As part of the events surrounding Super Bowl 50, the Military Benefit Association sponsored the Wounded Warrior Amputee vs. NFL Alumni Flag Football game. The game was a chance for these veterans to compete against NFL greats while raising awareness about the issues wounded veterans face.
Rocky Bleier, Pittsburgh Steeler great, Vietnam War veteran, and spokesperson for the Military Benefit Association, has been involved with the WWAFT games for the past five years.
U.S. Strategic Command recently passed the leadership role in counter-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction mission to SOCOM, a move that has SOF leaders scrambling to figure out where it fits into this complex mission.
Michal Lumpkin, former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations/Low-Intensity Conflict, said he worries that SOCOM will try to take on too much of the mission.
Special Operations personnel are known for being “solution people,” he said. “They solve problems. They fill gaps, seams, and voids.”
“But every gap, seam, and void is not theirs to fill, so the interagency has to do their part,” Lumpkin told an audience Feb. 28, 2018, at National Defense Industrial Association’s 29th Annual Special Operations/Low-Intensity Conflict Symposium. “So, one of the things that I always fear is we would maybe get out in front of the headlights farther and faster than we should and accept too much of the mission.”
Lumpkin took part in a counter-proliferation panel discussion, where all the panelists agreed that chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons are quickly becoming one of the top threats to the United States and its allies.
U.S. Army Col. Lonnie Carlson, director of Strategy, Plans, and Policy in the Department of Homeland Security’s Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Office, said keeping WMD out of the hands of ISIS extremists is one of his top priorities.
“Those real-world things are there, and the bottom line is, they are definitely terrorism-related, they are coming out of the Middle East, and they are not things we were worried about two months ago,” Carlson said.
Components of these mass-casualty weapons are also coming out of North Korea and turning up in places like Syria, said Michael Waltz, a former Special Forces officer and policy advisor to the Bush administration.
There have been “40 to 50 previously unknown, unreported shipments of essentially chemical weapons components or dual-use components from North Korea to Syria,” he said.
Syria’s legitimate chemical industry “isn’t exactly thriving, so I think it is safe to assume what those parts are for,” he added.
Waltz said he agreed with President Trump’s policy of “stopping the North Korean program in its tracks,” but said he thought the administration’s failure to fill key positions in the State Department would make it difficult to counter the proliferation of these types of weapons.
“I think we are really suffering in many respects … with the lack of appointments and with what is going on in the State Department,” Waltz said. “How do we work the non-proliferation piece, which State should and will lead, when they don’t have the manpower? The answer I think is, it’s going to fall on DoD, and it’s going to fall on SOCOM.”
Carlson pointed out that that SOCOM has been given the “synchronization” role in the effort, “but that doesn’t mean they own all the operations.”
“It’s still the global and geographic chain of command with their theater units and SOF operating commands that actually do the executions,” he said.
SOCOM has been given a “significant plus-up” in the proposed fiscal 2019 budget, mainly in the overseas contingency operations account, but that will not be enough to fund this new mission, Lumpkin said.
“There are still shortages for SOCOM and across the inter-agency [in] resourcing this issue,” he said. “The reality is, you can’t put a new mission on anybody without either taking something off the table, something else that they are doing, or you are going to have to give them more resources.”
SOCOM has no shortage of missions these days, Mark Mitchell, principal deputy assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict, said during his speech on Feb. 28, 2018.
In addition to leading the new WMD mission, “they also maintain their coordinating authority for countering violent extremists,” Mitchell said. “These are no-fail missions for the nation. … We are going to look at where we can shut some missions.”
Mitchell welcomed the conventional Army’s recent decision to stand up its new Security Force Assistance Brigades, units of highly trained officers and soldiers designed to take over the “advise-and-assist” mission of training foreign troops in conventional infantry operations.
The Army plans to have all six SFABs in place by 2022. Perhaps these new units can take some of the burden off of Special Forces units, who have traditionally assumed these foreign training missions, Mitchell said.
Waltz suggested turning to the National Guard and Reserves since many of its personnel have civilian expertise in some the areas needed in the counterproliferation mission.
“SOCOM isn’t going to solve this by themselves,” Lumpkin said. “The only way we are going to get our arms around the counter-WMD, counter-proliferation challenges is to do it in a unified, whole-of-nation approach.”
For the second time in two decades, John “Russ” Orders was hopeful he would receive a Purple Heart for his sacrifice during World War II’s Battle of the Bulge.
A ceremony planned for last month, during which Orders would have been awarded the Purple Heart, has been postponed. Orders’ award status remains in limbo because of a missing document that details how and when Orders received his injuries.
“Obviously, the government takes a little longer than normal, but they sent us back a reply when we requested the Purple Heart and they said that they needed more information,” said Dave Bowen, a chaplain for Access Home Care and Hospice who has served as liaison between the US Army and Orders. “But all the information they requested was on the paperwork that I submitted, so I’m not sure what they are looking for.”
Currently, Orders is a resident at the Cottonwood Cove retirement home in Pocatello.
It was a freezing January night in 1945 and Orders — a member of the US Army’s 102nd “Ozark” Infantry Division — was driving a supply truck to the front lines when a German artillery round struck his truck, exploded on impact, and knocked him unconscious. When he awoke, he was in a hospital bed in France with severe injuries to his left hand.
Six months later, the US Army honorably discharged Orders, and in addition to the European African Middle Eastern Campaign Ribbon, he received two Bronze Stars, a Good Conduct Medal, and the American Theater Ribbon.
Despite his injures, Orders did not receive the Purple Heart.
For decades, he didn’t pursue the award because he thought that it was reserved for those who had been shot. Before her passing in 2012, Orders’ late wife, Jeanne Orders, interviewed and documented his service record during the war.
But the US Army cannot rely on Jeanne’s notes and must confirm the information through an action report that details how and when his injuries would have occurred.
The only problem is that the action report may not exist, according to Orders’ son-in-law, Kevin Haskell.
Haskell said any specific records for Orders’ were stored in St. Louis, Missouri, and were likely destroyed in the 1973 fire at the National Personnel Records Center.
“I haven’t got a clue what (the US Army) is looking for,” Haskell said. “Fifteen years ago, my wife (Jolynn Haskell) and my mother-in-law ( Jeanne Orders) went through this whole process. Before Dave brought it back up, we had totally forgotten about it.”
Haskell continued, “What’s disappointing is the US Army doesn’t want to act on the evidence we have provided — they want to go off the paperwork.”
The same technicality prevented Orders from receiving the Purple Heart several years before Jeanne died, so to reach the same point again has left Kevin and Jolynn wondering if Orders will ever get the recognition they think he deserves.
“Jolynn was quite disappointed because we thought that the process was all worked out,” Kevin Haskell said. “We were told that it was approved and thought that they had progressed it through, but now it’s postponed because there are more forms that (the US Army) needs.”
Haskell said that it’s not the fact that Orders hasn’t received the Purple Heart, but that the process reached a point where the retirement home scheduled a pinning ceremony that Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo planned to attend, only to find out just days before that more information was necessary.
“It was definitely a surprise,” Haskell said. “We thought he was finally going to get it. We are getting asked by residents in the center why he’s not getting the award and we don’t know what to tell them. To go that far and then all of a sudden put a stop to it is pretty disappointing.”
Though there’s a chance that Orders will receive the Purple Heart, Bowen said he is uncertain how probable that outcome will be considering this isn’t the first scenario in which further documentation was missing.
But that hasn’t stopped him from trying.
“We’re going to do everything we can to make sure this happens,” Bowen said. “We will push this until we get an absolute no from the Army.”
From detecting improvised explosive devices in Afghanistan to being on the front lines during World War I, military working dogs have been used to help service members win battles for generations. The same holds true today, as Cpl. Cody Hebert, military working dog handler, 2nd Law Enforcement Battalion and his military working dog, Ziggy, give us a look into their everyday lives.
“We start our daily duties when we come in every morning,” Hebert said. “Those duties include cleaning out the kennels and doing any tasks like preparing for any type of training that we might be doing that day.”
When it comes to training, there can be different variations that can influence the handlers and the dogs in order to become mission ready.
“Just like us, the dogs have training jackets for everything that they learn,” Herbert said. “This includes commands they know, training they have done, what they are good and bad at and even which handlers had them in the past.”
U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Casey Deskins, with the Military Police Department at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Kaneohe Bay, plays with Ronnie, his military working dog partner.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Cohen A. Young)
For a MWD handler, it is important to know the history of who and what the dog knows and how they are currently performing. Each handler creates a special bond with their dog to instill confidence in both the dog and themselves. “When you and your dog deploy, there should be confidence in everything you do,” Herbert said. “If you’re on patrol with an explosive detector dog, not only do you have to trust to follow him, but the unit also has to be able to trust you and your dog because they are going to follow every step that you take.”
Cpl. Sean Grady, a dog handler and pointman with Echo Company, 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, and Ace, an improvised explosive device detection dog, pause for a break while sweeping a chokepoint during a patrol.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Alfred V. Lopez)
Training can take on different types of aspects between the dogs and their handlers. Training can involve doing an agility course to recreate real life situations, practicing commands for listening and direction and physical training to build strength and stamina.
“We have the opportunity to spend time with the dogs after hours almost anytime,” Hebert said. “We’re given the chance to build a bond and reward the dogs for all that they do. If we are willing to do that, the dogs are willing to work with us by listening to the commands while working for longer periods of time as well.”
Lance Cpl. Jeremy D. Angenend, combat tracker handler, Military Police, III Marine Expeditionary Force, out of Okinawa, Japan, and his dog Fito play around at Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan.
The best way for the dogs to learn is to let them know that they are getting rewarded by either a ball or positivity and sometimes even belly rubs from their handlers.
“These dogs get taken care of like us,” Hebert said. “They get attention, exercise, training and medical care. As handlers, we’re trained to know the information just like how the dogs know what they are looking and listening for.” A MWD’s average military career is eight years before it can retire.
Lance Cpl. Joseph Nunez from Burbank, Calif., interacts with Viky, a U.S. Marine Corps improvised explosive device detection dog, after searching a compound while conducting counter-insurgency operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan, July 17, 2013.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Alejandro Pena)
“It just depends on the dog for when it retires,” Hebert said. “Most of the time they retire because of medical reasons. Going full speed and biting constantly puts a lot of strain on their bodies. Just like us, as the dogs get older their bodies aren’t able to do as much.”
Whenever a dog retires from the service, they have a chance to be adopted by their handlers.
Whether a MWD is spending time with its handler or training to protect Marines, they will always be rewarded for doing their job in every clime and place.
After volunteering to deploy to Iraq four times, the Marine Corps finally sent Cpl. Jared Foster to Baghdad in February 2005. He was assigned as a personal security detail driver for VIPs in the Baghdad area when tragedy struck.
Just a month later after being sent to Iraq, Foster was just sitting down in his tent after a fire watch when a weapon discharged. With all the smoke in the tent, Foster thought a grenade had gone off. He was wrong.
“I saw smoke,” he told AZCentral in a 2007 interview. “Then I looked down because I felt something really cold, and when I lifted my hand up, it had blood all over it.”
Foster couldn’t move and couldn’t hear, but tried to yell for help. A .50-caliber rifle discharged from just five feet behind him. The shot should have torn him in half. Instead, it missed his spine and exited through his stomach.
His friends cut off his blouse to tend to his wounds and his intestines fell out. When they told him he was shot by a .50-cal, he didn’t believe them.
“Nah, that would rip your head off, he told them.” He lost consciousness shortly after.
What kind of BMG round went through Foster’s body isn’t clear but the various types of 50-caliber ammunition are commonly used to penetrate vehicle armor or chew through protective cover – like concrete.
Two years later, the Marine told AZCentral that he was evacuated to the Bethesda Naval Medical Center and subsequently underwent some 45 surgeries. He lost his tailbone and suffered damage to his large and small intestines. He was even told he would never walk again.
“I say I don’t have a butt to sit on now, and I really don’t,” Foster is quoted as saying in a Marine Corps Safety Corner. “The only thing that saved my life is I was maybe five to 10 feet away from the .50-cal when it went off, and it didn’t have time to tumble and pick up speed and velocity. It went through me, three feet of wood, four feet of a dirt berm, went another 300 yards and hit another dirt berm.”
Not only did Foster survive the wound, but he was also on his feet and walking within two years of being shot.
“The doctors said they didn’t know if they could save me,” he told the Marine Corps Safety Corner. “They didn’t know how to put me back together because they’d never seen anyone shot by a .50-caliber. The hole in my back was huge. But whatever they did worked.”
At an Air Force Association breakfast March 30, 2018, the Secretary of the Air Force talked up the service’s progress in ridding the service of outdated rules and procedures that burden airmen.
When she took office in May 2017, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson ordered a two-year review of the service’s blizzard of instructions, policies, and rules with the overall goal of eliminating the unnecessary ones. Since then, the Air Force has gotten rid of about 100 of the total of about 1,400 instructions, she said.
As an example, Wilson cited a regulation that would have required her as Air Force secretary to sign off on how an obstacle course could be constructed on a base.
“We have an instruction on how to build an obstacle course,” Wilson said. “My guess is, if they need to build an obstacle course, they can probably figure it out.”
Wilson said the work continues to whittle down the Air Force’s body of rules and regulations.
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Matt Hecht)
“We are prioritizing the ones that are outdated and actually track them every month,” Wilson said. “The biggest challenge we have been facing is in personnel and operations” as the Air Force presses to push decision-making down to the lowest levels to save time and money.
In addition to eliminating red tape, the Air Force is also intent on teaching airmen to act on their own initiative, she said.
“We don’t expect in future conflicts to have the exquisite command, control and communication we’ve had over the last 27 years of combat” as potential adversaries become more adept at jamming, Wilson said.
“We will need airmen to take what they know and take mission orders and execute the mission using their best judgment for the circumstances at the time. If we expect them to work that way in wartime, then we need to treat them that way in peacetime,” she said.
Antibiotic resistance is a one of the world’s most pressing public health problems. Scientists working on an Army project have developed a new weapon to combat super-bugs, which could protect soldiers and fight resistance.
Bacteriophage, a virus that infects and replicates within bacteria, kill bacteria through different mechanisms than antibiotics, and they can target specific strains, making them an appealing option for potentially overcoming multidrug resistance. However, quickly finding and optimizing well-defined bacteriophages to use against a bacterial target is challenging.
Researchers at the MIT Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies, identified a way to do just that. The U.S. Army established the institute in 2002 as an interdisiciplinary research center to dramatically improve protection, survivability and mission capabilities of the soldier and of soldier-supporting platforms and systems.
“This is a crucial development in the battle against these superbugs,” said Dr. James Burgess, program manager, Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies, Army Research Office, an element of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Army Research Laboratory. “Finding a cure for antibiotic-resistant bacteria is particularly important for soldiers who are deployed to parts of the world where they may encounter unknown pathogens or even antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Wounded soldiers are even more susceptible to infections, and they may come home carrying these drug-resistant bugs.”
Green Berets assigned to 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) move to load onto a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter for extraction during a training event.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Steven Lewis)
In this study, published in Cell, MIT biological engineers showed that they could rapidly program bacteriophages to kill different strains of E. coli by making mutations in a viral protein that binds to host cells. The results showed that these engineered bacteriophages are also less likely to provoke resistance in bacteria.
“As we’re seeing in the news more and more now, bacterial resistance is continuing to evolve and is increasingly problematic for public health,” said Timothy Lu, an MIT associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science and of biological engineering and the study’s senior author. “Phages represent a very different way of killing bacteria than antibiotics, which is complementary to antibiotics, rather than trying to replace them.”
The researchers created several engineered phages that could kill E. coli grown in the lab. One of the newly created phages was also able to eliminate two E. coli strains that are resistant to naturally occurring phages from a skin infection in mice.
The Food and Drug Administration has approved a handful of bacteriophages for killing harmful bacteria in food, but they have not been widely used to treat infections because finding naturally occurring phages that target the right kind of bacteria can be a difficult and time-consuming process.
To make such treatments easier to develop, Lu’s lab has been working on engineered viral scaffolds that can be easily repurposed to target different bacterial strains or different resistance mechanisms.
‘Blues Platoon’ conducts ‘Fallen Angel’ training.
(U.S. Army photo)
“We think phages are a good toolkit for killing and knocking down bacteria levels inside a complex ecosystem, but in a targeted way,” Lu said.
The researchers wanted to find a way to speed up the process of tailoring phages to a particular type of bacteria. They came up with a strategy that allows them to rapidly create and test a much greater number of tail fiber variants.
They created phages with about 10 million different tail fibers and tested them against several strains of E. coli that had evolved to be resistant to the non-engineered bacteriophage. One way that E. coli can become resistant to bacteriophages is by mutating LPS receptors so that they are shortened or missing, but the MIT team found that some of their engineered phages could kill even strains of E. coli with mutated or missing LPS receptors.
The researchers plan to apply this approach to target other resistance mechanisms used by E. coli and to develop phages that can kill other types of harmful bacteria.
“Being able to selectively hit those non-beneficial strains could give us a lot of benefits in terms of human clinical outcomes,” Lu said.
The Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies engages in fundamental, multidisciplinary nanoscience research relevant to the soldier. In collaboration with Army and industrial partners, this focused nanoscience research creates opportunities for new materials, properties and phenomena that will directly advance modernization efforts. As an Army University-Affiliated Research Center, the institute’s contract is administered and overseen for the U.S. Army by the Army Research Office.
Whether you’ve served or not, you know the difficulty of leaving a job and moving away. For all you civilians out there, take the struggles and anxieties that come with moving away from a place, a people, and a function you know and amplify them ten-fold. In the military, you spend all day, every day getting to know your coworkers and becoming a family. When you finally leave that family and return to civilian life, it sucks — all of your best friends are now thousands of miles away.
Thanks to the age of the internet and social media, that gap is easily closed — but one thing us veterans (especially us grunts) miss the most is playing soldier with our brothers and sisters. Strangely enough, we’ve found that there is a way to reconnect with our veteran friends in the way we prefer, which is getting into gunfights.
If you’re a veteran and you’ve been looking to reconnect with your buddies, here’s why you should do it over a few rounds of a battle royale game:
Just like the old days, eh?
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tommy Bellegarde)
Teamwork is essential
By playing with your friends, you’ll have a distinct advantage in a battle royale game. You already know how to work together and function in combat scenarios and that chemistry takes you far. You also know how to communicate with each other because you speak the same military language.
If you’re like us, this is the part you miss the most.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Ricardo Hurtado)
You spend time with your veteran friends
While it may not be an in-person visit, you still get to hang out with your friends. In a way, the settings are surprisingly similar — you never really know what lies ahead.
Winner, winner, chicken dinner.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Ryan Carpenter)
Your knowledge can help you dominate
In games like PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS, employment of real-world tactics is crucial. You didn’t know it at the time, but all that time you spent in training wasn’t just preparing you for real war — it was preparing you to dominate the digital domain, too.
The fact that you and your buddies have training and experience with each other gives you a distinct advantage — and we all love winning, so why not use everything you know? You’ve already done the hard part — once you get the controls down, it’s smooth sailing.
You’ll enjoy it.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Katherine M. Solano)
It’s just plain fun
Hanging out with your buddies and sh*t talking each other is the world’s greatest pastime. Even if you’re not dominating other teams, you’re still having fun reminiscing and joking with each other. So, why not take a crack at it?
This National Nurses Week, we salute the over 100,000 VA nurses who work tirelessly every day to serve our nation’s Veterans — and have continued to demonstrate their commitment and dedication throughout this historic global situation.
“VA nurses are fiercely dedicated to our mission of providing excellent care to America’s heroes, which is especially vital during this time,” said Shawanda Poree, program manager of nurse recruitment and resources at VA. “We couldn’t care for the 9 million Veterans enrolled in VA care without them.”
At VA facilities from coast to coast, our nurses consistently advocate for Veterans and ensure they receive the best care.
This year, in honor of Florence Nightingale’s 200th birthday, National Nurses Week is also part of the World Health Organization’s “Year of the Nurse and Midwife,” recognizing the hard work of the world’s nurses.
‘No better feeling’
“There’s no better feeling than caring for the Veteran. You get to know them and they become like your family,” said Sarah Lueger, a nurse manager who serves Veterans at the VA Eastern Kansas Health Care System. “It’s a way for me to give back to them for what they’ve done for us.”
At 100,000-strong, the VA nursing corps is the largest in the nation. Together, they provide continuous, compassionate care and positively impact the lives of Veterans — 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
“The people who work at VA really have a strong passion for what they do, and that is infectious to those around us,” said Karalie Gantz, an inpatient acute psychiatry nurse manager at Topeka VA.
VA nurses practice in a variety of care-delivery settings, including acute, ambulatory, mental health care, telecare and outpatient clinics.
“Within our health care system, there are [so many] different departments and different opportunities that, once you’re here, you can find [your] niche. There really is a place for everyone at VA,” Gantz said.
Grow, lead and innovate
Nurses are a critical part of Veteran treatment teams. They sit on leadership boards and collaborate across disciplines to improve patient outcomes. At all of our 1,250 sites, nurses have a voice at the table with physicians and leadership and help improve patient care.
“Working at VA is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I’ve grown into the nurse that I am now, the leader that I am now,” Lueger said.
We encourage nurses to take advantage of opportunities to accelerate their training. Three available opportunities include:
The VA Learning Opportunities Residency (VALOR) Program gives outstanding registered nursing students who have completed their junior year in an accredited clinical program the opportunity to develop their skills at a VA-approved health care facility. More than 50% of VALOR participants are hired as new registered nurses in VA and usually start above the entry-level salary rate established for new graduates.
Through the Education Debt Reduction Program, nurses with qualifying student loans receive reimbursements of up to 0,000 over a five-year period. Payments cover tuition and other reasonable expenses, including fees, books, supplies, equipment, materials and laboratory costs.
Under the National Nursing Education Initiative (NNEI), part- or full-time VA registered nurses employed for at least one year can receive up to ,117 toward the pursuit of an associate, bachelor’s or advanced nursing degree, including tuition, registration fees and books.
A wealth of resources, including mentoring and preceptor programs, also encourage promotion of staff nurses to executive-level positions.
VA nurses also have the chance to innovate and research. Nurses are helping VA become a leader in telehealth and embracing scientific exploration to come up with new ways to serve Veterans.
Work at VA today
During Nurses Week 2020 and all year long, we celebrate and thank the VA nurses who are pursuing careers with purpose and making a difference in Veterans’ lives.
The bodies of the missing sailors “were located in the flooded berthing compartments” after rescue workers were able to gain access to areas of the Fitzgerald that were damaged in the collision with the ACX Crystal.
The sailors’ bodies are being transferred to the Hospital in Yokosuka, Japan, where the 7th Fleet is headquartered, to proceed with the identification process, the statement added.
The Fitzgerald and ACX Crystal collided on Saturday at 2.30 am local time in Japanese waters.
Two people injured during the incident, including the destroyer’s commander Bryce Benson, were evacuated.
The Army has successfully fired a 155mm artillery round 62 kilometers — marking a technical breakthrough in the realm of land-based weapons and progressing toward its stated goal of being able to outrange and outgun Russian and Chinese weapons.
“We just doubled the range of our artillery at Yuma Proving Ground,” Gen. John Murray, Commanding General of Army Futures Command, told reporters at the Association of the United States Army Annual Symposium.
Currently, most land-fired artillery shot from an M777 Towed Howitzer or Self-Propelled Howitzer are able to pinpoint targets out to 30km — so hitting 62km marks a substantial leap forward in offensive attack capability.
Murray was clear that the intent of the effort, described as Extended Range Cannon Artillery, is specifically aimed at regaining tactical overmatch against Russian and Chinese weapons.
“The Russian and Chinese have been able to outrange most of our systems,” Murray said.
Citing the Russian invasion of Ukraine as a “wake-up call,” Murray explained that Russian weaponry, tactics and warfare integration caused a particular concern among Army leaders.
A soldier carries out a mission on an M777 howitzer during Dynamic Front 18 at Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany, March 8, 2018.
(Army photo by Warrant Officer 2 Tom Robinson)
“In Ukraine, we saw the pairing of drones with artillery, using drones as spotters. Their organizational structure and tactics were a wake up call for us to start looking at a more serious strategy,” Murray explained.
The Army’s 2015 Combat Vehicle Modernization Strategy specifically cites concerns about Russia’s use of advanced weapons and armored vehicles in Ukraine.
“The Russians are using their most advanced tanks in the Ukraine, including the T-72B3, T-80, and T-90. All of these tanks have 125mm guns capable of firing a wide range of ammunition, including anti-tank/anti-helicopter missiles with a six-kilometer range, and advanced armor protection, including active protection on some models,” the strategy writes.
ERCA is one of several current initiatives intended to address this. Accordingly, the Army is now prototyping artillery weapons with a larger caliber tube and new grooves to hang weights for gravity adjustments to the weapon — which is a modified M777A2 mobile howitzer. The new ERCA weapon is designed to hit ranges greater than 70km, Army developers said.
“When you are talking about doubling the range you need a longer tube and a larger caliber. We will blend this munition with a howitzer and extend the range. We are upgrading the breach and metallurgy of the tube, changing the hydraulics to handle increased pressure and using a new ram jet projectile — kind of like a rocket,” a senior Army weapons developer told Warrior Maven in a 2018 interview.
The modification adds 1,000 pounds to the overall weight of the weapon and an additional six feet of cannon tube. The ERCA systems also uses a redesigned cab, new breech design and new “muzzle brake,” the official explained.
“The ERCA program develops not only the XM907 cannon but also products, such as the XM1113 rocket assisted projectile, the XM654 supercharge, an autoloader, and new fire control system,” an Army statement said.
Soldiers fire an M777A2 howitzer while supporting Iraqi security forces near al-Qaim, Iraq, Nov. 7, 2017.
(Army photo by Spc. William Gibson)
As part of an effort to ensure the heavy M777 is sufficiently mobile, the Army recently completed a “mobility” demonstration of ERCA prototypes.
The service demonstrated a modified M777A2 Howitzer with an integration kit for the mass mock-up of the modified XM907 ERCA cannon at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona.
“Their [user] concern is that when the self-propelled program is done they will be left with a towed cannon variant that they can’t tow around, which is its number one mode of transportation,” David Bound, M777ER Lead, Artillery Concepts and Design Branch, which is part of the Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center, or ARDEC, said in an Army statement in 2018.
The ERCA is currently being configured to fire from an M109a8 Self-Propelled Howitzer, using a 58-Cal. tube; the existing M109a7, called the Paladin Integrated Management, fires a 39-Cal. weapon.
ERCA changes the Army’s land war strategic calculus in a number of key respects, by advancing the Army’s number one modernization priority — long-range precision fires.
This concept of operations is intended to enable mechanized attack forces and advancing infantry with an additional stand-0ff range or protective sphere with which to conduct operations. Longer range precision fire can hit enemy troop concentrations, supply lines and equipment essential to a coordinated attack, while allowing forces to stay farther back from incoming enemy fire.
A 70-kilometer target range is, by any estimation, a substantial leap forward for artillery; when GPS guided precision 155mm artillery rounds, such as Excalibur, burst into land combat about ten years ago — its strike range was reported at roughly 30 kilometers. A self-propelled Howitzer able to hit 70-kilometers puts the weapon on par with some of the Army’s advanced land-based rockets — such as its precision-enabled Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System which also reaches 70-kilometers.
In a modern threat environment, wherein near-peer and smaller-level rivals increasingly possess precision-guided land weapons, longer-range C4ISR technology and drone weapons, increasing range is a ubiquitous emphasis across the Army and other services. Russia’s violations of the INF treaty, new S-500 air defenses, new Armata tanks and fast growing attack drone fleet — are all areas of concern among US Army weapons developers.
The T-14 Armata tank in the 2015 Moscow Victory Day Parade.
(Photo by Vitaly V. Kuzmin)
In fact, senior Army developers specifically say that the ERCA program is, at least in part, designed to enable the Army to out-range rival Russian weapons.
The Russian military is currently producing its latest howitzer cannon, the 2S33 Msta-SM2 variant; it is a new 2A79 152mm cannon able to hit ranges greater than 40km, significantly greater than the 25km range reachable by the original Russian 2S19 Msta — which first entered service in the late 1980s, according to data from globalsecurity.org.
Earlier in 2018, statements from the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation said that 2S19 Msta-S modernized self-propelled howitzers were fielded near Volgograd, Russia.
The 2S19 Msta-S howitzers are equipped with an automated fire control system with an increased rate of fire, digital electronic charts, ballistic computers and satellite navigation systems, the report says.
Therefore, doing the simple math, a 70km US Army ERCA weapon would appear to substantially outrange the 40km Msta-S modern Russian howitzer.
While senior Army weapons developers welcome the possibility of longer-range accurate artillery fire, they also recognize that its effectiveness hinges upon continued development of sensor, fire control and target technology.”Just because I can shoot farther, that does not mean I solve the issue. I have to acquire the right target. We want to be able to hit moving targets and targets obscured by uneven terrain,” the senior Army developer said.
In a concurrent related effort, the Army is also engineering a adaptation to existing 155mm rounds which will extend range an additional 10km out to 40km.
Fired from an existing Howitzer artillery cannon, the new XM1113 round uses ram jet rocket technology to deliver more thrust to the round.
“The XM1113 uses a large high-performance rocket motor that delivers nearly three times the amount of thrust when compared to the legacy M549A1 RAP,” Ductri Nguyen, XM1113 Integrated Product Team Lead.” “Its exterior profile shape has also been streamlined for lower drag to achieve the 40-plus kilometers when fired from the existing fielded 39-caliber 155mm weapon systems.”
Soldiers can also integrate the existing Precision Guidance Kit to the artillery shells as a way to add a GPS-guided precision fuse to the weapon. The new adapted round also uses safer Insensitive Munition Explosives.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
Today there are over 40,000 nonprofits that focus on military and veteran issues, according to Charity Watch.
Most of those registered as nonprofits are chapters of larger organizations, but some of them are single chapter projects that focus on specific needs within the veteran community.
Here at We Are the Mighty, we wanted to explore some of those advocacy groups you might not have heard of in a bit more depth.
The Military Health Project & Foundation is based in San Francisco and is run by Jacob Angel. Founded in April 2013, the nonprofit was originally designed to address mental health issues through pushing national legislation.
Angel tells us it took the nonprofit eight months to realize where it was failing.
“We were making the same mistake that the Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense were making,” he says. “We were treating mental and physical health care as two separate areas of care.”
The nonprofit re-aligned itself to better connect mental health and physical health, and in March 2014 it went to work garnering support for the Excellence in Mental Health Act, a bill that Angel says eventually became law after a long battle.
“Thus far, the program is going very well,” Angel says. The law, according to Angel, makes counseling and other mental health service available to everyone “regardless of socioeconomic status or insurance coverage.”
In March 2015, The Military Health Project & Foundation announced the creation of the Military Support Fund, a dedicated financial resource to address coverage gaps for military and veteran families.
Angel tells that since its creation, the Military Support Fund has assisted 40 families in securing funding for specialized medical services and equipment.
Chief Petty Officer Carla Burkholder’s son was the recipient of a $2,500 grant for specialized medical equipment from The Military Health Project & Foundation.
“It feels like a great weight has been lifted off my shoulders,” she wrote.
The organization is focused on addressing both physical and mental health needs through direct assistance and legislation.
“We are now a hybrid organization,” Angel says.
The Military Health Project is the advocacy wing where the nonprofit helps to create policy that addresses the ever-changing needs of the military and veteran community through legislation.
The Military Health Foundation works to provide for military and veteran families in the interim.
“They should not have to wait for treatments that they require and frankly deserve.”
Ethiopian Airlines’ deadly crash on March 10, 2019, was the second disaster involving a Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft in the last five months.
The apparent similarities to the crash of Lion Air in October 2018 has sparked an outcry from US lawmakers as other countries — including China, Britain, Australia, and more — ground the plane pending further investigation.
Here’s what we know so far about March 10, 2019’s crash and any similarities to the Lion Air disaster so far:
All of the 157 people on board were killed
When the Ethiopian Airlines plane plunged to the ground shortly after takeoff from Addis Ababa en route to Nairobi, all 149 passengers and eight crew were killed.
The airline’s CEO told journalists that those involved hailed largely from African countries, as well as 18 Canadians, eight Americans, and others from a handful of European countries.
One passenger, who accidentally missed the crashed flight by two minutes, said in a Facebook post that he was “grateful to be alive,” despite being angry previously that no staff could help him find his gate.
Boeing, the US-based manufacturer of the 737 Max 8 involved in the crash, said March 12, 2019, it will soon roll out a software update in response to the two crashes.
At the heart of the controversy surrounding the 737 MAX is MCAS or the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation system. To fit the MAX’s larger, more fuel-efficient engines, Boeing had to redesign the way it mounts engines on the 737.
This change disrupted the plane’s center of gravity and caused the MAX to have a tendency to tip its nose upward during flight, increasing the likelihood of a stall. MCAS is designed to automatically counteract that tendency and point the nose of the plane downward.
Initial reports from the Lion Air investigation indicate that a faulty sensor reading may have triggered MCAS shortly after the flight took off.
Here’s the company’s full statement:
For the past several months and in the aftermath of Lion Air Flight 610, Boeing has been developing a flight control software enhancement for the 737 MAX, designed to make an already safe aircraft even safer. This includes updates to the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) flight control law, pilot displays, operation manuals, and crew training. The enhanced flight control law incorporates angle of attack (AOA) inputs, limits stabilizer trim commands in response to an erroneous angle of attack reading, and provides a limit to the stabilizer command in order to retain elevator authority.
Still, Boeing’s statement has done little to calm fears of global air travel regulators around the world.
The US’ air safety regulator on March 11, 2019, said the plane was still safe to fly. And for now, the Federal Aviation Administration does not appear to be following the rest of the world in grounding the plane.
“External reports are drawing similarities between this accident and the Lion Air Flight 610 accident on Oct. 29, 2018,” the FAA said March 11, 2019. “However, this investigation has just begun and to date we have not been provided data to draw any conclusions or take any actions”
A handful of American lawmakers, including at least three senators and a representative, have called on the FAA to ground the plane. Amid those calls, US Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao and her entourage of staff flew on a 737 Max 8 from Austin, Texas back to Washington D.C. March 12, 2019.
“The department and the FAA will not hesitate to take immediate and appropriate action,” Chao said, according to CNBC.
Pilots in the United States also reported issues with the plane in the months leading up to March 10, 2019’s crash. One pilot said the flight manual was “inadequate and almost criminally insufficient,” according to the Dallas Morning News.
Those complaints were made in the Federal Aviation Administration’s incident database which allows pilots to report issues about aviation incidents anonymously. They highlighted issues with the Max 8’s autopilot system, which had been called into question following the crash of Lion Air Flight 610 in October 2018. That incident also involved a Boeing 737 Max 8 plane.
More countries ground Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft after Ethiopian Airlines crash
“We are not surprised by the negative stock reaction, as the 737 represents the strongest backlog, free cash flow (FCF and potential upside from further rate increases,” Ken Hubert, an analyst at Canaccord Genuity, said in a note to clients on March 11, 2019.
“We view the risk as less about near term expenses, but the full year 737 delivery estimates for BA could be impacted. We do not expect BA to slow the 737 pull from suppliers. Moreover, the larger risk is the reputational concern for BA,” he continued.
The 737 MAX comprised 2.2% of Southwest’s scheduled available seat miles (ASM) for March 2019, and is projected to grow to 2.6% by June 2019. The airline reportedly said March 12, 2019 that it’s “working with Customers individually who wish to rebook their flight to another aircraft type.”
United Airlines and American Airlines also operate the plane in the US, where there are 74 of them registered according to the FAA. Around the world, 59 airlines operate 387 of the 737 Max 8 and 9, the agency said.