The video of my Naval Academy classmate, Chris David, beaten by federal police last month in Portland, shook me. Like bad guys from a straight-to-DVD movie, cowardly officers attacked a peaceful American exercising his Constitutionally-guaranteed right to protest. David stood unyielding, bearing the blows, earning the nickname ‘Captain Portland’ for his almost superhuman resistance.
Ironically, as police obscured their identity, David wore his Naval Academy sweatshirt for ease of identification, as a veteran. As if the word ‘Navy,’ written boldly across his chest might act as a shield, like Superman’s ‘S’ or Captain America’s star. As someone who’s gotten out of countless tickets by virtue of the Marine Corps sticker on my car, I’d shared the same illusion: My veteran status somehow made me special.
David and I reported aboard the Naval Academy to become midshipmen in July, 1984. After the shearing, the uniform issue and the tearful goodbyes, we swore an Oath:
‘I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic…’
By swearing allegiance to the Constitution and not an individual, such as the president, we bound ourselves only to the American people. Despite the nobility (or naivety) of David’s mission — to remind federal officers of their Oath to the Constitution, his presence at the protest came as a surprise for many Americans who’d dismissed protestors as nothing more than ‘lawless hooligans.’
Yet David, and our class, served the American people faithfully as Navy and Marine Corps officers, unhesitatingly laying our collective asses on the line. We’ve got the scars, both physical and mental—and disability ratings as proof. Because yes, we believe in America.
So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that David was at the protest. David, along with brother and sister veterans, were there to support not only one another, but to defend the Constitution, and by extension, the American people. It’s what we swore to do. Current leadership may possess the law, but not the will to resist an old Marine, soldier, sailor, airman or Coast Guardsman who swore that Oath. Because it’s the Oath that makes us special. Just ask ‘Captain Portland.’
Brian O’Hare is a U.S. Naval Academy graduate, former Marine Corps officer and disabled combat veteran. He’s a former Editor-at-Large for ‘MovieMaker’ magazine and an award-winning documentary filmmaker. Brian’s fiction has appeared in ‘War, Literature and the Arts’, ‘Liar’s League, London’, ‘Fresh.ink‘, ‘The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature’ and the ‘Santa Fe Writers Project’. He currently lives in Los Angeles. You can follow him on Instagram/Twitter @bohare13x.
Editor’s note: The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the various authors on WATM do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints or official policies of WATM. To submit your own op-ed, please email Managing Editor Tessa Robinson at Tessa.Robinson@wearethemighty.com.
The White House on Nov. 4 hit back after former President George H.W. Bush gave his most candid assessment yet of President Donald Trump.
“I don’t like him,” Bush said. His comments were included in a new book by historian Mark Updegrove, called “The Last Republicans,” which focuses on the lives of George H.W. Bush and his son, former President George W. Bush.
“I don’t know much about him, but I know he’s a blowhard,” the elder Bush continued. “And I’m not too excited about him being a leader.”
George W. Bush threw in his own two cents as well.
“This guy doesn’t know what it means to be president,” he said.
A White House official told CNN, in response to the Bushes’ comments, “If one presidential candidate can disassemble a political party, it speaks volumes about how strong a legacy its past two presidents really had.”
“And that begins with the Iraq war, one of the greatest foreign policy mistakes in American history,” the official said.
Trump repeatedly blasted the second Bush administration’s decision to invade Iraq during the 2016 primaries, as he was running against George W.’s younger brother, and George H.W.’s son, Jeb.
“I was totally against the Iraq war,” Trump said at a national-security forum at the height of the presidential race. “You can look at Esquire magazine from ’04. You can look at before that.”
But in a 2002 interview during which shock-jock Howard Stern asked Trump if he supported the invasion, Trump replied, “Yeah, I guess so.”
The White House official added on Nov. 4 that Trump “remains focused on keeping his promises to the American people by bringing back jobs, promoting an ‘America First’ foreign policy and standing up for the forgotten men and women of our great country.”
The George H.W. confirmed in the new book that he voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election, while George W. says he left his ballot blank.
In 1986, the Naval Institute Press published Flight of the Intruder, the debut novel of Vietnam veteran Stephen Coonts. The book was an immediate hit. It held a place on the New York Times Bestsellers list for weeks on end, just as Tom Clancy’s debut thriller, The Hunt for Red October, had done a couple years earlier, in 1984. The true star of that novel (apologies to Jake Grafton, the leading human in the story) was the Grumman A-6 Intruder, an all-weather attack plane.
The Hunt for Red October was made into a film and it was a smash hit. So, it seemed only natural that the movie adaption of Flight of the Intruder was a sure thing, too. It hit theaters in January, 1991. It cost $30 million to make and grossed less than half of that at the box office, managing a paltry $14,587,732. Top Gun, it was not.
From that moment on, airmen had a new motto: “Fighter pilots make movies, attack pilots make… sh*tty movies.”
But it’s not right to assume that a sh*tty movie is the lasting legacy of the A-6. In fact, it’s downright unfair. The Intruder had a long, distinguished, and honorable career as an all-weather, carrier-based attack plane, that spanned 37 years. It took flight for the first time during the last year of the Eisenhower administration (1960) and coasted into retirement by 1997.
An A-6 prepares to launch from USS Enterprise (CVN 65).
The A-6 Intruder was intended to replace a legend, the A-1 Skyraider — and it was equipped for the job.
The A-6 had a top speed of 644 miles per hour, a maximum range of 1,081 miles, and five hardpoints capable of carrying up to 18,000 pounds of bombs. The Intruder, at various times, also packed laser-guided bombs, like the GBU-12 and GBU-10, AGM-45 Shrike anti-radar missiles, AGM-78 Standard ARM anti-radar missiles, AGM-65 Maverick air-to-ground missiles, and AGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles.
The upgraded A-F made it to the prototype stage, but met the big bad budget axe.
However, by the time Flight of the Intruder hit theaters, the A-6 was on its way out the door. The A-12 Avenger had been cancelled by then-Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney, but not before he had also axed the A-6F and A-6G, improved versions of the Intruder. The plane was retired in 1997 and replaced by the F/A-18 Hornet.
Learn more about this all-weather attack plane that went on to bomb at the box office in the video below.
Troy, New York — In the earliest days of 1945, the infantrymen of the 42nd Infantry Division, now a part of the New York Army National Guard, spent their first days in desperate combat against German tanks and paratroopers during Hitler’s final offensive in Western Europe.
Operation Nordwind, sometimes called “the other Battle of the Bulge” kicked off on New Year’s Eve 1944 in the Alsace region of France. The American and French armies fought desperately to halt the attack and hold onto the city of Strasbourg, the capital of Alsace.
Three regiments of 42nd Infantry Division soldiers, who had been hurried to France without the rest of their divisional support units, had arrived in Strasbourg, France just before Christmas 1944. They expected to spend time in a quiet sector to learn the ropes of combat.
They could not have been more wrong.
The 42nd Infantry Division had been made up of National Guard troops during World War I and nicknamed “the Rainbow Division” because it contained elements from 26 states.
In World War II the division was reactivated but filled with draftee soldiers. With a desperate need for infantry troops in Europe, the soldiers of the 222nd, 232nd, and 242nd Infantry Regiments had been pulled out of training in the United States and shipped to southern France.
The three regiments were named Task Force Linden, because they were commanded by the division’s deputy commander Brig. Gen. Henning Linden. They were committed to battle without the artillery, armor, engineers and logistics support the rest of the division would normally provide.
The attack came as a shock to the newly arrived infantrymen, explained Capt. William Corson in a letter to a 42nd Division reunion gathering in 1995. Corson commanded Company A in the 1st Battalion, 242nd Infantry.
“The green, inexperienced troops would occupy a small town named Hatten since the Germans had nothing more than small patrols in the area. At least that was the information given at a briefing, but someone forgot to tell the enemy,” he wrote.
German paratroops and panzer forces with tanks and self-propelled guns crossed the Rhine River 12 miles north of Strasbourg and clashed with the thinly stretched Rainbow Division infantry at Gambsheim on January 5.
For the next three weeks, the three regiments defended, retreated, counterattacked and finally stopped the Germans.
The first week of was a frenzied effort to halt the German advance, with companies and battalions moved around the front like firefighters plugging gaps, Corson said. The fighting was so desperate that the 42nd Division even threw individual rifle companies into the fight whenever they became available.
“Officers knew little more than the GI,” Corson said. “One morning my company moved to a barren, frozen hillside with orders to dig defensive positions covering an area about three times larger than we were capable of adequately defending. After four hours of chipping away at the frozen ground, we were told that this position would not be defended, so we moved to another frozen spot about ten miles away and started digging again.”
At Gambsheim the odds were too great for the American infantry. The majority of its defenders from the 232nd Infantry Regiment were captured or killed.
In a failed January 5-7 counterattack at Gambsheim, units from all three regiments were combined in a patchwork force that was ultimately repulsed.
Dan Bearse, a rifleman with the 242nd Infantry in the counterattack, recounted the events in an oral history.
“They had tanks and heavy artillery, endless infantry troops,” Bearse recalled. “We were outnumbered two or three to one. So we were quickly repulsed. Lost lots of people, killed, wounded and captured. And we were thrown back immediately,” he said of the January 6 battle. “We were badly mauled and it was very demoralizing. That was our baptism of fire. And it was a loser.”
At Hatten, on January 10, 1945, the 242nd Infantry Regiment and a battalion from the 79th Division tried to stop the German tanks and paratroopers again. The defenders were overrun.
Capt. Corson was wounded and captured with dozens of his Soldiers.
But one soldier from the 242nd Infantry, Master Sgt. Vito Bertoldo decided to stay. Bertoldo, who was attached from Corson’s Company A to the battalion headquarters, volunteered to hold off the Germans while other soldiers retreated.
Bertoldo drove back repeated German attacks for 48 hours. He was exposed to enemy machine gun, small arms and even tank fire.
US Army soldiers of the 42nd Infantry Division’s Task Force Linden prepare a defensive position at their log and dirt bunker near Kauffenheim, France, January 8, 1945.
Moving among buildings in Hatten to fire his machine gun, at one point Bertoldo strapped it to a table for stability. He fired on approaching German tanks and panzer grenadiers, repeatedly defeating the German attacks and killing 40 of the enemy. For his actions, he was awarded the Medal of Honor.
“On the close approach of enemy soldiers, he left the protection of the building he defended and set up his gun in the street,” his Medal of Honor citation states, “There to remain for almost 12 hours driving back attacks while in full view of his adversaries and completely exposed to 88-millimeter, machine gun and small arms fire.”
“All I did was try to protect some other American soldiers from being killed,” Bertoldo would tell newspapers back home after the war. “At no time did I have in mind that I was trying to win something.”
The 1st Battalion, 242nd Infantry paid a heavy price for its defense of Hatten. At the beginning of the battle there were 33 officers and 748 enlisted men in the battalion. Three days later there were 11 officers and 253 enlisted men reporting for duty.
The Germans launched their final assault just seven miles from the fight at Hatten on January 24, looking to cut American supply lines back to Strasbourg in the town of Haguenau.
They attacked straight into the 42nd Division.
Troops of the 222nd Infantry were dug in inside the nearby Ohlugen Forest, with thick foliage and dense fog concealing both American and German positions.
The regiment had two battalions in the defense, covering a frontage of 7,500 yards, three times the normal frontage for a regiment in defense, according to the “42nd “Rainbow” Infantry Division Combat History of WWII.”
Facing the Americans were elements of a German tank division, a paratroop division and an infantry division.
During the fighting, 1st Lt. Carlyle Woelfer, commanding Company K in the 3rd Battalion, 222nd Infantry, captured a German officer with maps detailing the German attack. The officer and another prisoner were put on an M8 Greyhound armored car for transport to the rear. But the German officer signaled for other Germans to come to their aid.
Three Germans moved on the vehicle, killing one American Soldier, but were then killed in turn by Woelfer.
The back and forth fighting continued through the rest of the night as the 222nd fought to contain the German breakthrough towards Haguenau. The regiment earned a Presidential Unit Citation for its actions.
The 232nd Regiment was brought up from reserve to help in the defense. The defense had held as reinforcements from the divisions which had been fighting in the Battle of the Bulge arrived to push the Germans back.
By mid-February 1945 the rest of the 42nd Infantry Division arrived in France and the infantry regiments were rebuilt. The division then went on the attack against German units that had been severely ground down by the Nordwind attack.
For the Rainbow Division, their attack would lead into Germany and capture the cities of Wurzburg, Schweinfurt, Furth, Nuremberg, Dachau and Munich before the war ended in May of 1945.
As anyone who’s ever deployed to a war zone knows, there’s no better cork for your ass than a meal at Uncle Sam’s House of Field Rations. This was a fact long denied by the Combat Feeding Directorate of the U.S. Army Soldier Research and Development center in Natick, Massachusetts. But a recent study in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry set out to prove us troops right.
That probably wasn’t actually the reason for starting the study, but the end result is the same.
There are a lot of myths and urban legends surrounding MREs. They’re a fascinating feat of culinary engineering, after all. Anything that will still be good to eat three years after it’s made is something magical. So it’s no wonder these meals have so many myths and urban legends surrounding them.
First, there’s the one about how eating them for more than 20 days in a row could kill you. That’s a myth. Then there’s the one about turning them into a weapon using the tabasco sauce and the heater, which is also a myth. Finally, there’s the one about how they’re designed to make the eater constipated to keep them from having to go while on an operation and how the gum is a laxative to use when the op is over. Both are myths.
Except the the one about blocking up the works. That’s real, but not for any reason except they physically alter your bowels, according to the study.
The study, called “A diet of U.S. military food rations alters gut microbiota composition and does not increase intestinal permeability,” used 60 volunteers, both military and civilian who were tested via feces, blood, and urine samples. Half ate only MREs two to three times a day while the other half ate normal meals with a similar number of calories. They were both only allowed to drink water and black coffee. Three weeks later, the results were in.
The MRE eaters reported one fewer bowel movement per week than the regular food group. The reason is that the MRE doesn’t promote the growth of stomach bacteria that fresh foods have, especially lactic acid bacterias, while promoting bacterias that actively prevent the smooth moves human beings are accustomed to. But even though the participants ate the MREs for longer than the dreaded 20 day threshold (remember the myth that 21 days of MREs would kill you?) participants’ bowel habits went right back to normal as soon as their food went back to normal.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Lauren Parsons)
If you’re experiencing some gastrointestinal distress, before or after your MRE experience, the reason may be that you just need some fresh food in your diet. Americans don’t drink enough water, and they definitely don’t get enough fiber, by and large, according to Dr. J. Phillip Karl, the study’s author.
So have some water and some yogurt and get back in the fight – as soon as you get off the throne.
The tweet is not much of a surprise. Aviation Week and Space Technology, sometimes referred to as “Aviation Leak,” noted during the Air Force One controversy that Trump had been critical of the F-35’s costs during his successful presidential campaign.
Last week, after Trump tweeted about the rising costs of the planned replacement for the VC-25, CNN reported that the CEO of Boeing contacted Trump to assure the president-elect that he would work to keep costs down.
The program — which has been so delayed that the Marines had to pull legacy F/A-18 Hornets out of the “boneyard” at Davis Monthan Air Force Base to have enough planes to do its mission — has seen costs climb to roughly $100 million per aircraft. The plane is slated to replace F-16 Fighting Falcons, legacy F/A-18 Hornets, A-10 Thunderbolts, and the AV-8B Harriers in U.S. military service.
The state of the Marine Corps F/A-18 inventory may preclude a complete cancellation of the F-35 buy, however. Since Oct. 1, four Marine F/A-18 Hornets have crashed. In the most recent crash, the pilot was killed despite ejecting from his plane.
Trump’s tweet comes as news emerged of the Pentagon concealing a report of $125 billion in “administrative waste” over the last five years.
As the cyber realm evolves, effects from cyberattacks are moving from the digital world to the physical one.
Just three years ago, nearly 225,000 energy customers in Ukraine woke to a powerless city after regional electrical companies were hacked and shut down by malicious Russian cyber actors. In 2018, the city of Atlanta had to suspend many of its services while ransomware ran rampant through government computers.
To ready the Air Force’s Cyber Protection Teams, which defend priority Department of Defense networks and systems against such malicious cyber-physical acts, the 90th Cyberspace Operations Squadron has developed an innovative new training tool.
“‘Bricks in the Loop’ helps cyber airmen conceptualize and understand the relationship between the network and physical domains in operational technology infrastructures,” said Christopher De La Rosa, 90th COS cyber modeling and simulation environments lead. “Significant differences exist between information technology and OT networks, necessitating different approaches to training our airmen in IT and OT cyber defense.”
In other words, BIL links cyber (IT) and physical (OT) resources to afford airmen the opportunity to see how a cyber action can effect a physical asset. Unfortunately, any cyber-physical training option using life-size training assets would be too costly to create, so current options are predominantly virtual-based, according to De La Rosa.
The “Bricks in the Loop” cyber-physical training platform at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, helps 90th Cyberspace Operations Squadron members ready the Air Force’s Cyber Protection Teams.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. R.J. Biermann)
To remedy this, his team created a scaled, physical training environment made of toy, plastic bricks purchased off-the-shelf. They combined this with an IT network built from open source or low-cost, and easy-to-use software options. The build cost less than ,000 and took only four months.
The “loop” serves as a simulated Air Force installation with assets such as a fire station, police station, airport, airport passenger terminal, jets, tanker trucks, and other vehicles. Many of these elements can purposefully be hacked and made to light up, move forward or backward, spin, alarm or stop working all together, all to alert the trainee a cyber action has taken place. The toy bricks are built on 15×15 inch tiles so they can be easily transported and re-built to support on-demand training or to model service-level exercises.
“The look and functionality of the environment allows the trainee to easily translate the model to critical missions on most bases, and the potential damage that could occur from a malicious cyber-physical attack on those missions,” De La Rosa said. “There are many more scenarios relevant to Air Force bases that, if disrupted, may have a critical impact on assigned missions.”
The “Bricks in the Loop” cyber-physical training platform at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, helps 90th Cyberspace Operations Squadron members ready the Air Force’s Cyber Protection Teams.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. R.J. Biermann)
In the future, the team hopes to include additional assets that will lend to more training scenarios, including fuel operations, security, water filtration, and fire alarm and suppression systems. The team is also seeking to incorporate a remote access and control feature providing trainees the opportunity to connect from anywhere.
Training cyber airmen isn’t new to the 90th COS. In the last two years alone, the squadron has developed 110 cyber capabilities comprising real-time operations and innovation efforts, CMF support efforts, and additional supporting capabilities and enabling efforts, including BIL.
As AFCYBER airmen continue to deliver full-spectrum global cyberspace capabilities and outcomes to the Air Force, joint force and nation, so will the 90th COS in its endeavor to keep them proficiently trained and ready.
Joel Rivera rumbled down dirt roads in his mother’s Kia Forte weeks after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico — on a mission for the U.S. military that he never imagined when he joined the Navy 14 years ago as a submariner.
Dressed in civilian clothing, Rivera and his cousin drove through mountains searching for islanders needing food and water who were out of reach because large trucks couldn’t use debris-filled and washed-out roads. He’d drop off what little provisions he could carry in the four-door sedan and — whenever he could get a cell phone signal — report to military officials on the island about the hardest-hit areas.
“I’d really just pick a spot on a map that was secluded,” he said. “At this point the government was handing out food and water to the cities.”
“I wanted to take care of the places where they were overlooking.”
This was far from an ordinary assignment for Rivera, a machinist’s mate aboard the USS San Francisco as it transitions from a decommissioned attack submarine to a training vessel at Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth.
While the Navy sent helicopters, ships and doctors from Hampton Roads to help, Rivera was simply on vacation. He managed to get to an Army Reserve Center base, secured orders to temporarily join a military police battalion there, then was given an incredible autonomy to help in a way few others could — all without ever wearing a uniform.
“It was a great experience doing that. At the same time you could see in their faces that this is not enough, and it’s always going to be like that I think,” Rivera said earlier this month at Submarine Forces Atlantic’s headquarters in Norfolk. “I could only give them a couple things here, a couple things there.”
Rivera’s unlikely role as a submariner delivering humanitarian aid ashore started out as rest and relaxation.
He was born in Puerto Rico and was visiting his parents for the first time in six years when Maria struck as a Category 4 storm in September, causing catastrophic damage to much of the American territory’s infrastructure and leaving residents like his parents without electricity or running water. He had chosen a two-week visit during what happened to be hurricane season because he has no family in Hampton Roads and volunteered to work over the holidays so others could spend time with loved ones.
He was set to fly back to Norfolk just four days after the hurricane made landfall, but it soon became clear that would be impossible. A few days after clearing debris in his parents’ neighborhood, helping neighbors repair roofs and generators, he hiked for five hours to get to his grandmother’s house and ride with his uncle to a nearby military base. He needed to tell his bosses in Virginia what happened, but even the base didn’t have telephone or internet service yet.
He didn’t try going to another base for several more days — gas for a vehicle was a precious commodity. But when the roads near his parents house became passable, he found an Army Reserve Center he heard might have communications.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Joel Rivera, right, assigned to Deep Submergence Unit, directs members of the media down the hatch of the Submarine Rescue Diving and Recompression System during a submarine rescue exercise as part of exercise Bold Monarch 2011. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Ricardo J. Reyes)
There, he was able to use Facebook Messenger to let his superiors know he was safe. They told him to just keep helping out in his community and return to Virginia when he could.
On Day 28 in Puerto Rico, he got a cellphone signal and talked to his boss again. Rivera was told if he could find a base to take him in, he would be given temporary orders to join it so he didn’t have to use all his leave. The Army Reserve quickly said yes.
At first, Rivera mostly did clerical work at a base near his home. But after two days, he said he felt like he wasn’t doing enough to directly help.
So Rivera was given a unique assignment: Go to a commercial airport near his parents’ home in Ponce on the southern end of the island that was being used to fly in humanitarian supplies by JetBlue Airlines. There, JetBlue officials stuffed his mother’s car with boxes of bottled water, canned goods, breakfast bars, snacks, and other supplies.
“We went exploring and talked to the people, said, ‘Hey, I’m trying to find the people that really need this.’ They were really helpful. They weren’t greedy. They pointed us where to go,” Rivera said. “It’s mountainous areas, places I didn’t even know were there.
“Dirt roads. Places I shouldn’t have been taking my mom’s car through.”
When he could, Rivera said, he’d wait in line for hours to get ice so that residents could have a cold sip of water during extremely hot and humid days. Rivera bought a cooler for the ice and paid for gas, although he said the Army base provided some fuel.
For two weeks, Rivera primarily operated on his own, occasionally texting his whereabouts to a contact at the police battalion. When he was able to get a flight home nearly two months after he arrived, he returned to the reserve center base one more time so he could thank everyone for the opportunity to work with them.
Rivera realizes it’s unusual for a submariner to do what he did, but the lessons he’s learned in the Navy about staying calm under pressure helped.
“When disaster strikes you try not freak out about it and try to see the bigger picture. We’ll eventually get this road clear, we’ll eventually get a little bit more stable with the water,” he said.
“I think that was one of the biggest things, is just realizing is that everything’s eventually going to be a little bit better throughout any situation.”
The team behind the upcoming 007 film, dubbed Bond 25, released an unconventional first look in the form of behind-the-scenes footage and peeks from the movie. Set to take place all over the world, per usual, star Daniel Craig’s Bond-swan-song definitely looks to be a colorful flick.
The reveal includes Fukunaga in action, Craig looking cool-as-always, Westworld’s Jeffrey Wright as “Felix Leiter” (“a brother from Langley”), and Captain Marvel’s Lashana Lynch as “Nomi” on location in the Caribbean.
One of the most interesting and exciting additions to the project is writer Phoebe Waller-Bridge, creator of Killing Eve and Fleabag — projects praised for their levity, humor, and surprising character moments.
Waller-Bridge will join Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, and Scott Z. Burns.
The official James Bond Twitter account is killing it when it comes to sharing Bond history, stories, and progress, including behind-the-scenes looks like this:
Daniel Craig and the @astonmartin V8 on location for #Bond25pic.twitter.com/cPgfMSlUYm
The designers are doing the obvious things, such as adding more doors and washrooms to create separate sleeping and bathing areas for men and women and to give them more privacy. But they are also making more subtle modifications that may not have been in everyone’s periscope when the Navy admitted women into the Silent Service.
You know what this sub is missing? A girl at the helm! (U.S. Navy photo)
For example, they are lowering some overhead valves and making them easier to turn, and installing steps in front of the triple-high bunk beds and stacked laundry machines.
The first vessel built with some of the new features, the future USS New Jersey, is expected to be delivered to the Navy in 2021.
The Navy lifted its ban on women on submarines in 2010, starting with officers. About 80 female officers and roughly 50 enlisted women are now serving on subs, and their numbers are expected to climb into the hundreds over the next few years.
For now, the Navy is retrofitting existing subs with extra doors and designated washrooms to accommodate women. But Electric Boat in Groton, Connecticut, is at work on a redesign of the Navy’s Virginia-class fast-attack subs and is also developing a brand-new class of ballistic-missile submarines, relying on body measurements for both men and women.
“We have a clean sheet of paper, so from the ground up, we’ll optimize for both men and women,” said Brian Wilson, Electric Boat director of the new ballistic-missile sub program.
Electric Boat officials had no immediate estimate of how much the modifications will cost.
As anyone who watches war movies knows, submariners are always turning valves, whether to operate machinery, redistribute water between tanks or isolate part of a system that has been damaged.
On the Columbia-class boats, valves will generally be placed lower, Wilson said. Sometimes there will be an extension handle, and some will be easier to turn. Sailors will be able to connect their masks into the emergency air system at the side of passageways, instead of overhead.
Emergency air masks are being moved on fast-attack submarines, too, but the bulk of the changes on those subs are to ensure privacy.
Seats in the control room on the ballistic-missile submarines will adjust forward a little more so everyone can touch each display and reach every joystick. Steps will be added so shorter people can climb into the top bunk or see into the washers and dryers, since clothes that get stuck in the machines are a fire hazard.
The first Columbia-class ballistic-missile sub is scheduled to join the fleet in 2031.
At 5-foot-6, Lt. Marquette Leveque, one of the first women to serve on a submarine, said that she didn’t have any trouble reaching valves and other equipment but that the ergonomic changes will be helpful for shorter crewmates.
Leveque was assigned to a compartment with two other female officers on the USS Wyoming. They shared a washroom with male officers. A sign on the door could be flipped to show whether a man or woman was using it.
With so few women on board, the timesharing worked, she said. But with more on the way, the need for separate spaces is greater, she added.
“Privacy is important anywhere you are,” she said. “We live on this boat, as well as work there.”
Russia’s political-military leadership frequently criticizes the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) for its enlargement and for staging military exercises close to Russian borders. This pattern has intensified since Russia’s intervention in Ukraine in 2014 and the subsequent downturn in its relations with the United States and its allies.
Surprisingly, therefore, Moscow’s official reaction has been somewhat muted during the current run up to the active phases of NATO’s largest exercise in Europe in 25 years—though some Russian military experts have been making critical comments to the media.
On January 23, the US Department of Defense confirmed that a redeployment of United States military personnel had commenced, transferring forces from the homeland to Europe as part of the NATO exercise Defender Europe 2020. The wide-spanning maneuvers will focus on the Baltic States, Poland and Georgia, involving more than 36,000 personnel from 11 countries (Lenta.ru, January 26, 2020).
Russian news outlets have highlighted that this year’s Defender Europe exercise scenario is based on a war breaking out on the continent in 2028, between NATO and an enemy close to its borders. Additional reports stressed the scale of the exercise, with 28,000 U.S. military personnel participating, including the deployment of 20,000 from the United States. Referring to the magnitude of the drills, Vadim Kozyulin, a professor at the Russian Academy of Military Sciences, compared them to the 1983 Able Archer, which resulted in Soviet forces being placed on alert.
Despite the scale of Defender Europe 2020 not even coming close to Able Archer 1983, a number of the upcoming exercise’s features may well cause concern for the Russian defense establishment (Lenta.ru, January 26, 2020). Kozyulin asserted, “Such large-scale exercises will seriously aggravate the situation. Moreover, the main events will be held in Poland, Georgia and the Baltic countries, which not only border Russia, but also [exhibit] an unfriendly attitude toward our country” (Km.ru, January 27).
These reports also stressed a number of aspects of the exercise that may help explain the lack of an official response from Moscow thus far. Defender Europe will become an annual NATO exercise with a large-scale iteration planned for even-numbered years and smaller versions occurring in between. US military personnel will constitute the bulk of the force this year, with European allies collectively providing only 8,000 personnel.
As Russian analysts expect, moving the forces, equipment and hardware will prove quite challenging to the North Atlantic Alliance forces. Moreover, Defender Europe 2020 is the first exercise of its kind, which may have persuaded Russia’s defense leadership to cautiously study the exercise in all its various elements before responding to it (Km.ru, January 27, 2020; Lenta.ru, January 26, 2020; Rusvesna.su, January 25, 2020).
In a detailed commentary in Izvestia, the Moscow-based military analyst Anton Lavrov assesses the implications of the exercise, and identifies areas that will be closely monitored by Russia. Lavrov notes that Defender Europe will work out how the Alliance will fight a “war of the future” by testing an experimental strategy and some of its latest military equipment, adding, “Almost 500 American tanks, self-propelled guns and heavy infantry fighting vehicles, hundreds of aircraft, [as well as] tens of thousands of wheeled vehicles will take part in the exercises.”
The force buildup for the maneuvers will continue until April, and then NATO will conduct a series of drills forming part of the overall exercise. Crucially, this will provide an opportunity for the US to road-test its latest doctrinal development, namely “multi-domain battle,” which adds space and cyberspace to the traditional domains of land, sea and air. Lavrov states, “The concept will be tested in a series of command and staff exercises of the allied forces” (Izvestia, January 26, 2020).
The exercise divides into three related elements: transferring 20,000 US troops from the homeland to Europe and back again, moving US personnel based in Europe, and conducting a series of smaller exercises alongside allied forces.
Lavrov also points to the fact that Defender Europe 2020 will rehearse both defensive and offensive operations. One feature of the offensive operational aspects relates to US airborne forces conducting three joint airborne assault landings. In each case, the leading role is assigned to US forces. In the drop into Latvia, they will be joined by forces from Spain and Italy; in Lithuania, they are aided by personnel from Poland; and an additional multilateral airdrop is planned for Georgia (Izvestia, January 26, 2020).
As noted, one key challenge relates to the logistical tasks of moving troops and equipment over such vast distances. US military personnel and equipment will land at airports across Europe and seaports in Antwerp (Belgium), Vlissingen (Netherlands), Bremerhaven (Germany) and Paldiski (Estonia).
Russian military expert Vyacheslav Shurygin explained the nature of the challenge: “The transport infrastructure of Europe has not encountered such large-scale movements of military equipment for a long time.” Indeed, the redeployment of forces and hardware involved cannot be compared to standard US battle group rotations (Izvestia, January 26, 2020).
Clearly, one of the objectives of the exercise is to assess the efficiency of these deployments into a potential theater of military operations. Lavrov adds, “Even for the modern US Army, the transfer of heavy tank and infantry divisions from continent to continent is a difficult, lengthy and expensive task. Twenty thousand units of equipment that the Americans will use in the maneuvers will arrive from the US, and another 13,000 will be received by the military from storage bases on the spot.
In Europe, there are now four large storages of American military equipment. Each one has everything, from tanks and artillery to trucks and medical vehicles, to equip a tank brigade. Another similar base is being built in Poland and will be commissioned in 2021″ (Izvestia, January 26, 2020).
One commentary in the Russian media stressed not only that NATO was deploying forces for exercises close to Russia’s borders but pointedly also referenced Belarus, which fits with Moscow’s scenario planning for its Zapad series of strategic military exercises: “However, the fact that such a powerful group of US and NATO forces is practicing deployments near the borders of Belarus and Russia, against the background of a growing American military presence in Poland and the Baltic countries, is a matter of concern” (Rusvesna.su, January 25, 2020).
It remains to be seen whether Russia’s political-military leadership will continue to be cautious about Defender Europe, restricting its criticism to public rhetoric, or if it will ultimately try to engage the Alliance in political or information warfare on this front.