Rob Riggle is no stranger to We Are the Mighty — and it’s no secret that we’re big fans of his. But it’s not just the fact that he’s a hilarious, self-made comedian with a background of service with the United States Marine Corps Reserve, it’s also because he’s a genuine, charitable guy.
This year, he’s back at it once again. Beginning June 1, Riggle is hosting yet another Big Slick Celebrity Weekend to raise money for Kansas City’s Children’s Mercy. Last year, Riggle and his supporting cast of celebrities from all walks of life helped raise over $1.7 million dollars for the award-winning hospital.
It all started in 2010 when Riggle called on two other alumni of Shawnee Mission South High School: Paul Rudd and Jason Sudeikis. Over the course of 9 short weeks, the three put together a weekend chock full of events to raise money for Children’s Mercy Hospital. Dubbed the Big Slick Celebrity Weekend, their very first run earned over $120,000 for the hospital.
(Big Slick Celebrity Weekend)
Since then, things have gotten bigger and better than ever. The three called on other celebrities, including Will Ferrel, Weird Al Yankovic, Olivia Wilde, James Van Der Beek, and many more, to come help grow the event to make an even bigger impact — and it’s showing no signs of slowing down.
This year, the crew has plenty of fun in store. It all starts on the afternoon of Friday, June 1 when celebrities take the field to play a game of softball. After that, players from the Major League step in — the Oakland Athletics are taking on the Kansas City Royals. Each ticket to the MLB game sold includes a $5 donation to Big Slick.
Then, the following day, the festivities continue as celebs hit the lanes for a bowling tournament. Finally, Saturday night is capped off with a party and auction where they’ll put up some great items, all sold to the benefit of Children’s Mercy.
Children’s Mercy has been repeatedly ranked by U.S. News & World Report as one of “America’s Best Children’s Hospitals.” They’ve been helping treat the sick and supporting medical research since 1897 and, with your help, they can keep offering the very best in care to kids across both Kansas and Missouri.
To learn more about the Big Slick Celebrity Weekend 2018, check out their website. To get a glimpse into the fun-filled weekend, check out this clip from last year’s event!
The USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier is hanging back outside the Persian Gulf, where US carriers have sailed for decades, amid concerns that tensions with Iran could boil over.
The US deployed a carrier strike group, bomber task force, and other military assets to the Middle East in response to threats posed by Iran. Although the Pentagon has attempted to shed some light on the exact nature of the threat, questions remain.
One US military asset deployed to US Central Command was the Lincoln, which was rushed into the region with a full carrier air wing of fighters but hasn’t entered the narrow Strait of Hormuz, a vital strategic waterway where Iranian speedboats routinely harass American warships.
As this symbol of American military might sailed into the region, President Donald Trump tweeted, “If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran.” Both the White House and the Pentagon have repeatedly emphasized that the purpose of these deployments is deterrence, not war.
The US has employed a “maximum pressure” campaign of harsh sanctions and the military deployments, as national security adviser John Bolton called it, to counter Iran, while also offering to negotiate without preconditions. The US military has meanwhile been keeping the Lincoln out of the Persian Gulf and away from Iran’s doorstep.
The carrier is currently operating in the Arabian Sea. “You don’t want to inadvertently escalate something,” Capt. Putnam Browne, the carrier’s commander, told the Associated Press June 3, 2019.
When the US Navy sent destroyers attached to the carrier strike group through the Strait of Hormuz and into the Persian Gulf, they entered without harassment. But Iranian leaders immediately issued a warning that US ships were in range of their missiles.
Rear Adm. John F.G. Wade, commander of the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group, told Military.com the carrier is still in a position to “conduct my mission wherever and whenever needed.” He stressed that the aircraft carrier is there to respond to “credible threats” posed by Iran and Iranian-backed forces in the region.
The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln underway in the Atlantic Ocean during a strait transit exercise on Jan. 30, 2019.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Clint Davis)
And the carrier is certainly not sitting idle in the region.
Components of Carrier Air Wing 7 attached to the USS Abraham Lincoln linked up with US Air Force B-52H Stratofortress bombers over the weekend for combined arms exercises that involved simulated strikes. “We are postured to face any threats toward US forces in this region,” Lt. Gen. Joseph Guastella, the Combined Forces Air Component commander, said in a statement.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
If fighting the well-defended Viet Cong on their home turf wasn’t dangerous enough, imagine having to crawl your way through a series of extremely tight and narrow underground tunnels to capture or kill them.
Armed with only a flashlight, a single pistol, or maybe just a knife, a “Tunnel Rat” didn’t have much in the way of defense.
“The most dangerous part would be psyching up to get into the tunnel,” Carl Cory says, a former 25th Infantry Div Tunnel Rat. “That was the part that was most frightening because you didn’t what you were getting into.”
It was the duty of the brave Tunnel Rat to slide alone into the tunnel’s entrance then search for the enemy and other valuable intelligence. Due to the intense and dangerous nature of the job, many Tunnel Rats became so emotionally desensitized that entering a spider hole was just another day at the office — no big deal.
With danger lurking around every corner, the Tunnel Rat not only had to dodge the various savage booby traps set by the Viet Cong, but typically only carried 6-7 rounds of ammunition with him even though the tunnels were commonly used to house up to a few dozen enemy combatants.
With all those physical dangers to consider, the courageous troop still needed to maintain a clear and precise mental state of mind and not let the fear get the best of him.
After completing a search, many American and South Vietnamese units would rig the tunnels with C-4 explosives or bring in the always productive flamethrowers to flush out or kill any remaining hostiles.
In early October 2018, a US Navy destroyer sailed close to Chinese-occupied territory in the area, a freedom-of-navigation exercise meant in part to contest Beijing’s expansive claims.
During that exercise, a Chinese destroyer approached the US ship — reportedly as close as 45 feet — in what Navy officials called an “unsafe and unprofessional maneuver.”
“The tension is escalating, and that could prove to be dangerous to both sides,” a senior US official told Reuters on Sept. 30, 2018, after China canceled a meeting between its officials and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis — the second senior-level meeting called off in a week.
The encounter between the US and Chinese ships took place near the Spratly Islands, at the southern end of the South China Sea. Farther north, at Scarborough Shoal, the US, the Philippines, and China have already butted heads, and their long-standing dispute there could quickly escalate.
The Philippines took over Scarborough after its independence in 1946. But in 2012, after a stand-off with the Philippines, China took de facto control of the shoal, blocking Filipino fishermen from entering.
Map showing territory claimed by the Philippines, including internal waters, territorial sea, international treaty limits, and exclusive economic zone.
Chinese control of Scarborough — about 130 miles west of the Philippine island of Luzon and about 400 miles from China’s Hainan Island — is an ongoing concern for the Philippines and the US.
Given the shoal’s proximity to the Luzon, if “China puts air-defense missiles and surface-to-surface missiles there, like they have at other South China Sea islands, they could reach the Philippines,” Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, said in late August 2018.
That would be “the most direct sort of pushback on the Philippines’ attempt to assert control over Scarborough Shoal,” said Clark, a former US Navy officer.
Beyond a challenge to Manila, a military presence on Scarborough could give China more leverage throughout the South China Sea.
Scarborough would be one point in a triangle edged by the Spratlys and the Paracel Islands, both of which already house Chinese military outposts.
While China can use shore-based assets in the air-defense identification zone it declared over the East China Sea in 2013, the eastern fringe of the South China Sea is out of range for that, Clark said.
“So their thought is, the Chinese would really like to develop Scarborough Shoal and put a radar on it so they can start enforcing an ADIZ, and that would allow them to kind of complete their argument that they have control and oversight over the South China Sea,” Clark said.
Given Scarborough’s proximity to bases in the Philippines and the country’s capital, Manila, as well as to Taiwan, a presence there would extend China’s intelligence-gathering ability and maritime-domain awareness, said Greg Poling, director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“But above and beyond the military implications … China has a political interest in establishing control over all the waters and airspace within the nine-dash line, in both peace and war,” Poling said in an email, referring to the boundary of China’s expansive claim in the South China Sea.
‘What is our red line?’
After 2012, Manila took its case to the Permanent Court for Arbitration at The Hague, which ruled in favor of the Philippines in July 2016, rejecting China’s claims and finding that Beijing had interfered with Philippine rights in its exclusive economic zone, including at Scarborough. (EEZs can extend 230 miles from a country’s coast.)
Ahead of that ruling, the US detected signs China was getting ready to reclaim land at the shoal, and then-President Barack Obama reportedly warned Chinese President Xi Jinping of serious consequences for doing so, which was followed by China withdrawing its ships from the area.
President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden talk with Vice President Xi Jinping of the People’s Republic of China and members of the Chinese delegation following their bilateral meeting in the Oval Office, Feb. 14, 2012.
(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
That warning was followed by increased Pentagon activity in the region, including flying A-10 Thunderbolts, which are ground-attack aircraft, near Scarborough a month later.
Tensions between China and Philippines eased after the ruling was issued, however, as Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who took office in July 2016, pursued rapprochement.
The Philippines said in February 2017 that it expected China to try to build on the reef, which Manila called “unacceptable.” The following month, Chinese authorities removed comments by an official about building on Scarborough from state-backed media, raising questions about Beijing’s plans.
More recently, the Philippines warned China of its limits at Scarborough.
“What is our red line? Our red line is that they cannot build on Scarborough [Shoal],” Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said in May 2018.
Cayetano said the other two red lines were Chinese action against Philippine troops stationed at Second Thomas Shoal in the Spratlys and the unilateral exploration of natural resources in the area. He said China had been made aware of the Philippine position and that Beijing had its own “red line” for the area.
In July 2018, the acting chief justice of the Philippine supreme court, Antonio Carpio, said Manila should ask the US make Scarborough an “official red line,” requesting its recognition as Philippine territory under the US-Philippine Mutual Defense Treaty, which obligates each to come to the aid of the other in case of attack.
“Duterte himself has reportedly said that Chinese construction of a permanent facility at Scarborough would be a red line for the Philippines,” Poling said.
The Philippines’ “one real option” to try to prevent Chinese construction on Scarborough would be to invoke that defense treaty, Poling said.
President Rodrigo Duterte and President Xi Jinping shake hands prior to their bilateral meetings at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, October 2016.
It’s not clear if the treaty applies to the shoal, Poling added, “but the treaty definitely does apply to an attack on Filipino armed forces or ships anywhere in the Pacific.”
“So Manila would probably need to send Navy or Coast Guard ships to interfere with any work China attempted at Scarborough … and then call for US intervention should China use force.”
That could cause China to back off, as Obama’s warning in 2016 did, Poling said.
While China has pulled back from previous attempts to build on the shoal, “they’ve got ships floating around the area just waiting for the chance,” Clark said in late August 2018. “So I wouldn’t be surprised if China tries to restart that project in the next year to … gauge what the US reaction is and see if they can get away with it.”
That would almost certainly force the hand of the US and the Philippines.
“If China’s able to start building an island there and put systems on it, and the Philippines doesn’t resist … all bets are off,” Clark said. “China feels emboldened to say the South China Sea is essentially a Chinese area.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Army researchers recently tested ground robots performing military-style exercises, much like soldier counterparts, at a robotics testing site in Pennsylvania recently as part of a 10-year research project designed to push the research boundaries in robotics and autonomy.
RoMan, short for Robotic Manipulator, is a tracked robot that is easily recognized by its robotic arms and hands — necessary appendages to remove heavy objects and other road debris from military vehicles’ paths. What’s harder to detect is the amount of effort that went into programming the robot to manipulate complex environments.
The exercise was one of several recent integration events involving a decade of research led by scientists and engineers at the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Army Research Laboratory who teamed with counterparts from the NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory, University of Washington, University of Pennsylvania, Carnegie Mellon University and General Dynamics Land Systems.
As part of ARL’s Robotics Collaborative Technology Alliance, the work focused on state-of-the-art basic and applied research related to ground robotics technologies with an overarching goal of developing autonomy in support of manned-unmanned teaming. Research within the RCTA program serves as foundational research in support of future combat ground vehicles.
An Army robot plans what to do to address a debris pile, full of objects.
(U.S. Army photo)
The recent robot exercise was the culmination of research to develop a robot that reasons about unknown objects and their physical properties, and decides how to best interact with different objects to achieve a specific task.
“Given a task like ‘clear a path’, the robot needs to identify potentially relevant objects, figure out how objects can be grasped by determining where and with what hand shape, and decide what type of interaction to use, whether that’s lifting, moving, pushing or pulling to achieve its task,” said CCDC ARL’s Dr. Chad Kessens, Robotic Manipulation researcher.
During the recent exercise, RoMan successfully completed such as multi-object debris clearing, dragging a heavy object (e.g., tree limb), and opening a container to remove a bag.
Kessens said soldier teammates are able to give verbal commands to the robot using natural human language in a scenario.
“Planning and learning and their integration cut across all these problems. The ability of the robot to improve its performance over time and to adapt to new scenarios by building models on-the-fly while incorporating the power of model-based reasoning will be important to achieving the kinds of unstructured tasks we want to be able to do without putting soldiers in harm’s way,” Kessens said.
A US soldier accused of supporting the Islamic State believed that Hitler was right, the moon landings were fake, and 9/11 was an inside job.
Army Sgt. 1st Class Ikaika Erik Kang, arrested by an FBI SWAT team over the weekend after being accused of attempting to aid ISIS, was a noted conspiracy theorist, according to a soldier who knew him.
His former Army bunkmate from 2013, Dustin Lyles, told The Associated Press that he and Kang practiced martial arts together and discussed conspiracy theories, particularly the idea that the US staged the 9/11 terror attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Kang, who belongs to the 25th Infantry Division in Hawaii and worked as an air traffic control operator, pledged allegiance to ISIS, and attempted to send classified and unclassified military documents to members of the terror group. He had no idea that these supposed members were actually undercover FBI agents.
Kang apparently told a confidential human source as recently as March that “Hitler was right, saying he believed in the mass killing of Jews,” according to court filings. He also said that America was the only terrorist organization in the world.
In addition to embracing conspiracy theories, Kang sought to provide support to ISIS in numerous ways, including wanting to provide combat training to help ISIS members.
Kang’s long history of strange statements and support for ISIS resulted in him losing his security clearance in 2012. For an unknown reason, his security clearance was reinstated in 2013 after he “complied with military requirements stemming from the investigation.” The Army finally referred Kang’s case to the FBI in 2016 for more serious investigation, which culminated in an arrest.
The Army declined to elaborate to The Daily Caller News Foundation on why Kang was permitted to regain his clearance after making pro-ISIS comments.
The US is warning the Philippines to think very carefully about its plan to purchase military equipment from Russia, including diesel-electric submarines, and stressing that Russia is an unsavory partner.
The Philippines, a US ally in East Asia, is interested in acquiring its first batch of submarines to strengthen the navy amid tensions with China in the South China Sea. Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said in June 2018 that his country needs submarines to keep up with neighboring states.
“We are the only ones that do not have [undersea capabilities],” Lorenzana explained at a flag raising ceremony, the Manila Times reported. “We are looking at [South] Korea and Russia and other countries [as source of the submarines],” he further revealed. Russia is reportedly willing to sell the Philippines Kilo-class diesel-electric submarines and offering soft loans if the Philippines cannot afford the desired vessels.
“I think they should think very carefully about that,” Randall Schriver, United States Department of Defense Assistant Secretary for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs, said in Manila Aug. 16, 2018. “If they were to proceed with purchasing major Russian equipment, I don’t think that’s a helpful thing to do [in our] alliance, and I think ultimately we can be a better partner than the Russians can be.”
Russian Black Sea Fleet’s B-265 Krasnodar Improved Kilo-class submarine.
“We have to understand the nature of this regime in Russia. I don’t need to go through the full laundry list: Crimea, Ukraine, the chemical attack in the UK,” he added, “So, you’re investing not only in the platforms, but you’re making a statement about a relationship.”
Schriver encouraged the Philippines to consider purchasing US systems, as interoperability is key to cooperation between US and Philippine forces. After his meeting with Schriver, Lorenzana reportedly flew to Moscow for meetings with Russian officials, according to the Philippine Star.
During his time in Manila, Schriver assured the Philippines that the US would be a “good ally” and have its back in the spat with China over the South China Sea. “We’ll be a good ally … there should be no misunderstanding or lack of clarity on the spirit and the nature of our commitment,” he said at a time when the Philippines is charting an independent foreign policy that is less aligned with US interests.
The US has been putting pressure on allies and partners to avoid purchasing Russian weapons systems. Turkey’s interest in purchasing Russia’s S-400 surface-to-air missile system recently tanked a deal for the acquisition of the F-35 Lightning Joint Strike Fighter. The US has also issued warnings to India, Saudi Arabia, and others to reconsider plans to acquire Russian systems.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
In a moved that shook the federal workforce, President Trump ordered a freeze in the hiring process of all executive branch departments, effective at noon on January 22, 2017.
A report from the Office of Personnel Management estimates that veterans made up about 44 percent of new hires in the executive branch during fiscal year 2015. The total number of veterans employed was 623,755, or roughly 31 percent of the entire executive branch.
So what does this mean for veterans now in the process of seeking employment with the government? Unfortunately, even federal employees currently working in the executive branch aren’t sure.
We Are the Mighty consulted with a Division Director at one of the federal departments, who asked to remain anonymous due to the department being ordered to cease all public communications.
“We just don’t have many answers,” the source told WATM. “This is a very different political environment and we don’t know what to expect.”
We Are the Mighty obtained the “Memorandum for Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies,” signed by acting director of Office of Management and Budget Mark Sandy.
Sent to the heads of the departments, the memorandum read, in part, “An individual who has received a job offer/appointment prior to January 22, 2017, and who has received documentation from the agency that specifies a confirmed start date on or before February 22, 2017, should report to work on that start date.”
Individuals who were offered a position before Jan. 22 but do not have a start date (or a date after February 22) may find that employment offer rescinded. According to the Memorandum for Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies, those positions offered will be under review.
Agencies will be tasked with considering “merit system principles, essential mission priorities, and current agency resources and funding levels” when it comes to determining whether job offers should be rescinded.
At this time, the hiring freeze applies to every executive department except for the Department of Defense, and even then, it only allows for recruiting into active duty.
The leadership in any given executive department may grant an exemption to the freeze if he or she believes it to be in the best interest of national security or public safety, according to the press release from the White House.
This public safety exemption rule could be what helps the Department of Veterans Affairs continue to attempt to fill what it might deem necessary positions among the 3,473 jobs listed on its website — though it is unclear exactly how many of those positions could be considered in the interest of national security or public safety.
That same argument can be made for a large number of positions available at the Department of Defense. As DoD employees are directly related to national security, the department seems to have wide latitude over how it will respond to the hiring freeze.
The President has given the Office of Management and Budget 90 days to present a “long-term plan to reduce the size of the Federal Government’s workforce through attrition.” Upon implementation of that plan, the executive order will expire.
This hiring freeze is part of one of the many campaign promises President Trump made last year to drastically shrink the federal government.
Women are capable of incredible things, including feats of physical strength, athleticism and tremendous bravery. I have always been a strong supporter of equality for women, and women in the military are no exception. With that in mind, the playing field between men and women in the military isn’t level. Equal doesn’t mean identical.
Often, they’re unaware of these potential hardships until they experience them firsthand. Women are assets to the military without a doubt, but they also deserve to know the details before they sign up. Here’s what any prospective female recruit should consider before they enlist.
Sexual assault is a real threat.
Of all the risks to women in the military, sexual assault is the most widely publicized. While male soldiers are also at risk, women have a heightened risk in comparison. The risk is highest for those stationed on ships; at some high-risk installations studied in 2014, 10% of women were assaulted – and that’s only what was reported. At the two most dangerous, 15% of women were assaulted. The risk is much lower for most military bases, but because studies are done after the fact, it’s impossible to know which bases are the most dangerous currently.
All branches of the military have been working to improve these sobering stats, but between 2016 and 2018, the number of assaults actually increased. Some of the pinpointed factors included alcohol use and off-base parties. Victims also had certain common qualities, like joining the military at a younger age and having a prior history of sexual abuse. On average, one in 17 civilian women will be sexually assaulted in the US. For military women ages 17 to 20, the risk is one in 8, and around 25% of women report sexual harassment at some point during their time of service.
Experiences like these have an impact on mental health.
Many women choose not to report their assaults for fear that their case won’t be taken seriously, or that it will impact their career potential. Either way, victims are more likely to experience PTSD, depression and anxiety that can last for years.
More women in service will serve safely than not, but it’s important to be aware that fending off male attention can be part of the job…even though it shouldn’t be.
Women have a much higher risk of injury in certain military roles.
In close-combat positions and others that require ongoing heavy lifting and extreme physical exertion, women are more likely to experience injuries like stress fractures and torn muscles. Women are more than capable of holding their own in combat, but the particularly physical roles don’t come without risks. Pelvic floor injuries are a particular problem related to carrying heavy weights, potentially leading to urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse.
Irregular meals have a more pronounced effect.
Eating inconsistently impacts women more heavily than it does men. Many women experience irregular menstruation, or none at all, with potential impacts on future fertility. Since periods can be irritating to deal with when you’re taking on a role that’s heavily physical and allows very little downtime, some opt to take birth control that eliminates periods completely. The hormones they include can have substantial side effects when taken long term, including low bone density and metabolic issues.
Women are more likely to receive a physical disability discharge.
According to one study published by the Army surgeon general’s office, women are 67% more likely to leave on a physical disability discharge due to a musculoskeletal disorder. That statistic was also from 2011, before the most intense combat jobs allowed women to apply.
Side effects can take years to show up.
It’s possible that even women who leave the military feeling healthy will feel the consequences of hard, physical labor later in life. Some female veterans have reported issues like osteoporosis, muscle atrophy, low endurance and infertility, which they believe to be the result of their time in the military.
Military careers can be rewarding for women, too. As long as they know what to expect.
The point of this piece isn’t to tell women they should stay out of combat or avoid the military. That said, since there are risks unique to female members of service, it would be unfair to encourage them to enlist without offering full transparency.
Some military roles can increase the risk of pelvic floor and musculoskeletal injuries, and sexual harassment and assault is an issue that is far from solved, but many women also climb the ranks proudly without a hitch. Now you know the risks. If you still feel a combat role is where you belong, don’t let any statistic hold you back.
Service members are awesome people — they really are. But sometimes, they can do some pretty wild sh*t. Of course you’ve heard of your unit’s token boot who bought a Mustang with an insane interest rate (you know who I’m talking about) and you’ve probably heard about the guy who creates elaborate, phallic murals in the port-a-johns, but have you heard of the soldier who legally changed his name to Optimus Prime?
That’s right — the leader of the Autobots from Hasbro’s famed line of toys served in the United States Army National Guard. During the ’80s, when the Transformers animated series and toys were very much in vogue, I’m sure a lot of kids out there felt like Optimus Prime was their daddy — and it’s very much possible that one of those kids ended up raising their right hand after 9/11.
This is his story:
Generation One Optimus Prime as showcased in 2018’s ‘Bumblebee.’
The Transformers, the animated series, premiered the same year as the first line of Transformers toys (referred to as “Generation One” or “G1”), and it garnered a strong following. Kids spent their afternoons glued to the television sets, watching their favorite toys turn from robot to vehicle and back again as they fought against (or for, depending on the robot) the powers of evil.
Plenty of the boys tuning in didn’t have father figures around, and they turned to the show’s strong protagonist, leader of the leader of the Autobots (the definitive “good guys”), Optimus Prime, for guidance.
Born in 1971, Scott Edward Nall was about 13 when the show premiered. As a boy who had lost his father only a year earlier, he admired the leadership qualities and unwavering morality of Optimus Prime.
“My dad passed away the year before and I didn’t have anybody really around,” said Nall. “So, I really latched onto him when I was a kid.”
Soldiers with the 761st Firefighting Team prepare to fight a fire during an annual training exercise at the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center in June 2016.
(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Capt. Matthew Riley)
Later, Nall joined the Army and become a member of Ohio’s National Guard under the 5964th Engineer Detachment with the Tactical Crash Rescue Unit as a firefighter. In May, 2001, on his 30th birthday, he had his name legally changed to match that of the Autobots’ fearless leader, Optimus Prime.
Prime later got a letter from a general at the Pentagon stating that it was great to have the commander of the Autobots in the National Guard. His fellow soldiers, however, may not have had the same opinion.
After he changed his name, of course, he had to update all of his forms, nametags, IDs, and uniforms. As one might expect, his friends couldn’t let it go without giving him some sh*t. According to Prime,
“They razzed me for three months to no end. They really dug into me about it.”
The resemblance is uncanny.
Optimus Prime would go on to deploy to the Middle East in 2003 and continue to serve his country.
Brig. Gen. Edward L. Vaughan is the Air National Guard Special Assistant to Maj. Gen. Scott F. Smith, the Director of Training and Readiness, Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Arlington, Va. The directorate, encompassing seven divisions and the Air Force Agency for Modeling and Simulation, is responsible for policy, guidance and oversight of Air Force operations.
General Vaughan also serves as the lead for the Air Force Physiological Episodes Action Team (AF-PEAT) and co-leads the ad hoc Joint-PEAT, along with Navy Rear Adm. Fredrick R. Luchtman.
General Vaughan completed Reserve Officer Training Corps at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and received his commission as honor graduate from ANG’s Academy of Military Science. He previously served in leadership roles at the squadron, group, wing and higher headquarters levels in both the mobility and combat air forces. General Vaughan commanded the 156th Airlift Wing, Puerto Rico, and Detachment 1 of the 13th Air Expeditionary Group (formerly the 13th Expeditionary Support Squadron), Antarctica.
During an interview with Airman Magazine, Gen. Vaughan discussed his new post leading the joint investigation of Unexplained Physiological Episodes (UPEs) and his experiences as a mobility and combat airman and safety officer.
Airman Magazine: Please tell us about your new job investigating Unexplained Physiological Episodes.
Brig. Gen. Vaughan: As part of my role working in A3T, I’ve been tasked by the A3 Lt. Gen. Mark Kelly to lead the Physiological Episodes Action Team, also known as the PEAT.
PE stands for physiological episode or event. Essentially it’s any anomaly in the interaction among the aircrew, equipment, and environment that causes adverse physical or cognitive symptoms, which may impede the ability to fly..
What we’ve done across the Air Force and all aircraft, but most recently with the T-6 fleet, is to investigate what causes PEs. In some cases an Unknown PE will immediately reveal to us what happened. Maybe there was some sort of contamination in the cockpit due to an oil leak or some other fumes, so we’re able to identify it as a known physiological event.
In other cases, pilots will experience symptoms, come down and land, report them and we don’t know exactly what the cause is until we investigate further.
Members of the Navy Physiological Episodes Action Team and Air Force PEAT listen to a discussion between Rear Adm. Fredrick R. “Lucky” Luchtman (left) and Air Force Brig. Gen. Edward L. “Hertz” Vaughan (right) as they lay the ground work for the Joint Physiological Episodes Action Team, or J-PEAT.
(Photo by Scot Cregan)
Airman Magazine: Tell me about the PEAT. What is the structure and objective of the team?
Brig. Gen. Vaughan: The AF-PEAT is Air Force Physiological Episodes Action Team. Now, previously this has been known as the UPE IT or Unexplained Physiological Events Integration Team. We’re working very closely with our Navy partners and they came up with a pretty good name – Physiological Episodes Action Team. In the interest of both jointness and keeping it simple for all the flying community, we’ve aligned names with the Navy.
Of course, that’s not the only thing we’ve learned from the Navy. The Navy’s had some great success in exploring what happens in physiological episodes, what happens to aviators, and we’ve been able to learn a lot from them and they’ve learned from us as well.
Airman Magazine: How does the PEAT operate?
Brig. Gen. Vaughan: We have two meetings per week. Every Friday the Air Force PEAT meets. Who is on this action team? The answer is those people who are required for that particular meeting.
We’ll have the topics of the week, sometimes we’re looking at specific incidents with airplanes, specific episodes, and other times we may be investigating new equipment that’s coming out, new procedures, new training or maybe there’s the results of an investigation that we’ll need to review. We have standing members of the team, about half a dozen, that are there at every meeting.
Then we have another kind of a second layer of folks, which gets us up closer to 20 people, who come in as needed. That second layer includes folks from the acquisition community or the 711th Human Performance Wing. We don’t necessarily need to have them come to every meeting, but there’s times we really need somebody from human performance wing present. That’s one meeting.
Then immediately following that meeting, we have, what I call the Joint-PEAT. It’s really an ad hoc Joint Physiological Episodes Action Team with the Navy. It is very much a joint effort in that we work closely together and meet weekly to keep a steady battle rhythm so as things come up during the week, if they’re not an emergency or if it’s not something that we’ve got to address right at that minute, we’ll be able to put it together on Friday. We know that once a week we’re going to have a meeting where we can sit down face-to-face and hash these things out.
My Navy counterpart is Rear Adm. Frederick Luckman, he goes by “Lucky”. My call sign is “Hertz”. We immediately got to a Hertz-Lucky professional friendly demeanor. We go through an awful lot of coffee. He and I meet as often as we can to share data. Like I said, we cannot share the information fast enough.
The Navy is doing a lot of good work. They had a series of issues with physiology not only in the F-18, but T-45s, and they’ve had very good success in their T-6 fleet. They have a T-6 fleet that’s about half the size of the Air Force’s. They have slightly different models, some of theirs are newer models, but the oxygen systems are very similar.
The Navy adopted early on, in response to some of the lessons they learned from other airframes, significant maintenance practices in their T-6 oxygen system that we found very useful. We watched the Navy adopt those, saw the results of it and in those cases we’ve been able to adopt it exactly the same way that they have.
Brig. Gen. Edward L. Vaughan, head of the Air Force Unexplained Physiological Events Integration Team, and Rear Adm. Fredrick R. Luchtman, Navy Physiological Episodes Action Team lead, discuss ongoing efforts to minimize the risk of Physiological Episodes.
(U.S. Navy photo by Cmdr. Scot Cregan)
Airman Magazine: How does the timely resolution of PEs, affect training and readiness?
Brig. Gen. Vaughan: Looking at the National Defense Strategy, lethality is the primary objective and, for the Air Force, that equates to readiness. Are we ready to fight? You know, the question is readiness for what? Ready to do what? It’s ready to prosecute the war, ready to fight. In some cases, being ready to go out and influence and be that presence where we need to be.
If we’re having equipment struggles, delays in our programs, or we’re having to stand-down aircraft or cancel missions because of physiological episodes that will get in the way of us being ready. It will get in the way of us executing any plans we may have out there. So it’s important for us to get the information back, put the fixes in, get those funded, fielded and executed as quickly as possible. Once we do that, we’re going to enhance readiness and capability as we grow toward the Air Force We Need.
It also eliminates a distraction. Anytime you have aircraft mishaps of any kind, anytime you have a cluster of these PEs, it’s going to create a distraction, not just for the frontline airman, but for their families, and anybody else associated with it. Anybody involved with the operation and maintenance will have a distraction. That distraction takes our eye off the readiness ball. That’s one of the reasons that you’ll see the PEAT, Physiological Episodes Acting Team, embedded right in A3T. A3T’s tasking is training and readiness.
Airman Magazine: What types of symptoms are commonly associated with PEs?
Brig. Gen. Vaughan: Symptoms span the spectrum of what can happen to people on airplanes. I’ll caveat this with Air Force aviators receive extensive training in physiology and what may happen to them in tactical aviation. All pilots and other aircrew going through their initial training, experience the hypobaric chamber, we call it the altitude chamber. They get used to what it’s like to operate at high altitudes and what happens during decompression. They also have routine refresher training in all aspects of aviation physiology.
One of the main reasons for doing that training is so that each aviator can learn what their individual symptoms will be. No two people will react the same to an aircraft or environmental stimulus and, in fact, the same person may have different reactions on different days based on fatigue, fitness, nutrition, or other personal factors.
It’s important for each aviator to have a sense of what symptoms they might have, especially the early onset symptoms, so they can take early appropriate action to safely recover the aircraft or get out of the environment that’s causing the problem.
Some of these symptoms can range from things like tingling in the extremities, fingers and toes, headaches or nausea. There are actually cases of folks having euphoria, while other folks may become belligerent. They know if you’re flying along and all of a sudden you just feel a little irritated for no particular reason it may be time to check your oxygen system, look at the environment you’re in or determine if that’s caused by something else. Then take appropriate action to mitigate the risk.
Airman Magazine: You have said that when investigating and mitigating PEs, “We can’t share information fast enough.” Describe what you mean and how that process can be improved?
Brig. Gen. Vaughan: Sharing the right information and then making sense of the information is very important in dealing with this phenomenon. What we do right now in the Air Force is we listen to the pilots. Pilots will land and give us a debrief – What happened? When did it happen? What types of conditions were going on in the airplane?
You’ll find that in the Air Force fleet, and the Navy fleet as well, most of the aircraft have pretty sophisticated sensors when it comes to their engines and other aircraft systems. When they land that information is downloaded, aggregated, and acted upon. Much of the critical data is available real time and available to the pilot for immediate action. Each aircraft is slightly different as technology improves, but the amount of data that we’re able to download from a given flight is enormous. But hard data on the human weapon system is slim to none.
This gets into right into some of the themes of Secretary of the Air Force has talked about going into artificial intelligence, big data analytics. How do we deal with all this data, make some sense of it and not run down the wrong path to get a wrong conclusion?
I will tell you one area though, where we’re still struggling, not only the Air Force, but also the Navy and our colleagues at NASA, is collecting data from the actual human weapon system.
We want to know things like pulse rate, oxygen content in the blood, cognitive functions, any anomalies with eyesight, but these are very hard things to sense independently without interfering with the aviators while they conduct their mission.
That’s a fascinating area of research that’s happening out at the 711th Human Performance Wing at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in conjunction with the Navy Medical Research Unit Dayton. What they’ve started to do, both those labs working together and along with some NASA support, is fielding some prototypes, such as sensors that might go, for example, in the (oxygen) mask or on the pilot’s helmet.
We actually know real-time information about the oxygen system in an airplane. We have sensors on the actual system to know the content of oxygen and other gases that might be presented to the aviator. What we don’t know is what happens in system losses; what happens between the actual oxygen production or the oxygen source and the pilot’s breathing. Furthermore, we don’t know the pilot’s ability to uptake that oxygen. There’s a lot of medical and physiological processes that we need to monitor better.
A technique called Hybrid 3D Printing, developed by AFRL researchers in collaboration with the Wyss Institute at Harvard University, uses additive manufacturing to integrate soft, conductive inks with material substrates to create stretchable electronic devices.
(Wyss Institute photo)
Airman Magazine: What does the end state of this research look like? Are you talking about monitoring physiological responses of pilots during missions in real time?
Brig. Gen. Vaughan: That’s absolutely correct. We’d like to get to an end state where the human weapon system is instrumented in such a way that’s noninvasive and nonintrusive. The aviators won’t feel the sensors and it doesn’t interfere with their duties at all, but that that data is available just like you would read all the instruments on an engine. We’re trying to figure out, is that five years from now, two years from now or 20 years from now?
If you think of the human on the loop or in the loop going forward, especially in cyber systems and integrating across all-domain operations, it’s going to be more important than ever to make sure that the human weapon system is keeping up and that we’re able to monitor that.
So we’re looking at sensors that might be wearable. A lot of folks out in the community are familiar with wearable fitness monitors and the chips that go in your shoes if you’re going to run a race to keep track of where you are. One of the challenges we have in aviation is the sensors that might be worn in commercial practice that people might buy at a local store are not suitable for the aviation environment, particularly tactical aviation.
Not only do you have the pressure and temperature anomalies that occur as airplanes travel up and down, but in tactical aviation, fighters, bombers and training aircraft, there’s an awful lot of G-loading. There can be anomalies that go from high altitude to low altitude in very short order and that has a lot of wear and tear on the sensors. Some sensors are embedded in clothing and depend on contact with the skin. For example, in order to prepare themselves for a mission, aviators will strap down tighter than you might in an automobile to keep them safe, but that may also cause bulges in the clothing that interferes with sensory contact. There’s a lot of research yet to be done and a lot of development ahead of us.
I’m looking forward to the Air Force potentially investing more in that research. I’m especially impressed with our ability to work with our joint partners with the Navy and the Army, which is coming on board later this month, in this PEAT effort. They’ve got a lot of exciting things happening in their aerospace medicine field and then NASA has been a partner throughout. You really can’t beat, from an intellectual capacity standpoint, having partners like the 711th Human Performance Wing and NASA. We’ve got the best partners in the world.
Airman Magazine: Are there other interagency or commercial partners in the research and investigation of PEs?
Brig. Gen. Vaughan: Absolutely. Some of the companies that produce our aircraft have divisions dedicated to human physiology and enhancing the ability of the human to perform in or on the loop. They provide enhancements such as providing sensors and digital displays. In some cases, even an augmented reality display, which we have in many aircraft, where there’s a lens that comes over one eye and not only can you see your environment, but that lens will produce a heads-up display of images that will help you interpret what you’re seeing on the ground.
Not only do we have industry partners that helping us with this, we also have universities and some international partners. Primarily we’re working through the Navy to access the folks that are doing that work on the outside, but we’re going to start working a little more with our international affairs group here in the Air Force to foster those partnerships.
Airman Magazine: Do you see a time when human sensor capability will be baked in rather than bolted on?
Brig. Gen. Vaughan: I think we’re going to get to that point. Right now, we’ve got to be sensitive to the fact, that if we start utilizing every sensor that’s available commercially, we run the risk of interfering with the mission and maybe causing a distraction. The last thing we want to do is have sensors be the cause of problems. We want the sensors to help us solve those problems.
We’re looking at ways to prototype these things. Edwards Air Force Base, for example, where we do a lot of research and development flight testing, has been very instrumental in working with the 711th Human Performance Wing and the system program offices for the airplanes, to include the T-6, F-15, F-16 and others, in doing some remarkable testing that gives us great foundational data. That foundational data is important to determine where we do the development going forward. Also, we recently shook hands on an agreement with the Civil Air Patrol to help us collect, assess, and sort through the many commercially available wearable sensors.
Airman Magazine: What’s the benefit to the force of being able to process and utilize PE data faster?
Brig. Gen. Vaughan: So for example, right now if we have a physiological event in the aircraft, we typically execute emergency procedures, get to a safe backup source of oxygen if it’s available, descend to an altitude where it’s safe to breathe ambient air and then land as soon as possible at the nearest suitable airfield.
Perhaps what will happen in the future, with sensors on board, you may be able to head off that emergency. Sensors may alert the pilots to the fact that they are entering a phase of flight or a set of activities or an environment, where they’re at higher risk of these kinds of anomalies. By alerting the pilot to that, they may be able to mitigate it or avoid a physiological event.
Furthermore, if there is a situation in flight, the sensors on board that gives them real time readings may enable them to do a better job of assessing what’s going on.
But this is where it gets insidious. With physiological events, one serious possible symptom is an inability to assess the situation.
Now that’s a pretty extreme symptom, but you may have those situations come up. In which case, presenting the data to the pilot as numbers or another traditional data format might not be as useful as, maybe, an alert light. There are some programs out there that cause the oxygen mask to vibrate a little bit. We do this with the control stick in airplanes as well. With such an equipped aircraft if you were to get into a stall, the control stick vibrates, They call it a stick shaker. Applying these proven technologies to other areas are all in prototype and being tested.
Zach Demers, an aerospace engineer, demonstrates the Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System (Auto GCAS) in an F-16 flight simulator at the Air Force Research Laboratory, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.
(Photo by Master Sgt. Brian Ferguson)
Airman Magazine: Weren’t you involved in the adoption of another pilot safety system?
Brig. Gen. Vaughan: Formerly, I served as the Air National Guard’s national director of safety. Part of our safety portfolio is flight safety and in that we have some advanced fourth and fifth- generation aircraft, but we also have legacy systems out there. Systems that don’t have baked-in ground collision avoidance systems.
We worked very hard with the system program office and the Pilot Physician program in the United States Air Force to bring on board these Auto G-CAS systems (Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System). We have confirmed saves in situations where the pilot may have lost awareness. It doesn’t have to be a physiological event. It can be task saturation or other things that cause the pilot to lose awareness of proximity to the ground. Traditional GCAS systems will alert the pilot, such as an X symbol in the heads-up display, letting them know they’re near the ground and need to pull back on the stick.
In the Auto G-CAS, the aircraft sensors can actually determine the point where the pilot can no longer recover, due to the limits of human reaction time, and the system takes over the jet and recovers it for the pilot. As soon as the aircraft is in a safe regime, it returns the control back to the pilot. And that’s also had a couple of great saves for us.
Airman Magazine: You mentioned the Pilot Physician program, what is that and are they involved in the J-PEAT and investigating of UPEs?
Brig. Gen. Vaughan:Pilot Physician is a very unique program in the Air Force and its highly specialized. These are individuals are rated aviators of all sorts, but primarily pilots. Then they go to medical school and change their job category. So they’re no longer primarily pilots for the Air Force, they’re now physicians for the Air Force.
They’ve enabled to help us understand what’s going on both operationally and medically and where those two things meet. In other situations, you have pilots who were trying to describe what’s happening to them in the airplane and then you have medical doctors trying to understand that description. There can be things lost in translation between the communities.
The Pilot Physicians speak both aviation and medicine fluently, are able to identify with the pilots and, in many cases, have flown that exact aircraft being investigated.
Lt. Col. Jay Flottmann, pilot physician and 325th Fighter Wing chief of flight safety, explains how a valve in the upper pressure garment and the shape and the size of oxygen delivery hoses and connection points contributed to previously unexplained physiological issues during F-22 flights.
(Photo by Senior Airman Christina Brownlow)
Airman Magazine: Are there specific examples of investigations that benefitted from Pilot Physician experience and expertise?
Brig. Gen. Vaughan: Lt. Col. James “Bones” Flottman was the Pilot Physician directly involved in the F-22 investigation that we did a few years ago. The F-22 had a series of physiological episodes. He was the one that was able, as an F-22 pilot and a physician, to credibly determine that it was a work of breathing issue.
It was a combination of factors, we don’t need to go into all the specifics right here, but he was able to bridge the gap between pilot practices, things they’ve been taught to do and things they did through experience, and what was happening medically. That resulted in improvements in the whole system – improvements in some of the hardware and improvements in the pilot practices. Not only was he able to help the investigation team solve that, he was able to then go back and credibly relate this to the pilots, restoring faith both in the system, in the Air Force process.
There’s another one that is a friend of mine, retired Col. Peter Mapes. Dr. Pete Mapes is a classic Pilot Physician. He was a B-52 pilot and a fantastic doctor, as are all of them. He and I worked closely together on Auto G-CAS, as well as several key people in engineering and operations. He was really the driving force, along with Lt. Col. Kevin Price, at the Air Force and the OSD level to push that development and production through, especially for the legacy aircraft.
He also had a role in many other aviation safety improvements to include helicopters, specifically wire detection. A lot of helicopters have mishaps because they strike power lines. He was instrumental in getting some of those systems put into helicopters and out into the fleet.
He was also instrumental in improving some of the seat designs and some of the pilot-aircraft interface designs as well. Really too many to mention.
Another great a success story for the Air Force, when it comes to the Pilot Physician program is Col. Kathy Hughes, call sign “Fog”. She’s flown the T-38 and A-10, a great flying background, and has been a wonderful physician for the Air Force. She really explored the use, the application and the design of our G-suits and was able to help the Air Force evolve into a full coverage G-suit. So now the G-suits that our fighter aviators fly are more standardized and more effective than the previous generations of flight suits. Thanks, in large part, to her work. I recently met her at aviation safety conference where she is helping commercial interests design better ejection seats.
That’s just three examples. There’s a whole laundry list.
We also have advising both the Navy and Air Force PEAT, Col. William P. Mueller; call sign “Ferris”. Col. Mueller was an F-4 fighter pilot and now one of the top physicians in aerospace medicine. He’s been absolutely invaluable in helping us understand what’s going on with the physiological episodes. He not only sits on the Air Force PEAT, but he also has a permanent membership sitting on the Navy’s PEAT. So he’s part of that joint interaction and offers a fearless perspective on improving training.
Col. Kathryn Hughes, a pilot-physician and director, Human Systems Integration, 711th Human Performance Wing, sits on the stairs of a centrifuge at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, April 22, 2016.
Brig. Gen. Vaughan: I like using the email analogy. So most of us have email. Those that work in an office may have one for work and one for personal use, or maybe even more than that. If you’re like me at all, if you skip checking your emails for even one day, you find yourself in a huge email deficit. Now imagine all the sensors, whether it’s a cyber system, aircraft systems, space system, and each piece of all the data being collected as an email coming to you. Within minutes you would be completely overwhelmed with data. So we’re going to rely on systems to help us sort through the data and present those things that are most important now for decision making.
Those other pieces of information that we might want later for analysis, it will store those and present them at the appropriate time. So that gets after artificial intelligence. We need these systems to work with the human in the loop. We don’t necessarily want it to be standalone. We want it to be integrated with humans and that’s where the real challenge comes in, because as an aviator flying an airplane, the data I want right at that moment to prosecute the fight, may be different than the data a cyber operator working with me in that operation may need at that same moment. Artificial Intelligence or underlying data systems will have to be smart enough to give the data to the operator that’s needed to make the right decision.
I recently spent some time with Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft. I asked him about this wicked technology problem of applying artificial intelligence on the tactical edge. His advice about leveraging cloud technology to perform advanced operations on big data, where and when needed, has been invaluable.
Airman Magazine: How does recorded data on individual pilots allow you establish baseline physiology and find relationships between PEs that may occur in aircrew from different units and bases?
Brig. Gen. Vaughan: We’re already finding benefit from that data, so the 711th Human Performance Wing is working very closely, in this case with the T-6 system program office, and some big data analytic gurus. These folks will take large volumes of data and slice and dice it to find where there might be some differences from what would be considered a baseline or normal.
Then they can dig into those differences and see if there is something to learn. They’re finding a lot of great results that help us improve the systems. Because physiological events involve humans and each human has such a different reaction and an individual person will have a different reaction on a different day, it can be difficult to look at a small sample size and draw any big lessons. We need large sample sizes and that’s where you can start to kind of tease out the pieces of the data that are going to move us forward.
As we worked with the Navy on the Physiological Episode Action Team we have found that pilots in the Air Force and the Navy are more informed than ever. They know people in the tech business and the pilots talk amongst themselves and share information and they’re finding these wearable sensors.
Most of the wearable sensors are not suitable for aviation use. They just can’t provide good data under those conditions, but it’s worth exploring. Talking to Admiral Luckman, we wanted to find a way to get these sensors, and most of them are small things like fitness monitors, that just aren’t allowed in our environment right now, into the cockpit just to see how they survive a flight. The Civil Air Patrol, which flies general aviation aircraft, fly with their smart phones and other types of equipment.
They have a tremendous safety record, but they also have a completely different set of rules than we do. They typically just follow the AIM and the FAA civilian flight rules. Most of those flight rules don’t have any prohibitions on bringing equipment in your pocket or your flight bag.
So recently we sat down with some of the leaders of the Civil Air Patrol to work out a memorandum of understanding whereabouts we’ll get these ideas and sensors to our pilots in the fleet. Some of them will appropriately go through Air Force and Navy channels and may end up being something of a program of record in the long term.
Others that we can’t cross that gap and into the system, we’ll offer those to Civil Air Patrol and, at their option, they can start flying those. It’s not official flight test, but they can at least tell us, does this thing survive a flight up to 10,000 feet and back. And that piece of information might be just enough. That then allows our system program office with the labs to start taking a closer look.
Brig. Gen. Vaughan: So that’s a great question and that’s why I think the development of sensors and better understanding of baseline human physiology is so important.
The RPA environment is just the tip of the iceberg. As we look at humans in the loop or on the loop, human physiology, whether it’s in cyber, RPAs, intel, space, any of the other missions that we’re doing, is a very important consideration.
What we don’t have yet is a tremendous amount of baseline data. What’s physiology supposed to look like in those situations? So when it’s different, how would we know it? That’s some of the work that’s going on right now at the labs is base-lining that data.
I will tell you that while the environment of RPAs is uniquely different than the environment in airplanes, but it’s not always easier. You have a lot of folks that are out there engaged in very serious operations, life and death situations, that they are dealing with for hours on end and then go home every night to their families and to would be a normal environment. Most people have coping mechanisms to deal with that. But that’s one of the areas of research that folks are looking at in the labs – how do we better prepare people to go back and forth between these kinds of environments?
Maj. Bishane, an MQ-9 Reaper pilot, controls an aircraft from Creech Air Force Base, Nevada. RPA personnel deal with the stressors of a deployed military service member while trying to maintain the normalcy of a day-to-day life.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)
Airman Magazine: Let’s shift gears and talk about your career history. How does leading PEAT differ from your past experiences as a safety officer at a wing or a squadron?
Brig. Gen. Vaughan: Prior to this, I worked for Secretary Mattis in OSD reserve integration. We basically informed OSD policy relative to the seven different reserve components out there to include the Air National Guard.
Before that, I served as commander of the 156th Airlift Wing. As a wing commander, it is a minute-by-minute duty to make risk decisions and it’s very important to realize the consequences of those decisions and understand that whole risk matrix.
In my current position, I’m not a commander of anything. I’m not really in charge of folks specifically. We have a team, but we come together as required. So this job is more informative. One of our primary roles is to inform commanders. As they give us data, we give them back context so they can make better risk decisions.
It also allows the labs to put a focus on their studies enabling the system program offices to acquire and improve systems to support the mission. So this job is very different in that respect.
I think having been a commander previously helps me understand what these commanders they need to hear and how they want to receive that data so it doesn’t overwhelm them.
Airman Magazine: What is it you would like the pilots and aircrew to know about you, the PEAT and their part in preventing and mitigating PEs?
Brig. Gen. Vaughan: I traveled to Randolph Air Force Base and I had the opportunity to meet with some of the higher headquarters staff. I met with the commander of 19th Air Force and I was very encouraged and reassured with everyone’s openness to really solving this problem as aggressively and quickly as possible, talking about physiological episodes, but also, in a broader sense, the sustainment of the T-6 and sustainment of other airframes for which people might be interested.
I feel good about where that’s going. I also had a real eye-opener when I had an opportunity to meet with some of the T-6 pilots. We met off base. We decided to meet in a restaurant in a casual environment. We wanted that format because I wanted to hear really unfiltered what some of these T-6 pilots, who are some of the most experienced pilots in the Air Force flying that mission, that airframe. I was able to learn a lot. They have great faith in their chain of command and leadership. They have valid and serious concerns about physiological episodes, as does the commander all the way up to the chief of staff and the Secretary.
I think being able to hear their perspective, share with them my firsthand knowledge of meeting with senior level commanders in the Air Force bridged some gaps. I also was able to hear some very specific engineering questions and connect some of those pilots directly with some of the engineers at the system program office and some folks within their own chain of command that they just haven’t connected with yet. Just trying to get those dialogues going, because the solutions that the air Force is putting into place, whether it’s T-6 or any other airframe, are usually phased. Some of them require major investment, money and time-wise, and those take a little longer to accomplish.
So how do you bridge the gap between today and when we get to that promised land if some of those bigger fixes and it comes down to some solid risk management? In the case of the T-6, there’s a whole list of maintenance protocols that we handle and emergency procedures for the pilots that don’t necessarily reduce the number of these events, but they can reduce the severity and certainly mitigate the consequences. That’s what we’re trying to do. We don’t want a situation where any physiological episode goes far enough to lead to a permanent injury or harm of an aviator destruction of property. We want to catch those things as early as possible through these mitigation techniques.
Another thing I got to do when I was at Randolph was shadow the maintainers as they did maintenance on a T-6 that had a physiological episode. In the past, when these things would happen, there wasn’t a specific protocol. They would do their very best to look at the oxygen system, but there wasn’t a protocol on how to do that.
T-6 Texans fly in formation over Laughlin AFB, TX.
(Photo by Tech. Sgt. Jeffrey Allen)
Over the last year, with the help of a lot of the pilots, doctors, chain of command folks, human performance wing – a big team effort, when the airplane lands after one of those instances it’s an automatic protocol for that oxygen system.
In most cases it’s removed and a new one is put in and the suspect system then gets this thorough going over at the depot level and not only do we fix that, that particular system and return it to service. We’re able to learn a lot and collect data points. In some cases, we don’t find the specific cause in that system and then we look elsewhere – maybe more pilot interviews, talking to the doctors and trying to piece it together.
The protocols that are out there now not only helped mitigate the consequences of these events until we field new equipment, but they also help us in collecting data that will inform better decisions going forward.
It doesn’t have to be North Korea. Russia, Iran, or even China could attack Hawaii and not necessarily have to take on all of NATO. Article V of the Washington Treaty, the foundational document of the 29-member alliance, outlines the collective defense triggers of the member states, but doesn’t just list the member states as a whole. The fine print, as it turns out, has one glaring omission.
Basically, if Japan ever wanted to go for round two, NATO would not have to come help the United States.
Aloha. But also, Aloha. Sorry.
The text of the treaty specifically delineates parts of the world that bind members to collective defense doesn’t cover those actual parts of the world. That portion of the treaty is covered in Article VI, which states “an armed attack on one or more of the Parties is deemed to include an armed attack:”
• on the territory of any of the Parties in Europe or North America, on the Algerian Departments of France 2, on the territory of Turkey or on the Islands under the jurisdiction of any of the Parties in the North Atlantic area north of the Tropic of Cancer;
•on the forces, vessels, or aircraft of any of the Parties, when in or over these territories or any other area in Europe in which occupation forces of any of the Parties were stationed on the date when the Treaty entered into force or the Mediterranean Sea or the North Atlantic area north of the Tropic of Cancer.”
Which leaves out one thing: Hawaii.
When NATO was first formed in 1949, Alaska and Hawaii were still ten years away from gaining statehood. When the two territories became states in 1959, Alaska was covered by the NATO agreements, Hawaii was not. When the error was first raised in the public eye in 1965, the U.S. State Department dismissed the notion as a technicality.
“It is difficult, if not impossible, to imagine any attack against the United States, whether directed at Hawaii or another state which would not be part of a major war,” Assistant Secretary of State Douglas MacArthur II told reporters. “In that event, the consultation and/or collective defensive provisions of the North Atlantic Treat would apply.”
But that sort of thinking didn’t materialize for Great Britain, which considers the Falkland Islands to be very much a part of its sovereign territory. When Argentina invaded the islands in 1982, NATO support didn’t materialize, and the United Kingdom swooped in unilaterally to take the islands back.
This doesn’t mean that NATO countries can’t get involved in defending a NATO member from an attack by another country but it does mean that Chinese bombers can rain death on Honolulu and as long they don’t hit military targets, NATO can stop at sending thoughts and prayers.
The United States Navy and the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force are teaming up for some practice. The targets: North Korean ballistic missiles.
According to a release by the United States Navy, Resilient Shield 2018 started on Feb. 16 and will continue until the 23rd of the month. The exercise will involve two Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruisers, USS Shiloh (CG 67) and USS Chancellorsville (CG 62), three Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers, USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54), USS Benfold (DDG 65), and USS Stethem (DDG 63), the Kongo-class guided missile destroyer JS Kongo (DDG 173), and the Akizuki-class destroyer JS Teruzuki (DD 116).
That is a potent force – six of these vessels are equipped with the Aegis system, centered around the AN/SPY-1 radar, and all six of those are capable of using the RIM-161 Standard SM-3 surface-to-air missile. All seven ships have the Mk 41 vertical-launch system, which can carry that missile. According to Designation-Systems.net, this missile has a range of over 270 nautical miles and can travel at 6,000 miles per hour, or just under Mach 8. In a number of tests, the SM-3, depending on the version, has proven very capable of taking out inbound ballistic targets.
The SM-3 is not the only system deployed in the region to counter North Korean ballistic missiles. The United States, Japan, and South Korea all use the MIM-104 Patriot surface-to-air missile, which was initially designed to provide area air defense against enemy aircraft, but which proved capable of taking out ballistic missiles in Operation Desert Storm. The United States also deployed the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, which has a range of over 125 miles and can go more than eight times the speed of sound, according to Designation-Systems.net.