Some of the first soldiers to fight after 9/11 remember how the attacks changed everything - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Some of the first soldiers to fight after 9/11 remember how the attacks changed everything

Chief Warrant Officer 3 Chris Shirron remembers he was several hours into a long convoy across the German autobahn when a military police officer leading the convoy pulled to the side of the road.


“What’s going on,” Shirron asked the soldier. “Why are we stopping?”

The soldier didn’t say much except that a plane had hit the World Trade Center.

“I was confused,” said Shirron, who was a sergeant at the time. “I asked, ‘What do you mean?’ I thought there must be a mistake.”

Some of the first soldiers to fight after 9/11 remember how the attacks changed everything
Plumes of smoke billow from the World Trade Center during the September 11 attacks. Photo from Flickr user Michael Foran.

The terrorist attacks that day — Sept. 11, 2001 — would change the course of Shirron’s career, and that of countless other troops, and have lasting implications for Fort Bragg and the military.

Almost immediately, Fort Bragg tightened security to its highest level. Training, typically a year-round affair, stopped. Instead, soldiers and airmen were readied to respond to the attacks.

The first soldiers would leave Fort Bragg in the weeks following the attacks. Since then, they have been continuously deployed to Afghanistan or Iraq as part of the Global War on Terror.

Shirron, stationed in Germany in 2001 with the 1st Infantry Division, said he didn’t fully learn what was happening until several hours after the attacks.

First, his convoy was turned around and ordered to report to the closest US military installation. When they arrived at Wurzburg, then the home of the 1st Infantry Division, they were greeted by soldiers in full body armor with loaded weapons.

Some of the first soldiers to fight after 9/11 remember how the attacks changed everything
Fort Bragg, North Carolina, USA. Enlisted personnel barracks for the 1st Brigade. Photo by Jonas N. Jordan, US Army Corps of Engineers

The entire installation was on lockdown. Shirron and others were given space in an empty mailroom to rest and wait for orders.

Across the hall, he found about 40 soldiers gathered around a television, watching the news of the attacks in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania

“Everything changed,” he said. “The Army gained a much greater purpose. And service became about something much greater than yourself.”

Shirron joined the Army in 1997, starting out in the Arkansas National Guard. He was a student at the University of Central Arkansas, still trying to figure out what he wanted to do with his life.

Some of the first soldiers to fight after 9/11 remember how the attacks changed everything
US Army Photo by Cherie A. Thurlby

In the Army, he found the purpose he was lacking. And less than a year later, he transferred to active duty as a fires support specialist.

“I liked what it taught me, not only about myself but about what the Army was,” Shirron said of his decision.

He served at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, before transferring to Germany.

In those years before the attacks, Shirron said, Army life was very different from what it was today.

“The worst part was that every six months or year, you were going to be gone for about 30 days for training,” he said. “That’s what everyone dreaded.”

Some of the first soldiers to fight after 9/11 remember how the attacks changed everything
Members of a Special Operations Surgical Team train with Green Berets. (USAF photo)

Training was less urgent and more monotonous, he said. Soldiers prepared for “Russian hordes” and other threats that didn’t seem real.

But after the attacks, training changed.

It was more focused and efficient. There was an urgency, a realism that had lacked before.

“The tempo picked up,” Shirron said. “We were grasping a new type of warfighting. Leaders understood the gravity of the situation and our methods were changing.”

Those who once dreaded month-long exercises now recognized that deployments would become part of life. They would serve for a year or more in countries they knew little about prior to the attacks.

Some of the first soldiers to fight after 9/11 remember how the attacks changed everything
Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Tom Sperduto.

Shirron said that prospect didn’t scare many out of the force. Instead, it created new resolve.

“Now, training was real,” he said. “Now, deployments were eminent.”

Shirron was approaching the end of a three-year enlistment when 9/11 happened. He soon would re-enlist for a six-year tour.

He said he wanted to serve his country when he joined, fueled by patriotism and a sense of duty. Things were different for those who joined in the days and weeks after the attack.

“The soldiers that came in after 9/11 — they knew immediately that they were going to fight,” Shirron said. “They joined because of 9/11. They wanted to do their part.”

Some of the first soldiers to fight after 9/11 remember how the attacks changed everything
U.S. Army National Guard photo by Pfc. Andrew Valenza

Others in the military today were too young to join in the wake of 9/11.

First Lt. Andrew Scholl, a member of the brigade staff for the 82nd Airborne Division Sustainment Brigade, was in fourth grade in Proctorville, Ohio, when the first plane hit the World Trade Center.

“I can remember there were some teachers being taken out of class and talked to in private,” Scholl said. “Next thing I knew, they came in and told us our parents would be picking us up.”

Scholl’s father arrived in full uniform. He was a lieutenant colonel serving as a professor of military science at Marshall University, and he did his best to explain to his son what had happened.

Some of the first soldiers to fight after 9/11 remember how the attacks changed everything
U.S. Army photo by Stephen Standifird

“It’s hard to wrap your head around that as a fourth-grader,” Scholl said.

Soon, his father was off to meetings at the Pentagon. Two deployments would follow — one for a year and another for six months.

Scholl said he never had thought much about serving in the military.

“Teachers would ask, ‘What do you want to do when you grow up?’ I never really had an answer before,” he said. “But after that day, it was ‘I want to be in the Army.’ Ever since that day, it’s all I wanted to do.”

Some of the first soldiers to fight after 9/11 remember how the attacks changed everything
Lt. Col. Dave Hodne, the commander of 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., pins an Army Commendation Medal on one of the battalion’s Soldiers. Photo from Sgt. Christopher M. Gaylord, 5th Mobile Public Affiars Detachment.

Scholl said most young soldiers today don’t remember the attacks. They don’t remember a peacetime military. And that makes their service all the more impressive.

“They were born in 1997 and were growing up,” he said. “We’re still at war. There’s no clear end in sight.”

“If anything, I think that shows what kind of people are joining today,” Scholl added. “It speaks volumes for their character.”

Shirron has deployed three times since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. He served 15 months and 14 months in Iraq, and 11 months in Afghanistan.

In 2008, he attended the Army’s Warrant Officer Candidate School. He’s now assigned to the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division as a lethal targeting officer.

Some of the first soldiers to fight after 9/11 remember how the attacks changed everything
U.S. Soldiers conduct a patrol with Afghan National Army soldiers to check on conditions in a village in the Wardak province of Afghanistan Feb. 17, 2010. DoD photo by Sgt. Russell Gilchrest, U.S. Army

He said the Army has changed much over the last 16 years, but that focus is still there.

“We’ve been fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan for so long,” Shirron said. “But the burden on the individual soldier is only increasing.”

Today, the military juggles old and new threats, he said. There’s increased uncertainty in the Pacific, where North Korea continues to rattle sabers. And there’s budget uncertainty hanging over much of the force.

Shirron said he often looks back at how the Army and his own career was affected by Sept. 11.

“If 9/11 hadn’t have happened, I can’t say I would be here,” he said. “The world changed that day. I’m here now because of what happened that day. And definitely the military changed that day.”

Articles

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone

Some of the first soldiers to fight after 9/11 remember how the attacks changed everything
F-22 Raptors from Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, fly over Alaska May 26, 2010. | U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson


Four years after the 195th and final F-22 Raptor stealth fighter rolled out of Lockheed Martin’s factory in Marietta, Georgia, the U.S. Air Force still hasn’t committed to developing a new manned air-superiority fighter.

But the world’s leading air arm is proposing to develop some kind of new aircraft to complement, and perhaps replace, the F-22 on the most dangerous air dominance missions in heavily defended territory.

Noting that enemy air defenses are developing faster than the Air Force can counter them, the flying branch’s “Air Superiority 2030 Flight Plan,”published in May, warns that “the Air Force’s projected force structure in 2030 is not capable of fighting and winning.”

“Developing and delivering air superiority for the highly contested environment in 2030 requires a multi-domain focus on capabilities and capacity,” the flight plan notes. To that end, it calls for the Air Force to begin developing, as early as 2017, a new “penetrating counterair” system, or PCA.

“Capability development efforts for PCA will focus on maximizing tradeoffs between range, payload, survivability, lethality, affordability, and supportability,” the flight plan explains.

Studiously avoiding specificity with regard to the PCA, the plan leaves open the possibility that the new penetrating counterair system could be manned or unmanned. In any event, the PCA will be part of a network of systems.

“While PCA capability will certainly have a role in targeting and engaging, it also has a significant role as a node in the network, providing data from its penetrating sensors to enable employment using either stand-off or stand-in weapons,” the plan explains.

“The penetrating capabilities of PCA will allow the stand-in application of kinetic and non-kinetic effects from the air domain.” In other words, the PCA could be a highly stealthy manned fighter or drone whose main job is find targets for other systems to attack.

Not coincidentally, the Pentagon has studied modifying existing large aircraft — most likely B-52 and B-1 bombers — to serve as “arsenal planes,” carrying large numbers of long-range munitions and firing them, from safe distance, at targets designated by stealthy aircraft flying much closer to enemy territory.

Some of the first soldiers to fight after 9/11 remember how the attacks changed everything
A Lockheed Martin F-22A Raptor. | Photo by Rob Shenk

Along the same lines, the U.S. military is developing a wide range of new munitions, including hypersonic rockets, lasers and microwave weapons. It’s possible to imagine that, around 2030, the Air Force will deploy teams of systems to do the same job the F-22 does today. A team could include a stealthy drone communicating with a distant B-1 arsenal plane hauling a load of hypersonic missiles.

Of course, it’s also possible that the penetrating counterair system could be an existing fighter. The new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter possesses some air-to-air capability plus a higher degree of stealth than do most planes.

But even the Air Force admits that the F-35 isn’t a suitable replacement for the F-22. “It’s not that it can’t do it, it’s just that it wasn’t designed to be a maneuvering airplane,” Gen. Hawk Carlisle, commander of Air Combat Command, said in late 2015.

More likely, today’s F-22s could give way to … tomorrow’s F-22s. Seven years after then-defense secretary Robert Gates cancelled F-22 production, the U.S. defense establishment has concluded that 195 F-22s is not enough.

The U.S. Congress has pressured the Air Force to at least consider plans for more F-22s. And Air Force leaders are warming up to the idea, despite the high cost. The RAND Corporation, a California think-tank, estimated that 75 new F-22s would cost $19 billion in 2016 dollars. Even so, an F-22 restart is “not a crazy idea,” Gen. Mark Welsh, the Air Force chief of staff, said in May.

Fortunately, the Pentagon had the foresight to order Lockheed to preserve the F-22’s tooling and document production processes. More problematic is the limited networking capability of the current F-22 design. A Raptor’s datalink is compatible only with other Raptors, complicating the F-22’s participation in a network of systems. If a Raptor can’t talk to other aircraft, it certainly can’t designate targets for them.

But again, there are solutions in the works. The U.S. government’s tiny fleet of Battlefield Airborne Communications Node aircraft — a mix of Global Hawk drones, business jets and old B-57 bombers — carry radio gateways that can “translate” datalinks in order to link up disparate aircraft.

More elegantly, Boeing has developed a scab-on datalink system called Talon HATE that, installed on an F-15, allows the older fighter to securely exchange data with an F-22. Talon HATE is still in testing, but could find its way to the frontline F-15 fleet in coming years.

It’s not clear whether the Air Force’s top leadership — to say nothing of Congress and the White House — will follow the air-superiority flight plan’s recommendation and begin development of a penetrating counterair system in the next year or so. But if the stars align, the Air Force could soon, however belatedly, have a replacement for the F-22.

And it might even be a version of the F-22.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US pressure fails to fracture Armenia, Iran relationship

Acting Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian says he made clear to U.S. national-security adviser John Bolton that Armenia will pursue its national interests and maintain “special relations” with its neighbor Iran.

Addressing the Armenian parliament on Nov. 1, 2018, Pashinian said he told Bolton when he visited Yerevan in October 2018 that Armenia is a landlocked nation that does not have diplomatic relations with either neighboring Turkey or Azerbaijan, so it must retain “special relations” with its other two neighbors — Iran and Georgia — which he said are Armenia’s only “gateways” to the outside world.


“I reaffirm the position that we should have special relations with Iran and Georgia that would be as far outside geopolitical influences as possible. This position was very clearly formulated also during my meeting with Mr. Bolton, and I think that the position of Armenia was clear, comprehensible, and even acceptable to representatives of the U.S. delegation,” the Armenian leader said.

Bolton visited the Caucasus nations of Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan in October 2018 in part to push for compliance with the sanctions that the United States is reimposing on Iran’s oil and financial sectors on November 5 after withdrawing from Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers in April 2018.

Some of the first soldiers to fight after 9/11 remember how the attacks changed everything

U.S. national-security adviser John Bolton.

(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

In an interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian Service on Oct. 25, 2018, Bolton said he told Pashinian that the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump will enforce sanctions against Iran “very vigorously.” For that reason, he said, the Armenian-Iranian border is “going to be a significant issue.”

“Obviously, we don’t want to cause damage to our friends in the process,” Bolton added.

Pashinian told the parliament that his response to Bolton was: “We respect any country’s statement and respect the national interests of any country, but the Republic of Armenia has its own national and state interests, which do not always coincide with the interests and ideas of other countries, any other country.

“Let no one doubt that we are fully building our activities on the basis of Armenia’s national interest – be it in our relations with the United States, Iran, Russia, all countries.”

Pashinian made his remarks in response to a lawmaker’s question about what effect the U.S. sanctions on Iran would have on Armenia.

Days after his talks with Pashinian and other foreign leaders, Bolton conceded that the White House is unlikely to achieve its stated goal of reducing Iran’s oil exports to “zero” under the sanctions.

“We understand, obviously, [that] a number of countries — some immediately surrounding Iran, some of which I just visited last week, others that have been purchasing oil [from Iran] — may not be able to go all the way to zero immediately. So, we want to achieve maximum pressure [on Iran], but we don’t want to harm friends and allies either, and we are working our way through that,” Bolton told the Alexander Hamilton Society in Washington on Oct. 31, 2018.

A hard-liner who has pushed for the toughest possible sanctions on Iran, Bolton’s remarks suggested for the first time that the White House may be preparing to grant waivers from the sanctions to some countries like India, Turkey, and South Korea that have requested them.

Still, Bolton insisted that the sanctions already are having a powerful effect on Iran’s economy, in particular helping to cause a collapse in Iran’s currency, the rial, in 2018.

“Already, you see reduction in purchases in countries like China that you would not have expected — countries that are still in the nuclear deal [with Iran]. We have also seen Chinese financial institutions withdrawing from engaging in transactions with Iran. European businesses are fleeing the Iranian market. Most of the big ones are already out,” he said.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Every branch is getting the Army’s new modular pistol

The U.S. Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard have all placed orders to purchase the Army’s Modular Handgun System, according to Sig Sauer.


Military.com reported March 14, 2018, that the Marine Corps had budgeted money in its proposed fiscal 2019 budget to purchase 35,000 MHSs: the Sig Sauer pistol the Army selected to replace the M9 9mm, made by Beretta USA.

Also read: This is a first look at soldiers firing their new M17 handgun

The Army awarded Sig Sauer an MHS contract worth up to $580 million in January 2017. The other services are authorized to purchase the MHS through the Army contract, according to Tom Taylor, chief marketing officer for Sig Sauer.

“All services have been involved in MHS since its inception … and they have all committed to ordering guns,” Taylor said in an email to Military.com on March 15, 2018. “The U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, and U.S. Coast Guard all have orders that will be fielded starting later this year and early next year.”

Some of the first soldiers to fight after 9/11 remember how the attacks changed everything
Compact XM18 MHS (Photo by U.S. Army)

The Army confirmed that the other services can go through it to buy the MHS.

“The other military services, who were involved in the entire acquisition process including source selection, can also procure XM17/XM18 Modular Handgun Systems under the Army contract with Sig Sauer,” Debra Dawson, spokeswoman for Program Executive Office-Soldier, said in an email.

Related: This is the Glock the Army rejected for its new combat handgun

Military.com reached out to the Navy, the Air Force, and the Coast Guard for comment but did not receive a reply by press time.

The Marine Corps said it would not comment on MHS at this time.

The Army’s 10-year MHS agreement calls for Sig Sauer to supply the service with full-size XM17 and compact XM18 versions of its 9mm pistol. The striker-fired pistols can be outfitted with suppressors and accommodate standard and extended-capacity magazines. There is also an accessory rail for mounting accessories, such as weapon lights.

Some of the first soldiers to fight after 9/11 remember how the attacks changed everything
Compact XM18, above left, and the full size XM17, lower right. (Photo by US Army)

The Army intends to purchase 195,000 MHS pistols, mostly in the full-size XM17 version.

Army officials first announced that all of the services intend to purchase the MHS at the National Defense Industrial Association’s 2017 Armaments Systems Forum May 2017.

MHS quantities for each service have not been finalized, Taylor said.

More: The Army is prototyping new weapons for its next combat vehicle

This is not the first time the services have agreed to adopt a common pistol. The Army selected the M9 in 1985 to replace the .45 caliber 1911A1, and the M9 soon became the sidearm for entire U.S. military.

The Marine Corps fiscal 2019 budget request does not give a total dollar amount for the MHS, but lists the unit cost of 35,000 Sig Sauer MHS pistols at $180 each.

Army weapons officials, as well as Sig Sauer officials, have so far declined to talk about the unit cost for MHS.

Articles

Navy will not file criminal charges after the drowning of SEAL trainee

The Navy won’t file criminal charges stemming from the drowning death of Seaman James Derek Lovelace in SEAL training.


The San Diego County medical examiner had ruled the 21-year-old sailor’s May 6, 2016, death in a swim tank in Coronado a homicide, saying in a July 2016 autopsy report that the “actions, or inactions, of the instructors and other individuals involved were excessive and directly contributed to the death.”

Navy Cdr. Liam Hulin, director of the Naval Special Warfare Basic Training Command, reviewed the findings of a Naval Criminal Investigative Services probe and determined that Lovelace’s drowning “was not the result of a crime and will not pursue criminal charges against any personnel in connection with the death,” according to a statement issued on April 10 to The San Diego Union-Tribune.

Some of the first soldiers to fight after 9/11 remember how the attacks changed everything
U.S. Navy SEAL candidates from class 284 participate in Hell Week at the Naval Special Warfare Center at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado in San Diego, California. (U.S. Navy photo)

“Our thoughts and prayers remain with the Lovelace family,” said Hulin in the statement. “No loss of life in training is an acceptable loss.”

A safety review into the incident that had been put on pause by the criminal investigation will now begin, according to the Navy.

The 21-year-old Lovelace died during Combat Swimmer Orientation, a test that takes place in the first week of Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training to assess a SEAL candidate’s swimming abilities.

Students tread water and perform what the Navy says are survival skills that include removing a swim mask, uniform, and their boots.

The county medical examiner’s autopsy report revealed that a SEAL instructor repeatedly dunked Lovelace and that the student’s drowning was exacerbated by a heart condition.

“To honor those who have fallen in combat we must provide the most realistic and operationally relevant training possible. To honor those who have fallen in training we must effectively mitigate the risks of that training,” said Capt. Jay Hennessey, Commander, Naval Special Warfare Training Center.

[Naval Special Warfare] training has been refined over more than 50 years, informed throughout by lessons learned in combat overseas as well as in training at home. We learn not only from our successes, but also from operational and training failures, mistakes and accidents. While these tragic occasions are infrequent, they greatly impact our small close-knit force and magnify the responsibility we feel to our teammates who have paid the ultimate price.”

Some of the first soldiers to fight after 9/11 remember how the attacks changed everything
U.S. Navy SEALs splash into the water from a combat rubber raiding craft attached to an 11-meter rigid hull inflatble boat, during a capabilities exercise, at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek – Fort Story.  (U.S. Navy Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Gary L. Johnson III.)

The medical examiner’s probe indicated that Lovelace suffered from an anomalous coronary artery, which might have contributed to sudden cardiac death during the intensive training exercise. Although Lovelace appeared conscious when pulled out of the pool, witnesses said his [skin] had turned purple, his lips blue.

Navy officials have long contended that the medical examiner’s homicide ruling meant only that Lovelace died “at the hands of another” and did not necessarily suggest a crime had been committed.

Lovelace was from Crestview, Florida. Navy officials briefed his father in Florida on April 8.

“We have maintained contact with the Lovelace family,” said Naval Special Warfare spokesman Capt. Jason Salata. “Our primary point of contact, is Seaman Lovelace’s father. He is designated as his official next of kin, as a courtesy the Navy has also reached out to Seaman Lovelace’s siblings and offered counseling and other services. As part of the prosecutorial review of this case, the father’s input was carefully considered.”

In an email to the Union-Tribune, Salata said that the criminal probe followed Pentagon protocols standard to any death that occurs in training. Led by the Navy Region Southwest’s chief trial counsel, a team of prosecutors with no ties to the SEALs reviewed the probe’s findings before they were forwarded to Naval Special Warfare’s commanders.

When asked by the Union-Tribune if any SEAL instructors would receive letters of reprimand or counseling statements for their role in the incident, Salata wrote that no other action “is being taken on anyone in connection with the case.”

Some of the first soldiers to fight after 9/11 remember how the attacks changed everything
Students in Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL class 279 participate in a surf passage exercise during the first phase of training at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado. Surf passage is one of many physically strenuous exercises that BUD/S class 279 will take part in during the seven weeks of first phase. (U.S. Navy photo by Kyle Gahlau)

Salata said that the Navy intends to make the probe’s findings public once criminal investigators close their case.

Lovelace was only in the first week of a student’s six-month odyssey to become a SEAL. A notoriously difficult course, only about a quarter of the candidates make it through without dropping out.

In the wake of his drowning, Naval Special Warfare Basic Training Command paused the program to review and reinforce protocols for pre-training briefs, emergency action, and all in-water instruction procedures, Navy officials told the Union-Tribune.

The Navy added instruction on the signs and symptoms of water training injures and lifesaving procedures.

Today, two additional safety observers are in the water with the class, plus two safety swimmers at the water’s edge to remove struggling students quickly. The instructor-student ratio now is one to seven; it was one to 10.

In 2016, 75 students could be in the water at one time. Now, no more than 49 can enter the pool.

He was at least the fifth SEAL student to die during training over the past three decades.

In 1988, John Joseph Tomlinson, 22, from Altoona, Pa., died of hypothermia near the end of a 5 1/2 -mile ocean swim off Coronado in the 17th week of the 25-week course.

Ten years later, Gordon Racine Jr., 25, of Houston died during a pool exercise in his first month of training.

In 2001, Lt. John Anthony Skop Jr., 29, of Buffalo, N.Y., died during a “Hell Week” swim.

Three years later, Boatswain Mate 1st Class Rob Vetter, 30, died at a Coronado hospital days after he collapsed during a conditioning run in the second week of the program.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Embracing a new culture at Army Futures Command

When Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Crosby first interviewed to be Army Futures Command’s enlisted leader, he had no idea what to expect.

The command was still in its nascent stages with no headquarters building and he could only find a brief description of its vision to modernize the Army.

Instead, Crosby was focused on the battlefield, observing his troops defeat ISIS fighters in Iraq and Syria. The prospect of the new job seemed like a 180-degree departure from his post overseeing Operation Inherent Resolve’s Combined Joint Task Force.

He then reflected on the coalition troops he had lost during his tour. Then of the soldiers who never returned home from his other deployments, including back-to-back tours to Iraq from 2005 to 2008.


He decided he wanted to help change how future soldiers would fight, hopefully keeping them safer and more lethal.

“It’s something bigger than myself,” he said in a recent interview. “I’m fired up about this. This is a bold move by the Army.”

Embedded with industry, academia 

Inside a high-rise office building in the heart of Texas, the command’s headquarters bustled on a weekday in late June.

Unlike other Army units, the office space felt more like that, an office, rather than a typical military workplace.

The command had a low profile in its upper-floor nest inside the University of Texas System building, overlooking downtown and the domed state capitol.

Some of the first soldiers to fight after 9/11 remember how the attacks changed everything

Sgt. 1st Class William Roth, right, assigned to Army Futures Command’s Soldier Lethality Cross-Functional Team, conducts a live demonstration of new Army equipment at Capital Factory in Austin, Texas, April 11, 2019.

(Photo by Luke J. Allen)

Among the rows of cubicles, soldiers wore no uniforms as they worked alongside federal employees and contractors. Many soldiers went by their first name in the office, often frequented by innovators, entrepreneurs and academic partners.

The lowest-ranked soldier was a sergeant and up the chain were senior executive service civilians and a four-star general.

A few blocks down 7th Street, another group of soldiers and federal employees from the command were embedded in an incubator hub to get even closer to innovators.

The Army Applications Laboratory occupies a corner on the eighth floor of Capital Factory, which dubs itself the center of gravity for startups in Texas. The lab shares space with other defense agencies and officials call it a “concierge service” to help small companies navigate Defense Department acquisition rules and regulations.

“They’re nested and tied in with industry,” Crosby said.

The command also provides research funding to over 300 colleges and universities, he added

Those efforts include an Army Artificial Intelligence Task Force at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh that activated earlier this year.

In May, the University of Texas System also announced it had committed at least million to support its efforts with the command, according to a news release.

More recently, the command agreed to a partnership with Vanderbilt University in Nashville. As part of it, soldiers with 101st Airborne Division’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team would work with engineers to inspire new technology.

Soldiers up the road at Fort Hood may also soon be able to do the same at UT and Texas AM University.

“That is what we’re looking to replicate with other divisions in the Army,” Crosby said. “It will take some time.”

In on the groundfloor

Since October 2017 when the Army announced its intent to create the command to be the focal point of modernization efforts, it wasted no time laying its foundation.

It now manages eight cross-functional teams at military sites across the country, allowing soldiers to team with acquisition and science and technology experts at the beginning of projects.

The teams tackle six priorities: long-range precision fires, next-generation combat vehicle, future vertical lift, network, air and missile defense, and soldier lethality — all of which have since been allocated billion over the next five years.

The next step was to place its headquarters in an innovative city, where it could tap into industry and academic talent to develop new technologies that give soldiers an edge against near-peer threats.

Some of the first soldiers to fight after 9/11 remember how the attacks changed everything

Gen. John Murray, left, commander of Army Futures Command, and Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Crosby, the command’s senior enlisted leader, participate in a command synchronization session at the University of Texas at Austin, April 26, 2019.

(Photo by Luke J. Allen)

After an exhaustive search of over 150 cities, the Army chose Austin. The move marked the start of the Army’s largest reorganization effort since 1973, when both the Forces Command and Training and Doctrine Command were established.

The location away from a military post was intentional. Rather than surrounded by a security fence, the command is surrounded by corporate America.

“We’re part of the ecosystem of entrepreneurs, startups, academia,” Crosby said. “We’re in that flow of where ideas are presented.”

As it nears full operational capability this summer, Futures Command has already borne fruit since it activated August 2018.

Its collaborative efforts have cut the time it takes project requirements to be approved from five or seven years to just three months or less.

Once prototypes are developed, soldiers are also more involved in testing the equipment before it begins rolling off an assembly line.

By doing this, the Army hopes to learn from past projects that failed to meet soldier expectations.

The Main Battle Tank-70 project in the 1960s, for instance, went well over budget before it was finally canceled. New efforts then led to the M1 Abrams tank.

Until the Army got the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, it spent significant funding on the Mechanized Infantry Combat Vehicle in the 1960s, which never entered service.

“So we’re trying to avoid that,” Crosby said. “We’re trying to let soldiers touch it. Those soldier touchpoints are a big success story.”

Culture change

Futures Command is not a traditional military command. Its headquarters personnel, which will eventually number about 100 soldiers and 400 civilians, are encouraged to think differently.

A new type of culture has spread across the command, pushing many soldiers and federal employees out of their comfort zone to learn how to work in a more corporate environment.

“The culture we really look to embrace is to have some elasticity; be able to stretch,” Crosby said. “Don’t get in the box, don’t even use a box — get rid of the box.”

Crosby and other leaders will often elicit ideas from younger personnel, who may think of another approach to remedy a problem.

“I’m not going to somebody who has been in the uniform for 20 to 30 years, because they’re pretty much locked on their ideas,” he said. “They don’t want to change.”

A young staff sergeant once told the sergeant major the command could save thousands if they just removed the printers from the office.

The move, which is still being mulled over, would force people to rely more on technology while also saving money in paper, ink and electricity.

While it may annoy some, Crosby likens the idea to when a GPS device reroutes a driver because of traffic on a road. The driver may be upset at first, not knowing where the device is pointing, but the new route ends up being quicker.

Some of the first soldiers to fight after 9/11 remember how the attacks changed everything

Lt. Gen. Eric Wesley, center, deputy commanding general of Army Futures Command and commander of Futures and Concepts Center, talks with Josh Baer, founder of Capital Factory, during a South by Southwest Startup Crawl on March 8, 2019, in Austin, Texas.

(Photo by Anthony Small)

“You have to reprogram what you think,” he said. “I’m not used to this road, why are they taking me here? Then you come to find out, it’s not a bad route.”

For Sgt. 1st Class Kelly Robinson, his role as a human resources specialist is vastly different from his previous job as a mailroom supervisor at 4th Infantry Division.

As the headquarters’ youngest soldier, Robinson, 31, often handles the administrative actions of organizations that continue to realign under the budding command.

Among them are the Army Capabilities Integration Center that transitioned over to be the command’s Futures and Concepts Center. The Research, Development and Engineering Command then realigned to be its Combat Capabilities Development Command.

Research elements at the Army Medical Research and Materiel Command have also realigned to the Army’s new major command.

“The processes and actions are already in place,” Robinson said of his old position, “but here you’re trying to recreate and change pretty much everything.”

Since he started in November 2018, he said he now has a wider view of the Army. Being immersed in a corporate setting, he added, may also help him in a career after the military.

“The job itself and working with different organizations opens up a [broader perspective],” he said, “and helps you not just generalize but operationalize a different train of thought.”

Some of the first soldiers to fight after 9/11 remember how the attacks changed everything

Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Crosby, left, Army Futures Command’s senior enlisted leader, participates in the command’s activation ceremony in Austin, Texas, Aug. 24, 2018, along with Gen. Mark Milley, chief of staff of the Army; Army Secretary Mark Esper; and its commander, Gen. John Murray.

(Photo by Sgt. Brandon Banzhaf)

While chaotic at times, Julia McDonald, a federal employee who handles technology and futures analysis for the commander’s action group, has grabbed ahold of the whirlwind ride.

“It moves fast around here,” she said of when quick decisions are made and need to be implemented at a moment’s notice. “Fifteen minutes seems like an hour or two.”

Building up a major command is not without its growing pains. Even its commander, Gen. John Murray, has referred to his command as a “startup trying to manage a merger.”

“Everybody is just trying to stand up their staff sections and understand that this is your lane and this is my lane,” McDonald said. “And how do we all work together now that we’re in the same command?”

The current challenges could pay off once the seeds planted today grow into new capabilities that help soldiers.

For Crosby, that’s a personal mission. In his last deployment, nearly 20 coalition members, including U.S. soldiers, died in combat or in accidents and many more were wounded as they fought against ISIS.

“We have to get it right, and I know we will,” he said. “Everybody is depending on us.”

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

Articles

The 13 funniest military memes of the week

Block leave is coming up and you’re standing outside the orderly room praying that your request gets approved. Fingers crossed, bud. In the meantime, enjoy these 13 memes:


1. How admin. folks remember their training:

(via Devil Dog Nation)

Some of the first soldiers to fight after 9/11 remember how the attacks changed everything

2. Did you know less than 1 percent of dogs will ever serve in uniform?

(via Military Memes)

Some of the first soldiers to fight after 9/11 remember how the attacks changed everything
Here’s to the good boys.

SEE ALSO: The mastermind of the Paris attacks was killed in a raid

3. Because wrecking a vehicle is an awesome profile pic (via NavyMemes.com).

Some of the first soldiers to fight after 9/11 remember how the attacks changed everything

4. The most adorable puddle pirate in history:

(via Coast Guard Memes)

Some of the first soldiers to fight after 9/11 remember how the attacks changed everything
Admit it, you’d pay to see that dog wearing an eye patch and tiny sword.

5. Moses knew how to police his troops (via Team Non-Rec).

Some of the first soldiers to fight after 9/11 remember how the attacks changed everything

6. And you guys think annual training is a joke (via Air Force Nation).

Some of the first soldiers to fight after 9/11 remember how the attacks changed everything
There’s a reason everyone has to be green across the board before they go home for the holidays.

7. That gnawing uncertainty:

(via Team Non-Rec)

Some of the first soldiers to fight after 9/11 remember how the attacks changed everything
Don’t worry, you locked it. Maybe. I’m sure it’s fine. Probably.

8. Are they haze gray heroes in the Coast Guard?

(via Coast Guard Memes)

Some of the first soldiers to fight after 9/11 remember how the attacks changed everything
They got their own little raft and everything.

9. When your section chief is Mickey Mouse and your skipper is Yensid (via Sh-t My LPO Says)

Some of the first soldiers to fight after 9/11 remember how the attacks changed everything
Just don’t use magic for the mopping. It never ends well.

10. Airborne problems:

(via Do You Even Airborne, Bro?)

Some of the first soldiers to fight after 9/11 remember how the attacks changed everything
Airborne: total bad-sses as long as they have 800mg ibuprofen.

11. The Air Force reminds everyone who the fighting-est general of all time was:

(via Air Force Nation)

Some of the first soldiers to fight after 9/11 remember how the attacks changed everything
Few service chiefs openly supported a nuclear first-strike policy.

12. They get you with the candy and swag …

(via Team Non-Rec)

Some of the first soldiers to fight after 9/11 remember how the attacks changed everything
… then hold you there with your contract.

13. “Where’s your cover? Or pants? I see you didn’t shave today.”

(via Team Non-Rec)

Some of the first soldiers to fight after 9/11 remember how the attacks changed everything
These stolen valor morons are getting lazier and lazier.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Missile scare at Ramstein Air Base: ‘Hasn’t 2020 been hard enough?’

On January 13, 2018, a ballistic missile alert went out across televisions, radios, and cellphones in the state of Hawaii. The message went out at 0807 local time and civil defense outdoor warning sirens went off across the islands. However, the alert turned out to be an accident. On December 12, 2020, Ramstein Air Base had a similar alert.

Some of the first soldiers to fight after 9/11 remember how the attacks changed everything
The alert spooked more than a few folks (Public Domain)

Ramstein Air Base personnel were alerted to a real world inbound missile strike and received an Alarm Red MOPP 4 notification. “Take immediate action!” The alert read. “For further information refer to Airman’s manual.” While the alert certainly put a lot of people in the Kaiserslautern Military Community on edge, the “All Clear” was issued two minutes later. It is unknown what triggered the warning system’s mass alert. However, the alert was later attributed to an exercise.

“Attention Team Ramstein, today, the Ramstein Air Base Command Post was notified via an alert notification system of a real-world missile launch in the European theater. The Command Post followed proper procedure and provided timely and accurate notifications to personnel in the Kaiserslautern Military Community. The missile launch was then assessed to be part of a training exercise and not a threat to the KMC area. The situation is all clear. We’d like to thank our Command Post members for their quick response to ensure our people stay informed so they can take the proper safety precautions.”

Despite the all clear and the message from the Command Post, personnel in the KMC area remain on edge. “That’s not the kind of thing you joke about,” one anonymous service member told WATM. “Hasn’t 2020 been hard enough?” Neither USEUCOM nor Ramstein Air Base have released an official statement regarding the incident.

The erroneous 2018 Hawaii missile alert was corrected 38 minutes after it went out. Following the incident, the FCC and Hawaii House of Representatives conducted investigations into the cause of the event. These resulted in the resignation of the state’s emergency management administrator. Whether or not the alert at Ramstein was a training exercise, the reaction of the KMC community was very real.

Some of the first soldiers to fight after 9/11 remember how the attacks changed everything
(U.S. Air Force)
MIGHTY TRENDING

Russian man charged with treason for leaking hypersonic weapons secrets

A 74-year-old researcher at a Russian rocket and spacecraft design facility has reportedly been charged with treason for allegedly giving classified information to a NATO country.

The Russian newspaper Kommersant reported on July 23, 2018, that Viktor Kudryavtsev of the Central Research Institute for Machine Building is accused of passing classified data on hypersonic technology to a representative of an unspecified alliance member.


Citing unnamed sources, Kommersant reported that Kudryavtsev is being held at the Lefortovo jail in Moscow and has pleaded not guilty.

Some of the first soldiers to fight after 9/11 remember how the attacks changed everything

Central Research Institute of Machine Building checkpoint.


A spokesman for Russian space agency Roscosmos, Vladimir Ustimenko, said on July 22, 2018, that Kudryavtsev had been arrested but did not give any details.

A member of the Public Monitoring Commission NGO, Yevgeny Yenikeyev, said on July 22, 2018, that Kudryavtsev was placed in pretrial detention on high treason charge.

The case is one of several in recent years in which Russian citizens have been accused of treason or disseminating classified or sensitive information.

Featured image: Exterior view of Lefortovo Prison in Moscow.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Navy is accelerating a new class of ballistic missile sub

The Navy and industry may be speeding up full production plans for its first Columbia-Class nuclear armed ballistic missile submarine as part of a broader move to increase the size of the service’s submarine fleet more quickly.

According to Navy statements, the first Columbia-Class submarine has been scheduled for procurement in 2021 as a first step toward achieving operational status by the early 2030s.

“Depending upon available resources, the Navy plan is aligned with the current 30-Year Shipbuilding Plan,” Naval Sea Systems Command spokesman William Couch told Warrior Maven.

The Navy’s Shipbuilding plan, released earlier this year, does cite acceleration as a priority as the service strives for an expanded 355-ship fleet.

“Navy continues to aggressively pursue acquisition strategies to build ships more quickly and more affordably,” the plan says.

Also, industry leaders and members of Congress have discussed fully funding and accelerating the program, an effort which will bring new nuclear undersea strategic deterrence technology to the Navy. Submarine-maker General Dynamics has recently announced that early purchases are in place to acquire the materials needed to begin full construction by as soon as 2020, according to a report in The National Interest.

Ultimately, the Navy hopes to build and operate as many as 12 new nuclear-armed submarines, to serve well into the 2080s.

Some of the first soldiers to fight after 9/11 remember how the attacks changed everything
USS Asheville

“The Navy’s role is to be a knowledgeable and demanding customer, to define the requirement, and to work with Congress to establish the foundational profiles to attain it,” the Shipbuilding Plan states.

While acceleration, given current industry expansion and Congressional support is expected to potentially speed this up, the shipbuilding plan cites formal procurement of the first Columbia in 2021, with the second slated for 2024.

While the exact timetable for full construction of the first Columbia is likely something still in flux, depending upon Navy and General Dynamics planning, the service has been working to add funding to accelerate the program. For several years now, requirements work, technical specifications, and early prototyping have already been underway at General Dynamics Electric Boat.

The administration’s 2019 budget request, released early 2018, has already increased funding for the service’s new nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarine by $2 billion over 2018’s amount in what appears to be a clear effort to further accelerate technology development and early production. Several Congressional committees are strongly supporting funding for the new submarine in their respective budget mark ups.


The budget request, which marks a substantial move on the part of the Navy and DoD, asks for $3.7 billion in 2019, up from $1.9 billion in 2018. The new budget effort is quite significant, given that there has been a chorus of concern in recent years that there would not be enough money to fund development of the new submarines, without devastating the Navy shipbuilding budget.

Some of the first soldiers to fight after 9/11 remember how the attacks changed everything
NAVSEA concept ofu00a0Columbia-class submarine

The Columbia-class plus-up is a key element of a cross-the-board Navy budget increase; overall, the Navy 2019 request jumps $14 billion over this year, climbing to to $194 billion.

Many regard the Columbia-Class submarines as the number one DoD priority, and it is quite possible the additional dollars will not only advance technical development and early construction, but may also move the entire production timeline closer.

Construction on the first submarine in this new class is slated to be finished up by 2028, with initial combat patrols beginning in 2031, service officials have said.

Perhaps of equal or greater significance is the fast-evolving current global threat environment which, among other things, brings the realistic prospect of a North Korean nuclear weapons attack. Undersea strategic deterrence therefore, as described by Navy leaders, brings a critical element of the nuclear triad by ensuring a second strike ability in the event of attack.

The submarines are intended to quietly patrol lesser known portions of the global undersea domain. Ultimately, the Navy hopes to build and operate as many as 12 new nuclear-armed submarines, to be in service by the early 2040s and serve well into the 2080s.

Navy nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarines are intended to perform a somewhat contradictory, yet essential mission. By ensuring the prospect of massive devastation to an enemy through counterattack, weapons of total destruction can – by design – succeed in keeping the peace.

Columbia-Class Technology

Although complete construction is slated to ramp up fully in the next decade, Navy and General Dynamics Electric Boat developers have already been prototyping key components, advancing science and technology efforts and working to mature a handful of next generation technologies.

With this in mind, the development strategy for the Columbia-Class could well be described in terms of a two-pronged approach; in key respects, the new boats will introduce a number of substantial leaps forward or technical innovations – while simultaneously leveraging currently available cutting-edge technologies from the Virginia-Class attack submarines, Navy program managers have told Warrior.

Designed to be 560-feet– long and house 16 Trident II D5 missiles fired from 44-foot-long missile tubes, Columbia-Class submarines will be engineered as a stealthy, high-tech nuclear deterrent able to quietly patrol the global undersea domain.

Some of the first soldiers to fight after 9/11 remember how the attacks changed everything
NAVSEA concept of Columbia-class submarine

While Navy developers explain that many elements of the new submarines are not available for discussion for security reasons, some of its key innovations include a more efficient electric drive propulsion system driving the shafts and a next-generation nuclear reactor. A new reactor will enable extended deployment possibilities and also prolong the service life of submarines, without needing to perform the currently practiced mid-life refueling.

By engineering a “life-of-ship” reactor core, the service is able to build 12 Columbia-Class boats able to have the same at sea presence as the current fleet of 14 ballistic missile submarines. The plan is intended to save the program $40 billion savings in acquisition and life-cycle cost, Navy developers said.

Regarding development of the US-UK Common Missile Compartment, early “tube and hull” forging have been underway for several years already, according to Navy and Electric Boat officials.

The US plans to build 12 new Columbia-Class Submarines, each with 16 missile tubes, and the UK plans to build four nuclear-armed ballistic submarines, each with 12 missile tubes.

The Columbia-Class will also use Virginia-class’s next-generation communications system, antennas and mast. For instance, what used to be a periscope is now a camera mast connected to fiber-optic cable, enabling crew members in the submarine to see images without needing to stand beneath the periscope. This allows designers to move command and control areas to larger parts of the ship and still have access to images from the camera mast, Electric Boat and Navy officials said.

The Columbia-Class will utilize Virginia-class’ fly-by-wire joystick control system and large-aperture bow array sonar. The automated control fly-by-wire navigation system is also a technology that is on the Virginia-Class attack submarines. A computer built-into the ship’s control system uses algorithms to maintain course and depth by sending a signal to the rudder and the stern, a Navy Virginia Class program developer told Warrior Maven in a previous interview.

Sonar technology works by sending out an acoustic ping and then analyzing the return signal in order to discern shape, location or dimensions of an undersea threat.

Navy experts explained that the large aperture bow array is water backed with no dome and very small hydrophones able to last for the life of the ship; the new submarines do not have an air-backed array, preventing the need to replace transducers every 10-years.

In January 2017, development of the new submarines have passed what’s termed “Milestone B,” clearing the way beyond early development toward ultimate production.

In Fall 2017, the Navy awarded General Dynamics Electric Boat a $5 billion contract award is for design, completion, component and technology development and prototyping efforts.

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

MIGHTY SPORTS

The new Army Football uniforms will be in honor of the Big Red One

Every second Saturday of December, the soldiers of West Point settle their differences with the sailors and Marines of Annapolis in a good, old-fashioned football game. It’s a fiercely heated contest — and not just for the players on the field, but between entire branches.

Remember, when it comes to the troops, any little thing that can be used as bragging rights will be — even the uniforms are a type of competition. Traditionally, each team dons a new military history-inspired uniform for the Army-Navy game. Bringing the best threads to the gridiron isn’t officially a contest, but if it were, hot damn the Army would be winning.


Some of the first soldiers to fight after 9/11 remember how the attacks changed everything

It’s unclear at this time if all Cadets on the field will be wearing the Black Lion or just the ones wearing the 28th Infantry Regiment on their lapel.

(West Point Athletics)

This year, the soldiers are honoring the First Infantry Division by sporting a uniform inspired by the Big Red One. It was chosen because 2018 marks the 100-year anniversary of the signing of the armistice that ended World War I. While there were many American units that fought, several of whom are still around, the 1st ID is often heralded for their decisive victory at the Battle of Cantigny.

The iconic Black Lions of Cantigny have been incorporated into the shoulders of the uniforms. The rest of the uniform is a flat black with red trimmings. It features, of course, the Nike logo (the team’s sponsor) and the unit insignia. On the collars are insignias that represent the various regiments of the 1st Infantry Division that fought in World War I.

On the back of the helmet, if you look closely, you’ll spot a subtle American flag. Sharp football fans will notice that the flag only has 48 stars on it. Keeping with WWI legacy, this was the flag that the soldiers of WWI fought under, long before Alaska and Hawaii became part of the Union in 1959.

Check out the announcement video below that was posted to the official Army West Point Athletics Facebook page.

Go Army! Beat Navy!

Articles

Air Force keeping the beloved A-10 around for at least a few more years

The Air Force is keeping the famed A-10 “Warthog” aircraft around for at least a few more years, Defense News is reporting.


The close air support aircraft beloved by ground troops won’t begin to be retired until 2021, reversing a previous decision to start mothballing them next year.

“We’re going to keep them until 2021, and then as a discussion that we’ll have with [Defense] Secretary Mattis and the department and the review over all of our budgets, that is what will determine the way ahead,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein told Defense News.

Some of the first soldiers to fight after 9/11 remember how the attacks changed everything
A U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II attack aircraft assigned to the 25th Fighter Squadron out of Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, takes off from Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, Oct. 10, 2016. | U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Karen J. Tomasik

The A-10 is pretty well-loved by infantry troops, since the aircraft can lay waste to ground targets with its 30mm cannon and air-to-surface missiles. Its heavy armor also makes it more survivable against incoming ground fire.

The Air Force, however, has been trying to kill the aircraft for years in order to make way for the multi-role F-35 fighter. For now, at least, the service is walking back those moves and is keeping the A-10 around until a suitable ‘A-10-like’ replacement can be found.

“That starts with an understanding of how we do the business today of close air support, because the reality is it’s changed significantly, and it will change significantly in the future if we get this right, because this is something we’ve got to continue to think about,” Goldfein said.

Articles

DoD denied benefits to a veteran’s widow over a wrong checked box

Joseph Parrinello served his country during three wars – World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. He met and married Margaret Donnelly while serving in England. They married on December 27, 1957. She followed him to all his assignments and did what many wives did at that time: she took care of the children and managed the household.


In 1972, Joseph retired after 28 years of service. His chief concern in life was making sure Margaret, who was 14 years younger than he and only ever worked in the home, was taken care of if he died. After a lifetime of investments, the Defense Department is denying his beloved her survivor benefits because of one wrongly checked box.

Some of the first soldiers to fight after 9/11 remember how the attacks changed everything

After many years together, they divorced in 1991. There was no love lost, Margaret married Joseph at 19 and had just never really known life without Joseph. He still loved her and she was still the mother of his children, so she remained the beneficiary of his Survivor Benefit Plan, even though they were no longer married. During their time apart, Joseph gave his beloved money every month to take care of her, even after the children came of age and left home. It was a surprise to no one when they remarried in 2006. Joseph was 83 and Margaret was 69.

By that time, Joseph had battled cancer and kidney failure. His overall health declined for years, but he never filed a disability claim with the Department of Veterans’ Affairs because he only wanted what he was due and felt the VA didn’t owe him anything. So he lived on Social Security and his retirement pay as an E-7 with 28 years in service.

Some of the first soldiers to fight after 9/11 remember how the attacks changed everything

Throughout his retirement, Joseph paid 15 percent of his income to take care of Margaret. He had an allotment taken out of his retirement to cover her in the event of his death, resulting in several decades of investment. His survivor benefit plan listed her as the sole beneficiary. At 83, he was tired, ill, and not as sharp as he once was. He didn’t change Margaret’s status from “former spouse” back to “current spouse” on the SBP form because he didn’t think he had to. In his mind, his Margaret was both former and current, and was going to be okay.

When he died at age 91 in December 2014, his daughter Lisa, also an Air Force veteran, tried to help her mother claim her survivor benefits. They initially filed in December of 2014 – but the Defense Finance and Accounting Service said they didn’t receive Margaret’s claim, though DFAS was sure to stop Joseph’s retirement pay and take back pay for part of the month of December. So Margaret refiled in January and was told it takes about six weeks to receive benefits.

Some of the first soldiers to fight after 9/11 remember how the attacks changed everything
Joseph Parrinello

After six weeks, Margaret called DFAS to check the status. The answer was the claim was “still processing”. When her daughter Lisa called in February 2015, the claim was “still processing.” In March 2015, Lisa was told her mother “will get paid by the end of March.” In April, the claim was “still processing” and DFAS asked Margaret to send more documents to support her claim.

Lisa, frustrated, contacted her congressman, Mark Sanford. Sanford’s office was able to get an answer from the Defense Department. On June 1, 2015, Margaret was officially denied her benefits because the form had “former spouse” checked even though she is both the former and current spouse and her name is also on the form stating her as beneficiary. The family was told the form needed to be changed through the Air Force Personnel Center. The change (if approved) can take up to 18 months but the Air Force is “backlogged and must go in order.”

As Margaret waits for the Air Force to check a different box, she’s about to lose the house she shared with Joseph, their car, their treasured possessions, and the last wishes and lifetime work of a 28-year Air Force Master Sergeant, who only wanted the love of his life to be taken care of when he died.

The Defense Department did not tell the Parrinellos where Joseph’s 20-plus years of investments went or where they will go if they’re not given to Margaret.