Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

In the parking lot of the National Guard armory, a soldier reaches into his glove box and carefully unfolds a letter safeguarded in the confines of his car for five months. Sitting on the edge of his passenger seat, in the late afternoon sun, he begins to read the pages once again. At first, he reads silently as if wanting to keep the special message private. Then, in little more than a whisper, he reads out loud the sentiments of a woman he has never met but whose life he would be responsible for saving. Occasionally, he looks up to explain a bit more about the woman behind the precious missive. While he reads, the front of the envelope can be seen addressed to ‘My Donor.’ One glance at the top of the first page, clearly written in very large print is an emphatic, ‘Thank you.


A member of the Texas Army National Guard, Spc. Akeem Martin, a 23-year-old from Houston, says he is no hero, “I am just doing what is right.” The journey to the right thing started nearly five years ago when he was an 18-year-old freshman at Central Texas College. Martin recalls, “I really didn’t think about it, we were going to lunch one day and they [Be The Match] were having a drive, giving away pizza and I signed up, they took a mouth swab and that was the last time I heard anything.” Shaking his head he continues, “then last year… I got a call from Be The Match saying that I had been matched with a person with leukemia and asking would I like to donate for them.”

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

Member of the Texas Army National Guard, Spc. Akeem Martin.

(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Suzanne Ringle)

Martin could have said no, but that is not in his character. “Because I signed up for it, just like any other commitment you make, you did the paperwork you said you were gonna do it, so…” Martin leaves the statement hanging as if the conclusion is obvious: you do what you say and say what you do; no more discussion needed. This attitude serves him well in both his military and civilian careers.

Martin has been a firefighter for two years with the South Montgomery County Fire Department. In the Texas Army National Guard, he is a chaplain’s assistant deployed to the southwest border for Joint Task Force Guardian Support with El Paso-based, 3rd Battalion, 133rd Field Artillery Regiment. As the chaplain’s assistant he gets many opportunities to counsel service members and help on an emotional level. “These Guardsmen have lives going on back home, and life happens every day. I am just glad I can help,” Martin says.

The letter

Just before deploying, Martin received the letter. “I keep the letter in my car, it was really touching. I guess I was waiting to meet her,” he says. “I got the letter and then I came on mission a couple of weeks later. I didn’t get a chance to write her back.”

When LaShonda Goines, a cancer nurse from Houston, Texas, wrote that letter four months after being diagnosed with two different forms of cancer, she knew for certain only two things; there was a perfect ten-out-of-ten match, and without a doubt, everything was going to be okay. “I never asked for the odds of survival, I would not accept them anyways. I just knew that God was going to bring me out of this. I knew I was going to beat it,” said Goines.

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

Member of the Texas Army National Guard, Spc. Akeem Martin.

(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Suzanne Ringle)

In her letter to Martin, Goines wrote, “I rejoice in the fact that God did not break the mold after he made me because he knew you were needed to help with repairs to my body. He created you to be a perfect match to repair my malfunctions. In this journey, I have learned to appreciate life, I want to take trips and do things once my body is strong enough. I am a very religious person. Your cells are going to a good and generous person.” After reading the letter once again, Martin points to his heart and with an awkward giggle says, “this letter really hits you in the feels,” while he takes a little extra time refolding the letter. Goines conveys a similar sentiment when she learns Martin has kept the letter all these months. She responds with a voice full of emotion. “That’s got me in tears. Yes, I am surprised. I know my son would be like, ‘I don’t know where that letter is.’ I did not know that letter was that precious to him.”

Goines closed the letter with a hope and a prayer, “I want to meet you one day. Hug you one day, whenever we can, if you like. Be blessed my friend, my life-sharing brother.” Little did she know all that she dreamed would come to fruition, in less than a year.

The good news came over the phone just 30 days after receiving Martin’s stem cells. “I am cancer free. Hearing those words was awesome. I mean I ran through the church. I gave my testimony. It was something, absolutely unbelievable, especially being a cancer nurse. Listening to the other patients in the holding area waiting to be seen, you hear their stories, how some of them had tried transplant and it didn’t work for them and this is maybe their second go around. But for me, this was a one-shot deal and now, I am cancer free,” Goines’ smile can be heard through the phone.

Donor meets recipient

Martin and Goines were invited to meet for the first time in Minnesota at the annual Be The Match council meeting. Their first time meeting each other would be onstage in front of more than two thousand people.

“I can’t even describe how amazing that moment was, it was so precious,” says Martin. He attempts to describe the event, seemingly at a loss for words, shrugging his shoulders and says, “I was really anxious and super excited. I was just really happy to get to that point. Just seeing her and being able to say that we got to that point because she made it, she was a fighter, it was something really special.”

Goines was anxious to finally meet the young man who saved her life. “The event was awesome. They had us separated through the entire meeting until Saturday night, even when they played the video of both of us. They called me to the stage first, and they would not tell me where he was in the room. And so, to see him walk up to the stage with his mother, he just has this heroic walk. It was awesome. He has a very heroic and humble walk, he never bolstered or anything. He’s an amazing fellow.”

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

Member of the Texas Army National Guard, Spc. Akeem Martin.

(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Suzanne Ringle)

When asked if they attributed the success of the transplant endeavor to just science or God, they had similar, but not identical, responses. Both have careers in the medical field and strong religious beliefs. Martin holds out his hands out as if making a scale for demonstration, “I have my religious background and I work in the medical field too. I feel like there is science and there is God, and they both work together.”

Goines praises God’s intervention, “God, this was nothing but divine intervention, divine intervention from God. Sitting in the room for 30-days doing my transplant I was crying out to God and this just shows me that God had his ear inclined to my cries.” Continuing she describes how special and lucky she felt, “I felt like I touched the hem of God’s garment and I was made whole again.”

Donor saves life

Few people can say they saved a life, but for Martin, saving lives is a reality, as a fireman and now as a stem cell donor. He says there is a uniquely strong bond between him and Goines, compared to other lives he has saved as a fireman. “I guess because we have such a bond now, when I met her it was like I’d known her my whole life, it was really weird. I met her sons as well and it was like we’ve been brothers forever. It was really something amazing.”

The special bond forged between the two gives each a bigger family. Without hesitation or searching for the words she would say to Martin, Goines exclaimed, “I got a new son out of this process. I want to tell him I love him and he’s an awesome human being and he needs to keep doing what he’s doing because God has bigger and better plans for him.”

The effects of this profound, life-changing match are clear, nearly 800 miles away, across the state of Texas, with one look at Martin’s cubicle inside the armory. The cubicle appears to be much like anyone’s cubicle. There are pictures of his family and another one of his fire truck, along with a cross and some obligatory notices and guidelines. There are two items quite unique and conspicuous amid the varying drab tones of tan, hanging proudly both inside and outside his partitions: two capes, one green the other blue, both emblazoned with the ‘Be The Match’ logo. Martin explains everyone gets the blue cape, but the green one is special for those donor-recipient matches that ended in saving a life.

Martin believes to care for others, you have to take yourself out of the equation. “When it comes down to saving a life, you should not think about yourself, there’s gonna be pain, you know everything good comes with a little pain. That little bit of pain goes a long way because there is someone whose life is really counting on you. Putting in a little work and a little pain will go a long way,” he says.

Goines went from a double cancer diagnosis to being cancer free in seven months because Martin decided to be a difference and saw it through. She says, “Sign up for Be The Match. It doesn’t matter if you are black, white, Hispanic, just sign up.”

Martin says his firsthand experience doesn’t make him a hero, but did make him want to share his story. “It is really important to educate people on the ‘Be the Match’ program or any marrow donor program because it does save lives. It does make a difference,” he says.

Be The Match is a nonprofit international organization that matches stem cell and bone marrow donors with recipients inflicted with certain cancers. The matches are based, partly, on ethnicity, and more often than not the match will come from outside one’s family. To find out more visit bethematch.org.

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

When train derailed, medic proves troops never stop being heroes

This isn’t the first time troops and veterans have rushed head-first into danger to aid civilians. During the horrific Las Vegas shooting in October, many veterans risked their lives to bring innocent people to safety and treated their wounds. In 2015, two Marines overpowered a gunman on a train in France. There are many examples of troops and veterans going above and beyond for citizens; but today, Second Lieutenant Robert McCoy, this one goes out to you.


Around 7:40 a.m. Dec. 18, an Amtrak train took a turn too fast, going 80 mph (129 kph) in a 30 mph (48 kph) zone, and derailed, plunging into the Southbound I-5 outside of Tacoma, Washington. On the scene was Second Lieutenant Robert  McCoy from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, just next to the derailment site.

“I saw many people that were just paralyzed with fear and I don’t blame them at all. I mean, it was kind of a hard situation to watch unfold.” He tells KCPQ of Dupont, Washington. “The train is going south and I’m just kind of driving, just driving, and I hear a loud noise and I look up and I see the train and it hits the concrete walls on the side and when it hits the walls — the walls kind of exploded— and the train just falls off. I see the train fall and it kind of falls on itself… and it hits three vehicles that were in front of me — a semi, an F-150, and a Kia Soul.”

“I couldn’t afford to be scared, I couldn’t afford to be shocked. I had to do what I am called to do and focus and channel that and help these people around me get to safety as best as possible.”

He grabbed what gear he had in his truck — tourniquets and a CPR mask — and rushed to the teetering train cars. He and another volunteer climbed on a damaged semi-truck to reach survivors. They carried people who were ejected from the train to safety, away from the highway. Next, he noticed a woman dangling out of a train. Her daughter was trying to bring her back in so McCoy picked her up and brought her to a safe spot.

Second Lieutenant Robert McCoy saved 15 people before the police and firefighters arrived.

MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korea launches another missile over Japan

North Korea on Sept. 15 conducted a new missile launch, less than two weeks after it tested what it called a hydrogen bomb, South Korean defense officials said, according to Yonhap News.


The missile was fired from an airfield near the North Korean capital of Pyongyang at 6:57 a.m. local time, and headed eastward over Japan, South Korean military officials said.

Military officials estimated that the missile reached an altitude of 479 miles and flew for nearly 2,300 miles, far surpassing the distance between Pyongyang and Guam, the closest US territory.

Emergency alerts in Japan were issued at about 7:06 a.m. local time. NHK, Japan’s public-broadcasting outlet, cited government information that said the missile fell into the Pacific Ocean about 1,240 miles east of Hokkaido, the country’s second-largest island.

Japan did not attempt to shoot down the missile, NHK added.

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation
A surface-to-surface mediu long range ballistic missile is transported for launch in North Korea. (KCNA)

An initial assessment from US Pacific Command indicated that the projectile was an intermediate-range ballistic missile. The North American Aerospace Defense Command added that the missile “did not pose a threat to North America.”

“Our commitment to the defense of our allies, including the Republic of Korea and Japan, in the face of these threats, remains ironclad,” PACOM’s statement said. “We remain prepared to defend ourselves and our allies from any attack or provocation.”

The White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said the White House chief of staff, John Kelly, had briefed President Donald Trump on the launch.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in and the country’s National Security Council were holding an emergency meeting in response to the launch.

It was the second time in two months in which North Korea fired a projectile over Japan. Late last month, North Korea launched a Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missile that also passed over Hokkaido and traveled about 1,700 miles, reaching a height of nearly 340 miles. If the initial estimates of the launch are accurate, they could be seen as an improvement in North Korea’s missile capabilities.

In response to the latest provocation, South Korea conducted a ballistic-missile drill, firing a Hyunmoo-II missile into the East Sea.

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation
Weapons dropped from U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer bombers and U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II practicing attack capabilities impact the Pilsung Range, Republic of Korea. The F-35Bs, assigned to Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, conducted a sequenced bilateral mission with South Korean F-15K and Koku Jieitai (Japan Air Self-Defense Force) F-2 fighters. This mission is in direct response to North Korea’s intermediate range ballistic missile launch and emphasizes the combined ironclad commitment to regional allies and partners. (Republic of Korea Air Force photo)

A day before the North Korean launch, a state agency threatened to use nuclear weapons to “sink” Japan and reduce the US to “ashes and darkness,” Reuters reported. The threat was a response to the latest UN Security Council resolution stepping up sanctions on North Korea over its latest nuclear test.

Earlier this month, North Korea conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test, one the country said was a hydrogen bomb. The underground test, which experts estimated to be four to 16 times more powerful than any of Pyongyang’s previous bombs, sent shockwaves that were felt in South Korea and China, according to The New York Times.

Though the sanctions, which imposed a cap on crude-oil imports and banned exports of textiles, were unanimously approved by member nations, President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson downplayed their efficacy on North Korea. Critics have said the sanctions were watered down to appease China and Russia, Pyongyang’s closest allies, and reports have emerged that North Korea may be undercutting the sanctions by smuggling goods.

“With respect to the UN Security Council resolution and the president’s view that it was a small step, I share that view,” Tillerson said during a press conference. “We had hoped for a much stronger resolution from the Security Council.”

Articles

This film festival rolls out the red carpet for military veterans

Founded in 2006 and held every year in Washington, D.C., the G.I. Film Festival celebrates filmmakers and military veterans as they come together to showcase their compelling narratives featuring real heroes and real stories.


This year the G.I.F.F. kicks off its 11th annual festival with a Congressional Reception on Capitol Hill to shine a spotlight on veteran health and transition.  The 5-day event begins May 24th and includes screenings of feature, documentary, and short films at various venues, as well as filmmaker panels and a Pitchfest for the aspiring talent.

Related: This Army veteran started his own festival to help fellow military filmmakers

This year, 20 filmmaking contestants will be allowed to pitch their best ideas to a panel of expert judges made up of managers, agents, and producers all within a friendly and constructive atmosphere. The winner will receive a prize package in front of their peers.

With more than 50 film projects ready to be screened, the G.I. Film Festival provides the perfect mix of entertainment and networking for our nation’s veterans with stories to tell.

Take a look at this year’s GIFF compilation trailer.

(GIFF 2017, Vimeo)
Articles

Major victory for Iraqi troops against terrorists

On April 25, Iraqi troops drove out Islamic State militants from the largest neighborhood in the western half of the city of Mosul, a senior military commander said, a major development in the months-long fight to recapture the country’s second-largest city.


U.S.-backed Iraqi forces declared eastern Mosul “fully liberated” in January, after officially launching the operation to retake the city in October.

In February, the troops started a new push to clear Mosul’s western side of IS militants, but weeks later their push stalled mainly due to stiff resistance by the Sunni militant group.

On April 25, special forces Lt. Gen. Abdul-Wahab al-Saadi told The Associated Press that the sprawling al-Tanek neighborhood was now “fully liberated and under full control” of the security forces. Al-Saadi did not provide more details.

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation
An Iraqi federal police takes a break before another day’s offensive to liberate and secure West Mosul, Iraq, March 2, 2017. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Jason Hull)

To the east of al-Tanek, Iraqi forces have been facing tough resistance from IS in Mosul’s Old City, an area that stretches along the Tigris River, which divides Mosul into its eastern and western half. The Old City’s narrow alleys and densely populated areas have made it hard for troops to move forward.

Also April 25, the government-sanctioned paramilitary troops, made up mainly of Shiite militiamen, launched a new push to retake the town of Hatra to the south of Mosul. The force’s spokesman, Ahmed al-Asadi, said the operation is being conducted from three directions with aerial support from the Iraqi Air Force. Al-Asadi did not elaborate.

Hatra is home to a UNESCO World Heritage site of the same name that was destroyed by IS as part of the militant’s efforts to demolish archaeological sites in and around Mosul. The extremists consider the priceless archaeological treasures — some dating back as far as 3,000 B.C. — as idolatry but have at the same time smuggled and sold many looted artifacts to fund their war.

Mosul fell to IS in the summer of 2014, along with large swaths of northern and western Iraq.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is how you fight when the waters are rising

When we left off, you were hanging from a pull-up bar trying to get your knees to your chest for the first time since Basic.


Max, in his wisdom, started you out in the gym, which is full of many helpful things, like dumbbells and molecules of air. He wanted you to develop a little stoutness at your center, because he knows what’s coming and you, silly wittle baby, do not. You’re wet behind the ears, is what he’s saying. And that’s not even 5% wet enough to pass the Max Your Body, Season 1 final exam.

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation
(Go90 Max Your Body screenshot)

Today, you’re either going to sink or survive.

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation
(Go90 Max Your Body screenshot)

Because it’s all well and good to be fit with both feet planted on firm ground, unbound and wearing comfy, civilian shoes. It’s been years since you were a fetus, so you’ve forgotten what it’s like when there’s water on all sides of you, it’s dark and murky, and it’s up to you to figure out where your next lungful of sweet, sweet air is coming from.

Today, Max would like to remind you of the primordial fluid from whence you swam. And to make it extra memorable, he’s going to bind your feet at the ankles and your hands behind your back.

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation
At least solid muscle is super buoyant, right? (Go90 Max Your Body screenshot)

If you haven’t tapped out at this point, it’s advisable that you tap a buddy to be in charge of Operation You Not Drowning. Everything all nice and secure? Excellent! In you go.

Your mission — and it’s too late to opt out — is to suppress your rational panic and concentrate on using all this handy fitness you’ve been developing to go Full Amphibian while the water rises around you. You. Can. Do. This. For nine months, this was your everything. You used to be the Chuck Norris of tadpoles. Time to make your mother proud.

And if you do start getting the urge to have a big baby meltdown, just remember, there’s a benefit to plunging in with Max.

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

The benefit is you’ve lost the illusion of control. There’s no turning back. And the alternative to rising to this most fetal of challenges is sinking to the most fatal of depths.

Death, at whatever depth, is dumb. So it’s your choice, baby.

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation
The Captain of the Guard at Fort Uterus, comin’ ta gitcha. (Go90 Max Your Body screenshot)

Watch as Max takes your fear and drowns it in a municipal pool, in the video embedded at the top.

Watch more Max Your Body:

This is what happens when you swap your workout for PT

Our trainer will make you a leopard

This is how you train for brotherhood

This is what happens when a troll runs the obstacle course

One session with this trainer will make you assume the fetal position

MIGHTY HUMOR

These are the 50 best COVID-19 memes for the week of April 20

You’ve done the crafts, you’ve read the entire internet and you’ve finished Netflix. All there’s left to do is cry, eat and laugh. We’ll help you out with the last one. Hope you and yours are staying safe, healthy and somewhat sane.

These are your top 50 memes and tweets for the week of April 20:


Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

1. Everything is fine

At least he’s maintaining social distancing.

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

2. The word of the mom

Amen, sister.

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

3. Conference calls 

Zoom backgrounds make it better.

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

4. Laughter IS the best medicine

Oh Dad. So smart.

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

5. Happy little tree

I want peopleeeeeee.

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

6. Atta boy

Nothing to see here, nothing to see.

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

7. True transformation 

I’m not proud of how hard I laughed at that one!!

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

8. The boombox

We’ve trained our whole life for this.

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

9. So loud

What are you eating, BONES?

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

10. M.J. knew

Now if we could just heal the world…

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

11. More vodka, please!

These are good life skills.

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

12. Reality tv

No wonder my kids like to watch other kids playing with toys on YouTube. We do the same thing with HGTV.

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

13. No pants 

I can’t imagine having to wear shoes to a meeting again…

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

14. Hand washing

So many temptations to touch your face.

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

15. Catch me outside 

How bout dat?

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

16. Shady pines

Might have to binge watch Golden Girls.

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

17. So much truth

If you having tortilla chips for breakfast means I don’t have to cook…

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

18. Iguana private office 

Something about you getting on the phone screams, “COME TALK TO ME.”

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

19. SPF 15

At least you’re getting your vitamin D.

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

20. Dreams do come true

You bought it “for the pandemic.”

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

21. Pro tip 

It’s like working out, but easier.

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

22. Sunshine 

The sun is not impressed.

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

23. Chopped

Every parent ever.

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

24. Barbie 

The sweatshirt is a nice touch. I bet her Barbie dream house is covered in crafts and regret.

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

25. Jax beach 

Oh Florida.

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

26. What happens in Vegas… 

Quarantine needs to stay in April 2020.

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

27. SO much truth

And most of them look tired.

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

28. Pajama shorts

Trick question. You don’t have to wear pants.

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

29. Good PR

Mmm ice cream.

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

30. Singing in the rain

Vomit. Ha!

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

31. Sick car

Taped together and barely holding on — a working title of everyone’s 2020 memoir.

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

32. Get it girl 

No but seriously, why did I eat all my snacks?

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

33. Dun-dun. Dun-dun. Dun-dun. 

To be fair, everyone didn’t die.

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

34. Lightning speed

Well played, fastest man in the world.

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

35. All by myself 

We feel you, Ernie.

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

36. Quaran-times

The isolation has turned to boredom.

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

37. Womp 

We heard there’s a DUI checkpoint in the hallway though, so be careful.

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

38. Last nerves

Every. Little. Thing.

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

39. Grooming at home

All of our DIY haircuts and grooming.

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

40. Apologies, ya’ll 

Lots of self-awareness happening.

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

41. Tarjay

It does, Kermie. It does.

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

42. Mind over matter 

Beware my special powers.

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

43. Dogs know the truth

Stop judging me.

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

44. You can’t have both

This is why we can’t have nice days.

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

45. Pretending 

Deep thoughts by Dad.

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

46. Zoom stand in

I think people would pay for this.

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

47. You did it!

At least you didn’t quit.

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

48. Pinky promise

Just boxed wine. Not the ‘rona.

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

49. You know that’s right

Maybe you’ll get a “spa day” in the bathroom by yourself.

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

50. Get it, girl! 

The perks of age!

Stay safe, keep laughing and have a great week!

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US F-35 fighter jets are all still ‘below service expectations’

Even though the F-35 program is making strides, each of the Joint Strike Fighter variants is still coming up short on combat readiness goals, according to the Pentagon’s top weapons tester.

Based on collected data for fiscal 2019, the Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy variants all remain “below service expectations” for aircraft availability, Robert Behler, director of the Pentagon’s Operational Test and Evaluation Office, said Nov. 13, 2019.

“Operational suitability of the F-35 fleet remains below service expectations,” he said before the House Subcommittee on Readiness and Tactical Air and Land Forces. “In particular, no F-35 variant meets the specified reliability or maintainability metrics.”


One reason for falling short of the 65% availability rate goal is that “the aircraft are breaking more often and taking longer to fix,” Behler added.

Lawmakers requested that Behler; Ellen Lord, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment; Lt. Gen. Eric Fick, Program Executive Officer for the F-35 Joint Program Office; and Diana Maurer, director of Defense Capabilities and Management for the Government Accountability Office testify on sustainment, supply and production challenges affecting the program.

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

Crew chiefs with the 421st Aircraft Maintenance Unit work on an F-35A Lightning II at Hill Air Force Base in Utah, July 31, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)

Results improved marginally from 2018 to 2019 but were still below the benchmark, and well below the 80% mission-capable rate goal set by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis in 2018.

Mattis ordered the services to raise mission-capable rates for four key tactical aircraft: the F-16 Fighting Falcon, the Navy’s F/A-18 Hornet, the F-22 Raptor and the F-35. The objective was to achieve an 80% or higher mission-capable rate for each fleet by the end of fiscal 2019.

Units that deployed for overseas missions had better luck, Behler said.

“Individual units were able to achieve the 80% target for short periods during deployed operations,” he said in his prepared testimony.

Fick backed up that claim. For example, he said, the 388th Fighter Wing from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, deployed to the Middle East as part of the F-35A’s first rotation to the region. As a unit, the mission-capable rate for the jet fighters increased from 72% in April to 92% by the time they returned last month, he said.

Later in the hearing, Fick mentioned that a substantial contributor to the degraded mission capability rate — the ability to perform a core mission function — is a deteriorated stealth coating on F-35 canopies.

In July 2019, Defense Secretary Mark Esper told lawmakers the F-35 would fall short of the 80% mission-capable rate target over parts supply shortages to fix the crumbling coating that allows the plane to evade radar.

“[Canopy] supply shortages continue to be the main obstacle to achieving this,” Esper said in written responses to the Senate Armed Services Committee prior to his confirmation. “We are seeking additional sources to fix unserviceable canopies.”

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

33rd Fighter Wing F-35As taxi down the flight line at Volk Field during Northern Lightning Aug. 22, 2016.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stormy Archer)

Nov. 13, 2019’s hearing comes on the heels of a new Government Accountability Office report that once again urges the Defense Department to outline new policies to deal with the F-35’s challenges.

“DoD’s costs to purchase the F-35 are expected to exceed 6 billion, and the department expects to spend more than id=”listicle-2641354570″ trillion to sustain its F-35 fleet,” the Nov. 13, 2019 report states. “Thus, DoD must continue to grapple with affordability as it takes actions to increase the readiness of the F-35 fleet and improve its sustainment efforts to deliver an aircraft that the military services and partner nations can successfully operate and maintain over the long term within their budgetary realities.”

The 22-page report largely reiterated what the GAO found in April 2019: that a lapse in supply chain management is one reason the F-35 stealth jet fleet, operated across three services, is falling short of its performance and operational requirements.

It’s something the Pentagon and manufacturer Lockheed Martin need to work through as they gear up for another large endeavor. The DoD last month finalized a billion agreement with the company for the next three batches of Joint Strike Fighters, firming up its largest stealth fighter jet deal to date.

The agreement includes 291 fifth-generation fighters for the US, 127 for international partners in the program, and 60 for foreign military sale customers.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

Read more:

MIGHTY TRENDING

How the US could take down North Korea without firing a shot

Dennis Blair, a former director of national intelligence, on Jan. 30, defined what he called North Korea’s “kryptonite,” saying it could collapse Kim Jong Un’s government without firing a shot.


While President Donald Trump’s inner circle reportedly weighs the use of military force against North Korea, Blair, a former U.S. Navy Admiral, has suggested another method of attack that wields information, not weapons.

“The kryptonite that can weaken North Korea is information from beyond its borders,” Blair said in a written testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee.

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Kim Jong Un New Years speech (Image KCNA)

North Koreans have no idea how bad things are in their country, Blair said, because they’re subject to an “unrelenting barrage of government propaganda.”

North Korean citizens caught with South Korean media can be sentenced to death or sent to horrific prison camps, as control of the media and intolerance for different narratives are pillars of North Korea’s government.

But Blair said the U.S. could leverage a recent trend in North Korea: cellphones.

About one in five North Koreans own a cellphone, many of which can connect to Chinese cell towers across the Yalu River along the countries’ border, he said.

Also Read: The US is ready to hit North Korea with tactical nukes

“Texts to these cellphones can provide subversive truth,” Blair said. “Cell towers can be extended; CDs and thumb drives can be smuggled in; radio and TV stations can be beamed there.”

Blair added: “The objective is to separate the Kim family from its primary support — the secret police, the army, and the propaganda ministry.”

Though outside media does get into North Korea and reaches the country’s elites, the U.S. could expand efforts to flood it with outside news. The U.S. used a similar tactic during the Cold War in setting up Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty to combat the Soviet Union and its state-controlled media.

Yun Sun, a North Korea expert at the Stimson Center, told Business Insider last year that a similar idea floated by a former U.S. Navy SEAL had legs.

“Kim Jong Un understands that as soon as society is open and North Korean people realize what they’re missing, Kim’s regime is unsustainable, and it’s going to be overthrown,” Sun said.

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Kim Jong Un waves at North Korean soldiers. (Image KCNA)

Sun said that in the past when South Korea flew balloons that dropped pamphlets and DVDs over North Korea, Kim’s government responded militarily, sensing its frailty relative to those of prosperous liberal democracies.

Blair pointed to other totalitarian states where popular uprisings have become informed and sought to take down a media-controlling dictator, concluding his testimony by saying that “once that process starts, it is hard to stop.”

“Such will be North Korea’s fate,” he said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korea just fired off newer, faster missiles

North Korea tested a “new type” of missile on Jul 25 in the first test since President Donald Trump met North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the Korean border last month, South Korea has determined.

North Korea test-fired two short-range missiles, one flying 267 miles and another 428 miles. Seoul assessed the weapons to be “a new type of short-range ballistic missile.”

Many observers quickly determined that the test was an attempt to get the Trump administration’s attention in the wake of several leadership summits that failed to produce an outcome desired by either side or possibly a warning to South Korea as it strengthens its military.


What Would Happen If North Korea Launched A Nuclear Weapon

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What Would Happen If North Korea Launched A Nuclear Weapon

Evidence from the past couple of months seems to suggest that North Korea is also strengthening its arsenal to counter regional threats to its offensive capabilities — some of the most important cards it holds in ongoing nuclear negotiations.

North Korea twice in May tested a new short-range ballistic missile, a weapon known as the KN-23 which some have compared to Russia’s SS-26 Iskander. It is unclear if the weapons tested Thursday included a modified variant of this weapon or something else entirely.

The North Koreans are “developing a reliable, operable missile that can defeat missile defenses and conduct a precision strike in South Korea,” Grace Liu, a weapons expert at the Jams Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, told Reuters in May.

Jeffrey Lewis, another CNS expert, suggested at that time that the weapon’s maneuverability seemed to indicate it was designed to skirt missile defenses, such as the Patriot and THAAD batteries deployed in South Korea.

Looking at the missiles tested July 25, US officials told Reuters that their preliminary analysis indicated the weapons were similar to the ones tested in May but noted that the latest test appeared to involve missiles with enhanced capabilities.

One official revealed that North Korea appeared to be decreasing the time it takes to launch missiles, thus reducing the time the US and its allies have to detect a launch. North Korea has repeatedly demonstrated an interest in solid-fueled missiles like the KN-23, weapons that can be fueled in advanced and launched quickly for surprise attacks.

The missiles launched July 25 reached an altitude of only about 30 miles, an altitude generally consistent with previous tests of the KN-23.

“If it’s very low and very fast, that shortens warning and decision time,” Adam Mount, director of the Defense Posture Project with the Federation of American Scientists, told CNN. “Those kinds of things could be useful in a retaliatory situation, but it’s even more relevant for a first strike.”

Melissa Hanham, another well-known missile expert, told Reuters in May, that the types of weapons North Korea is testing, weapons deemed by the Trump administration to be less important than the intercontinental ballistic missiles the country was building and testing in 2017, are the types of weapons “that will start the war.”

South Korea described the July 25 missile test “as a military threat and an action undermining efforts to alleviate tensions on the Korean Peninsula,” CNN reported.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

F-35 crash makes grim first for most expensive weapons program

A US Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter crashed on Sept. 28, 2018, in South Carolina just outside Marine Corps Air Station in Beaufort, several news outlets including ABC News reported, citing military officials.

The military aircraft, recognized as America’s most expensive weapon, went down 5 miles from the air station just before noon ET, The Herald reported, citing the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office and the Marine Corps. A spokesman for the sheriff’s office told the newspaper that the pilot ejected safely but was being evaluated for injuries.


The Marine Corps described the crash as a Class A mishap, a serious incident involving more than million in damages or the destruction of the aircraft.

The air station’s website says it is home to five F/A-18 squadrons and one squadron of F-35Bs, according to The Herald.

On Sept. 27, 2018, a US Marine Corps F-35B achieved a major milestone in Afghanistan, making its combat debut against Taliban targets.

While there have been accidents, fires, and incidents involving the F-35 in recent years — such as when an F-35B burst into flames two years ago — this marks the first F-35 crash, the Marine Corps told Business Insider.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

First naval aviators graduate new USAF pilot training program

The first two student naval aviators graduated from the U.S. Air Force’s Pilot Training Next (PTN) program at Randolph Air Force Base (AFB) just outside of San Antonio, Aug. 29, 2019.

The PTN program is a course of instruction designed to train military pilots at a lower cost, in a shorter amount of time, and with a higher level of proficiency leveraging emerging technologies to create a dynamic training environment.

The PTN program individualizes training, adjusting to each student pilot’s strengths and weaknesses. It integrates virtual reality (VR), advanced biometrics, artificial intelligence (AI), and immersive training devices (ITD) with traditional methods of learning.


“The most appealing part of this program is we step away from the common denominator or one-size-fits-all training that has to be done on a certain timeline,” Det. 24 Commander U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Ryan Riley said. “With PTN we have been able to focus more on competencies and the focus of the individual student. We tailor the training to you, and that is a very different mindset shift and that is what I am most excited about.”

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A T-6A Texan II aircraft prepares to conduct a tough-and-go landing on Randolph Air Force Base, Texas.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by 1st. Lt. Pawel Puczko)

Navy instructors selected Ensigns Charles Hills and Seth Murphy-Sweet for the PTN program in lieu of the standard Navy Primary Flight Training phase. This joint training effort is a step toward integrating emerging technologies into Navy’s flight training curriculum. Now Hill and Murphy-Sweet are ready to move forward to the advanced stage of flight training with the Navy’s Training Air Wing 2 at Naval Air Station Kingsville, Texas.

“I think a big thing with this program was the ability to utilize the VR, get the experience and pacing down for each flight realtime,” Hill said. “This benefited all the students – being able to chair fly while being able to see the whole flight rather than to have to use your imagination. This helped in getting the motor skills while we were able test it out in VR and see how the exact input corresponds to a correct output.”

The relatively new program is being improved with each iteration and allows a more tailored approach to learning in comparison to traditional flight training from the instructor’s perspective. Instructors use a collaborative learning environment to evaluate and analyze students and subsequently make corrections and improvements.

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Ensign Charles Hill (left) and Ensign Seth Murphy-Sweet stand with their graduating Pilot Training Next (PTN) class on Randolph Air Force Base, Texas.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by 1st. Lt. Pawel Puczko)

PTN First Assignment Instructor Pilot (FAIP) U.S. Air Force Capt. Jake Pothula shared his views on just how the program differs from the traditional syllabus.

“I went through traditional training,” he said. “The biggest difference with the PTN program is the fact that we aren’t tied to a very rigid, unforgiving syllabus, so students have the ability to choose their own training or have it be molded by instructor pilots who have the students’ individual best interest in mind. In traditional Undergraduate Pilot Training (UPT) you get more flying hours, but PTN students get a lot more simulator time. The students probably get three times as many hours in the sim than a traditional UPT student would. It’s something they could do at their own pace and choose what they want to do. I would say that these students have a very different set of skills. They excel at understanding their place in a larger mission and understanding what their aircraft is going to do especially in the cases of large field or large force exercises. I feel they definitely have a better grasp on more abstract concept such as mission management.”

Integrating new technologies such as ITDs allows students to gain experience using real-world scenarios. Students can not only fly the strict patterns and procedures they learn from their books, but also integrate air traffic control decondition as well as other aircraft.

“I think the unique and most exciting aspect with where PTN is going is the partnership with the Navy and Air Force,” Riley said. “With this partnership the Navy has loaned us eight T-6B Texan II aircraft. The manufacturer modified the avionics to what we call the T-6B plus, which has software specifically built for the PTN program mission.”

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Commander Air Force Recruiting Brig. Gen. Jeannie Leavitt speaking at the Pilot Training Next (PTN) class graduation on Randolph Air Force Base, Texas.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by 1st. Lt. Pawel Puczko)

Adding Navy instructors and students to the PTN program brings a unique perspective since training in the T-6B Texan II is new to the Air Force. VR simulators add a new and exciting element to the PTN program and draws parallels to the gaming industry, which could help attract new accessions.

Today the Navy’s Primary Flight Training phase uses simulators and VR trainer devices to augment the traditional curriculum, which allow students better familiarity with aircraft controls and their areas of operations. Technology within fleet aircraft and the aviation community at large is constantly advancing, and as we move forward simulators and ITDs will play an increasingly significant role in the way we train our military aviators.

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This article originally appeared on United States Navy. Follow @USNavy on Twitter.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

Poland made an app that forces coronavirus patients to take regular selfies to prove they’re indoors or face a police visit

The Polish government has introduced a new app that will require coronavirus patients to take selfies to prove they’re quarantining properly.


Per France 24, the “Home Quarantine” app is intended for people quarantining for 14 days after returning from abroad.

People who’ve downloaded the app register a selfie with the app, then periodically receive requests for geo-located selfies. If they fail to comply, the police will be alerted.

“People in quarantine have a choice: either receive unexpected visits from the police, or download this app,” a spokesman for Poland’s Digital Ministry told the AFP. If a user fails to respond to a request within 20 minutes police will be notified.

France 24 reported that police in Poland fined someone for breaking quarantine 500 zloty (6) on Friday.

British journalist Jakub Krupa tweeted that accounts are being automatically created for suspected quarantine patients.

Krupa tweeted that the purpose of the app isn’t solely to punish people breaking quarantine, saying it also “helps to connect with the social services or request help with urgent supplies.”

According to Poland’s Digital Ministry the app is available to download on Google Play and the App Store.

Although demanding selfies is unique, Poland is not the only country to introduce unusual and invasive measures using people’s phones to contain and control the spread of the coronavirus.

Singapore has asked citizens to download an app which uses Bluetooth to track whether they’ve been near anyone diagnosed with the virus, and Taiwan has introduced “electronic fences” which alert police if suspected patients leave their homes.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.