Lawmakers in the Senate are slamming the brakes on any future plans to develop new camouflage and utility uniforms.
Buried inside the recently-passed Senate version of the National Defense Authorization Act for 2017 is a provision that would prevent the Defense Department from developing or fielding any new camouflage utilities until one year after the secretary of defense formally notifies the House and Senate Armed Services committees of the intent to do so.
Lawmakers and Defense Department officials have long had a sticky relationship over the issue of camouflage and the many patterns the various military services use. In 2009, Congress attempted to slip a provision into the defense budget that would require the services to adopt a common ground combat uniform. In 2013, lawmakers again inserted language requiring a common pattern. Some military brass pushed back, however; then-Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos said the Corps planned to stick to its propriety MarPat camo “like a hobo on a ham sandwich.”
Development of new camouflage patterns can be costly–the Washington Post reported that the Army’s “universal” Army combat uniform camouflage cost $2.63 million to develop–and not all are great successes. The Navy has taken heat for its blue Navy Working Uniform Type 1 pattern, which is worn aboard ships, and which critics have said will only work as camouflage if sailors fall overboard.
A 2012 Government Accountability Office report found the Army stood to spend $4 billion over five years as it selected and fielded its next family of camouflage uniforms.
That process is ongoing; the Army is now fielding its Operational Camouflage Pattern, with plans to require its use for all troops by 2019.
The 2017 Senate version of the NDAA must still be reconciled with the House version, which does not include the camouflage provision. That’s expected to happen later this summer.
A 360-degree video from the US Army shows how the military rapidly inserts and extracts soldiers in areas where a helicopter can’t safely land, and it’s insanely cool.
The video, taken by members of the Army’s 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, shows a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter from the 2nd Batallion, 25th Aviation Regiment snatching a team of soldiers with the 25th Infantry Division out of the water during Special Patrol Insertion/Extraction (SPIE) training.
(Click and drag your pointer across the screen to rotate the video and get the full 360-degree experience)
A variation of the Vietnam War-era troop transfer approach known as the Stabilized Body (STABO) method, SPIE can be carried out on land and in the water, The War Zone, which first took note of the Army’s new video, reported Nov. 18, 2018.
Standard SPIE ropes run from 120 to 150 feet in length and can be used to carry anywhere from one to ten people at a time. For insertion, the SPIE system is considered impractical compared to fast rope rappelling, but this method has its advantages for “wet” extractions.
Reconnaissance Training Company Marines received an aerial view of Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California during Special Patrol Insertion/Extraction training at San Mateo Landing Zone.
(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Shaltiel Dominguez)
The way it works is relatively simple. Troops hook their harnesses to a rope attached to a helicopter, which lifts them up to a safe height (above any potentially dangerous obstacles) and then flies away with them dangling below.
At the landing zone, the troops are lowered down one at a time to unhook and clear the way for the next person.
Marines hang from a UH-1Y helicopter during special patrol insertion and extraction training at Stone Bay on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., Sept. 23, 2015.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Austin A. Lewis)
This somewhat unusual insertion/extraction approach, initially developed for jungle warfare, gives the military more options in contested areas, rough terrain, and on water. The new SPIE video from the Army was filmed off the coast of Hawaii.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The US Navy sent a guided-missile destroyer Dec. 5, 2018, to challenge Russia in the Sea of Japan.
The USS McCambell “sailed in the vicinity of Peter the Great Bay to challenge Russia’s excessive maritime claims and uphold the rights, freedoms, and lawful uses of the sea enjoyed by the United States and other nations,” US Pacific Fleet spokesperson US Navy Lt. Rachel McMarr told CNN.
The Russian Navy’s Pacific Fleet is headquartered in the eastern port city of Vladivostok, located in Peter the Great Bay, the largest gulf in the East Sea/Sea of Japan.
Pacific Fleet stressed to CNN that Dec. 5, 2018’s freedom-of-navigation operation (FONOP) was “not about any one country, nor are they about current events,” adding, “These operations demonstrate the United States will fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows. That is true in the Sea of Japan, as in other places around the globe.”
The US Navy regularly conducts FONOPS in the South China Sea, much to China’s displeasure. The guided-missile cruiser USS Chancelorsville “sailed near the Paracel Islands to challenge excessive maritime claims and preserve access to the waterways as governed by international law.”
The Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jon Dasbach)
Two days later, the US Navy sent two warships — the destroyer USS Stockdale and the underway replenishment oiler USNS Pecos — through the Taiwan Strait. Both the South China Sea FONOP and the Taiwan Strait transit, which occurred just days before a meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and President Donald Trump, drew criticism from Beijing.
China has also repeatedly criticized US Air Force bomber overflights in the region.
Tensions between Moscow and Washington are on the rise in the wake of apparent Russian aggression in the Sea of Azov, where Russian vessels rammed and fired on Ukrainian vessels before capturing the ships and their crews, and US plans to withdraw from the Cold War Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, a response to Russian violations.
NATO has accused Russia of developing weapons in violation of the treaty, and the State Department has warned Russia that it has 60 days to return to compliance or the treaty is finished.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Dec. 5, 2018, that if the US withdraws from the 1987 treaty, Russia will begin developing the very nuclear weapons prohibited by it.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:
Three F-86 Sabres and an F-22 Raptor fly in formation during the 2016 Heritage Flight Training and Certification Course at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., March 6, 2016. Established in 1997, the course certifies civilian pilots of historic military aircraft and Air Force pilots to fly in formation together during the upcoming air show season.
Airmen from the 25th Aircraft Maintenance Unit prepare an A-10 Thunderbolt II for a simulated combat sortie in support of exercise Beverly Midnight 16-01 at Osan Air Base, South Korea, March 9, 2016. A-10s are simple, effective and survivable twin-engine jet aircraft that can be used against all ground targets, including tanks and other armored vehicles and when using night vision goggles, A-10 pilots can conduct their missions in darkness.
A paratrooper, assigned to 982nd Combat Camera Company (Airborne), conducts airborne operations during Operation Glück ab! at Fort Gordon, Ga., March 4, 2016.
A soldier, assigned to 2d Cavalry Regiment, navigates his Stryker Combat Vehicle during a range at Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany, March 3, 2016.
WATERS TO THE SOUTH OF JAPAN (March 8, 2016) – The guided-missile destroyer USS Chung-Hoon (DDG 93) receives fuel from USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) during a refueling-at-sea. Providing a ready force supporting security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific, Stennis is operating as part of the Great Green Fleet on a regularly scheduled 7th Fleet deployment.
Combat Cargo Marines from Combat Logistics Battalion 13 hook a pallet to be transported by an MH-60S Sea Hawk, assigned to the “Wildcards” of Helicopter Sea Combat (HSC) Squadron 23, during a vertical replenishment aboard amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD4). More than 4,500 Sailors and Marines from the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group, 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (13th MEU) team are currently transiting the Pacific Ocean in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations during a scheduled deployment.
Norwegian soldiers, U.S. Marines, Dutch and U.K. Royal Commandos conduct helicopter insertion during Exercise Cold Response 16, March 3, 2016, around the city of Namsos, Norway. The exercise is a Norwegian invitational comprised of 13 NATO partners and allies working together to strengthen partnerships and crisis response capabilities.
Marines with 2nd Marine Division set up a defense position during Exercise Cold Response 16 at Spravo, Norway, March 6. The climate and environment of Norway challenges the integration of air, land and sea capabilities from 13 NATO allies and partners while improving their collective capacity to respond and operate as a team.
Conducting hoist training with US Coast Guard Academy cadets.
US Coast Guard Air Station Atlantic City was first opened in 1998.
After the US downed a Syrian jet making a bombing run on US-backed forces fighting ISIS, Russia threatened to target US and US-led coalition planes West of the Euphrates river in Syria.
But while Russia has some advanced surface-to-air missile systems and very agile fighter aircraft in Syria, it wouldn’t fare well in what would be a short, brutal air war against the US.
The US keeps an aircraft carrier with dozens of F/A-18E fighters aboard in the Mediterranean about all the time and hundreds of F-15s and F-16s scattered around Turkey, Qatar, and Jordan.
According to Omar Lamrani, a senior military analyst at Stratfor, a geopolitical analysis firm, Russia has “about 25 planes, only about ten of which are dedicated to air superiority (Su-35s and Su-30s), and against that they’ll have to face fifth-gen stealth fighters, dozens of strike fighters, F-15s, F-16s, as well as B-1 and B-52 bombers. And of course the vast US Navy and pretty much hundreds of Tomahawks.”
“Russians have a lot of air defenses, they’re not exactly defenseless by any means,” Lamrani told Business Insider, “But the US has very heavy air superiority.” Even though individual Russian platforms come close to matching, and in some ways exceed the capability of US jets, it comes down to numbers.
So if Russia did follow through with its threat, and target a US aircraft that did not back down West of the Euphrates in Syria, and somehow managed to shoot it down, then what?
“The US coalition is very cautious,” said Lamrani. “The whole US coalition is on edge for any moves from Russia at this point.”
Lamrani also said that while F/A-18Es are more visible and doing most of the work, the US keeps a buffer of F-22 stealth jets between its forces and Russia’s. If Russia did somehow manage to shoot down a US or US-led coalition plane, a US stealth jet would probably return fire before it ever reached the base.
At that point the Russians would have a moment to think very critically if they wanted to engage with the full might of the US Air Force after the eye-for-an-eye shoot downs.
If US surveillance detected a mass mobilization of Russian jets in response to the back-and-forth, the US wouldn’t just wait politely for Russians to get their planes in the sky so they can fight back.
Instead, a giant salvo of cruise missiles would pour in from the USS George H. W. Bush carrier strike group, much like the April 7 strike on Syria’s Sharyat air base. But this time, the missiles would have to saturate and defeat Russia’s missile defenses first, which they could do by sheer numbers if not using electronic attack craft.
Then, after neutering Russia’s defenses, the ships could target the air base, not only destroying planes on the ground but also tearing up the runways, so no planes could take off. At this point US and Coalition aircraft would have free reign to pass overhead and completely devastate Russian forces.
Russia would likely manage to score a couple intercepts and even shoot down some US assets, but overall the Russian contingent in Syria cannot stand up to the US, let alone the entire coalition of nations fighting ISIS.
Russia also has a strong Navy that could target US air bases in the region, but that would require Russia to fire on Turkey, Jordan, and Qatar, which would be politically and technically difficult for them.
This scenario of a hypothetical air war is exceedingly unlikely. Russia knows the numbers are against them and it would “not [be] so easy for the Russians to decide to shoot down a US aircraft,” according to Lamrani.
And Russia wouldn’t risk so much over Syria, which is not an existential defense interest for them, but a foreign adventure to distract from Russia’s stalled economy and social problems, according to Anna Borshchevskaya, an expert on Russia’s foreign policy in the Middle East at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
“Russia is not a great power by most measures, like GDP, population, living standard,” Borshchevskaya told Business Insider. “Russia has steadily declined. It’s still a nuclear power, but not world power.”
In Syria, “a lot of what Putin is doing is about domestic policies,” said Borshchevskaya, and to have many Russian servicemen killed in a battle with a US-led coalition fighting ISIS wouldn’t serve his purposes domestically or abroad.
“Marijuana is that drug — a violent narcotic — an unspeakable scourge — The Real Public Enemy Number One! Its first effect is sudden, violent, uncontrollable laughter, then come dangerous hallucinations — space expands — time slows down, almost stands still. …” — Reefer Madness, 1936
OK, so that propaganda film was 80-plus years ago. It turns out, marijuana is not a “scourge.” In fact, it might be a key to helping our veterans’ service-related ailments.
So why is the Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Justice still treating cannabis like it’s dangerous reefer? Even the American Legion is pushing for further study into the benefits of marijuana, touting it as a safer alternative to opioid therapy, often used to treat chronic pain.
A recent study, released by the American Legion, found that more than 90 percent of veterans support expanding research into medical marijuana. In addition, more than 80 percent back allowing federal doctors to prescribe it to veterans.
Those findings are eye-opening for sure, and Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin should see them as marching orders.
Democrats on the House Veterans Affairs Committee have already petitioned Shulkin to use his department’s Office of Research and Development to explore cannabis medication. Thus far, these requests have gone nowhere. However, the American Legion’s study shows that this is not a partisan issue.
American Legion leaders stress this is not a call to legalize recreational use of marijuana. But we’re talking about hundreds of thousands of U.S. service members who risked life and limb for our country. Today, they suffer with deteriorating bodies, chronic pain and post-traumatic stress.
We as a country must do everything in our power to find the safest and most effective treatments for them.
If that means studying cannabis, what is the downside? Uncontrollable laughter? That sounds pretty good.
Russia is apparently ready to build two terrifying weapons of war: A 100-ton ballistic missile that can destroy countries and a train that can carry and fire six nuclear missiles, according to Pravda, the Communist Party’s outlet in Russia.
The missile and train are “on the level of absolute readiness of the industry for their implementation, should the relevant decision be made to include the projects in the state armament program,” Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin told Pravda.
The 100-ton RS-28 Sarmat nuclear missile, or “Satan 2” as NATO calls it, reportedly holds 10 warheads and is capable of destroying a country the size of France, Newsweek reported. The Satan 2 is an upgraded version of the RS-36M, which NATO called “Satan” in the 70s.
But its production has been put off since 2014. The Russian Defense Ministry also said last week that it wouldn’t test it until late 2017.
The Barguzin trains, on the other hand, will look like passenger trains, be able to travel 1,500 miles a day, and hold up to six 55-ton RS-24 Yars thermonuclear ICBMs. The Barguzin train is also an upgrade of a Soviet design that only carried three nuclear ICBMs.
The US considered putting nukes on trains in the 1980s, but later scrapped the idea. Nuclear trains are beneficial in that they’re mobile and difficult to locate.
However, a 2014 RAND study said that there are shortcomings to nuclear trains. Railways can be blocked by snow, and the enemy simply has to surveil the railways to find the trains. Also, once found, they’re easier to take out.
“Mobile systems that depend on roads or rail lines visible via overhead imagery effectively shrink the target area and could significantly lower the number of missiles required to barrage mobile systems,” RAND said.
Russia currently has about 7,000 nuclear weapons, while the US has about 6,800.
Military service often requires duty in noisy environments that can cause hearing loss and it doesn’t just happen during combat operations at deployed locations far from home station.
From flight line operations to firearms qualification ranges, aircraft maintenance back shops, vehicle repair shops, civil engineering shops, or even Air Force Research laboratories where innovative and agile technologies are born, noise brings the potential of hearing loss if proper personal protective hearing equipment is not available or utilized.
“In fact, Veterans Administration records show that auditory conditions such as hearing loss and tinnitus are the number one and number two most prevalent disability claim in the VA,” said Dr. Tanisha Hammill, research coordination branch lead at the Department of Defense Hearing Center of Excellence in San Antonio. “In terms of number of claims, this is the most prevalent injury among our veterans, so there is an obvious need to focus on reducing those injuries among our service members,” she said.
In 2009, the Congressionally-mandated HCE was stood up to combat hearing and balance disorders. As part of the HCE, the Collaborative Auditory & Vestibular Research Network, or CAVRN was formed to bring together researchers with an auditory research focus to discuss current research efforts across the DoD and VA enterprises, providing unique opportunities for collaboration, Hammill said.
Annual CAVRN meetings are held at federal facilities and are hosted by member organizations, and in 2018, the annual meeting was held April 24-26 and was hosted by the 711th Human Performance Wing’s Airman Systems Directorate, Warfighter Interface Division, Battlespace Acoustics Branch; the United States Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine, and the Naval Medical Research Unit – Dayton.
Air Force Brig. Gen. Mark Koeniger, 711th HPW commander, welcomed the CAVRN meeting attendees and cited numerous opportunities for collaboration with the 711 HPW.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Richard Eldridge)
“As you go forward, the Human Performance Wing wants to be part of what you all do to help Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines maintain their hearing so that hopefully in the future, hearing loss ceases to be the number one disability.
“The Air Force Chief of Staff’s focus areas converge on a singular vision – to create healthy squadrons full of resilient and credible warfighters primed to excel in multi-domain warfare,” he told them. “Certainly, nobody can do their job, or at least they would have a very difficult time doing their job if they couldn’t hear well.”
Hearing is a critical sense and is required for all service members to effectively communicate within dynamic and often chaotic environments.
“The ability to hear and communicate is critical to the safety of each warrior and their unit, and is central to command and control, and mission accomplishment,” Hammill said.
The CAVRN aims to foster knowledge sharing and facilitate greater communication, coordination, awareness, and transparency between community members.
“The CAVRN promotes collaboration, translation, and best practices that influence auditory-vestibular readiness, care, and quality of life for warfighters and veterans,” added Hammill.
Hammill stated that as she toured the 711 HPW, she thought about all the tremendous crossover opportunities between auditory research and so many other disciplines within human performance. “We are a very interdisciplinary team and that’s a big part of our growth – to discover and reach out to these other teams who are somehow focused on auditory or balance disorders,” she said.
“When you bring these folks together, they end up having very meaningful conversations, they are able to incorporate perspectives of their colleagues, who are subject matter experts across the DoD and VA and incorporate their perspectives and really make smarter projects and make more multiservice projects.”
Hammill explained that the CAVRN is built on a translational model, including bench scientists, clinician scientists, funding program managers, and public health experts, adding, “The whole scope from idea to application to practice, all in the same room so they can plan everything out together right up front.”
“This is a complex issue. Losing your hearing is not a part of doing business in military service and there are a lot of smart people working diligently to come up with better solutions to protect their hearing, both from a personal protective equipment stance, but also efforts in noise reductions and efforts in communication enhancement while making sure they’re able to do their job and have a reasonable quality of life after service,” Hammill said.
This article originally appeared on Health.mil. Follow @MilitaryHealth on Twitter.
1. Winston Churchill’s plan for a militarized iceberg
Everyone knows that Winston Churchill is a certifiable badass — his military strategy in WWII led to the Allied victory over the Nazi Regime, and has secured him a spot amongst history’s greatest leaders.
What few people know, however, is that Churchill’s most glorious military scheme never saw the light of day — and for good reason. It was insane. What exactly was the Bulldog’s grand plan, you ask? To create the largest aircraft carrier the world had ever seen, and to make it out of ice.
Yes, you read that right. Churchill’s dream was to create a 2,000 foot long iceberg that would literally blow the Axis powers out of the water. The watercraft, dubbed Project Habakkuk, was going to be massive in every way: the construction plans called for walls that were 40 feet thick, and a keel depth of 200 feet — displacing approximately 2,00,000 tons of water. Habukkuk was no ice cube.
Eventually the Brits realized that frozen water may not be the hardiest building material, and opted to replace it with pykrete, a blend of ice and wood pulp that could deflect bullets.
Despite the fact that this “plan” sounds like something out of a bad sci-fi movie, Habakkuk almost happened. It wasn’t until a 60 foot long, 1,000 ton model was constructed in Canada that people realized how freaking expensive this thing would be — the 1940s were a strange time. A full-sized Habakkuk would cost $70 million dollars, and could only get up to about six knots. And at the end of the day, Germany could still potentially melt the thing, though it would probably take the rest of the war to make a dent in this glacier.
2. Napalm-packing suicide bomber bats
Fire bombs were a huge threat during the height of WWII, and an excellent weapon to wield against unwitting enemies. The horrific damage done to London and Coventry during the London Blitz is a prime example of the power this weapon of war had when used on England and other Allied nations.
Determined to one-up the Axis forces, President Franklin Roosevelt approved plans for an even better bomb — one that was smaller, faster, and … furrier. That’s right. The plan was to strap tiny explosives to tiny, live bats.
Why people thought this would be a good idea is anyone’s guess. The guy who proposed the scheme wasn’t even military — he was a dentist, and a friend of FDR’s wife, Eleanor. But America didn’t care about that. It was time to blow the crap out of Japan, and they were going to do it with the one weapon Japan didn’t have — flying rodents.
FDR consulted with zoologist Donald Griffin for his professional opinion before giving an official green light, apparently worried this “so crazy it just might work” idea might just be plain-old insane.
Griffin was a little skeptical too, but ultimately thought the whole bat thing was too cool to pass on. “This proposal seems bizarre and visionary at first glance,” he wrote in April 1942, according to The Atlantic, “but extensive experience with experimental biology convinces the writer that if executed competently it would have every chance of success.” Aces, Griffin.
The official strategy was to attach napalm explosives to each individual bat, store about 1,000 bats in large, bomb-safe crates, and release about 200 of those cases from a B-29 bomber as it flew over Japanese cities. That meant up to 200,000 bats could be unleashed at once — which would be terrifying even if they weren’t on a suicide mission.
After they were released into the air, these little angels of death would roost inside buildings on the ground. Then after a few hours their explosives would detonate, igniting the building and causing total chaos.
At least, that was the plan. In reality, the bats were a little too good at their job, and escaped to nest under an American Air Force base’s airplane hanger during an experiment. You can guess how that went. Surprisingly, the incineration of the building didn’t put a damper on the operation — people were just more convinced of the bats volatility, and excited to see them used in real combat.
Unfortunately (or fortunately, let’s be real), the U.S. never got to add “weaponized bats” to its military repertoire. It was decided that equipping small flying animals with napalm bombs could yield unpredictable results, and the investment wouldn’t be worth the possible military gains. Shocker.
3. The “Gay Bomb” that would cause enemies to “make love, not war”
Hindsight is always 20-20, but how anyone took this “military strategy” seriously is completely beyond us. In quite possibly the least politically-correct display of derring-do in American history, the U.S. prepared to take its enemies out in a way they would never expect — by turning them gay.
Let’s take a moment to let that sink in. The United States of America, one of the most powerful countries in the world, was convinced that getting the enemy to “switch teams” was the key to military prowess. Oh, and did we mention this happened in 1994?
The Wright Laboratory proposed a project that would require six years of research and a $7.5 million grant to create this bomb, along with other bizarre ideas — including as a bomb that would cause insects to swarm the enemy. So they really had the best and brightest American minds on this thing.
The goal was to drop extremely powerful chemical aphrodisiacs on enemy camps, rendering the men too “distracted” to um … leave their tents. Yes, this was a real idea that involved discharging female sex pheromones over enemy forces in order to make them sexually attracted to each other.
At the time the Pentagon and the Department of Defense held that “homosexuality is incompatible with military service,” consistent with Clinton’s infamous “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.
The gay bomb never got off the ground because researchers at the Wright lab discovered no such “chemical pheromones” existed, leaving the crazy idea with zero means to execute it. The Wright Lab did, however, win the IG Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 for its efforts, a tongue-and-cheek gesture from the Annals of Improbable Research.
4. B.F. Skinner’s pigeon-guided missile system
WWII is a treasure trove of weird military experiments, and famed psychologist B.F. Skinner’s contribution to the American cause may be one of the most bizarre.
The plan? Place live pigeons inside missiles, and train them to direct it to the correct target, ensuring that no target was missed. The target would be displayed on a digital screen inside the missile, and the pigeon would be trained to peck the target until the bomb would correct its course and start heading in the right direction.
Despite pretty hefty financial investment in the idea, it was ultimately decided that the time it would take to train the pigeons, and the fact that missiles would have to be updated with tiny screens for them to peck at, wasn’t worth the trouble.
5. America tried to take out the Viet Cong with clouds
This is one experiment that actually did happen, though that doesn’t make it any less ridiculous than our other contenders. When people think of the American military’s methods of chemical warfare in Vietnam, Agent Orange is what immediately comes to mind — but this chemical wasn’t the only weapon the U.S. employed in its battle against the Viet Cong. The CIA developed a strategy called cloud seeding in 1963, which would release chemicals into the air that would manipulate weather patterns, causing unusual amounts of rainfall for the surrounding area.
And we’re not talking your run-of-the-mill thunderstorm, either. Vietnam gets a ridiculous amount of rain already (remember that clip from Forrest Gump?), so the U.S. needed weather that would literally wash away the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Or at least try to.
The mission, called Operation Popeye, involved dumping iodine and silver flares from cargo planes over Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam. Scientists predicted that these chemical agents would cause a surge in rainfall and even extend the monsoon period, screwing with the Viet Cong’s communication networks and basically making things more unpleasant for everyone involved.
The results weren’t fantastic, but the U.S. didn’t roll over. The operation continued for five years, undertaking over 2,000 missions and releasing nearly 50,000 cloud-seed chemicals throughout the trail. Lack of results aside, the dedication is still impressive.
Europe will soon have a rapidly-deployable military force of its own. The powers that used to be have finally teamed up to coordinate military responses to developing crises and defense issues. France, Germany, Belgium, Spain, Denmark, The Netherlands, Estonia, Portugal, and even the UK all signed off on the upcoming continental QRF.
It’s an initiative spearheaded by French President Emmanuel Macron, according to The Guardian. France’s chief executive has long advocated for Europe’s military autonomy as part of a greater European integration – with major European powers calling the shots.
An all-European military force also answers questions about the defense culture of the European Union, where France’s Defence Minister says decisions and deadlines take much too long, getting gummed up in the bureaucracy of the 28-member organization.
The effort of raising this military force is called the “European Intervention Initiative” and is outside the structure of the European Union and its defense cooperation agreement, known as the Permanent Structure Cooperation on security and defence, or PESCO for short. There are 25 PESCO members
This new initiative comes as an effort to build the force while sidestepping the bureaucracy of the EU and allowing for the entry of the armed forces of the United Kingdom to take part, something London is “very keen” on entering with Europe, despite the Brexit vote.
Europe’s new initiative is also outside of NATO and excludes the United States, with U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis worrying that it would pull resources and capabilities away from NATO. But the Secretary-General of the Brussels-based military alliance welcomed the news.
“I welcome this initiative as I believe it can strengthen the readiness of forces,” said NATO head Jens Stoltenberg. “We need high readiness and that is exactly what NATO is now focusing on.”
Though later Stoltenberg stressed the importance of cooperation between the EU and NATO for any military initiative.
“We need to be able to move forces quickly throughout Europe, when needed,” he said.
The European Union’s armed forces, the European Defence Union, is currently organized into four multinational battle groups consisting of 546 ships, more than 2,400 aircraft, and almost 7,500 main battle tanks. None of the battle groups have ever deployed, but EU ships do participate in anti-piracy operations in the Horn of Africa.
The Navy has reversed its decision to remove the 241-year-old tradition of referring to its sailors by their job and rank after months of fierce backlash and petitions.
Previously, the Navy claimed the change was made to allow sailors to more easily cross-train into different positions and to make assignments more fluid. But ratings are a core part of a sailor’s experience and both service members and veterans began asking for their titles back.
As of Dec. 21, they have them.
Sailors began celebrating early as a draft of the Navy administrative message began making the rounds on social media. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson took to Facebook to confirm that while the version being shared was an early draft, the message was right.
According to the U.S. Naval Institute, Richardson acknowledged the role of sailor feedback in the message saying, “We have learned from you, and so effective immediately, all rating names are restored. The feedback from current and former sailors has been consistent that there is wide support for the flexibility that the plan offers, but the removal of rating titles detracted from accomplishing our major goals.”
“This course correction doesn’t mean our work is done – rating modernization will continue for all the right reasons. Modernizing our industrial-age personnel system in order to provide sailors choice and flexibility still remains a priority for us,” Richardson wrote.
So, “choose your rate, choose your fate,” will still become more flexible than it currently is, but ratings are back.
When the official NAVADMIN is released, it will appear here.
The stark vision of the Four Chaplains with linked arms praying while their ship sank 78 years ago lives on. Today, we honor their courage, devotion and ultimate sacrifice.
It was two years after the United States entered into World War II. The Four Chaplains – who would leave an extraordinary legacy – boarded the SS Dorchester, all coming from completely different backgrounds but completely united in a commitment to bring spiritual comfort to their men.
Chaplain George Fox was a veteran of World War I, having served as a medic. He was highly decorated, having received the Silver Star and Purple Heart for his service. Fox had lied about his age and was just 17 years old when he left for war. When he returned, he finished high school and went to college. He was eventually ordained a Methodist minister in 1934. When war came calling, he volunteered to become an Army Chaplain. On the day he commissioned, his son enlisted in the Marine Corps.
Chaplain and Rabbi Alexander Goode earned his PhD from Johns Hopkins University in 1940, while finishing his studies to become a Rabbi – like his father before him. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, he applied to the Army to become a Chaplain. In 1942, he was selected for Chaplains School at Harvard.
Chaplain Clark Poling was the son of a minister and was ordained as one for the Reformed Church in the late 1930s. After war broke out, he was called to serve. His own father had served as a Chaplain during World War I. He headed to Army Chaplains School at Harvard.
Chaplain John Washington was ordained as a Catholic Priest in 1935, having served the church all his life in some form or another. When the war began, he received his appointment as an Army Chaplain.
All four men from different corners of the country and varied faiths, met at Harvard in 1942 and became friends. A year later they’d be on a ship together, all ready to serve.
On February 3, 1943, the civilian liner SS Dorchester, which had been converted for military service, was en route to Greenland with 902 military members, merchant marines and civilian workers. It was being escorted by Coast Guard Cutters Tampa, Escanaba and Comanche. It was a chilly morning as the new day began and the water temperature was hovering around 34 degrees with an air temperature of 36 degrees.
The Coast Guard alerted the captain of the Dorchester that U-Boats had been sighted and he ordered the crew to sleep in their clothes and life jackets. Most of them ignored it though, because it was either so hot down below or they couldn’t sleep well with the life jackets on.
At 12:55am, a German torpedo struck their ship.
A large number of men were killed instantly from the blast and many more critically injured. It knocked their power and communications out, leaving them unable to radio the other ships for support. By some miracle, the CGC Comanche saw the flash of light from the explosion and headed their way to help. They had radioed the Escanaba for added support, while the Tampa continued its escort of the fleet.
According to records, panic and chaos had quickly set in. Men began throwing rafts over and overcrowding soon set in, causing capsizing into the frigid waters. But four Chaplains became a light in the dark for the terrified men. They spread out throughout the ship comforting the soldiers and civilians, bringing order to the frenzy. As the life jackets were being passed out, they ran out.
The Four Chaplains took theirs off, giving them to the men.
Engineer Grady Clark witnessed the whole thing. Each Chaplain was of a different faith, but worked in unison to serve and save the men.
Despite their orderly work, the ship continued to sink. They helped as many men as they could. When it was obvious the ship was going down, the Chaplains linked arms and began praying together. It was said that the crew in the waters below could hear hymns being sung. Survivors would later report hearing a mix of Hebrew and Latin prayers, melding together in a beautiful harmony as they went under, giving their lives to save the rest.
Of the 902 men, only 230 survived.
Before boarding the ship and leaving to serve, Chaplain Poling asked his father to pray for him. The words were poignant and a deep insight to the character of the man he was and those he died alongside. He asked his father to pray “Not for my safe return, that wouldn’t be fair. Just pray that I shall do my duty…never be a coward…and have the strength, courage and understanding of men. Just pray that I shall be adequate.”
Although many fought for these brave men to receive the Medal of Honor for their bravery and heroism, the stringent requirements prevented it from happening. They all received the Purple Heart and Distinguished Service Cross. In 1961, Congress created the Special Medal for Heroism, The Four Chaplains Medal. It was given to them and them only, never to be awarded again.
It was another assignment for Pfcs. Marco Garcia and Jovany Castillo, two soldiers inching toward completing the second phase of the Army’s Practical Nurse Course at William Beaumont Army Medical Center. The basic task of measuring vital signs of patients at a local hospital was the assignment, an important but mundane task for health care professionals. Little did they know, their training would be tested in an unforeseen way.
Castillo and Garcia had been together throughout their Army journey since enlisting in October 2017. Together they had endured Army basic training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, went on to Advanced Individual Training for the first phase of the Practical Nurse Course at Fort Sam Houston, Texas and ended up at Fort Bliss, Texas for the final phase of the course before arriving to their first permanent assignment.
Working alongside each other, the two soldiers made their rounds through patients, mostly children, checking temperatures, blood pressure and pulses.
“We were going around the department, and went into one room where a [toddler] was sitting up in a chair, watching TV eating cereal,” explained Castillo, 25 and native of Huntington Beach, California. “Mom was right behind her on her phone, so we asked if it was alright to get the [patient’s] vitals.”
After consenting, the two began recording the patient’s vitals as they had practiced dozens of times before.
“One thing we’re taught is to interact with the patient, even if it’s an infant,” said Garcia, 26 and native of Spring, Texas. “[The patient] was placing a lot of cereal in their mouth, so we let the mom know but said [the toddler] was okay.”
Moments later, while the two soldiers were still checking the patient, the child began to gasp for air, as the excess cereal had apparently obstructed her airway, springing the two soldiers to action.
“For a second I thought ‘Is this really happening?’ but right away I went to the baby, while [Garcia] went to go get help,” said Castillo. “I was in shock a little, but got over it right away.”
“We looked at each other and [Castillo] went over to help,” said Garcia. “Since he was helping, I went to get a nurse. I trusted him, I knew he was going to do what he needed to do.”
According to Castillo, the patient’s mother had picked up the patient and began tapping the back of the patient in a manner that would have further lodged the obstruction into the trachea, so he instructed her on proper infant choking procedures while assisting the child.
“[The mother] had the baby, I just adjusted her hands and showed her the correct position, then I started tapping the baby’s back,” said Castillo. “Honestly, those were the longest three or four seconds of my life because I was so scared for the little baby. I kept on [patting her back] until I finally heard her take a breath and that’s when I was relieved.”
“When I got back the baby was crying the nurses checked on the baby and made sure everything was okay,” said Garcia.
“It was quick thinking on [the soldiers’] part,” said Robyn Gerbitz, a Registered Nurse and one of the Practical Nurse Course Instructors at WBAMC. “They took the initiative immediately, we could have had a very bad [outcome].”
One of Gerbitz’ lessons for new soldiers includes introducing them to the mantra, “respiratory leads to cardiac,” defining the link between pulmonary and cardiac arrests due to buildup of carbonic acid and lowered oxygen levels in the bloodstream.
“We do a lot of hands-on work in clinical rotations,” said Gerbitz. “These guys are quick thinkers, I’m very proud of them.”
Whether Garcia and Castillo’s quick reaction was a reflection of their medical training kicking in is not certain, since the two soldiers are still weeks away from completing the rigorous 58-week curriculum.
“Instructors make sure we understand and are well equipped to deal with such situations,” said Castillo. “For me, it kind of just happened and I’m happy the way things turned out, it was a rush.”
Before joining the Army, Castillo was going to college while working at a fast food restaurant and Garcia worked with produce at a grocery store. Neither soldier ever thought they would be saving someone’s life just a year into their military service.
“It’s definitely something I joined to do, to help people,” said Garcia. “You learn something new every day. This is a stepping stone for sure.”
After ensuring the baby was stable, the pair just went about their duties and continued checking other patients’ vitals.
“I had just walked in and the nurses told me about the situation,” said Gerbitz. “The director [of the local hospital] recognized the Soldiers right then and there. They reacted humbly, went about their duties. I believe wherever they go, they’re going to make good nurses.”