Thirty percent of the current veteran population is suffering from some level of post traumatic stress, according to VA statistics. Treatments vary, but researchers and doctors are aggressively responding to the crisis.
As marijuana begins to gain traction in treating veteran PTS (the Veterans Administration maintains its position that marijuana has only an “anecdotal effect” on veteran post-traumatic stress) researchers are examining other recreational drugs to treating the unseen wounds of war. And the newest drug under scrutiny is methylene-dioxy-meth-amphetamine, better known as “MDMA,” “Molly,” or “ecstasy.”
Pure MDMA is of interest to neuroscientists because of its effect on human empathy, fear, and defensiveness. In a recent Popular Science article, psychiatrist Dr. Michael Mithoefer said that 83 percent of his treatment resistant patients not only responded positively to MDMA treatment, they soon showed no symptoms at all.
Other reports show the drug works in treating end-of-life anxiety and alcoholism. Rick Doblin, who runs the nonprofit Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, thinks the FDA could allow the use of MDMA as a viable treatment option as early as 2021.
In studies published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, MDMA was found to be addictive in “rare cases.” One being a veteran self-medicating with MDMA to treat his own post-traumatic stress. Clearly, more study is needed.
Comedian Rob Riggle accepted a commission in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1990 with the intent of earning a pilot’s Wings of Gold, but once he got to flight school in Pensacola it hit him that the lengthy commitment was going to keep him from realizing his dream of doing stand up.
“If I had continued flying I didn’t see how I would be able to take my shot at comedy,” Riggle says. “I left flight school and became a public affairs officer.”
After nine years on active duty that included stateside tours at Cherry Point, Camp Lejeune, and Corpus Christi and overseas tours in Liberia and Albania (where he helped build refugee camps for those displaced by the fighting in Kosovo), Riggle transferred to the Marine Corps Reserve. He moved to New York City to pursue his comedy career and drilled with Marine Training Unit 17 — the only reserve unit in Manhattan.
And then 9/11 happened.
“I got a call from my CO and was ordered to report to One Police Plaza first thing in the morning on Sept. 12,” Riggle says. “I worked on the bucket brigades moving rubble by hand.”
For a week he worked 12-on-12-off, clearing the twisted wreckage that was piled six stories high around where the twin towers of the World Trade Center had proudly stood just days before. On the seventh day, the operation was changed from search-and-rescue to search-and-recovery. With all hope gone that more victims might be found alive among the concrete and steel and with the danger of more collapses gone, the heavy machinery was brought in to remove the rest.
Riggle was exhausted and emotionally spent. He’d seen enough.
“Like most Americans, I was pissed off,” he says. “But as a Marine captain, I could do something about it. I put my hand in the air and told my commanding officer, ‘put me in this thing.’ And so he did.”
Now watch Rob Riggle fly with the Blue Angels:
Riggle received orders on Nov. 10 — the Marine Corps birthday — and a week later he reported to CENTCOM in Tampa for training and two weeks after that he was on his way to the war.
“About 20 days from the time I got my orders I was on my way to Afghanistan,” Riggle recalls. “That’s why you have reserves.”
He did two rotations into Afghanistan during his year back on active duty, working out of the Joint Operations Center because he had top secret security clearance. He was part of Operation Anaconda — the first major offensive using a large number of conventional troops — and other major campaigns during that time.
“When my year was up I moved back to New York City and ran the marathon,” he recalls.
The year after that he was added to the cast of “Saturday Night Live.” And the rest is American comedy history.
“I earned the title Marine, no one gave it to me,” Riggle says when asked to sum up his military career. “I’ll be proud of that as long as I’m alive.”
To support the ongoing efforts to reduce the number of non-deployable soldiers, Army leaders released a new directive designed to encourage soldiers to reach deployable standards outlined in the directive.
If standards are not met within six months, a soldier could face separation.
Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper and Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Mark A. Milley prepared the directive, which took effect Oct. 1, 2018.
Maj. Gen. Joseph Calloway, director of military personnel management, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, presented the new directive Nov. 15, 2018, in a media briefing at the Pentagon.
The number of soldiers in non-deployable status has been reduced from 121,000 (roughly 15 percent of the total force) to less than 60,000 this past year. In October 2018 alone, the Army posted a reduction of 7,000 non-deployable members.
Calloway said the separated members came from across the force, including unsatisfactory soldiers in the Army Reserve and National Guard and some who were pending separation.
The effort followed the release of a new directive by Defense Secretary James Mattis February 2018 to raise standards for deployable troops across the four military branches, improving readiness and lethality.
The directive highlights two distinctions: for the first time, the Army defines deployability plainly in written form. And the directive marks a culture change that encourages greater accountability among soldiers to maintain readiness and empower commanders.
Deployers from Headquarters Company, 89th Military Police Brigade, unload their equipment into their temporary lodging quarters at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, in support of Operation Faithful Patriot, Oct. 29, 2018.
(Photo by Senior Airman Alexandra Minor)
“The culture change is particularly important,” Calloway said. “We’re not only defining the deployability and the directive, it’s the first time we’ve ever put on paper what constitutes deployability.”
The directive enables commanders to closely examine non-deployable soldiers on a case-by-case basis.
“The first actions that senior leaders are taking is to ensure commanders understand their authorities; how to use them and that they are supported by senior leadership,” said Diane Randon, principal deputy assistant secretary of the Army for manpower and reserve affairs.
To be certified as deployable, Soldiers must be:
legally, administratively and medically cleared for employment in any environment;
able to operate in harsh environments or areas with extreme temperatures;
able to carry and employ an assigned weapon;
able to execute the Army’s warrior tasks;
able to operate their duties while donning protective equipment such as body armor, helmets, eye protection gloves and chemical or biological equipment.
Finally, soldiers must pass the physical fitness test or be able to meet the physical demands of a specific deployment.
Soldiers who do not meet the standards of the new criteria, or soldiers who become permanently non-deployable after the date of the new directive, will be considered unqualified to serve in any military branch. Soldiers who remain in non-deployable status because of administrative reasons have six months to meet the requirements or face separation.
Calloway noted that the new directive does not apply to all of the remaining 60,000, including those who remain in non-deployable status due to medical reasons. The general estimated about 70-80 percent of the 60,000 remain non-deployable for medical reasons, and another portion for legal reasons.
Wounded warriors who have continued active duty and those on certain types of medical profiles will not be subject to the new directive. Only commanders at the O-6 level and above in a soldier’s chain of command can waive one or more of the six requirements.
Exemptions to the requirements include ex-prisoners of war who were deferred from serving in a country where they were held captive, trainees or cadets who have not completed initial entry training, and Soldiers who are temporarily non-deployable because they received a compassionate reassignment or stabilization to move them closer to an ill family member.
To help soldiers meet deployability standards, Calloway said, the service already has measures in place to reduce non-deployables and injured soldiers beginning in basic training.
U.S. Army recruits practice patrol tactics while marching during U.S. Army basic training at Fort Jackson.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Shawn Weismiller)
Soldiers must meet physical and psychological standards based on their desired career fields. The Army has also began to implement holistic health and fitness measures in its training.
“You can never get 100 percent on [reducing the number of non-deployables],” Calloway said. “But the goal is … to get it as low as possible.”
In the past, Calloway said Army leaders used a conservative approach to reporting non-deployables. By upholding stricter standards and holding Soldiers accountable to maintain qualifications for deployability will not only change culture but raise morale and enthusiasm to uphold standards.
In recent selection boards for officers competing to be battalion and brigade commanders, candidates were required to certify that they are deployable and had to pass a physical fitness test. Randon hopes soldiers will see the increased standards at those levels of command as motivation.
“It really is a mindset of inspiring and motivating soldiers to be accountable and to be classified as deployable,” she said.
The U.S. Army believes that future, high-end conflicts will require aviation assets, particularly helicopters, that are long range, fast-moving, and highly lethal. Future military helicopters will need to lift more weight, generate greater power, and use less fuel.
This is why the Army has been spending billions on technologies for virtually every aircraft system: airframe, engines, flight controls, avionics, sensors, and weapons. Many of these are part of the Army-led, multi-service Future Vertical Lift (FVL) program, the ultimate goal of which is to replace most of the U.S. military’s fleet of helicopters beginning in the 2030s. The Army has identified FVL as one of its highest modernization priorities.
The FVL program is focused initially on developing a new scout helicopter as well as replacements for the Sikorsky UH-60 Blackhawk and the Boeing AH-64 Apache. Ultimately, the plan is to also develop a heavy lift helicopter and a super-size platform with a payload capacity equivalent to that of existing fixed-wing tactical aircraft such as the Lockheed C-130 Hercules and Airbus A400M Atlas.
In order to ensure that FVL can achieve its ambitious goals, the Army began the Joint Multi-Role Rotorcraft Technology Demonstrator (JMR TD) program in 2004. JMR’s primary objective is to develop and test advanced rotorcraft designs that can achieve a revolutionary leap in capabilities. In addition, JMR seeks to develop a common digital backbone and open architecture that will allow new systems, components, and weapons to be rapidly integrated.
The Army selected designs by two teams to build and fly JMR demonstrators. Bell Helicopter is offering the V-280 Valor, a third-generation tilt-rotor platform. The V-280 conducted its first successful test flight this past December. A Sikorsky-Boeing team will soon begin flight tests of the SB1 Defiant, a revolutionary design with two coaxial rotors on top and a pusher propeller in back. The current plan is to begin production of a new aerial platform around 2030, although there is growing belief that the current schedule could be substantially accelerated.
Although the FVL has received the lion’s share of media attention, the Army has a second major aviation modernization program underway. This is the Improved Turbine Engine Program (ITEP). ITEP is an Army-led program to develop a new engine for the military’s Blackhawk and Apache fleets, one that is 50 percent more powerful and 25 percent more fuel-efficient at no increase in weight. In addition, the ITEP engine will be designed with ruggedized parts to support operations in austere and stressful environments.
Why is the Army pursuing both the FVL programs for a new generation of rotorcraft and ITEP to put new engines in current helicopters? Put simply, even on an accelerated schedule, it will be decades before the products of the FVL program can replace the more than 2,000 Blackhawks and nearly 1,000 Apaches in the U.S. inventory. Since many U.S. allies also operate Blackhawks and Apaches, there is a long-term global requirement to modernize both platforms.
ITEP is critical to ensure the continued effectiveness of the Blackhawk and Apache fleets. As new technologies are added and additional protective measures deployed, the weight of military helicopters has steadily increased. It is estimated that the Blackhawk has gotten 78 pounds heavier every year since it was first deployed. Also, the U.S. military finds itself operating in more challenging environments and at higher altitudes than existing helicopter engines can readily support. Blackhawk and Apache crews often have had to reduce their loads of personnel, munitions, and even fuel to get off the ground.
ITEP is currently in the Technology Maturation and Risk Reduction phase. Two companies, both with extensive experience producing high-performance engines, are competing to be the single provider of the new Blackhawk/Apache power plant. One is GE Aviation. Its design for ITEP, the T901 Turboshaft Engine, is a single spool engine meaning that it consists of a compressor and turbine section connected by a single shaft. GE Aviation believes that this design provides reliability and ease of maintenance.
The other competitor is the Advanced Turbine Engine Company, a joint venture of Honeywell and Pratt Whitney. Its T900 engine is a dual-spool design with two rotating turbine-compressor assemblies instead of one. A dual-spool engine automatically distributes the load between the two assemblies, allowing real-time adjustments to optimize performance, run cooler, and reduce fuel use. As a result, the new engine can be designed with less need to make compromises in key performance requirements such as speed and power. The dual spool approach also tends to result in less wear-and-tear and reduced maintenance costs.
The Department of Defense needs to move forward aggressively with both FVL and ITEP. This means providing sufficient funding to accelerate FVL while also ensuring that ITEP can successfully develop a higher performance engine for legacy Blackhawks and Apaches.
As the Marine Corps continues to adjust fire in the face of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, General David H. Berger, Commandant of the Marine Corps, has ordered a halt to Physical Fitness Tests (PFTs) across the Corps until further notice. Despite testing being suspended, however, Marines are still expected to stay in fighting shape.
Marines, the PFT requirement for this semi-annual period is cancelled in accordance with COVID-19 prevention guidelines. Our fitness to fight remains a priority, and I expect each of us to continue to maintain our fighting condition. Find details in a forthcoming MARADMIN.
“Marines, the PFT requirement for this semi-annual period is cancelled in accordance with COVID-19 prevention guidelines. Our fitness to fight remains a priority, and I expect each of us to continue to maintain our fighting condition. Find details in a forthcoming MARADMIN.” General Berger wrote.
The forthcoming MARADMIN, or Marine Administrative Message, will likely provide further guidance upon its release, including when Marines can expect to commence testing again.
The Marine Corps PFT, which consists of three timed events, is one of two fitness tests the Marine Corps uses to assess the physical readiness of each Marine. The PFT consists of dead hang pull ups (which can be substituted for push ups), crunches, and a three mile run. Because Marines do their crunches with a spotter that both holds their knees and keeps tally of the repetitions, it may have been deemed impossible to effectively practice social distancing during the execution of the test. Other events do not necessarily include such close proximity to other Marines, but may still have resulted in unnecessary exposure.
The military as a whole has been taking proactive steps to ensure the health and safety of service members, their families, and civilian DoD personnel. Recently, all members of the military were ordered to wear cloth masks in circumstances that don’t allow for social distancing, and everyone on base, regardless of whether they are military or civilian, are expected to wear masks when in close proximity with others.
Despite multiple overlapping initiatives, the military has seen a sharp rise in the number of infected service members in recent weeks, many of which hail from the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier the USS Theodore Roosevelt. Thus far, nearly 700 Sailors from the Roosevelt have tested positive for the coronavirus. The USS Harry S. Truman carrier strike group has been ordered to remain at sea for the time being in order to ensure the safety of the crew and the readiness of America’s rapid response to any potential threats.
Marines have played an active role in numerous DoD efforts relating to COVID-19, including a small detachment of Marines deployed to Guam to support the recovery of the Roosevelt’s crew. Marines from Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment made headlines around the world last week when they sprinted life-saving oxygen tanks to ambulances waiting to transfer COVID-19 patients that were stuck waiting in traffic.
When the National Museum of the United States Army opens to the public outside Washington, D.C. in 2020; six New York Army National Guard soldiers will be a permanent part of it.
The six men who serve at the New York National Guard Headquarters outside Albany and the 24th Civil Support Team at Fort Hamilton, Brooklyn, are models for six of 63 life-sized soldier figures that will bring exhibits in the museum to life.
Studio EIS (pronounced ice), the Brooklyn company that specializes in making these museum exhibit figures, would normally hire actors or professional models as templates for figures, said Paul Morando, the chief of exhibits for the museum.
But real soldiers are better, he said.
“Having real soldiers gives the figures a level of authenticity to the scene,” he said. “They know where their hands should be on the weapons. They know how far apart their feet should be when they are standing. They know how to carry their equipment.”
Actual soldiers can also share some insights with the people making the figures, Morando added.
New York Army National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Nick Archibald displays the cast made of his face at Studio EIS in Brooklyn, N.Y. on Nov. 15, 2018.
(National Museum of the United States Army)
The museum is under construction at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. The Army Historical Foundation is leading a 0 million dollar campaign and constructing the 185,000 square-foot building through private donations. The Army is providing the 84-acre site, constructing the roads and infrastructure, and the interior exhibit elements that transform a building into a museum.
The museum will tell the story of over 240 years of Army history through stories of American soldiers.
The figures of the six New York National Guard Solders — Maj. Robert Freed, Chaplain (Maj.) James Kim, Capt. Kevin Vilardo, 2nd Lt. Sam Gerdt, Sgt. 1st Class Jonathan Morrison, and Sgt. 1st Class Nick Archibald — will populate two exhibits from two different eras.
Vilardo, Gerdt, and Archibald will portray soldiers who landed in Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944.
New York Army National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Nick Archibald clutches pipes representing rope as a technician prepares to apply casting material to his body at Studio EIS in Brooklyn, N.Y. on Nov. 15, 2018.
(National Museum of the United States Army)
The figure modeled by Archibald, an assistant inspector general at New York National Guard headquarters, will be climbing down a cargo net slung over the side of a model ship into a 36-foot long landing craft known as a “Higgins boat.”
The boats took their name from Andrew Higgins, a Louisiana boat-builder who designed the plywood-sided boats, which delivered soldiers directly to the beach.
Vilardo, the commander of A Troop, 101st Cavalry, who also works in the Army National Guard operations section, was the model for a combat photographer. His figure will be in the boat taking pictures of the action.
Gerdt, a survey section leader in the 24th Civil Support Team, modeled a soldier standing in the boat gazing toward the beach.
New York Army National Guard 2nd Lt. Sam Gerdt holds a pose while technicians take a cast of his upper torso at Studio EIS in Brooklyn, N.Y. on Nov. 14, 2018.
(National Museum of the United States Army)
The landing craft is so big that it, and three other macro artifacts, were pre-positioned in their space within the museum in 2017 — the museum is being built around them.
Kim, Morrison and Freed modeled for figures that will be in an Afghanistan tableau. They will portray soldiers from the 2nd Cavalry Regiment on patrol in 2014, each soldier depicting a different responsibility on a typical combat mission.
The figure based on Morrison, the medic for the 24th CST, will be holding an M4 and getting ready to go in first.
Freed, the executive officer of the 24th CST, modeled a platoon leader talking on the radio.
Kim, the chaplain for the 42nd Division, was the model for a soldier operating a remote control for a MARCbot, which is used to inspect suspicious objects.
New York Army National Guard Major Robert Freed holds a pose with a mock M4 and block of wood replicating a radio handset, as technicians apply casting material to his body at Studio EIS in Brooklyn, N.Y. on Nov. 15, 2018.
(National Museum of the United States Army)
The process of turning a soldier into a life-sized figure starts by posing the soldier in the position called for in the tableau and taking lots of photos. This allows the artists to observe how the person looks and record it.
When Archibald showed up at the Studio EIS facility they put him to work climbing a cargo net like soldiers used to board landing craft during World War II.
“They were taking pictures of me actually climbing a net with a backpack on and a huge model rifle over my shoulder,” he recalled. “That was uncomfortable because I was actually on a net hanging off this wall.”
The Studio EIS experts take pictures of the model from every angle and take measurements as well, Morando explained.
Heads casted from New York Army National Guard soldiers wait to be matched with their bodies at Studio EIS in Brooklyn, N.Y. on Nov. 15, 2018.
(National Museum of the United States Army)
Vilardo, who posed crammed into a mock landing craft corner with a camera up to his eyes, said the photography portion of this process was the most unnerving part for him.
“I’m not one to like my picture being taken and to have really close photography of your face and hands was a new experience,” he said.
Next, a model of the individuals face is made. A special silicone based material is used for the cast. The model’s nostrils are kept clear so the subject can breathe.
The soldiers were told what their character was supposed to be doing and thinking and asked to make the appropriate facial gestures.
New York Army National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Jonathan Morrison holds his pose as technicians apply casting material to his face at Studio EIS in Brooklyn, N.Y. on Nov. 5, 2018.
(National Museum of the United States Army)
Gerdt was told to stare into space and think about not seeing his family for two years.
“I had to hold my facial expression for about 15 minutes while they did that,” he said.
Because his character was talking on the radio, he had to hold his mouth open and some of the casting compound got inside, Freed said.
New York Army National Guard Major Robert Freed poses with a mock M-4 and block of wood replicating a radio handset, as photos of his pose are taken at Studio EIS in Brooklyn, N.Y. on Nov. 15, 2018.
(National Museum of the United States Army)
“It was a bit nerve wracking, “Freed recalled. ” They pour the silicon liquid over your entire face and you have these two breathing holes. Your hearing is limited. It is a bit jarring.”
The material also warmed up.
“It was like a spa experience,” Kim joked. “They had me sit with one of those barber covers on. I had to be still with my head tilted back.”
The material got so warm that he started sweating, Archibald said. “As they did the upper portion (of his body) I got pretty toasty in there,” he said.
Once their facial casts were done the Studio EIS experts cast the rest of their body. The soldiers put on tight shorts and stockings with Vaseline smeared over body parts and posed in the positions needed.
New York Army National Guard Captain Capt. Kevin Vilardo poses as World War II combat cameraman standing in the corner of a landing craft at Studio EIS in Brooklyn, N.Y. on Nov. 13, 2018.
(National Museum of the United States Army)
Kim was asked to crouch and hold a controller in his hand. When he got up to move his legs were frozen, he said. “It was four hours and a lot of stillness,” Kim said.
Archibald was positioned on blocks so that his body looked like it was climbing and they used this small little stool supporting my butt.” He also had to clench his hand around rods to look like he was gripping a rope.
Vilardo jammed himself into a plywood cutout so it looked like he was stabilizing himself on a boat. Morrison held an M-4 at the ready as if he were ready to lead a stack of soldiers into a room.
The six New York National Guardsmen and four other soldiers visited the Brooklyn studio during the first two weeks of November 2018.
New York Army National Guard Major (Chaplain) James Kim poses with the remote control for a MARCbot robot as Paul Morando, the Exhibits Chief for the National Museum of the United States Army, refines his position at Studio EIS in Brooklyn, N.Y. on Nov. 8, 2018.
(National Museum of the United States Army)
They were the last soldiers to be turned into figures, Morando said.
Four active duty soldiers also posed during the process; Chaplain (Major) Bruce Duty, Staff Sgt. Dereek Martinez, Sgt. 1st Class Kent Bumpass, and Sgt. Armando Hernandez.
Next the artists will sculpt sections into a complete figure, dress and accessorize, and paint precise details on the face and skin; crafting it to humanistic and historical perfection. These lifelike soldier figures will help visitors understand what it looked like on D-Day or during a combat mission in Afghanistan, Morando said.
The New York soldiers got their chance to be part of the new, state of the art museum because of Justin Batt, the director of the Harbor Defense Museum at Fort Hamilton.
He and Morando had worked together before, Batt said.
Morando needed soldiers to pose and wanted to use soldiers from the New York City area to keep down costs. So he turned to Batt to help find ten people.
Batt, in turn, reached out to Freed to ask for help in finding guard soldiers.
Soldiers pose for museum exhibits.
(U.S. Army photo)
The museum was looking for soldiers with certain looks, heights, and in some cases race, Freed said.
For the D-Day scene they needed soldiers of certain height and weight who would look like soldiers from the 1940s. The design for the Afghanistan scene included an Asian American and African-American soldier, Freed said.
He recruited Kim, a Korean-American, as the Asian American and Morrison as the African-American soldier. Vilardo, Archibald and Gerdt are lean and looked more like an American of the 1940s.
The six New York Guardsmen that Freed recruited were perfect, Batt said. Not only did they look the part but also they all have tremendous military records, he added.
New York Army National Guard Captain Capt. Kevin Vilardo holds a pose as a World War II combat cameraman while technicians take a cast of his upper torso at Studio EIS in Brooklyn, N.Y. on Nov. 13, 2018.
(National Museum of the United States Army)
Being part of the National Museum of the United States Army is an honor, the soldiers said.
While their names won’t be acknowledged on the exhibits, it will be great to know they are part of telling the Army story, they all agreed.
He was impressed to find out how much work goes into creating an exhibit and the care the museum staff is taking to get it right, Freed said.
“I have a newfound appreciation of the efforts the Army is making to preserve its history,” he added.
“I think it is pretty cool that they would get soldiers to model as soldiers,” Archibald said. “Part of it is an honor to be able to bring people down there and point at the exhibit and say that is actually me there.”
This draft of the landing craft exhibit at the National Museum of the United States Army gives a sense of what the finished result will look like when the museum opens.
(National Museum of the United States Army)
“I feel privileged to have an opportunity to be part of a historic display, “Kim said. ” To be immortalized and to be able to share that with generations of my family. It is a once in a life time opportunity.”
“It’s extremely cool. I feel honored to do it,” Gerdt said, adding that he was looking forward to taking his newborn daughter to see the exhibit.
Vilardo, who has a seven-year old daughter, said she was pretty excited when he showed her photographs of him being turned into an exhibit figure.
“I told her it would be just like “Night at the Museum”, he said referring to the Ben Stiller movie about museum exhibits coming to life, “and that we could go visit anytime.”
“It is extremely humbling to know I am going to be part of Army history, “Morrison said. “I already thought I was part of the Army Story. Now I am going to be part of the story the public gets to see.”
Editor’s Note: The National Museum of the United States Army is a joint effort between the U.S. Army and the non-profit organization, The Army Historical Foundation. The museum will serve as the capstone of the Army Museum Enterprise and provide the comprehensive portrayal of Army history and traditions. The Museum is expected to open in 2020 and admission will be free. www.thenmusa.org
North Dakota National Guard soldiers and airmen walk from room to room wiping surfaces with sanitizing material as they assist a local, contracted company in ‘deep cleaning’ at a Fargo, N.D., congregate living memory care facility May 1, 2020. (U.S. Air National Guard photo/David H. Lipp)
Republican Iowa Senator Joni Ernst, a retired member of the Iowa National Guard and veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, has proposed that service members deployed for COVID-19 response get hazardous duty pay.
Ernst plans to introduce legislation this week that would provide a tax-free stipend for all active-duty, Reserve and National Guard members fighting the pandemic. If enacted, it would provide a monthly bonus as well as back pay to the initial date of deployment for thousands of service members.
The senator, who served in Kuwait and Iraq from 2003 to 2004, said those on the front lines potentially exposing themselves to illness deserve the support.
“Whether it’s delivering personal protective equipment, food, or medical supplies, our National Guardsmen and women have answered the call to help during COVID-19,” Ernst said in a statement released Tuesday. “As a former Iowa Army National Guardsmen, I could not be more proud of their tireless and selfless efforts.”
According to the Pentagon, more than 62,800 service members, including 46,800 National Guard members, are supporting COVID-19 response. The troops are treating patients, conducting coronavirus testing, distributing food and personal protective equipment and helping at hotels housing homeless persons who have tested positive for the virus.
As of Tuesday, 889 members of the National Guard Bureau had tested positive for COVID-19. A Guardsman, Capt. Douglas Linn Hickok, was the first service member to die of the virus, although he had not been mobilized for COVID-19 response.
Nearly 5,000 additional U.S. service members have contracted COVID-19, 100 have been hospitalized and two have died: Hickok and Aviation Ordnanceman Chief Petty Officer Charles Robert Thacker, who was assigned to the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt and died April 13.
Nationwide, cases of COVID-19 reached nearly 2 million on Tuesday, with 70,646 American deaths.
For most members of the U.S. military, hazardous duty incentive pay totals 0 a month.
Military advocates, including the National Guard Association of the United States and the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States threw their support behind Ernst’s legislation Tuesday.
“By definition, hazardous duty incentive pay is a monetary incentive for volunteers who perform hazardous duty based upon the inherent dangers of that duty and the risks of physical injury. EANGUS agrees with Sen. Joni Ernst that the duty our National Guard members are performing embodies that risk, and should receive hazardous duty incentive pay for COVID-19 response duty,” said retired Sgt. Maj. Frank Yoakum, EANGUS executive director.
Ernst’s proposed legislation follows a similar request last month from the American Federation of Government Employees, which is seeking hazardous duty pay for Department of Veterans Affairs workers caring for patients at VA facilities.
“I … implore Congress to pass legislation to provide hazardous duty pay to all front-line federal employees not already covered by existing laws like our nurses in federal prisons, and health care workers at the VA who provide direct patient care to our nation’s veterans,” AFGE National President Everett Kelley said in a statement.
As I have written elsewhere, the Army’s leadership has taken a number of bold steps to reform its sclerotic acquisition system. Army Secretary Mark Esper and Chief of Staff General Mark Milley have set ambitious goals for a revamped acquisition system. Secretary Esper has spoken of reducing the time it takes to formulate requirements from an average of five years to just one. General Milley wants new capabilities ten times more lethal than those they replace. Getting there, he suggested in a recent speech, is as much a matter of attitude and culture as it is about technology:
I’m not interested in a linear progression into the future. That will end up in defeat on a future battlefield. If we think that if we just draw a straight line into the future and simply make incremental improvements to current systems, then we’re blowing smoke up our collective fourth point of contact…
There is no question that the Army’s leadership is all-in on acquisition reform. This does not mean that success is assured. It is natural for the current system to resist change, marshaling all the weapons of law, regulation, custom, and habit to retard or even negate progress towards the goals of a faster and more effective way of designing and procuring new capabilities. In a recent RollCall article, Under Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy recommends that elements within the current acquisition system will present the hardest challenge as they attempt to preserve their “bureaucratic rice bowls.”
As aggressive as the Army acquisition reform program has been, they could be bolder still. Here are three additional initiatives that should be pursued.
3. Restructure the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for acquisition technology and logistics (ASA/ALT)
One of the major problems the current reforms is intended to address is the stovepipes that exist between requirements formulation and capabilities development and procurement. The proposed solutions, including the creation of Futures Command, do not go far enough. Currently, Army Material Command (AMC), the organization that oversees the actual development and production of new capabilities, reports to the Chief of Staff. However, by law, AMC’s Program Executive Offices (PEOs), which manage specific programs also report to the Secretary of the Army through the ASA/ALT.
This creates an inherent conflict of interest for the PEOs who are responsible both for program execution and oversight. There will be a natural tendency for PEOs to exploit this organizational contradiction to pursue their own interests and maximize their freedom of action. But this is more than just a bureaucratic problem. There are reports that some PEOs have been told by Army lawyers that they cannot participate in the work of the newly-created Cross Functional Teams. The current system also runs counter to Congress’ efforts to allow the Service Chiefs greater authority over the acquisition process.
Army leadership needs to change this system. The logic of the current reform campaign dictates that the entire acquisition process be placed under the Army Chief of Staff. The role of the Assistant Secretary of the Army should be limited to oversight, assessment, and review of the work done by AMC and the PEOs. Clearly, this will require action on the part of Congress to rewrite the current law. But the Army needs to make a case for restructuring ASA/ALT.
2. Seek Relief from the onerous requirements of the Congressional appropriations process
The current defense budget appropriations process requires the Services to produce detailed descriptions, called exhibits, of the programs they are pursuing, including the specific quantities and types of equipment to be procured as well as the funds required. A lack of specificity in these documents often results in the appropriations committees refusing to fund a request.
The problem is that the Services’ budgets must go through an elaborate review and vetting process at multiple levels before a defense budget is actually submitted to Congress. Consequently, they may be up to two years out of date. But if changes are required, a reprogramming request must be submitted, which is a laborious process in itself.
This has been a particular problem of late in the procurement of munitions since the Services, particularly the Air Force and Army, did not anticipate two years ago how many weapons would be expended in the fight against ISIS. It is already a serious problem in areas such as cyber and communications systems where the technology cycle time is measured in months, not years. But if the Army can accelerate the acquisition system, it will become a problem in multiple areas.
The Army, really all the Services, need to work with the appropriations committees to revamp the budget document process. There needs to be a way of promoting flexibility for the PEOs while allowing for Congressional oversight. This could involve building off-ramps or alternative pathways into the reports that can be executed without triggering the need for a reprogramming request.
1. Make aggressive use of available rapid acquisition authorities
In the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, Congress gave the Department of Defense the authority to waive virtually all procurement regulations in order to rapidly acquire critically needed capabilities. Congress also expanded the power of the Services to employ other transactional authorities to speed up the acquisition process. The current Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, Ellen Lord, has proposed using these new authorities to reduce contracting times by fifty percent.
To date, the Army has not taken advantage of these new authorities. The Army needs to walk through the open door provided by Congress and senior leaders of the Department of Defense. The Secretary and Chief of Staff need to identify a set of candidate capabilities that could be acquired using the new authorities. This has both a practical and symbolic value. There are a number of capability gaps that would benefit from the introduction of an interim solution.
More importantly, the use of rapid acquisition authorities is a demonstration of how serious Army leaders are about changing the risk-averse, “all the time in the world” acquisition culture. The Army has shown it can terminate programs that are failing or no longer meet warfighters’ needs. It must show that it is just as capable of making rapid decisions when it comes to procuring new capabilities.
Implementing organizational change is hard; altering an institution’s culture is even more difficult. The key to success is to go big and fast. The Army needs an even bolder program for reforming its acquisition system.
A Chinese firm has reportedly developed next-generation radar technology with the ability to see through American stealth defenses.
The Intelligent Perception Technology Laboratory successfully developed China’s first quantum radar system in August, several Chinese media outlets reported Sept. 8. The Laboratory is run by the 14th Institute of China Electronics Technology Group Corporation, a defense and electronic technology firm.
During real-world tests of China’s new quantum radar system, it was able to detect targets 100 kilometers (62.1 miles) away.
Quantum radar systems offer unjammable aircraft detection.
The B-2 Spirit bomber is one of the most sophisticated military aircraft ever built. China says it has developed a radar that can help shoot it down. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)
Older radar systems can be rendered ineffective in a number of different ways. For instance, white noise can be used to drown out the radar frequency, or aircraft can deploy chaff countermeasures to create a false reflection and confuse the radar system. Newer radar systems can skirt these defenses; however, it is now possible to intercept the radar signal and send back false images.
If electromagnetic and stealth countermeasures are deployed effectively, traditional radar systems can’t tell the difference between a floating piece of tin foil and a stealth fighter. Quantum radar systems cannot be so easily compromised though.
Mehul Malik, Omar S. Magana-Loaiza, and Robert W. Boyd, three researchers in the Institute of Optics at the University of Rochester in New York, determined in December 2012 that quantum-secured imaging could be used to develop an unjammable radar system.
“In order to jam our imaging system, the object must disturb the delicate quantum state of the imaging photons, thus introducing statistical errors that reveal its activity,” explained the three-man research team in a report. If a stealth aircraft attempts to jam a quantum radar system by intercepting the photons and sending back a false image, it will destabilize the signal and reveal an error, indicating that an enemy is trying to jam it.
China’s KJ-2000 early warning and control aircraft, which uses X-band radar technology and Beidou satellites, can reportedly spot the F-22, but it is difficult for the KJ-2000 to lock onto stealth aircraft.
Quantum radar technology rectifies this problem. Chinese military experts suggest that once a stealth aircraft is detected by a quantum radar system, it won’t be able to escape elimination by air defense missiles, reports the People’s Daily. China argues that its new quantum radar system will make stealth fighters like America’s F-22 and Russia’s T-50 completely visible to Chinese defense systems. Theoretically, this technology could also be used against a vast array of other stealth aircraft, including the F-35 and B-2.
China launched an unhackable quantum satellite last month. The launch was hailed as a breakthrough in quantum technology. China’s development of a quantum radar system represents another great leap forward in Chinese quantum technology.
Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact email@example.com.
The Army wants its mortar systems to be even more mobile, accurate, and quick to fire. Moreover, they want mortar crews to be able to park a Humvee with a tube mounted to it and then get out of there.
The Advanced Direct Indirect Fire Mortar system gives them all of that and a direct-fire capability too.
The ADIMs is currently being tested and displayed as an 81mm system on a Humvee, but it could be adapted to other calibers and light tactical vehicles. A “soft-recoil” system allows larger mortars — historically limited to larger, heavy vehicles like the Stryker — to be mounted on the Humvee or its replacement, the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle.
Humvees are able to reach a lot of places Strykers and other larger vehicles can’t, allowing the mortars to quickly reach parts of the battlefield they otherwise couldn’t.
Once the mortar is in position, it can be manually worked by a standard mortar crew or remotely operated by a fire direction center. In theory, this would allow the weapon to be dropped or driven into position and then fired without a human mortar crew. Someone would still have to secure it though, since it’s a powerful, advanced weapons system.
But then mortarmen could just emplace the weapon and play spades while the FDC worries about firing it. Once the weapon is fired, it’s capable of being moved within 50 seconds to avoid enemy counter fire.
Of course, the ADIM only really matters if it makes it to the battlefield. The ADIM shares a lot of traits with the Marine Corps Dragon Fire and Dragon Fire II mortar systems.
The Dragon Fire was tested by the Marine Corps, upgraded to the Dragon Fire II, and then shelved. Instead, the Marine Corps adopted the M327, a highly-mobile, rifled mortar without the automation of the ADIM or Dragon Fire systems.
When Charles Monroe Baucom returned home in 1919 after his third and final tour of duty with the Army, he struggled to cope.
He had apparently been exposed to a mustard gas attack during World War I, and when he began losing his hearing and vision, he worried he’d also lose his job with the railroad.
Baucom died by suicide five years after he returned to his home in downtown Cary, N.C., leaving behind five children and a cloud of silence around his military record.
Nearly a century after his death, Baucom’s granddaughter, Joy Williams, has worked to restore his legacy to the place of pride she believes it should have always held.
Williams, who lives in Dunn, contacted the Veterans Legacy Foundation, a North Carolina-based nonprofit that tracks down military histories and awards mislaid medals during ceremonies around the country. Williams, 70, showed the organization letters her grandfather had written and asked what it could find out.
On March 26, Baucom, who served as a lieutenant in the Army, was finally awarded the recognition he had earned. During a ceremony in Raleigh, the Veterans Legacy Foundation gave Williams two medals for her grandfather – one for his service in the Spanish-American War and one for service in World War I.
“Most people get so wrapped up in the day that they don’t appreciate the past,” Williams said. “I wish he could have received these when he was living, but I’m proud to have them now in his honor.”
It was tough in the early 20th century for the military to track down veterans, said John Elskamp, who served in the Air Force for 24 years and founded the Veterans Legacy Foundation in 2010. As a result, many soldiers never received their medals.
For Baucom’s family, the foundation bought the Spanish-American War medal from a private collector and received the World War I victory medal directly from the Army.
Thirteen other families were also honored during the event in March. Some received original medals unearthed from a state government building in Raleigh, commissioned in 1919 for North Carolina veterans of World War I.
“People are curious,” Elskamp said. “They want to know, and it’s their family’s legacy. And we think it’s important for everyone to remember that legacy, that this country was built, in my opinion, by veterans and their families. They did a lot of the work.”
No one in Baucom’s family knew if he had ever received medals from his service. He fought in the Spanish-American War in 1898 and then took part in the China Relief Expedition during the Boxer Rebellion in 1900. During that effort, the military rescued US citizens and foreign nationals.
He volunteered when he was 38 to serve in World War I.
Williams’ mother, who was Baucom’s daughter, was 9 when her father died. So Williams, a semi-retired insurance agent who moved to Dunn from Cary 25 years ago, never knew much about her grandfather.
“She never spoke of him,” Williams said of her mother.
Her great-aunt told her the pastor at Baucom’s funeral said the lieutenant’s decision to end his own life would keep him out of heaven. Thinking about that still puts a lump in Williams’ throat.
“My mother, that probably affected her greatly,” she said. “Instead of being proud, they were kind of quiet about their father. It’s really a shame. When you die on the battlefield, that’s honorable. But if you die afterwards, it’s not as much.”
Williams saw a newspaper article about the Veterans Legacy Foundation two years ago and decided to reach out to the group. It appealed to her sense of duty to those forgotten and misremembered by history.
She and her husband, Martin, who are white, are part of a years-long effort in Dunn to preserve and maintain an old cemetery where many of the town’s black residents were buried. Until 1958, it was the only cemetery that would accept them.
Her home in Dunn – her husband’s childhood residence – is full of photos, artifacts and heirlooms from her family, which she said has “been in North Carolina since before it was North Carolina.”
“I don’t like home decor,” Williams said. “I like to be around things that have some kind of meaning.”
Among the items are original letters Baucom wrote while stationed at various military bases and while abroad in Cuba, China, and France. Those, as well as letters he and his wife received, have been painstakingly preserved by Williams.
A letter from Baucom’s attorney gives a sense of the former soldier’s state of mind in the days before he died. The attorney and longtime friend wrote to Baucom’s widow in the days after his death, recounting a meeting less than two weeks earlier.
“He seemed very interested and very much worried over his physical condition,” the attorney wrote of Baucom, “realizing that if he did lose his hearing and his eyesight, that the position he now held (with the railroad) he could not hope to keep.”
Another, from Baucom to his wife, reveals more of what Williams hopes will be remembered about her grandfather – his love of family and pride in his service.
“Tell the boys we will play catch and I will tell them stories when I get there,” Baucom wrote from Camp Merritt, New Jersey, as he awaited a train home to Cary. “Expect to get home in a week or two. Much love from Pop.”
After so many years, Williams is happy to feel pride where her mother felt shame, to have something in her house she can point to as proof that her flesh and blood had something to do with securing the life she now enjoys.
Army veteran Ernesto Rodriguez finished his trek from Clarksville, Tennessee, to the California coast when he walked the last few miles and onto the Santa Monica Pier.
A police motorcycle officer led the way and a crowd of supporters followed as Rodriguez strode to the end of the pier with American flags protruding from his backpack.
“I’m freaking out, I’m overwhelmed,” he told KTTV. “It’s the culmination of everything I’ve done and it’s starting to hit me. I’ve tried to stay calm pretty much up until today but I’m getting to a point where my emotions are starting to hit.”
Rodriguez, who spent 15 years in the Army, said he got the idea for the journey after hearing about a 2012 study that said there were 22 veteran suicides a day.
“I could’ve been one of those 22 back in 2011,” he told the station. “I wanted to find a way to inspire those that are having dark days like that to just keep pushing forward. So I just started walking.”
The trek began on Veterans Day 2016.
“There’s been days I’ve wanted to quit,” he said. “There’s been days that I almost died, to be quite honest. When I was out in the desert it was rough — dehydration, heat exhaustion — but there were so many people that came out. I remember something as simple as somebody driving and finding me and bringing me water or Gatorade just to make sure I wasn’t dehydrated out there.”
“I’m so grateful for the kindhearted people that helped me get through this.”
This is the last in a series about how branches of the military hate on each other. We featured all branches of the U.S. military, written by veterans of that branch being brutally honest with themselves and their services.
The branches of the U.S. military are like a very large family. They deal with one another because they have to, not because they always get along. This is a family that gets together and holds backyard wrestling tournaments every once in a while. They’re violent, they protect one another from outsiders, and are ridiculously mean to each other. When it comes to downrange operations, we put the rivalry behind us. When the ops-tempo isn’t as hectic, that’s when the rivalry resurfaces. That’s what the Hater’s Guide is for.
We’ve already shown how the other branches make fun of the Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, and Navy. Here’s how the other branches hate on the Coast Guard, how they should actually be hating on the Coast Guard, and why to really love the Coast Guard.
The nickname “Silent Service” may have been claimed by submariners, but the Coast Guard is a close second. Serving without glory or even sometimes a mention, it is only fair that they get the last installment of “The Hater’s Guide.”
The easiest ways to make fun of the Coast Guard
Puddle Pirates, Shallow Water Sailors, no matter what way you slice it, it’s pretty easy to come up with a nickname or two for the sailors who rarely venture into the deep, open ocean.
Not being part of the Department of Defense has always been a primary reason for the Coast Guard’s weird place in military culture. After falling under the Departments of the Treasury, Transportation, and even a brief stint with the Navy, we finally settled into our current place with the Department of Homeland Security, making us the armed services’ version of that kid who has been to five high schools in four years. To make matters worse, when most people think of the Department of Homeland Security, they picture the TSA, not the Coast Guard, and that’s not an association that anyone wants.
They are at attention.
While the Navy Working Uniform (NWU) gets hate for blending a sailor into the water, the Coast Guard’s uncomfortable and less-than-useful Operational Dress Uniform, or ODU, manages to be even worse than the NWU. Luckily, there are units in the Coast Guard, such as Port Security Units (PSUs) that wear the Navy’s Type III uniform just to look tacticool.
When people start making fun of us and we run out of comebacks, we just kind of throw the “Search and Rescue” card and hope it sticks.
Why to actually hate the Coast Guard
You’re out on the water, having a good time and enjoying a beer or two, and suddenly the blue lights come on and the Coast Guard wants to board your vessel. Before you know it, you’re racking up fines for anything from not having enough lifejackets to drinking behind the wheel of your boat. While they’re just doing part of their job as America’s water cops, no one likes the cops shutting down their party.
Most of the movies made about the Coast Guard have just been flat-out awful, and caused a lot of grief. The Soviet escort vessel in The Hunt for Red October is actually an active Coast Guard vessel that someone allowed to be repainted. The incident reportedly almost got several officers kicked out of the Coast Guard. No one can forget The Guardian with Ashton Kutcher and Kevin Costner, which is the Coast Guard’s version of Top Gun, except without the volleyball scene or any likable characters. For generations past, Onionhead ruined Andy Griffith’s already floundering career.
There is no real “bad” duty station in the Coast Guard. Sure, there’s Alaska, one of the most beautiful states in the union. There’s also all the picturesque port cities across the U.S. and Puerto Rico, like Charleston, Miami, Tampa, San Juan, Honolulu, and San Diego. If there’s a place where people buy vacation homes, you bet there’s a Coast Guard station there.
We’re smarter, and we know it. To join the Coast Guard, you need a higher ASVAB AFQT score to join than you do with any other branch. While the minimum requirements for all the branches change with the needs of the service, a score of a 30-40 will get a prospective recruit into any of the other services, the Coast Guard expects a minimum of 40-50 from their applicants. Even with this, the wait list for Coast Guard boot camp is regularly six to nine months long, and even after boot camp, it can be two years before an E-2 or E-3 ever sees their “A” school.
Why you should love the Coast Guard
While reindeer have become a staple in the culture of wintertime America, there would have been no reindeer – and possibly no Alaska – if it weren’t for the Coast Guard. After a failed attempt by the Army to create order in Alaska, the Revenue Cutter Service was tasked with keeping the territory in line. Over the course of the next 100 years, they would save natives and settlers alike from death by starvation and illness. From Capt. “Hell Roaring” Michael Healy, who brought reindeer to Alaska from Siberia to save starving natives, to the crew of the Cutter Unalga who set up an orphanage for children left parentless by the Spanish Influenza, the Coast Guard has always had the best interest of the people in mind. With a commitment that persists to the modern day, the Coast Guard is closely tied to Alaska, its people, its industry, and its unpredictable weather.
After the American Revolution ended, the U.S. Navy was disbanded. From 1790 through 1801, while also acting as the only source of revenue generation for the nation, the U.S. Revenue-Marine was the only naval force that the fledgling nation had to protect them from terrors of the seas like as the Barbary pirates until proper frigates could be commissioned.
Even the Marine Corps needs heroes. On September 28, 1942, Signalman 1st Class Douglas Munro saved the lives of nearly 500 Marines at Guadalcanal by using his Higgins boat as a shield to protect the last men being evacuated from the beach. He was killed by enemy fire, but his last words were supposedly “Did they get off?”
One of the Marines that he saved that day was none other than then-Lt. Col. Chesty Puller. For his bravery, Munro posthumously became the only Coast Guardsman to receive the Medal of Honor.
There are less than 43,000 active duty Coasties and 7,000 reservists. The yearly budget is less than $10.5 billion, which is man-for-man 60 percent less funding than the Navy. But every day, in every weather, the Coast Guard will be there to protect and defend the shores, rivers, and lakes of the U.S. Doing so much more than we should be able to with so much less, $3.9 billion worth of drugs are taken off the street every year. Thousands of lives and millions of dollars in maritime assets are saved. There are pilots to fly when there are no other pilots willing or able to. Though people may not remember that we’re part of the U.S. military, it doesn’t ever stop us from having pride in what we do.