pilot-physician and director, Human Systems Integration, 711th Human Performance Wing, sits on the stairs of a centrifuge at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, April 22, 2016.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Brian Ferguson)

Airman Magazine: Could research into making Big Data more easily utilized by the warfighter have an application in investigating and mitigating PEs?

Brig. Gen. Vaughan: I like using the email analogy. So most of us have email. Those that work in an office may have one for work and one for personal use, or maybe even more than that. If you’re like me at all, if you skip checking your emails for even one day, you find yourself in a huge email deficit. Now imagine all the sensors, whether it’s a cyber system, aircraft systems, space system, and each piece of all the data being collected as an email coming to you. Within minutes you would be completely overwhelmed with data. So we’re going to rely on systems to help us sort through the data and present those things that are most important now for decision making.

Those other pieces of information that we might want later for analysis, it will store those and present them at the appropriate time. So that gets after artificial intelligence. We need these systems to work with the human in the loop. We don’t necessarily want it to be standalone. We want it to be integrated with humans and that’s where the real challenge comes in, because as an aviator flying an airplane, the data I want right at that moment to prosecute the fight, may be different than the data a cyber operator working with me in that operation may need at that same moment. Artificial Intelligence or underlying data systems will have to be smart enough to give the data to the operator that’s needed to make the right decision.

I recently spent some time with Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft. I asked him about this wicked technology problem of applying artificial intelligence on the tactical edge. His advice about leveraging cloud technology to perform advanced operations on big data, where and when needed, has been invaluable.

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Airman Magazine: How does recorded data on individual pilots allow you establish baseline physiology and find relationships between PEs that may occur in aircrew from different units and bases?

Brig. Gen. Vaughan: We’re already finding benefit from that data, so the 711th Human Performance Wing is working very closely, in this case with the T-6 system program office, and some big data analytic gurus. These folks will take large volumes of data and slice and dice it to find where there might be some differences from what would be considered a baseline or normal.

Then they can dig into those differences and see if there is something to learn. They’re finding a lot of great results that help us improve the systems. Because physiological events involve humans and each human has such a different reaction and an individual person will have a different reaction on a different day, it can be difficult to look at a small sample size and draw any big lessons. We need large sample sizes and that’s where you can start to kind of tease out the pieces of the data that are going to move us forward.

As we worked with the Navy on the Physiological Episode Action Team we have found that pilots in the Air Force and the Navy are more informed than ever. They know people in the tech business and the pilots talk amongst themselves and share information and they’re finding these wearable sensors.

Most of the wearable sensors are not suitable for aviation use. They just can’t provide good data under those conditions, but it’s worth exploring. Talking to Admiral Luckman, we wanted to find a way to get these sensors, and most of them are small things like fitness monitors, that just aren’t allowed in our environment right now, into the cockpit just to see how they survive a flight. The Civil Air Patrol, which flies general aviation aircraft, fly with their smart phones and other types of equipment.

They have a tremendous safety record, but they also have a completely different set of rules than we do. They typically just follow the AIM and the FAA civilian flight rules. Most of those flight rules don’t have any prohibitions on bringing equipment in your pocket or your flight bag.

So recently we sat down with some of the leaders of the Civil Air Patrol to work out a memorandum of understanding whereabouts we’ll get these ideas and sensors to our pilots in the fleet. Some of them will appropriately go through Air Force and Navy channels and may end up being something of a program of record in the long term.

Others that we can’t cross that gap and into the system, we’ll offer those to Civil Air Patrol and, at their option, they can start flying those. It’s not official flight test, but they can at least tell us, does this thing survive a flight up to 10,000 feet and back. And that piece of information might be just enough. That then allows our system program office with the labs to start taking a closer look.

Airman Magazine: This may seem like an odd question, but do PEs occur within the RPA or cyber communities where the ops tempo is so extreme?

Brig. Gen. Vaughan: So that’s a great question and that’s why I think the development of sensors and better understanding of baseline human physiology is so important.

The RPA environment is just the tip of the iceberg. As we look at humans in the loop or on the loop, human physiology, whether it’s in cyber, RPAs, intel, space, any of the other missions that we’re doing, is a very important consideration.

What we don’t have yet is a tremendous amount of baseline data. What’s physiology supposed to look like in those situations? So when it’s different, how would we know it? That’s some of the work that’s going on right now at the labs is base-lining that data.

I will tell you that while the environment of RPAs is uniquely different than the environment in airplanes, but it’s not always easier. You have a lot of folks that are out there engaged in very serious operations, life and death situations, that they are dealing with for hours on end and then go home every night to their families and to would be a normal environment. Most people have coping mechanisms to deal with that. But that’s one of the areas of research that folks are looking at in the labs – how do we better prepare people to go back and forth between these kinds of environments?

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Top officers look into in-flight issues plaguing pilots

Maj. Bishane, an MQ-9 Reaper pilot, controls an aircraft from Creech Air Force Base, Nevada. RPA personnel deal with the stressors of a deployed military service member while trying to maintain the normalcy of a day-to-day life.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)

Airman Magazine: Let’s shift gears and talk about your career history. How does leading PEAT differ from your past experiences as a safety officer at a wing or a squadron?

Brig. Gen. Vaughan: Prior to this, I worked for Secretary Mattis in OSD reserve integration. We basically informed OSD policy relative to the seven different reserve components out there to include the Air National Guard.

Before that, I served as commander of the 156th Airlift Wing. As a wing commander, it is a minute-by-minute duty to make risk decisions and it’s very important to realize the consequences of those decisions and understand that whole risk matrix.

In my current position, I’m not a commander of anything. I’m not really in charge of folks specifically. We have a team, but we come together as required. So this job is more informative. One of our primary roles is to inform commanders. As they give us data, we give them back context so they can make better risk decisions.

It also allows the labs to put a focus on their studies enabling the system program offices to acquire and improve systems to support the mission. So this job is very different in that respect.

I think having been a commander previously helps me understand what these commanders they need to hear and how they want to receive that data so it doesn’t overwhelm them.

Airman Magazine: What is it you would like the pilots and aircrew to know about you, the PEAT and their part in preventing and mitigating PEs?

Brig. Gen. Vaughan: I traveled to Randolph Air Force Base and I had the opportunity to meet with some of the higher headquarters staff. I met with the commander of 19th Air Force and I was very encouraged and reassured with everyone’s openness to really solving this problem as aggressively and quickly as possible, talking about physiological episodes, but also, in a broader sense, the sustainment of the T-6 and sustainment of other airframes for which people might be interested.

I feel good about where that’s going. I also had a real eye-opener when I had an opportunity to meet with some of the T-6 pilots. We met off base. We decided to meet in a restaurant in a casual environment. We wanted that format because I wanted to hear really unfiltered what some of these T-6 pilots, who are some of the most experienced pilots in the Air Force flying that mission, that airframe. I was able to learn a lot. They have great faith in their chain of command and leadership. They have valid and serious concerns about physiological episodes, as does the commander all the way up to the chief of staff and the Secretary.

I think being able to hear their perspective, share with them my firsthand knowledge of meeting with senior level commanders in the Air Force bridged some gaps. I also was able to hear some very specific engineering questions and connect some of those pilots directly with some of the engineers at the system program office and some folks within their own chain of command that they just haven’t connected with yet. Just trying to get those dialogues going, because the solutions that the air Force is putting into place, whether it’s T-6 or any other airframe, are usually phased. Some of them require major investment, money and time-wise, and those take a little longer to accomplish.

So how do you bridge the gap between today and when we get to that promised land if some of those bigger fixes and it comes down to some solid risk management? In the case of the T-6, there’s a whole list of maintenance protocols that we handle and emergency procedures for the pilots that don’t necessarily reduce the number of these events, but they can reduce the severity and certainly mitigate the consequences. That’s what we’re trying to do. We don’t want a situation where any physiological episode goes far enough to lead to a permanent injury or harm of an aviator destruction of property. We want to catch those things as early as possible through these mitigation techniques.

Another thing I got to do when I was at Randolph was shadow the maintainers as they did maintenance on a T-6 that had a physiological episode. In the past, when these things would happen, there wasn’t a specific protocol. They would do their very best to look at the oxygen system, but there wasn’t a protocol on how to do that.

Top officers look into in-flight issues plaguing pilots

T-6 Texans fly in formation over Laughlin AFB, TX.

(Photo by Tech. Sgt. Jeffrey Allen)

Over the last year, with the help of a lot of the pilots, doctors, chain of command folks, human performance wing – a big team effort, when the airplane lands after one of those instances it’s an automatic protocol for that oxygen system.

In most cases it’s removed and a new one is put in and the suspect system then gets this thorough going over at the depot level and not only do we fix that, that particular system and return it to service. We’re able to learn a lot and collect data points. In some cases, we don’t find the specific cause in that system and then we look elsewhere – maybe more pilot interviews, talking to the doctors and trying to piece it together.

The protocols that are out there now not only helped mitigate the consequences of these events until we field new equipment, but they also help us in collecting data that will inform better decisions going forward.

(Top)

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

These letters home give a peek at life in Vietnam War

Letters are a very personal and specific method of communicating, filled with all the details about feelings and moments that would get left out of official reports and summaries. That’s why they’re so loved by historians.


Top officers look into in-flight issues plaguing pilots

Military police escort a captured Viet Cong fighter during the Tet Offensive.

(U.S. Army Don Hirst)

In these letters from the U.S. Army Heritage Education Center, a man identified as “Cofty” writes to his family about his experiences fighting in the jungles and front lines of Vietnam.

The first letter comes from Feb. 2, 1968, near the start of the Tet Offensive. The author and his unit were part of forces sent to counter the North Vietnamese attacks which had slammed into major U.S. posts at Long Binh and Bien Hoa. Saigon was also already under attack.

Though the writer couldn’t know it at the time, his unit was quite successful in driving the North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong forces back, and attacks on Bien Hoa Air Base and Long Binh Post would cease the same day he wrote this letter.

(The author mistakenly put that his unit moved out on the 31st of December. The post-it notation on the letter is to amend “December” to “January.” The letter was written on February 2, 1968.)

Top officers look into in-flight issues plaguing pilots
Top officers look into in-flight issues plaguing pilots

The attack on the prisoner of war camp resulted in about 26 North Vietnamese dead and no U.S. or South Vietnamese casualties. There were at least two platoons involved in the fighting there, an infantry platoon and a cavalry platoon. It seems that the author was likely part of the cavalry platoon as, in an earlier letter available below, he refers to his squadron and his troop. Troops and squadrons are unit types predominantly used in cavalry organizations.

(A cavalry troop is roughly the same size as an infantry company, and a cavalry squadron is roughly the same size as an infantry battalion.)

While Bien Hoa Air Base and Long Binh Post would be relatively safe within hours of this letter being completed, attacks would continue across the front for months, including in Saigon where an embassy was partially overrun and then re-secured.

Top officers look into in-flight issues plaguing pilots

Marines push through the alleys of Hue City in February 1968, attempting to retake areas seized by Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army forces during the Tet Offensive.

(U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. W. F. Dickman)

North Vietnamese forces launched approximately 120 attacks during the surprise offensive, greatly overstretching their forces and creating a situation where U.S. and South Vietnamese forces could quickly counterattack and retake the ground.

The offensive resulted in a large military defeat for the North Vietnamese, but early successes by the communist forces broke American morale at home, and the NVA achieved a major strategic victory despite their severe losses.

The other letter from this young soldier is dated January 19, a few weeks before the Tet Offensive began. It provides a little more “day-in-the-life” as the author details what search and destroy missions were, where his unit was located, and how hard it was to fight in the jungles near Cambodia.

Top officers look into in-flight issues plaguing pilots
Top officers look into in-flight issues plaguing pilots
Articles

This is why Mattis isn’t losing sleep over threats from North Korea

US military strategists at the Pentagon have a military solution in place to address the growing threat emanating from North Korea, but they are holding their fire in favor of ongoing diplomatic efforts by Washington and its allies, Defense Secretary James Mattis said August 10.


The Pentagon chief remained largely mum on the details of that military solution, which theoretically would curb Pyongyang’s efforts to develop a nuclear-capable, ballistic missile arsenal, except to say any military option would be a multilateral one involving a number of regional powers in the Pacific.

“Do I have military options? Of course, I do. That’s my responsibility, to have those. And we work very closely with allies to ensure that this is not unilateral either … and of course there’s a military solution,” Mr. Mattis told reporters en route to meet with senior leaders in the technology sector in Seattle and California.

Top officers look into in-flight issues plaguing pilots
Defense Secretary James Mattis. (DOD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

The former four-star general declined to provide any additional insight to a statement released August 9, warning that the North’s continued provocations — including alleged plans for an attack against US forces in Guam by Pyongyang — “would lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people.”

Instead, Mr. Mattis reiterated that the administration’s diplomatic efforts to quell tensions on the peninsula remained the top priority for the White House.

“We want to use diplomacy. That’s where we’ve been, that’s where we are right now. and that’s where we hope to remain. But at the same time, our defenses are robust” and ready to take on any threat posed by the North Korean regime, Mr. Mattis said.

US defense and national security officials have repeatedly touted the capabilities of the US missile defense shield over the last several weeks, in the wake of a pair of successful test launches by North Korea of its latest intercontinental ballistic missile in July. President Trump has made revamping US missile defense systems a top objective for the Pentagon since taking office.

Top officers look into in-flight issues plaguing pilots
Photo from North Korean State Media.

That impetus has only grown among administration officials amid reports this week that Pyongyang had built a nuclear warhead small enough to fit atop one of the country’s long-range missiles.

On August 9, Mr. Trump threatened to rain down “fire and fury like the world has never seen” if North Korea did not curb its nuclear programs. In response, North Korea announced it was developing plans for a missile strike against Guam.

On August 10, Mr. Mattis declined to comment whether he was taken aback by Mr. Trump’s harsh rhetoric.

“I was not elected, the American people elected the president,” he said. “I think what he’s pointing out is simply these provocations … [and] his diplomatic effort to try and stop it,” Mr. Mattis said.

Humor

7 life lessons we learned from ‘Stripes’

We’ve all seen the classic movie trope where the slacker guy who failed at life because of missed opportunities and maybe a little laziness wants to pull out of his personal nose dive and succeed.


In the early 1980s, Hollywood gave us some hilarious films like “History of the World: Part 1,” “Cannonball Run,” and one of the most authentic military comedies of all-time, “Stripes.”

Although the film does have a slapstick “don’t take me too seriously” comedic tone, we can learn a lot about life if we take a deeper look into the classic hit.

So check out these life lessons that we could all learn from our beloved “Stripes.”

1. Answering the call

Most people have thought about joining the military at one point in their life, but it takes a personal epiphany to decide you’re ready to take the first step.

Top officers look into in-flight issues plaguing pilots
remake stripes GIF
Giphy

2. Only tell the government what they need to hear

And not a single word more.

Top officers look into in-flight issues plaguing pilots
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3. Always set goals for yourself

In the military, what you put into it is what you get out of it. True story.

Top officers look into in-flight issues plaguing pilots
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Giphy


4. Don’t let your battle buddy quit

Military training can be difficult, but it’s up to your battle buddies to keep your motivation high and physically threaten the people that are trying to quit.]

Top officers look into in-flight issues plaguing pilots
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5. Leadership can be found in anyone

It’s amazing just what you’ll find in a person when you peel back some of their raw layers.

=

Top officers look into in-flight issues plaguing pilots
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6. Brain takes brawn

You can be up against a dangerous force, but some intelligence and quick thinking can get you out of nearly any jam.

Top officers look into in-flight issues plaguing pilots
stripes lighten GIF
Giphy

7. Never count out the lovable loser

They always seem to surprise us in those awesome 80’s comedies.

Top officers look into in-flight issues plaguing pilots
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MIGHTY TRENDING

US grounds B-1 fleet over ejection seat precautions

The U.S. Air Force has grounded the entire B-1B Lancer bomber fleet, marking the second fleetwide stand-down in about a year.

Officials with Air Force Global Strike Command said that, during a routine inspection of at least one aircraft, airmen found a rigged “drogue chute” incorrectly installed in the ejection seat egress system, a problem that might affect the rest of the fleet.

“The drogue chute corrects the seat before the parachute deploys out of the seat,” said Capt. Earon Brown, a spokesman with Air Force Global Strike Command.


The issue is “part of the egress system,” or the way airmen exit the bomber in an emergency, Brown told Military.com on March 28, 2019. The problem does not appear to be related to the issues that occurred last year, AFGSC said.

“There are procedural issues of how [the drogue chute is] being put into place,” Brown said.

Officials will “look at each aircraft [para]chute system and make sure they are meeting technical order requirements to employ” the drogue chute appropriately, he added. The B-1 has four seats, for the pilot, co-pilot and two weapons systems officers in the back.

Top officers look into in-flight issues plaguing pilots

A B-1B Lancer assigned to the 28th Bomb Squadron, Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, maneuvers over New Mexico during a training mission on Feb. 24, 2010.

(U.S. Air Force photo/ Master Sgt. Kevin J. Gruenwald)

AFGSC commander Gen. Timothy Ray on March 28, 2019, directed the stand-down for “a holistic inspection of the entire egress system,” according to a press release. “The safety stand-down will afford maintenance and Aircrew Flight Equipment technicians the necessary time to thoroughly inspect each aircraft.”

Brown said the Air Force does not have a timeline for when fleet will be back in the air, but said the fixes are a “high priority.”

The bombers will return to flight “as the issues, any issues, get resolved,” he said, adding that B-1s are not currently deployed overseas.

In 2018, the command grounded the fleet over safety concerns related to the Lancer’s ejection seats. The stand-down was a result of an emergency landing by a B-1 on May 1, 2018, at Midland Airport in Texas.

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson confirmed speculation at the time that the B-1, out of Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, had to make an emergency landing after an ejection seat didn’t blow.

Top officers look into in-flight issues plaguing pilots

A B-1B Lancer.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Brian Ferguson)

The B-1 crew “were out training,” she said during a May 2018 speech at the Defense Communities summit in Washington, D.C.

Local media reported at the time the B-1B was not carrying weapons when it requested to land because of “an engine flameout.” Weeks later, images surfaced on Facebook purporting to show the aircraft with a burnt-out engine. Photos from The Associated Press and Midland Reporter-Telegram also showed the B-1B, tail number 86-0109, was missing a ceiling hatch, leading to speculation an in-flight ejection was attempted.

Officials ordered a stand-down on June 7, 2018, which lasted three weeks while the fleet was inspected. Months after the incident, UTC Aerospace Systems, manufacturer of the bomber’s ACES II ejection seat, said the seat itself is not the problem.

After coordinating with the Air Force, UTC determined “there’s an issue with the sequencing system,” said John Fyfe, director of Air Force programs for UTC.

It had been implied “that the ejection seat didn’t fire, when in fact the ejection seat was never given the command to fire,” Fyfe told Military.com in September 2018.

“This particular B-1, [the sequence system] was not ours,” he said, adding that there are multiple vendors for the sequencing systems.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Air Force test pilot dies in crash of top secret plane in Nevada desert

An Air Force pilot from Annapolis, Maryland, died Sept. 6 when his plane crashed during a training flight in Nevada.


Lt. Col. Eric Schultz was flying an unspecified aircraft at about 6 p.m. over the Nevada Test and Training Range, approximately 100 miles northwest of Nellis Air Force Base, a spokeswoman at the air base said Friday.

The aircraft was assigned to Air Force Materiel Command, which leads development of new combat technologies for the service.

Maj. Christina Sukach, a spokeswoman for the 99th Air Base Wing, said Schultz died as a result of injuries sustained in the accident. The crash remains under investigation, and additional details were not immediately available.

“Our immediate concern is for the family of Lt. Col. Schultz,” she wrote in an email.

Schultz is a 1991 Annapolis High School graduate, and the son of Linda and Larry Schultz, of Annapolis. They traveled to Nevada on Wednesday to be with their son’s wife and other members of the family.

A former civilian test pilot, Eric Schultz held multiple graduate degrees when he joined the Air Force in 2001. He went on to be an experienced flight training officer who was the 29th pilot to qualify to fly the F-35 fighter jet in 2011.

His crash was one of two Air Force crashes near Nellis on Wednesday. Two A-10C Thunderbolt II jets assigned to the 57th Wing crashed on the test range at approximately 8 p.m.

An Air Force spokeswoman at Nellis said the pilots ejected safely. The aircraft were on a routine training mission at the time of the crash.

Articles

Cocaine bust highlights growing Air Force role in Southern hemisphere

Top officers look into in-flight issues plaguing pilots
U.S. Air Force E-3 Sentry AWACS, an RC-135, and KC-135s sit at the CURACAO/ARUBA Cooperative Security Location. | Photo via SOUTHCOM.


The line of cocaine the Air Force and Joint Interagency Task Force-South seized last month in the Caribbean would stretch “from the Pentagon to the center of Philadelphia.”

The Air Force’s top civilian shared that detail with reporters Wednesday when describing how the service is working harder to train pilots in the Southern hemisphere while aiding the global anti-drug war.

Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said the service is looking for ways to use more assets in the Southern Command region that would be “of training benefit to our forces, but also contributing to counter drug and counter transnational crime commission.”

“The idea of all of this was to see if we could get more of a double ‘bang for your buck,’ ” James said at a Pentagon briefing.

And during a five-day training operation, they did.

Led by Air Force Lt. Gen. Chris Nowland, commander of the 12th Air Force and Air Forces Southern, the service and the Key West, Florida-based task force seized 6,100 kilograms (13,448 pounds) of cocaine between Aug. 22-26, James said.

The large-scale air operation in the Caribbean included a number of U.S. aircraft, including HC-130s, DH-8s, B-1Bs, B-52s, AWACS, JSTARS, Global Hawks, KC-135s and KC-10s, James said. Space and cyber assets “were also brought into the mix,” she said, but didn’t elaborate.

The use of airpower as well as the other partners in the interagency effort led to the seizure of as much as $500 million worth of the cocaine and the arrest of 17 drug traffickers by appropriate authorities, James said.

In March, a B-1B Lancer flew a low pass over a drug smuggling boat in the Caribbean Sea, prompting those onboard to dump 500 kilos of cocaine into the deep blue.

The secretary visited command units in April to discuss the potential for more training operations in Latin America.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The pressure is on for Army’s newest command

When the idea for an Army Futures Command was first broached by Chief of Staff General Mark Milley and then acting Secretary Ryan McCarthy at the 2017 annual meeting of the Association of the U.S. Army, it was part shock and part thrill. The civilian and military leadership of the Army was united in their intention to radically change the service’s approach to acquisition.

The centerpiece of their strategy for change was the creation of a Futures Command. The goal of the new command, according to the Vice Chief of Staff General James McConville, is to kickstart Army modernization by starting with a vision of the future, imagining the world you want and then working backward to figure out what it would take to get there. This approach is much more likely to produce revolutionary change, and it’s the one Army Futures Command will adopt.


In recent public statements, General John Murray, the newly-confirmed commander of the Army’s fledgling Futures Command, has been downplaying expectations for his new organization. He has cautioned listeners not to expect miracles from the new organization. In fact, in General Murray’s estimation, it will take the next three to five years to achieve buy-in from the Army and Congress for Futures Command. According to him, buy-in is achieved “by being a little bit disruptive, but not being so disruptive you upset the apple cart.” So much for the goal of revolutionary change.

The trouble with this perspective is that the current state of the Army requires some miracles. Virtually the entire array of Army ground and aerial platforms is in serious, in some cases desperate, need of modernization. Also, at the end of the Cold War, the Army essentially abandoned several capability areas, most notably tactical air defense, electronic warfare and chemical-biological defense, that it now is scrambling to resurrect. Then there are the emerging areas such as cyber warfare and robotics which the Army and the other services are struggling to master.

Top officers look into in-flight issues plaguing pilots

General John Murray, the newly-confirmed commander of the Army’s fledgling Futures Command.

The Army leadership may not believe in miracles. However, they do seem to be indulging in wishful thinking. By locating Futures Command in Austin, a city with a reputation as a hotbed of innovative thinking regarding technology, they believe that a staff composed largely of mid-career Army officers and government civilians can be magically transformed into a cohort of Steve Jobs, Peter Thiel and Bill Gates. Army secretary Mark Esper described their intentions this way: “We needed to immerse ourselves in an environment where innovation occurs, at speeds far faster than our current process allows.”

Neither Silicon Valley nor Austin created the innovative culture that has become so attractive to defense leaders. There is nothing in the air or water in either location that promotes creative thinking or an entrepreneurial spirit. There are many cities in the United States that possess the combination of characteristics that Army leaders said they wanted in the place that would house Futures Command: academic talent, advanced industries, and an innovative private sector. Army leaders initially had a list of thirty potential candidates. The five finalists, Austin, Boston, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, and Raleigh, are spread across the United States.

Department of Defense and Army leaders have it exactly backward. Innovators created Silicon Valley, Austin and the other locations that were identified as prospective homes for Futures Command. Moreover, innovators are not made, they are born. They begin by seeing the world differently than conventional thinkers. They don’t learn to take risks; it is part of their DNA.

This is, even more, the case for entrepreneurs, those who successfully translate the innovator’s creations into marketable products. Entrepreneurship is inherently about using the products of innovation to destroy old devices, systems and ways of behaving. Can one imagine Steve Jobs’ response if he had been told to restrain himself to being just a little disruptive?

If immersion in a “hothouse” environment of innovation is necessary in order for the Pentagon to produce cutting-edge military capabilities, how does one account for the successes of Kelly Johnson, Hyman Rickover, Donn Starry and the other defense innovators in the decades before Silicon Valley emerged? How do we explain the stream of innovations that have emerged from the Lockheed Martin Skunkworks, the Boeing’ Phantom Works and BAE Systems’ state-of-the-art Integration, Assembly and Test facility?

It is unclear how Futures Command is going to infuse the rest of the Army’s acquisition system with the spirit of innovation and the drive of entrepreneurship. There is an urgent need to get control over the requirements process that can often take five or more years to develop a set of validated requirements. But this is only a palliative measure.

What must be disrupted, even destroyed, is the risk-averse, do it by the books, write iron-clad contracts mentality that afflicts much of the acquisition system. There is also an imperative to change the risk-averse mindset of many Program Executive Officers and Program Managers.

Futures Command could be most useful, at least initially, by focusing on removing impediments to innovation and entrepreneurship rather than searching for new and potentially exciting technologies. It could focus on deregulation and retraining contracting officers so that they are supportive of the process of innovation. Then the Command could look for law schools that teach their students how to find ways to change policies and procedures rather than identifying all the reasons why it can’t be done. Building a flexible acquisition system with a culture supportive of innovation and an entrepreneurial spirit would be a miracle. But this is what the Army needs.

This article originally appeared on Real Clear Defense. Follow @RCDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why State Department bomb squads clear an area without the military

In northern Iraq, fleeing ISIS militants adopted a “scorched earth” policy in many of the areas they once occupied, making it virtually impossible for civilians to return to their communities safely. In countless neighborhoods, ISIS either destroyed critical infrastructure such as power plants, water treatment facilities, hospitals, and schools, or emplaced explosive hazards to target returning Iraqis and prevent them from rebuilding. In the city of Mosul, after six months of hard work funded by the U.S. Department of State, al-Dawassa Water Treatment Facility has been cleared of deadly improvised explosive devices (IEDs) deliberately left behind by ISIS, as well as unexploded ordnance (UXO) from the battle to liberate the city from ISIS’s three-year occupation.


Unexploded ordnance and improvised explosive devices removal is a crucial precursor in stabilizing post-conflict areas because explosive remnants of war impede humanitarian assistance and stabilization efforts. The presence of these hidden hazards coupled with an explosive incident that killed three people prevented repair crews from approaching al-Dawassa facility, leaving families without access to clean water and people without jobs. With support from the Department of State and U.S. Embassy Baghdad, our implementing partner, Janus Global Operations, undertook the methodical and dangerous work of carefully surveying the site and removing explosives hazards. In all, teams safely cleared a total of 168 explosive hazards from the site, allowing maintenance teams to get the plant back on line.

Top officers look into in-flight issues plaguing pilots
A Janus team member surveys the remains of a room in al-Dawassa facility for UXO and IEDs.
(Janus Global Operations photo)

Al Dawassa consists of three main units: the pumping station which takes water from the nearby Tigris River, the treatment plant which purifies and distributes the water, and on-site employee housing. The facility suffered only light damage during the fight for Mosul, but three years of ISIS’s occupation reduced the facility to an inoperable state, requiring a significant amount of repairs. When fully operational, the facility can process approximately 750 cubic meters (26486 cubic feet) of water per day; however, after years of ISIS occupation, the facility’s production capacity declined to 300 cubic meters (10594 cubic feet) per day, well below half of its original capability.

Al-Dawassa is critical to the daily functioning of Mosul. The treatment facility not only provides families with clean drinking water, but also supports local businesses and agriculture. With these critical functions restored, families can return to their homes.

Top officers look into in-flight issues plaguing pilots
Unexploded ordnance and other dangerous hazards are hard to spot and often blend in with other debris on the ground.
(Janus Global Operations photo)

With smart investments in the work of partners like Janus to support stabilization, the United States demonstrates its enduring commitment to bolstering the safety of the Iraqi people. These efforts are not only making a difference in the lives of ordinary Iraqis, but they are also removing the insidious legacy that ISIS left behind, a key priority of the United States and the entire 75-member Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS.

The United States is the world’s single largest financial supporter of efforts to clear explosive remnants of war. Since 1993, the United States has contributed more than $2.9 billion to more than 100 countries around the world to reduce the harmful worldwide effects of at-risk, illicitly proliferated, and conventional weapons of war. To learn more about the United States’ global conventional weapons destruction efforts, check out our annual report, To Walk the Earth in Safety, and follow us on Twitter @StateDept.

This article originally appeared on the U.S. Department of State. Follow @StateDept on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The war that forced Paris to eat its zoo

For four months from Sept. 19, 1870 to Jan. 28, 1871, the Prussian Army laid siege to the city of Paris, as part of the Franco-Prussian War. Prior to having all supply lines cut off, the French Ministry of Agriculture furiously worked to gather as much food and fuel as it could, and at the beginning, “livestock blanket[ed] the Bois de Boulogne park on the edge of Paris.”

Apparently insufficient, within less than a month, the Parisians began butchering the horses, with the meat used as you would expect and even the blood collected “for the purposes of making puddings.” By the end of the siege, approximately 65,000 horses were killed and eaten.


Within another month, by Nov. 12, 1870, butchered dogs and cats began to appear for sale at the market alongside trays full of dead rats and pigeons. The former pets sold for between 20 and 40 cents per pound, while a nice, fat rat could go for 50.

As Christmas approached, most of Paris’ restaurants and cafés were forced to close, although a few of its top eateries continued serving, albeit with a markedly different menu. And as traditional meats were becoming increasingly scarce, the formerly impossible became the actual – when M. Deboos of the Boucherie Anglaise (English Butcher) purchased a pair of zoo elephants, named Castor and Pollux, for 27,000 francs.

Top officers look into in-flight issues plaguing pilots

The enormous animals were killed with explosive, steel tipped bullets fired at close range, chopped up and sold, with the trunks being the most desirable and selling for 40-45 francs per pound, and other parts between 10 and 14.

Prized by the fine dining establishments, for its Christmas feat, the Voisin served elephant soup, and for New Year’s Day, Peter’s Restaurant offered filet d’éléphant, sauce Madère.

The elephants weren’t the only zoo animals featured on these menus, as the Voison also served kangaroo and antelope, while Peter’s also served peacock. In addition, rats, mules, donkeys, dogs and cats were also transformed by their chefs into roasts, chops, cutlets and ragouts.

Ultimately most of the animals in the zoo were eaten, with the voracious Parisians sparing only the monkeys, lions, tigers and hippos. It is thought that the monkeys were left because of their close resemblance to humans, but it isn’t clear why the lions, tigers, and hippos escaped the menu.

In any event, the siege was ended by a 23-night bombardment campaign in January, in which the Prussians lobbed 12,000 shells into the city, killing and wounding around 400 people. The Franco-Prussian War officially ended with the Treaty of Frankfurt on May 10, 1871.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

What it’s like to skydive with the Army Golden Knights

There’s skydiving, and then there’s Army skydiving.

Their origins began in the Cold War when the Soviet Union was dominating the emerging skydiving sport. In 1959, 19 Airborne soldiers began competing at the international level, and by 1961 they were known as the Golden Knights.

Since then, the Knights have conducted more than 16,000 shows around the world, and team members have broken 348 world records.

And sometimes if you’re very lucky, you can strap one on like a backpack and jump out of a plane with him.

Here’s how:


Shannon Corbeil

youtu.be

Watch what it’s like to jump with the Golden Knights

The Golden Knights are comprised of a few different teams: the demonstration teams perform at over 100 events per year (and if you haven’t seen them in action, run don’t walk — they’re remarkable) while the tandem team jumps with fellow soldiers, heads of state, celebrities, people of influence, members of the military community, and, well, military pin-ups as it turns out.

The Knights reached out to Gina Elise of Pin-Ups for Vets, and while she declined (for now, Gina — but I am determined to get you up in the air!!), she did ask if she could send some of her more daring ambassadors. If you’re not familiar with Pin-Ups for Vets, it’s a non-profit organization that helps hospitalized and deployed service members and military families.

Enter U.S. Army vet Erikka Davis, U.S. Marine Megan Martine, and me (U.S. Air Force vet — hello!).

Top officers look into in-flight issues plaguing pilots

Erikka Davis (U.S. Army), Megan Martine (U.S. Marine Corps), Shannon Corbeil (U.S. Air Force)

After a fun meet-and-greet with our fellow guests, who included people like an A.P. Bio Teacher, a Vice Principal, a firefighter, some Los Angeles Rams Cheerleaders, and a stand-up comic, we set our alarms for an early wake-up and set out for our adventure. This is where I got to meet Sgt. 1st Class Chris “Ace” Acevedo, who would be my jump instructor.

And who apparently is also a legend.

[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/B20UzKiA7_b/ expand=1]Shannon Corbeil on Instagram: “Before & After with SFC Chris “Ace” Acevedo. (Check out the hair! ?) I might be a little biased but he’s my favorite jump instructor! ?…”

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Before & After with SFC Chris “Ace” Acevedo. (Check out the hair! ?)

Ace’s Army career included service as a Cavalry Scout and an Air Defensive Artilleryman in countries like Iraq and South Korea before he joined the Golden Knights. Over the past eleven years, he has served on both the Black and Gold demonstration teams, competition teams, and now the tandem team. He will also be representing the Army on the 2020 U.S. Parachute Team in the 2020 World Championships. I asked him what he had to do to make the team:

“Freefall at 300 mph.”

Oh. Is that all?

For comparison, during our freefall, we’d be descending at about 120 mph. So, yeah, the guy is fast.

He’s also got about 6000 jumps under his belt, which gave me a lot of comfort when confronted with this view:

Top officers look into in-flight issues plaguing pilots

Just imagine kneeling here and then…tumbling out. Because it was ALL I COULD THINK ABOUT.

(U.S. Army image by Sgt. 1st Class Richard Sloan)

It’s nice to know that if I somehow fell out of the plane without a parachute, my instructor could just…come catch me.

Because as you can see in the video above, when the students load up in the plane, we don’t have chutes. We strap in mid-flight, get a refresher from the morning’s instruction (hold chest straps, keep your eyes on your videographer, arch arch arch, two taps on the shoulder means you can release your hands, two taps on your hips means arch more, etc.), then shuffle to the door.

From there, it became a practice in trust. Walking to the edge of an open plane door without using my hands went against every instinct in my body — but I knew that Ace literally had my back.

Top officers look into in-flight issues plaguing pilots

Can you find the C-17?

(U.S. Army image by Sgt. 1st Class Richard Sloan)

In 2003, I completed five unassisted jumps with the U.S. Air Force Freefall program, which meant I was responsible for pulling my own chute after a 10-second freefall. But with the Golden Knights, my job just was to “relax, arch, and have fun.”

Right before we took off, my videographer Sgt. 1st Class Rich Sloan told me that safety was the priority, but if we were stable then he’d reach his hand out to me, and we’d spin SO I WAS DETERMINED TO BE THE MOST STABLE POSSIBLE IN THE UNIVERSE.

Top officers look into in-flight issues plaguing pilots

“And we’re the three best friends that anyone could have…”

(U.S. Army image by Sgt. 1st Class Richard Sloan)

In the video above, you can see what that spin looked like. You can also see from my reaction that it was thrilling.

During our descent, Ace pointed out a C-17 flying beneath us, maintained his checklist, and kept us alive – all of which I’m extremely thankful for. Then after what felt like 10 seconds but was actually a good 45 seconds, with a sharp salute he pulled our chute.

It went by so fast it surprised me, so I made a giphy of the moment BECAUSE MY LEGS KICK OUT AND IT’S HILARIOUS.

Top officers look into in-flight issues plaguing pilots

Weeeeeeeeeeee!

We had a good chute and did some spins under the canopy while Ace endured what I can only describe as me doing a breathless double rainbow guy impression (“Oh my godddddd! Oh my god this is amaaaaaazing!”) before he steered us to the landing zone and brought us gently and lovingly to the earth from whence we came.

For me, it was one of the greatest experiences of my life. For Ace, it could have just been another one of 300 tandem jumps — but that’s not how he sees it. He still remembers his first jumps and the thrill of that experience, so he likes to share that feeling with others.

Talking with him after, I asked what some of his favorite parts of the job are. “Gold Star Families are pretty special. It helps them with their healing process, so that’s a big deal to me. I just want to help them through the day — for many of them, it helps them feel close to the person they lost.”

Top officers look into in-flight issues plaguing pilots

Feather-soft landing, I’m not even kidding.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Richard Sloan)

All I can say about the program is that if you get the invitation to jump with the Golden Knights, take it. They are so professional, so precise, and so skilled at what they do. I had no problem trusting this team with my life. I’m still incredulous that they even provide this kind of experience to people.

I asked Ace why they do it, and he said it’s so our country can get to know her soldiers.

“This is us. This is what an American soldier looks like. This is my Army story.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

New guidelines on Artificial Intelligence will not solve the ethics p​roblems

The European Commission has just published a white paper setting out guidelines for artificial intelligence. They hope to ‘address the risks associated with certain uses of this new technology,’ including concerns around privacy and human dignity.


Meanwhile, the Pentagon is finalizing its own rules on the ethical use of artificial intelligence, following a draft of the rules published in October. Like the European Commission, the Department of Defense is determined to keep people in the loop: ‘Human beings should… remain responsible for the development, deployment, use and outcomes of DoD AI systems,’ they say.

These are only the latest steps to catch up with the new technology. Oxford University has already launched a special program to keep artificial intelligence on the straight and narrow, while the World Economic Forum and others have highlighted the profound moral implications of AI.

The root of the fear is this: whereas earlier technological advances affected just our actions, artificial intelligence is replacing our thoughts. Labor-saving devices are morphing into a decision-making machine, and they operate in a moral vacuum.

Until now, the tough calls have fallen to programmers who write algorithms. Although the point of AI is that machines learn for themselves, the course they choose is set from the start by people who write the code.

Top officers look into in-flight issues plaguing pilots

The stakes become enormous with the sort of automated decisions in defense the Pentagon is considering. And as long as the West’s main adversaries – Russia and China – are speeding forward with artificial intelligence, NATO countries have to stay ahead. Jack Shanahan, the Pentagon’s AI chief, has said that the US is locked ‘In a contest for the character of the international order in the digital age.’

While both the Pentagon and the European Commission are right to be alarmed at the profound ethical dimension to artificial intelligence, they are wrong to presume AI raises new ethical problems. It doesn’t – it just repaints old ones in technicolor. These problems have never been properly solved, and probably never will be.

Consider just these three of the most worrisome dilemmas Artificial Intelligence is said to create.

  1. If forced to choose, should a car driven by AI technology kill a pregnant woman or the two kids? The dilemma is no different when there’s a human at the wheel.
  2. Should algorithms draw on people’s race, gender or religion if it makes them more efficient? It’s been a question for airline security since 9/11.
  3. When our enemy has automated their battlefield machines so they can deploy them more quickly, should we do the same to keep up? This one pre-dates the First World War.
Top officers look into in-flight issues plaguing pilots

In fact, all the problems which haunt artificial intelligence coders today can be traced back to conundrums, which vexed the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle. The 23 centuries since he died have seen attempts to solve them, and some progress, but we still lack a definite answer to the fundamental question, ‘What should we do?’ Neither today’s European Commission paper nor the emerging Pentagon proposals will take us closer to a solution.

Some in the tech world – especially those who have cracked previously uncrackable problems before – are hoping money and brains will lead to a solution. After all, the determined genius of Newton and Einstein solved physics. Why can’t a little investment solve ethics in the same way?

The answer is that ethics is, at heart, a different sort of problem.

When we humans make decisions, we instinctively locate right and wrong in several places at once: in the motives behind the choice, in the type of action we do, and in the consequences, we bring about. Only if you focus on just a single place in the decision-making process – just on consequences, say – then you can rank and compare every option, but inevitably you will miss something out.

So, if an AI system was certain what to do when good deeds lead to a bad outcome, or when bad motives help people out, we should be very wary: it would be offering moral clarity when really there wasn’t any.

It is just conceivable that AI, rather than being a cause of moral problems, could help solve them. By using big data to anticipate the future and by helping us work out what would happen if everybody followed certain rules, artificial intelligence makes rule- and consequence-based ethics much easier. Applied thoughtfully, AI could help answer some tricky moral quandaries. In a few years, the best ethical advice may even come from an app on our phones.

Both the European Commission and Pentagon approach leave that possibility open.

It wouldn’t mean the profound ethical problems raised by artificial ethics had been solved, though. They will never be solved – because they do not have a single, certain solution.

This article originally appeared on Real Clear Defense. Follow @RCDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY MOVIES

‘South Park’ takes on Chinese government after China banned the show

“South Park” fired back at China during the 300th episode after the country banned the long-running Comedy Central animated series.

In the episode, titled “SHOTS!!!,” Towelie forces Randy Marsh to declare “F— the Chinese government.” Marsh is reluctant at first since he’s been selling marijuana in the country.

Last week’s episode, called “Band in China,” mocked Chinese censorship and Hollywood’s reliance on the country’s box office to boost potential blockbusters. It referenced China’s crackdown on Winnie the Pooh, which has become a symbol of resistance against China’s ruling Communist Party and its leader, President Xi Jinping.


China retaliated by shutting down “South Park” discussion forums and removing clips and episodes of the show from its internet, as first reported by The Hollywood Reporter.

Top officers look into in-flight issues plaguing pilots

“South Park” season 23, episode 2, “Band in China”

(Comedy Central)

“South Park” creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker issued a mock apology to China on Oct. 7, 2019, saying “Like the NBA, we welcome the Chinese censors into our homes and into our hearts. We too love money more than freedom and democracy. Xi doesn’t look just like Winnie the Pooh at all.”

The statement mocked the NBA’s apology to China after the Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted on Oct. 4, 2019, (and then deleted) an image with the slogan “Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong” in solidarity with the Hong Kong protesters.

“Band in China” was projected onto screens throughout Hong Kong’s Sham Shui Po district on Oct. 8, 2019, according THR.

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