When we think about ways to give back to the veteran community and show our appreciation, we often turn to the standard monetary contributions and volunteer opportunities, but there are more creative ways to show our appreciation as well. One example of such an endeavor is the organization Pinups for Vets.
I recently had the founder of Pinups for Vets, Gina Elise, on the Military Veterans in Creative Careers podcast, and I was surprised and inspired by what she had to share. Gina started the organization in 2006 as a way to give back to the veteran community. After seeing images of veterans alone in hospital beds, and watching reports on the news of the severe injuries sustained by our troops fighting in Iraq, she became convinced that she had to do something to help raise funds to support our hospitalized veterans.
She had always been a fan of World War II nose art (on the nose of the plane), so decided to use this creative passion of hers to create calendars that could be donated to veterans and raise money for VA hospitals. Now it is a reality, and Gina not only produces the calendars, but brings a group together and goes to donate the calendars at VA hospitals, dressed as the pinups. The organization has donated over $50,000 worth of rehab equipment for VA hospitals nationwide, and has visited over 7,000 ill and injured veterans.
As you would imagine with a group that visits VA hospitals, the stories Gina had to share were touching. She mentioned a man who was in the hospital for a traumatic injury, and how they were talking with him and he responded. This wouldn’t have been a big deal, except for the fact that afterward they were told that this man had not spoken in over a month.
Navy veteran Jennifer Marshall is a return volunteer for these groups that go to VA hospitals, and shared with me the story of an elderly Navy veteran who cried because she was so happy to have this visit. The video of this touching moment is below:
Jennifer had the following to say about her volunteer experience with Pinups for Vets:
Volunteering with Pin-Ups for Vets means so much to me. On every visit, we see veterans that have not had visitors in days, weeks, or even months. Reconnecting with my brothers and sisters, regardless of era served or branch, is a unique and often beautiful experience. No veteran should ever feel lonely or go without visitors while hospitalized. I do it because not only do I value our veterans, but it makes me feel good as well. I love connecting with other vets and I think volunteer work is essential for anyone who would like to make the world a little brighter.
She also had the following experience to share, which reminds us of the need of young veterans as well:
A visit that sticks out in my mind was when we walked into a room and there were two very young veterans in their late 20s to early 30s. At the hospital, they were surrounded by elderly vets and did not really have anyone to talk to. We spent a lot of time in that room just talking and reminiscing about the service. They were so happy to have company that was around their same age, and it was a really great bonding experience. We signed their calendars and took photos to remember the day by. I still think about that visit often.
Jennifer told me she feels that, through such visits, along with the organizations active social media presence, “people are able to see that there are still veterans who not only appreciate but need the companionship.”
The website for the organization includes thank you letters from the hospitals these volunteers have been able to visit, and reading these was an inspiration in itself. One line from these letters that helped me understand the importance of the visits said their visits make “every day Veterans Day” for their residents.
We don’t want anyone to end up alone in a hospital, especially anyone who dedicated themselves to serving our country. We are fortunate that Pinups for Vets is making an effort, and can see this first hand in the commitment these men and women make to showing these veterans that they care. An example below shows Gina dancing with a veteran, a touching moment that may not change the world, but certainly shows that veteran and the others who see this that people appreciate our service and are making an effort to ensure we are not alone.
Kim Jong Un may have just received his only warning to shape up or risk upsetting Secretary of Defense James “Chaos” Mattis. And when Chaos Mattis gets pissed off… well, it would be a lie to say it was nice knowing Kim Jong Un.
According to a report by CBSNews.com, Mattis indicated that the United States could very well end up deploying the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system, formerly known as the “Theater High-Altitude Area Defense” system, to South Korea. Either way, the system, dubbed THAAD, is used to shoot down ballistic missiles like those pointed at Seoul from the north.
“Well, you know, North Korea has often acted in a provocative way, and it’s hard to anticipate what they do,” he told reporters, according to a DOD transcript of a press gaggle on board his aircraft as it was en route to Osan Air Base in South Korea.
“There’s only one reason that we even have this under discussion right now, and that is North Korea’s activities,” he added. “That THAAD is for defense of our allies people, of our troops who are committed to their defense. And were it not for the provocative behavior of North Korea we would have no need for THAAD out here.”
THAAD is a ballistic missile defense system. According to Army-Technology.com, the system has a range of at least 200 kilometers (124 miles), and is able to hit targets almost 500,000 feet above ground level (ArmyRecognition.com credits THAAD with a range of 1,000 kilometers – equivalent to over 600 miles).
A Missile Defense Agency fact sheet notes that each THAAD launcher holds eight missiles. The system also uses the AN/TPY-2 radar to track targets. Currently, six batteries are in service per the MDA fact sheet. A 2016 Defense News article notes that each battery has six launchers.
We scraped through job reviews on Glassdoor.com, a site that lets employees rate their employers and their careers anonymously, to find out what the most loved jobs in the military are. Here are 12 of the highest rated careers in uniform:
Access to all of the ship or command’s goods while hanging out on ships (mostly) near the coasts. Sounds great. Storekeepers can go further out, serving primarily on icebreakers and cutters when they’re not on the shore. They specialize in inventory and supply. (Average rating is a 4.1.)
8. Coast Guard Information Systems Technician (4.2)
It’s an IT job, but with the Coast Guard. Keep computers properly hooked up and set up new networks when needed; you could even get called to keep all the computers on an ocean-going cutter working together. And odd note about the Glassdoor for this job though: the IT guys are less likely to recommend the Coast Guard to a friend (62 percent vs. 88 percent) than Coasties as a whole reported. (Average rating is a 4.2.)
A combination of hospital nurses and field medics, Navy corpsmen give medical aid to sailors, Marines, and others both on ship and shore as well as in combat around the world. Obviously, this can result in a lot of stress but can also be very fulfilling. (Average rating is a 4.2.)
5. Army Human Resources Specialist (4.2)
It’s one of the more ridiculed jobs, an “uber-POG” position that rarely sees combat. But human resource specialists seem happy with their desk jobs, tracking personnel and making sure pay goes through properly. (Average rating is a 4.2, vs. an average of 3.4 for the infantry).
4. Army Logistics Manager (4.2)
The Glassdoor ratings for “Army Logistics Manager” cover a variety of jobs, mostly in the transportation branch. They drive trucks, plan routes, and send convoys through enemy territory. So, a little adventure on some days, but humdrum the rest of the time. A sweet life, unless we run into another era like the rise of the IED. Then it sucks. Horribly. (Average rating is a 4.2.)
3. Military officer (4.4)
“Officer” is a wide catch-all that includes everything from the folks who manage door kickers to those who manage desk jockeys to those who manage truck drivers. (Glassdoor has a separate “Officer” category for each branch, but they all average ratings between 4.3 and 4.5.)
2. Army Operations Manager (4.5)
This is another ratings category where the reviewers came from different jobs, but these are the folks who worked their way into an operations shop and are now in charge of planning missions and ensuring the teams have everything they need for success, from engineers building new roads to infantrymen slaying bodies. (Average rating is a 4.5.)
A U.S. Air Force B-2 Spirit stealth bomber made an emergency landing on Oct. 23, 2018, at the Colorado Springs Airport following an unspecified inflight incident.
A number of local photographers have posted photos of the aircraft sitting on the tarmac at the joint use civilian/military airport located about 12 miles from downtown Colorado Springs.
An Air Force statement from Brig. Gen. John J. Nichols, 509th Bomb Wing commander, read, “Our aviators are extremely skilled; they’re trained to handle a wide variety of in-flight emergencies in one of the world’s most advanced aircraft and they perfectly demonstrated that today.”
Numerous media outlets and local news reports have said the two crew memberson board the aircraft were not injured in the incident.
The incident is unusual since there are only 18 known B-2s currently in operation with one additional aircraft allocated for dedicated testing purposes (and one crashed 10 years ago). The 18 operational aircraft are flown by the historic U.S. Air Force 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman AFB, Missouri.
The unit is descended from the 509th Composite Group, the only aviation unit in the world to operationally employ nuclear weapons in combat using B-29 Superfortresses during the 1945 airstrikes on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
A U.S. Air Force B-2 Spirit deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., flies overhead after returning from a local training mission at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, Jan. 12, 2017.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jazmin Smith)
The 509th Bomb Wing and its Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit are critical U.S. strategic strike assets. The loss of one aircraft, even if temporary, reduces the global precision low-observable strike capability by 5.5%. Because the aircraft have previously initiated ultra-long range strikes directly from their home base at Whiteman AFB, this reduction in capability is noteworthy.
Social media posts on Facebook shared parts of what is claimed to be radio communications from local air traffic control facilities during the incident. In the recordings, the controller is heard saying, “There is another issue with the aircraft coming in, they are unable to change radio frequencies”. The same tape also says the local fire department at the airport was called.
The B-2 was initially directed to runway 17L but actually landed on runway 35R, a runway at 6,134 feet of elevation that is 13,500 feet long, the longest runway available at Colorado Springs Airport.
B-2 Stealth Bomber emergency landing in Colorado Springs
The tower controller in the audio relays that, “I’m just relaying through Denver Center, all of the information, but as far as I now it is just the number 4 engine out”. Tower control finally says that he is unable to talk to the aircraft and is going to use a light gun to signal the aircraft, “But I am unable to talk to them. I’m just going to give them the light gun.” What appears to be an additional controller in the communications says, “No, they were unable to switch radio [frequencies] to me. I could only give them the light gun.”
Emergency response team on scene provided the pilot with oxygen, according to the reports but the reason for administering oxygen is unclear and subject to speculations.
On the other side, analysis of the (unusual) back shots of the aircraft: the U.S. Air Force usually prevents shorts at the rear of the aircraft.
“Photos taken of the B-2 on the ramp in Colorado show the aircraft’s auxiliary air inlet doors open on the left side and closed on the right. This is unusual. We don’t know if the right-side inlet doors were stuck closed during landing — they are open during terminal phases of flight — or if the left side failed to close upon shutting down,” Tyler Rogoway at The War Zone noticed.
As of Oct. 24, 2018, plane spotters in the area have since reported the B-2 is “gone”. The aircraft was not seen departing the airport so it is probable it has been moved discreetly to an indoor hangar.
On Feb. 26, 2010, a somehow similar incident occurred with a B-2 Spirit stealth bomber forward deployed in Guam. The aircraft aborted a takeoff with an engine fire. The official USAF spokesperson for the incident at the time, then- Lt. Col. Kenneth Hoffman, characterized the incident as “minor”. A subsequent report published on Jan. 6, 2014, in “War Is Boring” by writer David Axe went on to reveal the B-2 involved in that incident received more than minor damage. It took over two years to return the aircraft to operational flying condition.
Each of the B-2 spirit fleet aircraft has a name designated by state. In the case of the Feb. 26, 2010 incident, the aircraft involved was the “Spirit of Washington”, aircraft number 88-0332. The photos from Oct. 24, 2018’s incident may show aircraft number 89-0128, the “Spirit of Nebraska” being involved in Oct. 23, 2018’s emergency landing.
The future of the small and crucial B-2 fleet will certainly be influenced by the ability to maintain existing aircraft and repair any aircraft damaged in normal operations.
As the B-2 fleet continues to age and remain exposed to normal operational attrition the new, secretive B-21 Raider is expected to assume the low-observable strategic strike mission as it comes on line as early as 2025. Basing options for the B-21 Raider were announced earlier this year and could include Dyess Air Force Base in Texas, Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota and Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri as “reasonable alternatives ” to base the new B-21 bomber. These facilities already host strategic bomber assets including the B-1B Lancer long-range, supersonic heavy bomber.
The B-1B is also expected to be phased out in conjunction with the introduction and operational integration of the B-21 Raider. The plans for the B-21 Raider fleet include significantly more aircraft than the operational B-2 Spirit program with some estimates suggesting as many as “100-200” B-21 Raiders could be built. The unit cost of the B-21 could be half the single aircraft cost of the B-2 partially because the B-21 Raider will share the Pratt Whitney F135 engine with the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program.
This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.
The Marine Corps is actively testing a robotic system outfitted with sensors and cameras that can be armed with an M240 machine gun.
It’s called the Modular Advanced Armed Robotic System, and it looks crazy.
Just last week, infantry Marines from 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines were taking the robot out on training patrols at Camp Pendleton. Later this month, they’ll head to the Marines’ desert training site at 29 Palms, California to fire off plenty of live rounds.
If it were actually fielded, MAARS would complement the 13-person infantry squad that typically carries small arms, offering up a tracked vehicle that can zone in on targets with a mounted M240B machine gun firing 7.62mm NATO rounds.
It can carry about 400 rounds, or it can be reconfigured to tote a 40mm grenade launcher instead. The Qinetiq-built robot only hits 7 mph for a top speed (which is fast enough for troops who are walking alongside it) and can run for 8 to 12 hours.
Of course, it does have some limitations. It’s not totally hands-free, since operators need to hand reload it, and it could be stopped by rougher terrain. But MAARS is just one of many technologies the Corps is testing for its Warfighting Laboratory in an effort to field the “Marine Corps of 2025.”
Among other technologies that the Corps is considering are a fully-autonomous ground support vehicle, multiple smaller scale drones, and a precision airborne strike weapon that a grunt can carry in a backpack.
The MAARS also has a big brother nearly five times its weight that can be outfitted with an M134 minigun.
This is the Modular Advanced Armed Robotic System, or MAARS for short. It’s an unmanned ground vehicle that can be outfitted with a medium machine gun or a grenade launcher.
Infantry Marines with 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines were testing it out last week to see how it would mesh within their unit and work alongside them.
They control it with the Tactical Robotic Controller, which lets them see what it sees, and target the bad guys. The TRC can also control a bunch of other gadgets, such as drones and ground sensors.
Besides being an awesome death-dealing robot, it can also drag wounded Marines off the battlefield if they are injured.
It also has a much bigger brother: The Robotic Vehicle Modular/Combat Area Robotic Targeting (RVM/CART). Besides its size, it can pack a lot more firepower with an M134 Minigun.
With an insanely high rate of fire of 2,000 to 6,000 rounds per minute, that makes it the grunt’s best friend. Marines can also mount a laser on top to target enemies for precision airstrikes.
Tokyo delivered a humiliating public protest to Beijing for the intrusion of a vast Chinese “fishing fleet” escorted by more than a dozen coast guard and other law-enforcement vessels in or near waters of the disputed Senkaku islands.
Such protests are common in the ongoing cat and mouse game in the East and South China Seas, but they are usually delivered in private. In this case, Tokyo decided to turn its protest into political theater.
China’s Ambassador to Japan, Cheng Yonghua, was summoned to the foreign ministry, where news and television camera were waiting to film the encounter. Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida kept Cheng waiting for ten minutes then entered, a stern look on his face, gesturing Cheng to sit down.
“Relations with China are becoming noticeably wors[e] because China is trying to change the status quo,” Kishida lectured Cheng, who looked embarrassed by the media presence. He said the Diaoyu, as China calls them, were Chinese territory and the two nations should “strive to reach a solution.”
Japan has become used to Chinese Coast Guard intrusions into its claimed territorial waters. On the average of once every two weeks, two or three Chinese ships slip into Senkaku waters. They stay for a couple hours then leave.
But there had been nothing like what happened August 8 when a flotilla of more than 230 “fishing boats” escorted by up to 28 Chinese Coast Guard and other law enforcement vessels virtually surrounded the Senkaku islands for several days.
It was not immediately clear exactly what message the Chinese were trying to convey, although Tokyo has been very vocal in supporting the Philippines in its legal action against China resulting in the July 11 ruling that confirmed all of Manila’s charges.
Was the latest intrusion a dress rehearsal for war?
The various scenarios for war in the East China Sea, and possibly in the South China Sea, usually fall into two main categories. There is the “accidental” fight scenario. A Chinese destroyer’s radar locks onto a Japanese warship. The Japanese captain fires back in self-defense and the incident spirals out of control.
That is one scenario. Another, possibly more realistic, is the “swarm” scenario: Several hundred “fishing boats” sail from ports in Zhejiang province for the Senkaku, where they overwhelm the Japanese Coast Guard by their sheer numbers.
This time, the fishing boats land some 200 or so commandoes disguised as fishermen or “settlers.” The Senkakus are not garrisoned by Japanese troops, so no shots are fired. The Chinese side says it is not using force, merely taking possession of what it claims to be its sovereign territory.
Tokyo feels obliged to respond, although the Chinese landing force is too large to dislodge by ordinary policing methods, such as those that have been used in the past when a handful of activists – Chinese and Japanese – tried to land on the disputed islands and plant their flags.
That would put Japan in the position of being the first party to fire shots, possibly landing elements of the Western Infantry Regiment, which was created and trained specifically to recapture islands. Meanwhile, Tokyo hurriedly consults with Washington seeking assurance that it will honor its commitments to defend Japan.
On more than one occasion, including in remarks from President Barack Obama himself, the United States has stated that the Senkaku come under the provisions of the joint security treaty as they are administered by Japan.
In the most recent incident, the estimated 230 Chinese fishing vessels escorted by Chinese law enforcement vessels made no effort to land anyone, though the Japanese Coast Guard shadowing the vessels kept a sharp eye out for any sign of it.
China boasts the world’s largest fishing fleet, but it is a matter of debate among security analysts as to extent to which China’s fishing fleet constitutes a paramilitary force, or as they sometimes say, a “maritime militia.” Somehow, a swarm of Chinese Fishing boats always seem to materialize on cue in disputes in the East and South China Sea.
The use of fishing boats, not to mention the nominally civilian coast guard, tends to blur the distinctions between what is civilian and what is military. In any conflict, the Japan and the U.S. would have to deal with ostensibly civilian boats that could flood the battlefield turning it into a confusing melee.
“China’s fishing fleet is being encouraged to fish in disputed waters . . . and are being encouraged to do so for geopolitical as well as commercial reasons,” says Alan Duport, a security analyst at the University of New South Wales.
Swarm tactics have been used often in the South China Sea. Hundreds of boats converged in the Gulf of Tonkin in 2014 in the dispute over the oil-drilling rig that the Chinese erected in Vietnam’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
Beijing has dispatched swarms of fishing boats to Laconia Shoals off the coast of Sarawak to fish in Malaysia’s EEZ, with escorts of coast guard vessels to protect them should Kuala Lumpur try to arrest them. Similar confrontations have taken place in Indonesia’s South Chia Sea EEZ.
China has been commissioning new coast guard vessels, either converted navy frigates or purpose-built cutters, at an astonishing rate to the extent that it can now deploy ships in various corners of the contested waters simultaneously.
It may be better that principle actors in the unfolding conflict are civilian vessels. But certainly lurking nearby and ready to respond are the warships of the regular Chinese, Japanese, and America navies.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
Army chaplains and their assistants provide spiritual support to soldiers, both in a deployed environment and back at home. They are part of a support network for soldiers going through a hard time or just needing someone to share their thoughts or concerns.
Army Master Sgt. Samuel W. Gilpin presents a quilt to Spc. Zowie Sprague during a battlefield circulation visit in Taji, Iraq, Feb. 14, 2017. The quilt was hand-made by a family from a small town in Texas. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Cesar E. Leon)
The Army’s Chaplain Corps provides counseling for soldiers in times of crisis, such as extreme stress, grief, or psychological trauma. Army chaplains are teamed-up with an enlisted soldier known as a chaplain assistant.
Together, they form what is known as a Unit Ministry Team.
“Chaplains have to be extra resilient and take time for self-care,” said Army Maj. James S. Kim, the chaplain for the 369th Sustainment Brigade.
“Caregiver” is a term that can be given to chaplains and their assistants within the military. On a day-to-day basis, ministers may deal with many grief counseling cases and always have to remember the importance of self-care.
“I have learned from my past deployment, that when I am assisting people with their issues, there is only so much I can help with,” Kim said. “At the end of the day, I have to be able to unravel everything I heard from the day and be able to get my own counseling.”
UMT’s are empathetic to soldiers’ personal problems, such as substance abuse, relationship issues and post-traumatic stress disorder. If they are not conscious of the psychological toll their empathy can take on them, they run the risk of suffering from what is known as compassion fatigue.
UMT’s need to find ways to cope and release the weight they take on from providing moral support to their soldiers.
“It is important to understand your limitations, what you can and can’t do, but most importantly finding that time to connect to your faith,” said Army Master Sgt. Samuel W. Gilpin, the chaplain assistant for the 1st Sustainment Command UMT.
The Army Chaplain Corps provides responsive religious support to the unit in both deployed and garrison environments. The support provided can include religious education, clergy counsel, worship services, and faith group expression.
Chaplains have been an integral part of the armed forces since 1775, when the Continental Congress officially made chaplains a part of the Army.
Chaplains serve commanders by offering insight into the impacts of religion when developing strategy, campaign plans, and conducting operations.
They also provide soldiers an outlet for spiritual practice and provide counseling and moral support for soldiers in need.
The once-proposed, hotly-debated November 10th parade in Washington D.C. has been put on the back-burner in the face of climbing costs. When it was first published that the price of the event was jumping from $10 million to $92 million, Secretary of Defense James Mattis said, in response to the erroneously-suggested figure, “whoever told you that is probably smoking something.” Regardless of where the costs actually stand, it’s been officially postponed until 2019.
Unfortunately, by pushing the whole thing back a year, the event will lose much of its luster. This Veterans Day, which falls on November 11th, 2018, is the centennial of the signing of the armistice that ended the First World War.
So, what do we do now on such a tremendous anniversary? There have been many suggestions made by many sources, but two stand out against the noise: The American Legion’s request to focus on veteran support and attending the Centenary Armistice Forum in Paris.
I’m fairly confident that there would be little argument for a military parade when the War on Terrorism concludes.
(Photo by David Valdez)
To be frank, America has seldom felt the need to rattle its saber and show how powerful of a force it is — it just is. This fact has been proven when it matters time and time again. But putting on a parade doesn’t have to be a show of force. In fact, countless Veterans Day parades are held across the country at which Americans can show their support of the United States Armed Forces.
American troops are, at present, in armed conflict and, typically, military parades in Washington D.C. are reserved for the ending of wars, such as the celebration of the end of the Gulf War in 1991. Any military parade this November should focus on what the day is really about: Supporting America’s returning veterans and memorializing the end of World War I.
You know, like getting federal acknowledgement of the hazards of burn pits or the alarming number of veterans who commit suicide on a daily basis. A simple “we hear you” will get the ball rolling on helping those affected.
(U.S. Army photo by the 28th Public Affairs Detachment)
Meanwhile, it’s no secret that the Department of Veterans Affairs hasn’t been, let’s say, “well equipped” to handle the many issues within the military community. National Commander of the American Legion, Denise H. Rohan, issued the following statement through the American Legion’s website:
“The American Legion appreciates that our president wants to show in a dramatic fashion our nation’s support for our troops. However, until such time as we can celebrate victory in the War on Terrorism and bring our military home, we think the parade money would be better spent fully funding the Department of Veterans Affairs and giving our troops and their families the best care possible.”
Securing funding for Veterans Affairs is always going to be a uphill battle, but any event held in the United States could be used to champion relevant issues and bring to light the very serious struggles that many veterans face.
Besides, Paris will be hosting their own Armistice Day parade. If America were to join in theirs — it’d send a strong message to both our allies and our enemies. We save money and it shows the world that they’ll have to face off against more than our fantastic military alone.
(DoD photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique Pineiro)
On the other side of the coin, French President Emmanuel Macron will be hosting an international forum in Paris on November 11th to advance the promise of “never again” for the war that was supposed to end all wars. He has invited more than 80 countries to attend the event, including the United States.
Macron has invited world leaders to join together to work towards international cooperation. He compared present-day divisions and fears to the roots that caused World War II. On August 17th, in a tweet, President Trump said that he’ll be there.
Military photographers from all branches of the armed forces are constantly taking awesome shots of training, combat, and stateside events. We looked through the military’s official channels, Flickr, Facebook, and elsewhere and picked our favorites over the past week. Here’s what we found:
Tech. Sgt. Donnie McCorkle watches a C-17 Globemaster III land at Altus Air Force Base, Okla.
A C-5M Super Galaxy sits on the flightline as Airmen clear snow Feb. 17, 2015, on Dover Air Force Base, Del. Winter Storm Octavia dumped a total of four inches of snow on the base and throughout the local area.
SEMBAWANG, Singapore (Feb. 19, 2015) Culinary Specialist 1st Class Robert Parks, from Fostoria, Ohio, heaves a mooring line on the forecastle of the littoral combat ship USS Fort Worth (LCS 3) during a sea and anchor detail.
CAMP LEMONNIER, Djibouti (Feb. 18, 2014) Cmdr. Ron Neitzke, Camp Lemonnier command chaplain, places ashes on the forehead of Chief Hospital Corpsman Alvin Cruz during an Ash Wednesday service. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, a Christian religious observance that covers a period of approximately six weeks before Easter Sunday.
An Army Green Beret, assigned to 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne), provides security for a mule carrying the Mk 47 grenade launcher during MULE Packing Training on Fort Bragg, N.C., Jan. 27, 2015.
Army Medicine researchers are investigating possible long-term effects of exposure to dust and other airborne particulate matter.
ARLINGTON, Va. – Sergeant Major Micheal Barrett, the 17th sergeant major of the Marine Corps, relinquished his post to Sergeant Major Ronald Green, the 18th sergeant major of the Marine Corps, during a ceremony at the Marine Corps War Memorial, Arlington, Virginia, Feb. 20, 2015.
MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, North Carolina – Lance Cpl. Zachary Painter (left) and Lance Cpl. Reymond Kane, machine gunners with 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment and natives of Roanoke, Va. and Long Island, N.Y., respectively, simulate firing at an enemy during a gun drill at training area G-G aboard Camp Lejeune, N.C., Feb. 18, 2015.
A USCG helicopter stands ready as the sun sets on another day of service to nation.
USCG crew responds to 13 yr. old boy needing medical attention aboard cruise ship.
Seventy-two years ago Marines raised the American flag over Mount Suribachi on the island of Iwo Jima on Feb. 23, 1945. Joe Rosenthal’s photo of the second flag-raising became one of the most famous photos of World War II, but the battle actually raged from Feb. 19 to Mar. 26. Here are 18 other photos from the battle where almost 7,000 Marines, sailors, Coast Guardsmen, and soldiers lost their lives:
1. The Marines landed on Iwo Jima in waves on tracked boats.
2. The water was thick with the Marines, sailors, and Coast Guardsmen of the landing force.
3. At the beaches, the Marines poured onto the black, volcanic sand under Japanese fire.
4. Japanese artillery and mortars took out a lot of the heavy equipment as it got bogged down in the sand.
5. The Navy used its big guns to destroy the lethal Japanese artillery where possible and to break open bunkers firing on U.S. troops.
6. This duel between the heavy guns played out on the island as constant explosions.
7. The Marines would advance when the fire was relatively light, trying to take Japanese positions before another artillery barrage.
8. When the fire was particularly heavy, they’d burrow into the sand for cover.
World War II has given the video game industry plenty of material, but a good World War I game is pretty hard to find.
Not anymore. A recently-released game set on the early 20th century battlefields puts players into the trenches, and it’s surprisingly good.
The first World War was a very different kind of war. Soldiers often served in long stalemates between trench lines, or “went over the top” to attack the enemy. It was often a battle for just inches of more ground, and not allowing game players to move very far seems a bit counterintuitive in a game.
With the game “Verdun,” the developers took an innovative approach to this problem, and made a World War I game actually worth playing. The developers went to great lengths to use historically accurate equipment, uniforms, and weapons, and they used reconnaissance photos — and in some cases walked the ground — to recreate the landscape of 1914-1918 France.
Still, a game that looks realistic could still turn out to be terrible. The gameplay is important, and “Verdun” excels in this area. While it’s a first-person shooter game, “Verdun” requires players to work along with their squad, much like they would if they really were in an infantry unit.
What makes Verdun so different from other first-person shooters is the way battles ebb and flow. Some players are instructed to assault individual enemy strongpoints, while others are told to defend. Anyone who disobeys an order by moving outside the engagement area is killed — effectively shot on the spot for cowardice.
“The maps are a composition,” Hoebe said. “This imagery can all be found through Google. There are large collections of postcards on Flickr, but also Belgian towns post their historical collections online. I pretty much went through the extent of what could be found … and compressed this into on overall image.
The gameplay is unlike your typical World War II shooter or, any modern shooter for that matter. If you enjoy running around blasting the bad guys in “Call of Duty” while enduring quite a few hits, the realism of this game will certainly be a surprise.
“If you’re going into Verdun with a mind to cut about the place, emptying hot lead into the faces of all and sundry with reckless abandon, then you can quite rightly expect to be put into the ground very quickly. And many, many times, too,” writes Game Watcher.
There are three game modes: Frontlines, Attrition and Rifle Deathmatch. Deathmatch is the multiplayer slugfest you’d come to expect from most first-person shooters, except this one features no rocket launchers (sorry Doom fans) and only bolt-action rifles.
Frontlines is the game’s “campaign mode,” where you team up with your squad, ordered to capture or defend your ground. Attrition is centered around a single battle, with each side’s manpower levels being depleted as the player is killed and re-spawns.
“If nothing else, Verdun‘s given me an excellent understanding of what a mess World War I was,” Hayden Dingman wrote at PCWorld. “The game doesn’t have the best graphics, the best sound, the best character models, or what have you—and yet few games have so consistently stressed me out like Verdun.”