Calling the breadth and capability of the U.S. Special Operations Forces “astonishing,” the assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict discussed the global posture of the nation’s special operations enterprise during a hearing Feb. 14, 2019, on Capitol Hill.
Owen O. West appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee with Army Gen. Raymond A. Thomas III, the commander of U.S. Special Operations Command.
West said that while special operations forces make up just 3 percent of the joint force, they have absorbed more than 40 percent of the casualties since 2001. “This sacrifice serves as a powerful reminder that special operators are in the risk business,” he said.
The assistant secretary said the National Defense Strategy has challenged all of DOD to increase focus on long-term strategic competition with Russia and China, and the SOF enterprise is in the midst of transformation; “something special operators have always done very well.”
Assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict Owen West.
Any transformation starts with people, West said, noting, “In November, Gen. Thomas and I issued the first-ever joint vision for the [special operations forces] enterprise, challenging professionals to relentlessly pursue the decisive competitive advantage.”
Not stretched thin
West told the committee he is “proud to report to you that our SOF is neither overstretched nor breaking, but very healthy and eager to defend the nation against increasingly adaptive foes.”
As an integral part of the joint force, special operations troops are integrated into every facet of the NDS, Thomas told the committee.
“For the last 18 years, our No. 1 priority has been the effort against violent extremist organizations,” the general said. “As part of the joint force, we continue to be the … major supporting effort in Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, Lake Chad Basin; everywhere [Islamic State of Iraq and Syria-] affiliated organizations are. We are relentlessly pursuing them to ensure this country never, ever endures another 9/11.”
A more lethal force
Thomas noted that Socom remains focused on finishing the effort by, with and through the United States’ many coalition partners.
“At the same time, again, as part of the joint force, we’re endeavoring to provide a more lethal and capable special operations force to confront peer competitors,” the commander said.
To build a more lethal force, strengthen alliances and partnerships and reform for greater performance and efficiency, Socom is reshaping and focusing its forces on capabilities, while also developing new technological and tactical approaches to accomplish the diverse mission that Socom will face in the future, Thomas said.
“The emergency security challenges will require Socom to be an organization of empowered SOF professionals — globally networked, partnered and integrated in relentlessly seeking advantage — in every domain for the joint force in the nation,” the general said.
A CV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft takes off with a team of special tactics airmen assigned to the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron during exercise Emerald Warrior 19.1 at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., Jan. 22, 2019.
(Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Rose Gudex)
In addition to its responsibility to man, train and equip the world’s most capable special operations forces, over the past few years, Socom has experienced considerable development in another legislative role as a combatant command, he said.
Global mission sets
“We are currently assigned the role as the coordinating authority for three major global mission sets: counterterrorism, countering weapons of mass destruction and recently, messaging and countermessaging,” Thomas said.
“These roles require us to lead planning efforts, continually address joint force progress toward campaign objectives, and recommend improvements for modifications to our campaign approach to the secretary of defense,” he explained.
In parallel, Socom is pursuing an aggressive partnership with the other combatant commands with global portfolios: U.S. Cyber Command, U.S. Strategic Command, U.S. Transportation Command and U.S. Space Command, Thomas said, which is designed to leverage Socom’s respective capabilities to provide more agile solutions to DOD.
“We are increasing our investments in a wide spectrum of emerging technologies to include artificial intelligence/machine learning, automated systems, advanced robotics, augmented reality, biomedical monitoring, and advanced armor and munitions development, to name a few,” the general said.
“Leveraging our proven ability to rapidly develop and field cutting-edge technology flowing from our focus on the tactical edge of combat,” Thomas said, ” joint experimentation initiative will bring together innovative efforts from across our special operations force tactical formations to ensure that commanders’ combat requirements are addressed with the most advanced concepts available.”
One soldier is proving childhood dreams can come true as she prepares to launch into space for her first time.
Army Astronaut Lt. Col. Anne C. McClain, and her crewmates, David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency and Oleg Kononenko of the Russian Space Agency Roscosmos, are scheduled to launch Dec. 20, 2018, aboard the Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan for a six-month rotation on the International Space Station.
“When you look over the history of human space flight during the past 50 years, it is a relatively short time,” McClain said. “Every vehicle that has been built and every flight that has been taken is an accomplishment in and of itself. We have been flying to the space station for about 18 years and the thing we are always doing at all of our agencies is [asking], ‘What’s next? What is the next step we can take where mankind has never been before?’ For us, that is deep space.
“At the crew level we are fortunate,” she continued. “We have been training together more than a year for this flight. It is actually very easy to forget we are from three different countries and three different places because we are doing the same things together every day. We have the same concerns and the same issues in dealing with our families and we just connect as human beings.”
‘We are all in it together’
“At the end of the day, the Earth is a small place and we are all in it together, McClain said. “The decisions we make affect one another. From our perspectives, rather than taking politics and letting them inform our friendships, we actually take our friendships and let them inform our view of how politics should be and how our world could be.
“The peaceful exploration of space is absolutely a unifying aspect,” she added. “Working with this crew is an incredible opportunity, but it is also an example of what humans can do when we put aside our differences and really focus on what motivates us.”
Army Astronaut Lt. Col. Anne C. McClain.
McClain is a native of Spokane, Washington, and earned her undergraduate degree from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York. Additionally, she earned two master’s degrees while studying in England. She was a member of the USA Rugby Women’s National Team and said her experiences have played an integral role in helping her work with the international members of her NASA team.
“We are not just going to the International Space Station to visit, we are going there to live. It will be our home, and we are going to adapt to it,” McClain said. “When I go to Russia, it is absolutely a second home for me right now. I always tell people it is amazing the perspective you get when you get out of your comfort zone long enough to make it your comfort zone.
“It is amazing to see how people on the other side of the world approach the exact same problems yet come up with different solutions,” she added. “Getting comfortable in another culture really helps you understand perspectives and that we are not that different from one another.”
As a soldier, McClain earned her wings as an OH-58D Kiowa Warrior scout/attack helicopter pilot. She has more than 2,000 flight hours and served at every level of Army aviation units at Wheeler Army Airfield, Hawaii, and at Fort Rucker, Alabama; as well as in combat operations during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“The Army has given me everything I have as an adult,” she said. “It gave me my undergraduate college education and two master’s degrees. It gave me flight school and test pilot school. But I think, most importantly, the Army gave me really humbling, selfless leadership experience.”
“I went into the Army probably a little overconfident in some of my abilities, and I came out very humbled and very in awe of the people I serve with and with a recognition that I could never accomplish remotely what others can when given the right tools,” McClain said. “My biggest role as a leader or as a member of the team is to enable other people around me to perform at their optimal best.”
Expedition 58 crew members Anne McClain of NASA (left), Oleg Kononenko of Roscosmos (center) and David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency (right) pose for pictures following their final Soyuz spacecraft qualification exams at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia.
(NASA photo by Elizabeth Weissinger)
“I try to be the leader who synergizes the team and tries to recognize barriers to the team around me and knock those barriers down,” she continued. “Our soldiers in our military are some of the most innovative, smart, dedicated, selfless people who I have ever worked with in my life. I am humbled every day just to be in their ranks. I learned from them to trust the people around me.
“Here at NASA our lives depend on each other every day,” McClain added. “I was in a vacuum chamber last week that can be a real threat to your body. These guys put on my gloves and pants while doing a leak check to make sure everything was good. My life was in their hands last week and it will be again in the future. I learned to have that trust in the Army.”
In 2013, McClain attended the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School where she was selected as one of eight members of NASA’s 21st astronaut class. Her astronaut candidate training included scientific and technical briefings, intensive instruction in ISS systems, spacewalks, robotics, physiological training, T-38 flight training and water and wilderness survival training. She completed astronaut training in 2015.
“If you do the thing everybody else does, you are going to get what everybody else does,” McClain said. “If you want to do something amazing and something great, you need to start being different today and stay dedicated to that. There is nothing you are doing that is not important so you must excel in everything you do.”
During the upcoming mission, McClain and her team will facilitate about 250 research investigations and technology demonstrations. She explained that science experiments conducted in space yield benefits and technology advancements for all humanity and looks forward to achieving more scientific progress.
“The benefit of science experiments in micro-gravity and low-earth orbit are too numerous to just leave and move onto the next thing,” McClain said. “I am overwhelmed at the quantity of tasks we have, in a good way. One of the really neat things about going to the space station for six months is that we don’t specialize.”
“One of the things I really like is getting into academic areas I had no experience with before,” she continued. “I am an aerospace engineer by training and I was a test pilot in the Army. One of my favorite things now is biology and learning about the human body. To me this is really fascinating, and I could have had a totally different career and loved it also.
“What I am most excited about is space walks. We have some ‘penciled in’ for our mission,” McClain added. “It is what I dreamed of when I was a little 5-year-old girl and it is pretty neat to think that maybe in the next six months it could be happening.”
Veterans lined the halls of the Jack C. Montgomery VA Medical Center Nov. 8, 2019 to watch the first ever Inpatient Veterans Parade. The parade is the result of one VA employee’s vision and the patriotic spirit of a community.
The Muskogee High School R.O.T.C. color guard led the way through Primary Care and inpatient wards. The parade also included members of the community and “mini” floats decorated by VA staff.
Honor, the facility dog, acted as grand marshal while parade participants handed out candy, hats and other treats to veterans.
Twenty-five organizations and VA services joined in the event. Muskogee High School provided a marching band, cheerleaders and football players. Korean War veterans, the American Red Cross and over 80 students from the Sadler Arts Academy also participated.
Seeing Color Guard was emotional
Veteran Billy Fuller became emotional when he saw the color guard.
“I really liked the parade,” said Fuller. “I was in the Air Force and seeing the colors and hearing the songs just takes me back. Thank you for doing this for us.”
VA staff from the Intensive Care Unit were one of 25 hospital services and community organizations that participated in the parade.
Sadler students passed out cards and thanked veterans for their service while the band, cheer squad and football players brought the music and patriotic spirit that echoed throughout the facility.
Air Force veteran Merle Smith and Terry Hood were all smiles as the parade passed through the Inpatient Rehabilitation Unit.
“I think this is the greatest thing in the world,” said Smith. “All these young kids bringing cards and thanking veterans. It was just really something special.”
Hood agreed, but added with a big smile, “The candy was my favorite part.”
Volunteer specialist had idea for parade
The idea for the parade came about a year ago when inpatients expressed their disappointment at not being able to attend Veterans Day activities. As a result, Voluntary Service specialist Shantel McJunkins thought of how VA could bring the parade to veterans.
“It was important to me that we bring the parade to the VA this year to celebrate and honor our veterans who are not able to attend Veterans Day parades in their community,” said McJunkins. “It was such a joy to see their faces light up as the parade went through the hospital.”
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
Deciding to join the military is a huge step for anyone looking to make a life-altering change. One of the most appealing aspects of becoming a member of the armed forces is the vast array of professional opportunities the service offers.
You can sign up, ship out, and, within a few short months, be guarding a military installation as your newfound brothers- and sisters-in-arms sleep.
That’s a pretty crazy thought, right? Well, we think so. While everyone has their individual reasons for signing up for service, electing to serve in the infantry, the dangerous role, says a great deal about a person. These are the top 6 reasons that people sign up to join the ground-pounders.
A common reason for joining the military is a family connection to service. However, since joining the infantry can mean seeing some intense combat, it takes a bold person to follow in their father’s or grandfather’s war-hero footsteps. To those brave troops that serve to honor their family legacy, we salute you.
To be a part of something big
Signing up means you could help your unit rid an enemy-infested area of insurgents and free the innocent locals within — it’s a possibility. However, serving in the infantry doesn’t always mean you’re going to end up in a bloody war zone.
You will, however, likely end up deploying to another country where you’re going to work alongside a foreign Army and help them train. It’s how much of our nation’s foreign relationships are built and we think that’s badass.
Military recruiters are slick when it comes to talking a teenager into joining the infantry. That’s a pretty cut-and-dry way many end up going to the grunts.
Yes, that’s kind of messed up, but honorably completing your service contract is an outstanding feat nonetheless.
Using it as a segue
Serving in a grunt unit opens many, many doors for service members. That’s right; not all ground-pounders transition into law enforcement when they get out. You can write about your unique experiences for a living, become a military adviser for a Hollywood production, or go back to school and learn a new craft.
The choice is yours.
Sitting behind a desk isn’t the worst job you can have in the military. But serving in the infantry offers you tons of experiences that you otherwise would never see. Use the military like they’re going to use you. Take every opportunity you’re offered and you can make a career out of those experiences after you get out.
Look at all of us who work at We Are The Mighty — just sayin’.
Before John Klipstein joined the Army, he smoked a pack a day and his PT test run time was roughly 23 minutes — which accounts for the time spent throwing up on the side of the track. The military turned that around. The newly-minted 13B found a love for fitness and pushing his body to the limit. After leaving the military, he developed a line of supplements to help others do the same — safely.
During his first deployment, Klipstein and his friends handled the stress by working out. In his time at the gym, he noticed a lot of soldiers taking a lot of different supplements — some of which could be found on the military’s banned supplement list. Klipstein was interested in why those expensive jugs of pre-workout were confiscated — what exactly their ingredients were.
By the time his second deployment rolled around, he was making his own pre-workout using ingredients he ordered himself. Now that he was in the role of squad leader, it was his job to confiscate banned substances. He used the opportunity to educate his troops on the dangers of those banned ingredients. Sadly, shortly after his deployment ended, an NCO in their unit died during a five-mile run. The cause was cardiac arrest — caused by a pre-workout supplement.
“This happens all the time in the military,” Klipstein says. “Heavy stimulants mixed with extreme heat and intense training can be very dangerous and soldiers end up dying from it.”
(Courtesy of John Klipstein)
“Sometimes, supplements may be effective but have questionable safety profiles.” says Jennifer Campbell, an Army veteran, Certified Personal Trainer, and Master of Science in Nutrition Education. “Remember Hydroxycut back in the early 2000s? Its active ingredient was Ephedra, which was banned by the FDA in 2004.”
So, when Klipstein started UXO Supplements after leaving the Army, he made it UXO’s mission and vision to provide safe and effective formulas for supplements while educating people on how to use them the right way.
“With UXO you get clean energy with clinical amounts of researched and proven ingredients” he says. “All products are manufactured in an FDA approved lab, so you will not find any banned substances. In fact, we have all products 3rd-party tested before they hit the shelves to ensure they are safe for our consumers.”
“Knowledge of a supplement’s legality, safety, purity, and effectiveness is critical,” Campbell says. “Unlike food, the FDA does not review supplements for safety and effectiveness before they are marketed. The manufacturers and distributors of dietary supplements are responsible for making sure their products are safe before they go to market.”
Klipstein left the Army as an E6 promotable after herniating two discs and banging up his knee but UXO’s other business partner remains in the service, keeping up with the fitness trends that affect the military the most. Even though John Klipstein isn’t rucking up and down mountains and patrolling villages on maneuver missions anymore, he’s still working to keep himself — and his veteran-owned business — in shape and taking care of his brothers- and sisters-in-arms.
“The most important thing about being a vet-owned business is giving back to the veteran community,” Klipstein says. “We do it with a quality product and solid education. We also offer them a 25 percent discount.”
Just use the coupon code MILSUPPS25 at when checking out at UXOSupplements.com. He also invites the military-veteran community to tell him what they think of his products.
Fitness and Nutrition expert Jennifer Campbell also adds that some supplement manufacturers aim to pursue the most inexpensive raw material from suppliers that will pass under the given certificate of analysis to minimize the cost of goods. She backs Klipstein’s insistence on supplement education.
“Do your research,” she says.
John Klipstein isn’t about to let another soldier fall to poor or unethical supplements. He’s happy to post his ingredients — and explain how lesser supplements are trying to be deceptive with their ingredient lists. He, like Campbell, warns of things like “proprietary blends” and implores supplement seekers to find third-party reviewed ingredients in the products they purchase.
UXO products are tasty and provide the energy and recovery they promise. The military discount is great because it makes the products extremely affordable. On top of that, before purchasing, UXO Supplements tells you everything you need to know about the type of product you’re buying as well as the formulation and purpose of the specific item you’re interested in. It’s a great intro to workout supplements, from start to finish.
Klipstein wants all his clients to be healthy, happy, and of course, repeat customers. The UXO Blog says it all.
“There is nothing better than receiving positive feedback from veterans and athletes alike. Our goal is to deliver a great product with an amazing taste. We will never sacrifice our values or our quality to try and make a quick dollar.”
Before retiring in 2010, Willink trained and served as a leader for 20 years and led SEAL Team 3, Task Unit Bruiser, the most highly decorated US special operations unit of the Iraq War. Achieving that success did not come from blind obedience, Willink said.
To become a SEAL leader and move up in ranks, you need to learn from a good leader, something Willink did not have in his second SEAL platoon. Willink said the officer in charge of his platoon was “tyrannical” with little experience and a lack of confidence.
Willink and his platoon would confront their leader if they did not agree with an order. “If you’re a bad leader, you’re not going to be able to maintain that leadership position,” Willink said.
He gave an example of how orders are typically followed and what happens when they are challenged:
“That bad leader that we had, we did what he said. He said, ‘We’re going to do this like that,’ and we went, ‘That doesn’t make sense.’
He said, ‘Do it anyways.’ ‘OK.’ But that only lasts so long. So that’s another thing that in leadership positions, sometimes people feel like they need to force people to do things. And it’ll work once. It’ll work twice. But it doesn’t work forever, and it actually doesn’t work as effectively even right away as someone else saying, ‘Hey, here’s how I think we should do it.’ ‘OK, well, I like your plan. Go ahead and do it.'”
“[We] went before our commanding officer and said, ‘We don’t want to work for this guy.’ Which is amazing, right? You don’t hear about very much of this happening. But it’s also something that you deal with in the SEAL Teams. It’s something that you deal with in the military,” Willink said.
The mutiny was successful and the platoon’s leader was fired. A new leader who Willink described as experienced, capable, intelligent, and “great to work for” immediately took his place.
“When I saw that difference between those two leaders, I said to myself, ‘Wow, that’s important, and I need to pay attention to that,'” he said. “And that was what sort of got me thinking about moving to the officers’ side and becoming a leader in the SEAL Teams.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
A French air force flying team will roar over the Air Force Academy on April 19 to celebrate the nations’ bonds built in the sky during World War I.
Patrouille de France, that nation’s equivalent of the Air Force Thunderbirds, will arrive over the academy about 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, April 19, for a brief air show. It’s a big flying team with eight Dassault/Dornier Alpha Jets, a twin-engined light attack fighter that’s known for its nimbleness.
“I think folks in Colorado Springs will get a great miniature airshow,” said Lt. Col. Allen Herritage, an Air Force Academy spokesman.
The first Americans to reach the aerial battlefields of France, though, were American airmen of the French air force’s Lafayette Escadrille, a fighter unit with American pilots that was established a year before the United States entered the war.
America’s first flying aces came from the small French unit, including Maj. Gervais Lufberry, who was credited with downing 16 planes before he was killed over Francein 1918.
The relationship built over the trenches between French and American pilots is still celebrated at the Air Force Academy today.
Herritage said the school has a French officer on the faculty and French exchange cadets on the campus. One of the pilots on the French flying team, Maj. Nicolas Lieumont, was an exchange student at the Colorado Springs school.
“We feel lucky to have them stop in Colorado Springs,” Herritage said. “It marks our nation’s longstanding relationship with France.”
The academy is inviting locals to get a better view of the French team. Visitors are welcome at the academy on April 19 and can watch the show from a viewing area near the Cadet chapel.
Rifles, grenades, and bayonets are just some of the weapons ground troops used while fighting in the trenches of World War I. However, there’s one weapon that’s often overlooked by history, even though its use was extremely important — especially in the close-quarters combat typical of The Great War. That is the trench club.
In the event that one force decided to raid their enemy’s trench, oftentimes, their bolt-action rifles were rendered near ineffective, as each shot was followed by spending precious seconds reloading. Similarly, stabbing a man with a bayonet requires that, before engaging another enemy, you must first withdraw the blade from the bad guy’s flesh. Every single moment matters when you’ve closed in on the enemy, and regaining a firm grip on your bayonet may take too long.
So, troops grabbed old pieces of wood and converted them into weapons. The various types of trench clubs used in World War I hearken back to when brave Knights once fought with them on medieval battlefields. Here’s what you didn’t know about these improvised tools of destruction.
1. They would commonly see use in night raids
In the black of night, troops would crawl across the dangerous area between friendly and enemy fortifications known as “no man’s land” and navigate through the enemy’s trenches, quietly clubbing their opposers without raising alarm.
2. Size does matter
Reportedly, a medium-sized club worked best within the confined spaces typical of trench warfare. The average club was approximately 40-centimeters long, which is, basically, the length of a standard classroom ruler plus 3 inches.
3. They were made right there on the frontline
Trench clubs weren’t standard issue, so troops would gather materials found in the trenches and either put them together themselves or have unit’s carpenter do it. Nails, the shell of a Mills’ bomb, and a variety metal components were affixed the clubs, usually in mass quantities, to increase lethality.
See the club on the bottom? Yeah, that’s the spring club.
4. The most famous type of club was the…
This club was made up of a leather handle, a flexible metal coil as the base, and a metal head. Various other heads, like smalls metals balls and star-shaped blades, were also affixed to clubs.
Check out Simple History‘s video below to get an animated look on the major impact trench clubs had on World War I.
The Air ForceWC-130H aircraft veered to the left on the runway, almost rolling into the grass before the crew was able to get it airborne.
The pilot quickly made the decision to return to the Georgia airfield they had just departed. The pilot directed the shutdown of engine one, operating on the remaining three.
“Coming back,” the pilot repeated five times over the next 30 seconds.
Investigators said that within those few seconds the pilot improperly applied nine more degrees with the left rudder, “which resulted in a subsequent skid below three-engine minimum controllable airspeed, a left-wing stall, and the [mishap aircraft’s] departure from controlled flight.”
No other “meaningful direction” was given to the crew other than an order to “brace” just before impact.
The plane was airborne for two minutes overall before it crashed down into Georgia State Highway 21 roughly 1.5 miles northeast of the Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport, killing all aboard.
A newly released mishap report determined that the WC-130 crash that claimed the lives of nine members of the Puerto Rico Air National Guard in 2018 was largely due to pilot error. But troubling engine and maintenance issues documented in the aging aircraft raise more questions about the cause of the catastrophic May 2, 2018 mishap.
C-130J Hercules and WC-130J Hercules fly in formation during an Operation Surge Capacity exercise April, 5, 2014, over the Mississippi Gulf Coast region.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Nicholas Monteleone)
The WC-130, which belonged to the 156th Airlift Wing, Muñiz Air National Guard Base, Puerto Rico, had recurring issues with its first engine, according to the Aircraft Accident Investigation
Board Report released Nov. 9, 2018. The issues were documented a month before the aircraft’s final flight, as well as the day of the deadly crash.
The crew should have more closely followed emergency procedure and called for immediate action after discovering one of the aircraft’s engines was malfunctioning, Millard said. Instead, the malfunction led to loss of control of the plane, causing it to crash, the report found.
Experts who spoke with Military.com, however, pointed out that lapses in maintenance deeply disadvantaged the crew even before the aircraft left the runway. The plane, which had been in service more than 50 years, was on its final journey to the “boneyard” at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona when it went down.
“The engine malfunction is most definitely large factor and I would say the catalyst for the events that unfolded,” said an Air Force instructor pilot who flies a mobility aircraft and agreed to speak to Military.com on background about the report’s findings. “It appears the [report] narrowed in on a particular piece of the engine (the valve housing assembly) which had intermittent issues with [revolutions per minute] over its lifetime with multiple different engines.”
Nine died in the crash: Maj. José R. Román Rosado, the pilot; Maj. Carlos Pérez Serra, the navigator; 1st Lt. David Albandoz, a co-pilot; Senior Master Sgt. Jan Paravisini, a mechanic; Master Sgt. Mario Braña, a flight engineer; Master Sgt. Eric Circuns, loadmaster; Master Sgt. Jean Audriffred, crew member; Master Sgt. Víctor Colón, crew member; and Senior Airman Roberto Espada, crew member.
The Air Force ordered an immediate investigation into the accident. Days later, after Military Times published an in-depth report showing that military aviation accidents have increased over the last five years, the service directed its wing commanders to hold a one-day pause in order to conduct a safety review with airmen, assessing trends and criteria that may have led to the recent rash of crashes.
Unsolved maintenance problems
The newly released investigation shows that the plane was cleared for flight even though the recorded oscillation data of the plane’s outermost left engine did not match its intended performance.
The WC-130 made its ferry flight from Puerto Rico to Savannah, Georgia, on April 9, 2018. And the flight crew operating the [mishap aircraft] “experienced an RPM issue with engine one, and reported the incident for troubleshooting and repair,” the report said.
While the crew found a fix, maintainers struggled to replicate both the in-flight operations and the solution the pilots used to better understand the what went wrong. They found they couldn’t recreate the crew’s original solution, which was to switch “on the propeller governor control to mechanical governing,” to see if that rectified the issue, it said.
A U.S. Air Force Lockheed C-130E-LM Hercules (s/n 64-0510) from the 198th Airlift Squadron, 156th Airlift Wing, Puerto Rico Air National Guard, prepares to take off from Muniz ANGB, Puerto Rico, on Feb. 29, 2004.
According to post-mishap interviews, during a second maintenance engine run, the “mishap maintainers observed engine one produced 99% revolutions per minute,” the report said.
But the digital flight data recorder (DFDR) said otherwise.
The DFDR indicated “engine one never reached sustained RPM above 96.8% and had significant oscillations between 95% and 98%,” it said.
The Air Force investigators said that when performing an engine run, the [technical order] requires a range “of 99.8% to 100.02% RPM, as displayed on a precision tachometer, to verify an engine is operating properly at 100%.2.”
The maintainers, who failed to use a precision instrument, missed a chance to diagnose a fluctuating, weaker engine.
“Good enough” mentality
The maintainers should have noted these red flags, the instructor pilot who spoke with Military.com said.
“The maintainers… failed to properly conduct the inspection of the engine,” the instructor pilot said. “The crew likely would have never stepped to the aircraft that day, at least not without the engine being verified to have reached the required power threshold, versus over 2 percent lower than the minimum.”
In the report, maintainers are faulted for having a “good enough” mentality about the aircraft’s condition.
Twitter user @MikeBlack114, a self-identified Air Force aircraft maintenance officer, also faulted the “good enough” mentality as a reason mistakes were made in a tweet thread. Furthermore, leadership should have paid better attention, he said.
“I’ll let someone with wings address the aircrew piece, but the mx [maintenance] portion is almost unfathomable,” Black said in a Twitter thread. “If you’re in a leadership position of an organization involved with flying and you aren’t uncovering the skeletons (believe me, they’re there, just a question of how severe they are) you aren’t looking hard enough.”
Another problem, according to the report, was the maintainers observing the aircraft did not use a tachometer to justify the data.
The report noted that they had conducted the engine test runs without the instrument because the compatible adapter plug to connect the precision tachometer to the aircraft was not available.
“During the engine runs and without the use of a precision tachometer, [mishap maintainer one] and [mishap maintainer two] knew that 100% RPM was the speed the engine should operate at, but believed 99% was sufficient to conclude their maintenance because of the wider gauge range provided in the [technical order],” the report said. “Thus, the mishap maintainers never corrected the engine one discrepancy and did not resolve the RPM issue.”
On May 2, 2018, engine one’s RPMs once again revealed an anomaly.
During takeoff, engine one’s RPMs fluctuated and couldn’t be stabilized when the first mishap pilot “advanced the throttle lever into the flight range,” according to the report.
“Engine one RPM and torque significantly decayed, which substantially lowered thrust,” investigators added.
While the banked turn the pilots made into the failed engine “was well below the minimum air speed needed for proper control of the aircraft, the [mishap aircraft] did still have enough airspeed to maintain flight,” the report said.
“The crew put the aircraft in a disadvantageous energy state by rotating (lifting off) 5 knots early and failing to accelerate as required by the procedures,” the instructor pilot said. “Unfortunately, this was not an unrecoverable situation by any means, and one crews in all airframes train to regularly.”
The reason for the initial flight in April 2018 was to conduct routine in-tank fuel cell maintenance in Georgia. The 165th Airlift Wing at Savannah Air National Guard Base had the means to do this, unlike the Puerto Rico Guard’s 156th Wing.
Puerto Rico’s facilities sustained substantial damage during Hurricane Maria and could not offer the maintenance at home station, the report said.
Although Adjutant Gen. Isabelo Rivera, the commanding officer of the Puerto Rico National Guard, said at the time of the crash the aircraft was more than 60 years old and one of the oldest C-130s in the fleet, its history and maintenance record say otherwise.
The aircraft, tail number 65-0968, rolled off the assembly line in 1965 as a standard C-130E, its records show.
“Sometime in the early 1970’s, it was converted to a WC-130H for use in weather reconnaissance (the “W” designation indicates the weather modifications),” the report said.
The engines were also “upgraded from T56-A-7 to the T56-A-15 at that time (which changed the “E” designation to “H”),” it said.
The aging aircraft life was extended because the wing had been expected to change missions. But that transition never came.
The fiscal 2016 budget “initially divested the six WC-130H aircraft from the Puerto Rico Air National Guard “and provided direction to move the 156th Airlift Wing to the RC-26, a manned Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) platform,” the report said. “However, this direction did not prove viable, as there was no requirement for a manned ISR mission in the United States Northern Command Theater.”
Millard, the investigator, said in the report there were no outstanding time compliance technical orders that would have restricted the plane from from flying.
Still, there should have been more transparency, the instructor pilot said.
“As an aircraft commander, there’s a ‘trust but verify’ mentality with the maintenance crews, but our knowledge is limited. So when a crew chief hands me the signed forms,” he said, “I have to trust those procedures and previous discrepancies have been fixed in accordance with the maintenance technical orders.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Millionaire scientist and Wall Street tycoon Alfred Lee Loomis who personally funded scientific research at his private estate and later went on to lead radar research efforts during WWII.
But the technological developments of Tuxedo Park didn’t happen in a vacuum. In fact, Winston Churchill gave the US access to British intel and research that fueled Loomis’ efforts, ultimately leading to our Allied victory.
Loomis was born in Manhattan, and his family were privileged, well-connected members of society. Most of his relatives were physicians, though several of his cousins held cabinet positions in various presidential administrations. After studying math and science at Yale, Loomis then went on to graduate in law from Harvard.
In 1917, Loomis volunteered for military service and was commissioned as a captain. During his time in service, he earned the rank of Lt. Col and worked primarily in ballistics at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland.
It was at Aberdeen that Loomis invented the Aberdeen Chronograph, the first instrument to accurately measure the muzzle velocity of artillery shells and could be transported and used on the battlefield.
Anticipating the Wall Street crash of 1929, Loomis managed to save his fortune by converting his assets to gold. With liquid resources, he was able to purchase stocks that had plummeted in value. This fortune allowed him to work closely with President Roosevelt in preparing the United States for WWII. Loomis used his contacts in the financial and law sectors of New York to finance early developments in radar. It was with this vision in mind that he opened up his expansive enclave in Tuxedo Park and turned it into a research facility.
At Tuxedo Park, Loomis and his small research staff conducted experiments into the emerging field of spectrometry, electro-encephalography, capillary waves, and the measurement of time. His laboratory was state of the art and contained equipment that several top-tier universities couldn’t afford. Because of this, Loomis’ reputation spread quickly as a patron of science. Several prominent European scientists traveled to Tuxedo Park to meet with American peers and collaborate on projects. Enrico Fermi, Werner Heisenberg, and Albert Einstein all visited the luxurious estate.
In as much as Tuxedo Park provided scientists with access to state of the art materials and equipment, the location also served as a socializing spot, where like-minded individuals could come together to discuss current issues in technology.
By the late 1930s, Loomis was interested in radio detection studies and worked with his research team to build the first microwave radar. Deployed from the back of a van, the team drove it to a golf course and aimed it at a nearby road to track cars and trucks. Then they took it to the local airport to track small aircraft.
Several prominent UK scientists were working on radar experiments in hopes that a technology might emerge, which could prevent the nightly bombing of the Luftwaffe. These scientists developed the cavity magnetron, allowing their radar tech to be inserted into aircraft.
Loomis then invited the cavity magnetron developers to Tuxedo Park to continue their work on the magnetron. Because Loomis had more experience than anyone else in the US, he was appointed to the National Defense Research Committee as the chairman of the Microwave Committee and the vice-chairman of Division D.
With so many scientists working toward the same goal, Tuxedo Park soon grew too small. So Loomis closed the research facility and moved to the Rad Lab, headquartered at MIT, where he and the team worked tirelessly toward the development of radar technology. What started as a handful of people working toward a common goal quickly grew to a staff of over 4,000. The Rad Lab’s innovation directly resulted in helping us win the war.
The resulting 10cm radar was the key technology that enabled U-boats to be sunk, along with allowing British forces to spot incoming German bombers. This radar also provided the cover the American troops needed for the D-Day landing.
As debate continues on the impact of President Trump’s executive order which halted the Syrian refugee program indefinitely, and placed a temporary 120-day ban on people coming from seven Muslim-majority countries that President Obama listed as “concerning” in 2015, are the ways the U.S. military has been affected.
Members of Arizona’s Air National Guard have been working with Iraqi pilots since 2012 to fly the F-16 Fighting Falcon. The program was expected to continue through at least 2020, according to a Department of Defense press release when the program began. Under Trump’s travel pause, no more Iraqi pilots will be able to enter the country.
Arizona Sen. John McCain is working to exempt Iraqi pilots from the executive order, and released a joint statement with fellow Rep. Sen. Lindsey Graham over the weekend.
“At this very moment, American troops are fighting side-by-side with our Iraqi partners to defeat ISIL. But this executive order bans Iraqi pilots from coming to military bases in Arizona to fight our common enemies,” the statement read. “Our most important allies in the fight against ISIL are the vast majority of Muslims who reject its apocalyptic ideology of hatred.”
Interpreters for US troops stuck in limbo
Many combat veterans who worked with interpreters in Iraq and Afghanistan are angry that the travel ban has compromised the safety of those who they say were instrumental in keeping them safe during combat deployments.
“Doing so would send a strong signal to those who show such immense courage to advance U.S. security interests at a risk to their own safety, as well as the many veterans and warfighters who’ve relied on the service of these individuals for their own protection and to accomplish their objectives,” the letter said.
Increased tensions with countries in the Middle East
Several allies in the Middle East sent cables to the White House on Monday, warning that the ban could be used as a propaganda tool for ISIS, and make the area more dangers for U.S. troops and coalition forces.
Qatar was the most critical of the executive order, with a senior official telling U.S. diplomats, “You could not have given our adversaries better propaganda material,” according to CBS News. He mentioned that despite the beginning decline of ISIS, “The timing of this has given the group a lifeline.”
In an interview with CBS, former CIA deputy director Mike Morell echoed the sentiments, saying, “It’s playing right into the ISIS narrative. ISIS has not said anything about this yet, but people around ISIS, who amplify its message, are talking about it, and they are saying, ‘See? We told you, this is a war against Islam.’ So this is going to be a recruitment boon for ISIS.
The Army and General Dynamics Land Systems are developing a Stryker-mounted laser weapon aimed at better arming the vehicle to incinerate enemy drones or threatening ground targets.
Concept vehicles are now being engineered and tested at the Army’s Ft. Sill artillery headquarters as a way to quickly develop the weapon for operational service. During a test this past April, the laser weapons successful shot down 21 out of 23 enemy drone targets.
The effort marks the first-ever integration of an Army laser weapon onto a combat vehicle.
“The idea is to provide a solution to a capability gap which is an inability to acquire, track and destroy low, slow drones that proliferate all over the world,” Tim Reese, director of strategic planning, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
The weapon is capable of destroying Group 1 and Group 2 small and medium-sized drones, Reese added.
The laser, which Reese says could be operational as soon as 11-months from now, will be integrated into the Fire Support Vehicle Stryker variant designed for target tracking and identification.
General Dynamics Land Systems is now working on upgrading the power of the laser from two kilowatts of power to five kilowatts. The laser weapon system uses its own tracking radar to acquire targets in the event that other sensors on the vehicle are disabled in combat and has an electronic warfare jamming system intended to jam the signal of enemy drones. Boeing is the maker of the fire-control technology integrated into the laser weapon. The laser is also integrated with air-defense and field artillery networks
“The energy of the laser damages, destroys and melts different components of the target,” Reese explained.
The Army is now in research and test mode, with a clear interest in rapidly deploying this technology. Reese added that GDLS anticipates being able to fire an 18-kilowatt laser from the Stryker by 2018.
One of the challenges with mobile laser weapons is the need to maintain enough exportable power to sustain the weapon while on-the-move, developers have explained.
“As power goes up, the range increases and time to achieve the melt increases. You can achieve less than one-half of the burn time,” he said.
This initiative is of particular relevance given the current tensions in Europe between Russia and NATO. US Army Europe has been amid a large-scale effort to collaborate with allies on multi-lateral exercises, show an ability to rapidly deploy armored forces across the European continent and up-gun combat platforms stationed in Europe such as the Stryker.
Lasers at Forward Operating Bases
The Army is planning to deploy laser weapons able to protect Forward Operating Bases (FOB) by rapidly incinerating and destroying approaching enemy drones, artillery rounds, mortars and cruise missiles, service leaders told ScoutWarrior.
Forward-deployed soldiers in places like Afghanistan are familiar with facing incoming enemy mortar rounds, rockets and gunfire attacks; potential future adversaries could launch drones, cruise missiles, artillery or other types of weapons at FOBs.
Adding lasers to the arsenal, integrated with sensors and fire-control radar, could massively help U.S. soldiers quickly destroy enemy threats by burning them out of the sky in seconds, Army leaders said.
Laser weapons have been in development with the Army for many years, Mary Miller, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Research and Technology, told Scout Warrior in an interview several months ago.
“We’ve clearly demonstrated you can takeout UAVs pretty effectively. Now we are not only working on how we take out UAVs but also mortars and missiles–and eventually cruise missiles,” she said.
The emerging weapons are being engineered into a program called Indirect Fire Protection Capability, or IFPC Increment 2. Through this program, the Army plans to fire lasers to protect forward bases by 2023 as part of an integrated system of technologies, sensors and weapons designed to thwart incoming attacks.
At the moment, Army soldiers at Forward Operating Bases use a system called Counter Rocket, Artillery, Mortar – or C-RAM, to knock down incoming enemy fire such as mortar shells. C-RAM uses sensors alongside a vehicle-mounted 20mm Phalanx Close-in-Weapons-System able to fire 4,500 rounds per minute. The idea is to blanket an area with large numbers of small projectiles as a way to intercept and destroy incoming artillery, rocket or mortar fire.
Also, lasers bring the promise of quickly incinerating a wide range of targets while helping to minimize costs, Miller explained.
“The shot per kill (with lasers) is very inexpensive when the alternative is sending out a multi-million dollar missile,” Miller said.
Boeing’s Avenger Laser weapon successfully destroyed a drone in 2008 at White Sands Missile Range. Army weapons developers observed the test.
The Army is also developing a mobile high-energy solid-state laser program called the High Energy Laser Mobile Demonstrator, or HEL MD. The weapon mounts a 10 kilowatt laser on top of a tactical truck. HEL MD weapons developers, who rotate the laser 360-degrees on top of a Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck, say the Army plan is to increase the strength of the laser up to 100 Kilowatts, service officials said.
“The supporting thermal and power subsystems will be also upgraded to support the increasingly powerful solid state lasers. These upgrades increase the effective range of the laser or decrease required lase time on target,” an Army statement said
In November of 2013, the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command used the HEL MD, a vehicle-mounted high energy laser, to successfully engage more than 90 mortar rounds and several unmanned aerial vehicles in flight at White Sands Missile Range, N.M.
“This was the first full-up demonstration of the HEL MD in the configuration that included the laser and beam director mounted in the vehicle. A surrogate radar (Enhanced Multi Mode Radar) supported the engagement by queuing the laser,” an Army statement said.
Miller explained how the Army hopes to build upon this progress to engineer laser weapons able to destroy larger targets at farther ranges. She said the evolution of laser weapons has spanned decades.
“We first determined we could use lasers in the early 60’s. It was not until the 90’s when we determined we could have the additional power needed to hit a target of substance. It took us that long to create a system and we have been working that kind of system ever since,” Miller added.
The Pentagon is throwing $700 million at a rapidly progressing program to combat the threat of commercial drone use by the Islamic State, The New York Times reports.
The program has commissioned U.S. defense contractors to begin attempting to find solutions to the drone threat, including using lasers to shoot them out of the sky. The technology is in its infancy and has yet to yield any significant results. ISIS has pioneered the use of relatively cheap commercial drones as airborne improvised explosive devices, for surveillance, and propaganda purposes.
The Pentagon program comes as it increases the number of U.S. troops in Syria to assist training for the Syrian Democratic Forces in the fight against ISIS. The Pentagon reportedly worries that its bases could be vulnerable to ISIS drone attacks, and it sees the broader trend in warfare.
The terrorist group used some commercial drones to drop cheap IED’s on the Iraq Security Forces during the Battle for Mosul. ISIS announced the formation of a new drone warfare unit in January, whose sole purpose is to inflict “a new source of horror for the apostates.” The terrorist group said the new unit killed nearly 40 Iraqi soldiers in just one week.
The threat may not just be limited to the battlefield. Georgetown terrorism expert Dr. Bruce Hoffman recently warned that drone “swarms” could become a facet of western terrorist attacks. Hoffman outlined one such scenario, telling readers, “picture Paris on November 13, 2015 [the night when people were slaughtered at a rock concert and in sidewalk cafés] with drone attacks superimposed on top of it. Authorities would have been completely overwhelmed. This elevates our greatest fear, which is simultaneous urban attacks—now with swarming on top of them.”