The US has deployed three B-2 Spirit bombers and 200 airmen to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii for training in the Pacific, Pacific Air Forces Public Affairs revealed Jan. 11, 2019.
The stealth aircraft from Whiteman Air Force Base were deployed to the Pacific to support US Strategic Command’s Bomber Task Force mission, a deterrence mission intended to reassure allies and send a clear message to any country that would threaten regional peace and security.
“Deploying to Hawaii enables us to showcase to a large American and international audience that the B-2 is on watch 24 hours a day, seven days a week ready to protect our country and its allies,” Lt. Col. Joshua Dorr, the director of operations for the 393rd Bomber Squadron, explained in a statement.
U.S. Air Force B-2 Spirit deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, takes off from Wake Island Airfield Sept. 14, 2018.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Danielle Quilla)
“This training is crucial to maintaining our regional interoperability. It affords us the opportunity to work with our allies in joint exercises and validates our always-ready global strike capability,” he added.
The latest deployment marks the second time B-2 Spirit bombers, which are capable of carrying both conventional and nuclear weapons payloads, have been deployed to Hawaii. During the first deployment, the bombers trained alongside F-22s flown by members of the Hawaii Air National Guard 199th Fighter Squadron.
“The B-2 Spirits’ first deployment to [Pearl Harbor] highlights its strategic flexibility to project power from anywhere in the world,” Maj. Gen. Stephen Williams, the director of air and cyberspace operations at the Pacific Air Forces headquarters, said in a statement in October. 2018
The major general added that the deployment “helped ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific,” rhetoric the US uses regularly to describe moves meant to counter Chinese actions perceived as aggressive or coercive.
A B-2 Spirit bomber deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, lands at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, Jan. 10, 2019.
(Photo by Senior Airman Thomas Barley)
The second deployment comes at a time of heightened tension between the US and China, especially in contested waterways like the South China Sea where China is expanding its military footprint and the US armed forces are responding in kind.
China has reacted aggressively to US military activities in the region, sharply criticizing the US and even threatening US military vessels.
A US Air Force B-2 Spirit deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii.
(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Danielle Quilla)
The Chinese mainland is protected by an integrated air defense system, and Chinese-occupied territories in the South China Sea are defended by a so-called “wall of SAMs [surface-to-air missiles].”
Despite its large size, the B-2’s low-observable characteristics “give it the ability to penetrate an enemy’s most sophisticated defenses and put at risk their most valuable targets,” Pacific Air Forces noted in their statement on the recent deployment. “Its presence in the Hawaiian Islands stands as a testament to enhanced regional security.”
B-2 bombers deployed to the Pacific in 2017, specifically to Andersen Air Force Base on Guam, to reassure allies and partners during a period defined by alarm over North Korea.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
U.S. Marines with 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment are conducting a month-long military exchange program with Marines from the Indonesian Korps Marinir in Eastern Java, Indonesia, and Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Kaneohe Bay, Aug. 6-29, 2019.
The exchange program, designed to strengthen the partnership between the two militaries, involves each country sending a platoon of Marines to live and train together at the others’ military bases. Working closely though a rigorous training schedule focused around individual, team and squad level tactics, Marines from both nations are able to learn from each other and continue to improve their ability to work together.
“For basic tactics, we do the same thing for shooting and maneuver, but we have a different terrain and environment,” said 2nd Lt. Gilang Kanandha, a platoon commander with the KORMAR. “We can make our Marine Corps better by learning new things and [the U.S.] Marines can learn something new too.”
U.S. Marines with Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 3d Marine Regiment and Indonesian Marines patrol through the woods during Korps Marinir at Kahuku Training Area, Hawaii, Aug. 13, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Lance Cpl. Sasha Pierre-Louis)
Not only do the Marines share tactics with each other, they also develop new leadership styles and establish relationships with their partner nation counterparts.
“We are able to train together and be aggressive when it’s time to do that,” said 1st. Lt Joseph Artis, a platoon commander with Co. A., 1st Battalion 3rd Marine Regiment. “But during our down time, we have the ability to just be Marines together.”
U.S. Marines with Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 3d Marine Regiment and Indonesian Marines eat together during Korps Marinir at Kahuku Training Area, Hawaii, Aug. 13, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Lance Cpl. Sasha Pierre-Louis)
“Our relationship with our Indonesian counterparts is very strong,” said Staff Sgt. Nathanial Skousen, the company gunnery sergeant for Co. A., 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment. He noted how naturally the Marines from both nations interacted with each other, “It’s as if the same type of people are drawn to serve their nation’s military,” said Skousen.
The KORMAR exchange enhances the capability of both services and displays their continued commitment to share information and increase the ability to respond to crises together across the Pacific.
A U.S. Marine with Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 3d Marine Regiment and an Indonesian Marine pose for a photo following training during Korps Marinir at Kahuku Training Area, Hawaii, Aug. 13, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Lance Cpl. Sasha Pierre-Louis)
“It causes us to open our eyes a little bit when we experience things with Marines from overseas,’ said Artis. “The fact that this is happening in different parts of the world, it gives us perspective that there is a global mission we are trying to achieve. It’s not just us in Hawaii trying to do this.”
This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.
The 2018 Nuclear Posture Review emphasizes the capabilities needed to correct adversary miscalculations and, in doing, deters the use of nuclear weapons, the deputy undersecretary of defense for policy said Feb. 23, 2018, at National Defense University.
David J. Trachtenberg spoke at an NDU Center for the Study of Weapons of Mass Destruction seminar on Feb. 16, 2018.
The 2018 Nuclear Policy Review is the Defense Department’s fourth review of U.S. nuclear policy, posture, and programs since the end of the Cold War. The newest review, Trachtenberg said, “reaffirms long-standing bipartisan principles of U.S. nuclear policy, while at the same time recognizing the reality that a much more challenging nuclear threat environment has emerged since the previous 2010 Nuclear Posture Review.”
The review’s three corresponding outcomes comprise the “reprioritization of nuclear roles, the clarification of our nuclear policy, and the recommendations for deterrence capabilities, each of which has been subject to considerable mischaracterization in much of the public commentary today.”
The first outcome is that the 2018 review returns deterrence of nuclear attack against the United States, its allies, and its partners to the top priority of U.S. nuclear policy, he said.
Second, he said, to strengthen deterrence, the review notes that the United States will consider the use of nuclear weapons only in response to extreme circumstances that threaten its vital interests.
Third, the review recommends two nuclear programs to strengthen U.S. capabilities to deter attack and assure allies: the modification of a small number of existing submarine-launched ballistic missiles to include a low-yield option, and the pursuit of a nuclear sea-launched cruise missile, Trachtenberg said.
“These specific capabilities are recommended to strengthen the deterrence of war and the assurance of allies, thereby helping to ensure that nuclear weapons are not employed or proliferated,” he emphasized.
“Effective deterrence is about tailoring our capabilities to a potential adversary’s calculations regarding the use of nuclear force to ensure that it never can appear to be a useful option,” Trachtenberg explained. “We must assess our capabilities relative to the doctrine, exercises, statements, threats, and behavior of potential adversaries.”
The goal of DOD’s recommendations is to deter war, not to fight one, he pointed out.
“If nuclear weapons are employed in conflict, it is because deterrence failed,” he said. “And the goal of the 2018 NPR is to make sure that deterrence will not fail.”
Modernization of the U.S. nuclear deterrent, adoption of tailored deterrence strategies with flexible capabilities, and clarification of the roles of nuclear weapons all send a strong deterrence message to potential adversaries, while also reassuring U.S. allies, Trachtenberg noted.
In addition, he said, the review helps to ensure that U.S. diplomats speak from a position of strength.
Nuclear triad modernization
“Russia has little incentive to negotiate seriously about nuclear reductions without a robust and ongoing U.S. modernization program,” Trachtenberg said. “In fact, the 2018 NPR calls for the modernization of all three legs of our strategic nuclear triad.”
Defense Secretary James N. Mattis recently told Congress that Russia is unlikely to give up something to gain nothing, he noted.
“Critics who favor eliminating U.S. nuclear systems in the face of what is clearly an expansive Russian nuclear modernization effort, I believe, are undermining America’s greatest bargaining leverage and the prospects for future arms agreements,” Trachtenberg said.
The 2018 Nuclear Posture Review is one of several important reinforcing U.S. national security documents meant to guide U.S. policy in an increasingly complex and challenging world, he noted.
“Much as we might prefer otherwise, nuclear weapons are a regrettable necessity in the real world,” Trachtenberg said. “After the slaughter of two world wars, [nuclear weapons] have prevented large-scale great power conflict for more than seven decades. This is not a trivial outcome. In an era of renewed great power competition, adversaries, allies and the American people should know that the United States has the will and the flexible resilient nuclear forces needed to protect the peace.”
That satisfying “Ping!” of bullets on target is as regular as a metronome when former Green Beret sniper, Aaron Barruga, is running tactical marksmanship drills on his home turf in Santa Clarita, CA. With his company, Guerrilla Approach, Barruga trains civilians, military, and law enforcement in proper and effective tactical firearm deployment.
The man does not miss.
“Oscar Mike” host Ryan Curtis paid a visit to Barruga’s training facility to bone up on his sharpshooting and found himself in good hands, drilling shoulder to shoulder with this veteran entrepreneurial success story. Barruga’s advice?
“I would definitely say that, if they have the opportunity, use that G.I. Bill. Get that piece of paper that says, “I’m smart and employable.” And just grind away, basically. You gotta hustle.”
As the day progresses, the sweat beading on Ryan’s brow is a testament to his hustle, if not his dead shot accuracy. And when he challenges Barruga to an Old West-style duel, our host quickly learns what high noon looks like at the Less-than-OK Corral.
Watch as Barruga makes plinking targets look easy, and Curtis proves his monkey is definitely the drunkest, in the video embedded at the top.
There’s nothing more irritating to troops and veterans than sitting down and watching a military film only to be distracted by inaccuracies. We’re not just talking about uniform infractions or other minor goofs — everyone makes mistakes. Sometimes, however, the scripts are just so fundamentally flawed that us veterans can’t help but start chucking things at the screen.
Thankfully, for every stinker that insists on ignoring the on-set military advisor, there’s a great film that gets it right.
The team here at We Are The Mighty recently got a chance to sit down with Gerard Butler, star and producer of the film Hunter Killer, to discuss the production crew’s commitment to portraying the lives of U.S. sailors as accurately as possible in the upcoming thriller.
The wardrobe department pulled off some outstanding attention to detail. From the bottom of our hearts at We Are The Mighty, BZ, ‘Hunter Killer’ wardrobe department! BZ!
There really isn’t any better way for filmmakers to faithfully capture the essence of military life than by deferring to those who serve — and that’s exactly what Gerard Butler and the crew of Hunter Killer did throughout pre-production and rehearsal.
Butler spent three days aboard a real Virginia-class submarine, carefully watching every detail and nuance of actual submariner life to better tell their story. Even the tiny details — like the order in which commands are given — were analyzed, written down, and implemented when it came time to shoot. And when they put theory into practice, the authenticity was immediately apparent.
That extra step helped put all the actors into the frame of mind they needed to truly portray submariners in the heat of combat. Butler told us,
“We actually wrote [the details of submariner life] into the script and we realized it was a whole other character in the story. And when we started — the difference that it made!”
Butler knows full-well that the devil’s in the details when it comes to military movies. He told us about his time aboard the USS Houston, when he sat down to watch a much-beloved naval film with the sailors. It was the eye-opener to say the least.
“When I sat to watch… with the submarine crew, and they’re all like taking ownership of the movie and they’re like, ‘that’s bullsh*t!’ while the captain is like, ‘That’s sh*t! You think that’s good, but that’s bullsh*t! He’d never wear that hat! What are those stripes? He wouldn’t say that!'”
Needless to say, Butler and the rest of the Hunter Killer crew recognized how important these details are for us and our community.
Be sure to check out Hunter Killer when it’s released on October 26th.
During its return from an annual supply run to the McMurdo research station in Antarctica, the US Coast Guard’s only heavy icebreaker, the Polar Star, had a fire break out inside its incinerator room as it sailed about 650 miles north of McMurdo Sound.
The incident occurred on Feb. 10, 2019, after the icebreaker had left Antarctica, where it had cut a channel though nearly 17 miles of ice that was 6 to 10 feet thick to allow a container ship to offload 10 million pounds of supplies that will sustain US research stations and field camps in Antarctica.
According to a Coast Guard release, four fire extinguishers failed during the initial response, and it ultimately took two hours for the ship’s fire crews to put out the blaze. While damage from the flames was contained inside the incinerator housing, water used to cool nearby exhaust pipes damaged electrical systems and insulation in the room.
Smoke from a fire aboard the Coast Guard heavy icebreaker Polar Star, Feb. 10, 2019.
(US Coast Guard photo)
A fire in the incinerator room of the Coast Guard icebreaker Polar Star, Feb. 10, 2019.
(US Coast Guard photo)
“It’s always a serious matter whenever a shipboard fire breaks out at sea, and it’s even more concerning when that ship is in one of the most remote places on Earth,” Vice Adm. Linda Fagan, commander of the US Coast Guard’s Pacific Area, said in a release. “The crew of the Polar Star did an outstanding job — their expert response and determination ensured the safety of everyone aboard.”
Point Nemo, the most remote spot on earth, is also in the South Pacific — 1,670 miles from the nearest land, which is Ducie Island, part of the Pitcairn Islands, to the north; Motu Nui, one of the Easter Islands, to the northeast; and Maher Island, part of Antarctica, to the south.
Coast Guard crew members fight a fire aboard the icebreaker Polar Star, Feb. 10, 2019.
(US Coast Guard photo)
A disabled fishing vessel is towed through sea ice near Antarctica by the Coast Guard icebreaker Polar Star, Feb. 14, 2015.
(US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class George Degener)
The Polar Star is the Coast Guard’s only heavy icebreaker, capable of smashing through the thick ice that builds up in the Arctic and around Antarctica. As such, it makes the run to McMurdo every year in the winter months and then goes into dry dock for maintenance and repairs in preparation for the next trip.
Having just one working heavy icebreaker has hindered the Coast Guard’s ability to meet request from other government agencies. The service could only do 78% of heavy icebreaking missions between 2010 and 2016, according to a 2017 Government Accountability Office Report.
Contractors work on the Polar Star’s hull as the icebreaker undergoes depot-level maintenance at a dry dock in Vallejo, California, in preparation for its future polar-region patrol, April 16, 2018.
(US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Matthew S. Masaschi)
US Coast Guard scuba divers work to repair a leak in the shaft seal of the Coast Guard icebreaker Polar Star, January 2019.
(US Coast Guard photo)
The Polar Star left its home port in Seattle on Nov. 27, 2018, to make the 11,200-mile trip to Antarctica for the sixth time in as many years. It suffered a number of mechanical problems on the way there, including smoke damage to an electrical switchboard, ship-wide power outages, and a leak in the propeller shaft.
Repairing the propeller-shaft leak required the ship to halt icebreaking operations and deploy divers to fix the shaft seal. The Polar Star also had a number of mechanical issues during its 2018 run to McMurdo.
The Polar Star sailed into Wellington, New Zealand, on Feb. 18, 2019, for a port call, the first time those aboard had set foot on land in 42 days, according to New Zealand news outlet Stuff. The ship is currently on its way back to Seattle, the Coast Guard said in its release.
The Coast Guard icebreaker Polar Sea passing the Polar Star in the ice channel near McMurdo, Antarctica, Jan. 10, 2002.
(US Coast Guard photo by Rob Rothway)
A seal on the ice in front of the Coast Guard icebreaker Polar Star while the ship was hove-to in the Ross Sea near Antarctica, Jan. 30, 2015.
(US Coast Guard photo by Carlos Rodriguez)
The Coast Guard has been pushing to build a new heavy icebreaker for some time, setting up a joint program office with the Navy to oversee the effort. Funding for the new ship had been held up in Congress, but lawmakers recently approved 5 million to start building a new one and another million for materials for a second.
In summer 2018, the Senate approved 5 million for the new icebreaker, but the House of Representatives instead authorized billion to build the US-Mexico border wall sought by President Donald Trump, cutting a number of programs, including that of the icebreaker in the process.
But Congressional staffers told USNI News in February 2019 that the Homeland Security Department’s fiscal year 2019 appropriation would include 5 million for new icebreakers.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Army has announced that its Howlers are ready to fight, achieving initial operational capability. If the Army goes to war, these lifeless robots are going to launch out of tubes, fly through the sky, and force enemy drones to crash and burn so they can’t spy on U.S. troops or attack them.
Howlers were built with two systems from Raytheon, the defense manufacturer. The major platform is the Coyote unmanned aircraft. These drones can be shot from special tubes mounted on ships, vehicles, aircraft, or just on the ground.
They’ve already served with the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration in hurricanes, but they’re primarily aimed at Department of Defense missions. These are the same drones that the Navy used in the LOCUST program where they launched swarms of Coyotes that worked together. The Navy is hoping to use them in coordinated strikes against targets on shore or at sea.
But the Army is hoping to use them in a very specific air-to-air mission: hunting drones. This application requires a special sensor payload, and the Army got that from Raytheon as well. It’s a radar known as KuRFS that tracks aerial threats with Ku band energy. The Ku band is in the microwave range and is mostly used for satellite communications.
On the Howler, this radar lets the Army track enemy threats. This targeting data can allow other systems to engage the targeted drone, but the Howler can also close with and destroy the threat—by blowing itself up.
Yup, the Howler can act as a suicide drone. Guess it’s good the Coyote is relatively affordable at ,000 apiece, counting the warhead. When an enemy drone is capable of taking out an entire ammo dump like in Ukraine or spotting targets for artillery like in all countries where wars are currently being fought, a ,000 bill to take any of them out is easily worth it.
David Audet, chief of the Mission Equipment and Systems Branch in the Soldier Performance Optimization Directorate, at the Research, Development and Engineering Command’s Soldier Center, is gearing up his team for the next User Touch Point activities to explore exoskeleton options in late January 2019.
“As we explore the more mature exoskeleton options available to us and engage users, the more we learn about where the possible value of these systems is to Army operations,” said Audet.
“Before the Army can consider investing in any development above what industry has done on their own, we need to make sure that users are on board with human augmentation concepts and that the systems are worth investing in. The Army is not ready yet to commit. NSRDEC [RDECOM Soldier Center] has a lead role in working with PEO-Soldier and the Maneuver Center of Excellence, Fort Benning, to determine whether or not a longer-term investment in fielding new technologies is justifiable. But this is what we do best. We find the options and create the partnerships to help us figure it out.”
Soldiers from Army’s 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, New York, were able to get hands on and try two of the current human augmentation technologies (pictured here) being pursued by the RDECOM Soldier Center. The soldier on the left is wearing the ONYX and the soldier on the right is wearing the ExoBoot.
(RDECOM Soldier Center)
Recent media has brought a lot of attention to the Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Controls, or LMMFC, ONYX, a Popular Science award recipient for 2018.
As innovative as it is, and with all the attention on the Soldier Center’s .9 million Other Transaction Agreement (OTA) award, it’s easy to get caught up in the moment and lose perspective of the overall work the Soldier Center is actually doing.
Out of the 48-month phased effort, roughly 0K has been put on the LMMFC OTA — currently focused on having enough systems to take to the field for operational evaluation. Although performing, the technology has yet to prove itself in a full operational exercise before moving forward. And while LMMFC is highly confident in their product and continues to invest their funding on further developing the system for commercial use, the Soldier Center is also looking at other technologies.
Located in Maynard, Massachusetts, Dephy, Inc.’s ExoBoot is another entrant in the program. The Dephy ExoBoot is an autonomous foot ankle exoskeleton that was inspired by research done at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology under collaboration with the Army. It is currently under consideration for evaluation during the third and fourth quarter of 2019. Brigadier General David M. Hodne has worn the ExoBoot during Soldier Center program updates and is quite intrigued by the capability. User feedback will determine if both systems move forward and under which considerations.
“Under ideal conditions, we would favor a full development effort,” said Audet. “However, given the push for rapid transition and innovation, we can save the Army a lot of time and money by identifying and vetting mature technologies, consistent with the vision of the Army Futures Command, or AFC.
(David Kamm, RDECOM Soldier Center)
“In order to achieve the goal of vetting and providing recommendations, NSRDEC [the Soldier Center] and PEO-Soldier are strong partners, teamed up to work with third party independent engineering firms such as Boston Engineering out of Waltham, Massachusetts. The engineering analysis of systems will provide an unbiased system-level analysis of any of the technologies under consideration, following rigorous analysis of the capabilities as they exist, the operational parameters provided by users and assessment of how humans will use and interact with the systems.”
“We are confident products will succeed or — at a minimum — fill a gap we have not been able to address by any other materiel or training means,” said Audet.
“We will be prepared to transition, but we know there is a road ahead before we get there. We aren’t committing to anything more than to bring the systems to a demonstration and educate the community at large on what these preliminary technologies can offer. In the meantime, we add a layer of third party independent analysis as a reassurance policy that we are mitigating bias and staying laser focused on user needs and meeting the demands of the future warfighting landscape.”
A newly released investigation from a submarine mishap in 2015 that caused some $1 million worth of damage shows that an inexperienced crew was given the go-ahead to complete a tricky return-to-port mission in the dark, despite warnings from the commanding officer that they weren’t ready.
The Ohio-class submarine Georgia ran aground in the predawn hours of Nov. 25, 2015, the day before Thanksgiving, as it prepared to return to port at Kings Bay, Georgia, to replace a failed towed array sonar. While conducting a scheduled pick-up of a new pilot at Fort Clinch, Florida, near the entrance to St. Marys River, which approaches the base, the sub inadvertently exited the channel, then collided with a buoy amid the crew’s efforts to re-orient. The grounding occurred as the crew worked to get clear of the buoy, the investigation shows.
Ultimately, the sub was able to return to port to assess damages, which were mostly cosmetic, save for the ship’s screw propeller, an acoustic tracking device and an electromagnetic log meter that measured the sub’s speed. The Georgia was taken into dry dock in December 2015 for assessment and the costly repairs.
The investigation, which was completed in March 2016 but just released to Military.com this month through a public records request, found that the “excessive speed” of the sub as it approached the pilot pick-up made it more difficult for the crew to control the ship, and that the tugboat carrying the pilot was positioned poorly, making the maneuver more complex.
Ultimately, though, blame for running aground is laid at the feet of the commanding officer. In the wake of the incident, the commander of Georgia’s blue crew, Capt. David Adams, was relieved of his post due to a loss of confidence in his ability to command. Like all submarines in its class, Georgia has two identical crews — a blue and a gold — that alternate manning and patrols.
“His inability to effectively manage the complexity of the situation and failure to respond to the circumstances in a manner sufficient to protect the safety of the ship and crew is beneath my expectations for any CO,” an investigation endorsement by Rear Adm. Randy Crites, then-commander of Submarine Group 10, reads.
In his detailed and thorough endorsement of findings, Crites also dismisses the notion that maneuvering in the dark and with a green crew was what led to the sub’s disastrous mishap.
“Ultimately, had this crew (and the Pilot) executed the same plan in the same manner during broad daylight, there is nothing in the ship’s planning effort, demonstrated seamanship, or response to tripwires that indicates the outcome would be any different,” he said.
While coming in for the brunt of the blame, Adams was not alone in being designated for punishment. Crites indicated his intent to take administrative action against the sub’s executive officer; chief of boat; navigation/operations officer; weapons officer, who was the officer of the deck; and assistant navigator. He also said he’d issue non-punitive letters of caution to the commander of Submarine Squadron 16 and his own chief of staff and director of operations — all Navy captains — for failure to take appropriate action toward resolution regarding Adams’ concerns around the sub’s transit into port.
The Ohio-class guided-missile submarine USS Georgia (SSGN 729) exits the dry dock at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Georgia, following an extended refit period. Georgia is one of two guided-missile submarines stationed at the base and is capable of carrying up to 154 Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles.
The 475-page investigation, which includes witness statements, logs and other supporting documentation, offers insight into what those concerns were. In a Nov. 24 email to the commodore of Squadron 16 marked “confidential,” Adams, the Georgia blue crew commander, lays out his qualms about the plan he has been ordered to execute, particularly the predawn return to port for a brief one-day stop with a crew that had spent just three weeks underway together on a new ship.
“CO/XO/NAV have not piloted into Kings Bay in the last 20 years. All of the untoward [incidents] I know of occurred between [St. Marys] and Fort Clinch,” he wrote. “My assessment is that this is not a prudent plan for [return to port] … Having just been at sea for a few weeks, I have not built enough depth. I am concerned about the fatigue level of my command element.
“Given an all day evolution and subsequent [underway], we will have spent the majority of 36 hours awake and are set to pilot out and submerge on the mid-watch at 0330.”
The two-page memo, it appears, was never received and read by Submarine Squadron 16’s commodore, Capt. John Spencer. But Adams testified he had relayed the same concerns face-to-face with Spencer days before, on Nov. 22. He also discussed the same issues, he said, in a follow-up phone call.
This much is clear: the plan wasn’t called off, and the mission was cleared to proceed. But murky communication dogged the lead-up to the operation, and later the mission itself.
Spencer and others testified that Adams had been given leeway to “slow things down a little” if he felt uncomfortable. Adams said he believed any delay would have been viewed as insubordination.
On the day of the mishap, communication was also flawed, in ways that underscore the crew’s unfamiliarity with each other, and possibly the sleep deprivation that had left some members running on just two to three hours of rest.
According to the investigation, as the Georgia approached the point at which it was to meet with the tug and pick up the pilot — the navigation expert who would drive the ship into port — it became clear that the tug was well west of its expected position. The sub, meanwhile, was approaching too fast and slowing too gradually. The investigation found it was still making 15 knots, or about 17 miles per hour, when it passed the set “all stop” point. That speed and positioning would make every maneuver that followed more risky and difficult.
Initial attempts to communicate with the tug and the pilot aboard via radio were unsuccessful, and the planned transfer happened late. Adams did not want to scrap the transfer and proceed into port without the pilot, the investigation found, because of the challenges of pulling into port without one.
When the sub exited the channel at the west end of the Fort Clinch basin, the crew’s communication skills faced a major test. The assistant navigator recommended to the navigator that the sub go to “all back emergency,” a call the navigator then passed to the bridge. The officer of the deck seemed to agree, but said nothing, the investigation found. Adams, however, overrode the order, believing it would not work, and ordered “all ahead full” instead. He started directing the officer of the deck, but did not fully take control of the sub or give direct orders to the helm, the report states.
Despite a series of maneuvers — right hard rudder, left hard rudder, all ahead full, right hard rudder — the sub collided with Buoy 23 in the channel. But the worst was still to come.
“When [Adams] asked [the lookout] if the ship hit buoy 23, [the lookout] informed the CO that he did not care about the buoy, but thought the ship was going to run aground on the beach forward of the ship,” the investigation states.
As grounding looked imminent, the Georgia asked the driver of the C-tractor tugboat if the tug could cross in front of the sub on the starboard, or right, side, and push the bow around. The tug master refused, according to the investigation, worried that the water was too shallow.
The sub ended up, as the lookout put it, “hitting Fort Clinch.”
In this file photo from July 12, 2018, Gen. John E. Hyten, commander, U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM), views the dry dock at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Georgia. The base is home to six of the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines that make up the most survivable leg of the nuclear triad and support strategic deterrence.
The mishap, and the misgivings that preceded it, came against the backdrop of a Navy grappling with a culture in which overworked and unready crews were regularly put underway in service of operational needs. After two separate deadly destroyer collisions in 2017, service leaders found, among other things, that a “‘can-do’ culture” had undermined safety and led to unduly high operational tempo and fatigue.
“The can-do culture becomes a barrier to success only when directed from the top down or when feedback is limited or missed,” the Navy’s comprehensive review of the destroyer mishaps, released in October 2017, found.
Whether these factors came into play with the Georgia is more difficult to say.
In a statement for the investigation, Adams emphasized that he took full responsibility for what had transpired.
“Despite my significant reservation – expressed face-to-face, on the phone, and In emails with staff and leadership … concerning the risks of proceeding Into Kings Bay In the dark with an inexperienced team, when my requests to delay [return to port] one hour later were denied, I failed in my command responsibilities by driving to achieve mission success at the expense of appropriately acting to mitigate risks to increase our margin of safety,” he said.
“In retrospect, I should have loitered at [St. Marys] until I was satisfied that the risks were commensurate with the mission gain.”
Reached for comment by Military.com, Adams, who retired in 2016, referred to a public statement he had released at the time of his relief, in which he called the actions that caused the grounding “mine alone.”
“I ask that my lapses not be used to denigrate the terrific service of the Sailors and families of GEORGIA BLUE,” he said at the time “After thirty years of serving in the world’s finest Navy, my only regret is that I will miss sailing with them again to stand against our nation’s enemies.”
But the fact that some above Adams were also warned offers insight into how the higher command viewed the incident.
Crites faulted Spencer, the Squadron 16 commodore, with “failure to provide his ship a plan with adequate margin to safety, specifically in not providing sufficient guidance and training to his staff that developed the plan in his absence and not aggressively pursuing complete resolution of the ship’s requested arriva through personal intervention with the Type Commander staff.”
The chief of staff and director of operations for Submarine Group 10, Crites said in the report, had failed to “pursue acceptable resolution to the concerns they had with the plan for the ship’s arrival.”
Holly Carey, deputy public affairs officer for Submarine Force Atlantic, declined to say whether all administrative actions recommended by the investigation were carried out.
“What I can tell you is that the Navy is confident that leadership took appropriate corrective actions against several personnel assigned to the squadron and submarine based on the findings of the investigation,” she said.
“Following the investigation, which concluded in 2016, leadership took appropriate accountability measures and has taken all necessary steps to prevent a recurrence in the future. USS Georgia, and her current crew, serve proudly today among the U.S. Submarine Force and has leadership’s full confidence to protect the interest of the United State and allies.”
After thousands of Army retirees responded to a voluntary recall request for those in health care fields to help the service fight the spread of the novel coronavirus, officials quietly issued another call-out — this one to recently separated troops in the Individual Ready Reserve.
On March 29, the Army’s Human Resources Command sent messages to nearly 10,000 soldiers in the IRR asking for volunteers to put the uniform back on, Lt. Col. Emanuel OrtizCruz, an Army spokesman, confirmed to Military.com. The messages went out to those who had served in military occupational specialties including family nurse practitioner; critical care nursing; emergency nursing; nurse anesthetists; generalist nurse; and respiratory specialist, he said.
The newest voluntary recall request was issued just days after President Donald Trump issued an executive order authorizing the military services to recall members of the Selected Reserve and the IRR to active duty in light of the strain the global pandemic is placing on the force.
While each service has slightly different IRR parameters and requirements, troops typically join the IRR for a period of four or five years following the conclusion of their active-duty service. A service member may have a contract that stipulates four years on active duty, but a total mandatory service obligation of eight years; the balance of that service is completed in the IRR. Troops in the IRR receive no pay and don’t need to drill, but may participate in periodic muster events — and they must remain ready for the possibility of involuntary recall by presidential order.
The Army, however, is beginning by soliciting as many volunteers as it can to meet medical provider gaps created as a result of deploying mobile field hospitals to urban regions in the U.S. hardest hit by the virus.
“The U.S. Army is reaching out to gauge the interest of IRR Soldiers who would be willing to assist with COVID-19 pandemic response efforts should their skills and expertise be required,” OrtizCruz said.
It’s not clear how many soldiers the Army needs to fill its staffing gaps and whether it will be able to meet the need with a voluntary recall alone. To date, the service has ordered the deployment of three mobile field hospitals — each staffed with about 330 soldiers — to New York City and Seattle.
Human Resources Command, he said, is still processing and validating requests, and sorting them by specialty. It’s not immediately clear how long it will be before the first volunteers can re-don their uniforms. Lt. Gen. Raymond Scott Dingle, the surgeon general of the Army, told reporters last week that the first step for the service would be to ensure that all volunteer qualifications and certifications are valid and up to date.
“Then once we do that, we will plug them into all of our medical treatment facilities as required in support of the mission,” he said.
It could be argued that the one persistent challenge faced by the Air Force over its 70-year history is how to best integrate Airmen with cutting-edge technology.
Most pressing, from the earliest days of aviation, was the need to protect the human body from the potentially deadly forces generated by advances in aircraft speed, maneuverability and altitude capabilities.
Even in the pre-Air Force days leading up to WWII, altitudes were being achieved that necessitated aircraft with oxygen systems to keep pilots and crews coherent and alive during missions. This was closely followed by the development of aircraft with a pressurized fuselage, such as the B-29, which allowed crews to fly high-altitude missions without oxygen masks and cumbersome heated flight suits to protect them from sub-zero temperatures.
The advent of the jet age led to ever increasing altitudes and gravitational forces (G-forces) on the pilot, necessitating the development of G-suits to push blood to the pilot’s brain, minimizing blackouts, and ejection seats to allow pilots to safely escape aircraft operating at high speed and altitude.
The testing of these technologies quickly became the public face of the Air Force’s human performance research and human factors engineering.
Baby Boomers routinely saw newsreel films and photos in magazines of researchers testing ways to protect pilots from the effects of high G-forces and altitudes with rocket sleds, centrifuges, atmospheric chambers and even balloons used in Project Excelsior as an Airman, Col. Joseph Kittinger, protected by a pressure suit, made a free-fall jump from 19 miles above the Earth’s surface.
It was physiological research necessary to keep advancing the Air Force’s capabilities in the air, and later, in space. But it also made for good theater for the public.
However, from the very beginnings of the Air Force, there has been concurrent, less theatrical study of another interface between humans and their machines that has been just as ground breaking; that between the machine and the human brain.
It is research that is pivoting from an emphasis on optimizing tools for use by Airmen to creating technologies that will work with Airmen, as a partner.
Cognitive research by the Air Force began with an issue created by the U.S.’s enormous production output during WWII: lack of uniformity between aircraft cockpits and displays.
“There wasn’t such a thing as a standard cockpit configuration and aviators were confusing things like landing gear and putting flaps down,” said Dr. Morley Stone, the Chief Technology Officer for the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. “Of course, that was leading to a variety of mishaps … Really, that gave birth to the whole field of human factors engineering.”
Lt. Col. Paul Fitts led the research team at Wright Patterson AFB that developed a consistent method for laying out an aircraft cockpit and instruments allowing a pilot to quickly and efficiently comprehend the current state of the aircraft. They also developed methods to manipulate controls more reliably, no matter the airframe.
The autonomous capability that we currently have is fairly nascent. Current algorithms are limited, certainly imperfect. We want to design to remedy that … intelligent assistants that sit on your shoulder that sift through data that look for correlations and relationships and present those in an easily digestible way to our Airmen to consider. ILLUSTRATION // COREY PARRISH
“That key research that occurred here at Wright-Patterson (AFB), as well as elsewhere, enabled the standardization of the key instrumentation needed to fly an aircraft,” said Mark Draper, a principal engineering research psychologist with the 711th Human Performance Wing at the AFRL. “It’s called a T-scan pattern. Pilots quickly learned the T-scan to rapidly ascertain if their aircraft is doing they want it to do. That became the standard for decades.”
However as new weaponry, on-board radars, sensors, communications and command and control technologies were added to airframes, pilots and crews quickly became overwhelmed by too much information for the human brain to process efficiently, a condition that pilots call a “helmet fire.”
“A key milestone, which was really significant, was the introduction of the glass cockpit,” said Draper. “Over several decades of just adding more controls and hardware instruments here and there, the real estate became really limited.”
“If we were able to put in computer monitors, if you will, into the cockpit, we would be enabling the re-using of that real estate. We could tailor the information towards a particular mission or phase of flight. The controls and the displays could be changed. That opened up a wealth of opportunity to not only provide more capability to the pilot, but also to enable the introduction of graphics into cockpits to make the information more easily understood and utilized.”
These concepts advanced by human factors engineering at AFRL has led to further research making the workflow of Airmen in many career fields more efficient and has even crossed over into the public sector.
According to Stone, this type of research led to everything from the development of the mouse, optimizing how a person inputs information into a computer, to eye-tracking studies to analyze how Airmen best recognize and utilize intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance information displayed on a monitor, to wearable devices that can measure a human’s current physical state, heart rate, blood pressure and respiration.
Yet for all of these advances in streamlining interfaces and presenting data in more digestible packets on ergonomic displays, the limits of human cognition still present an ubiquitous obstacle for the future Air Force to efficiently integrate main and machine.
Stone and Draper believe one way to scale this obstacle is to enable Airmen to share some of their workload with a partner – a silicon-based partner. Draper and his team at the Human Autonomy Lab at the AFRL focus on how to better interconnect human intelligence with machine intelligence as we move into the future.
“Seventy years into the future, we’ll still be limited by the fact that we have a very limited short-term memory, we get bored easily, we’re not known to just sit there and stare at one place for a long period of time. That’s why our eyes move a lot,” said Stone. “We’re looking at a whole variety of tools, not just wearable sensors, but other types of non-invasive standoff sensors that look at things like heart rate and respiration and other physical cues … and trying to get that information out in such a way that you can make it readable to that future synthetic teammate.”
These sensors, coupled with ever increasing computing capabilities, could lead to Airmen of 2087 routinely conducting missions with a synthetic partner that will not only shoulder some of the workload, but constantly monitor the carbon-based Airman’s physical, mental and emotional state before recommending mission options.
“Computational power is getting ever more powerful. Also, computational power is becoming more miniaturized, so you can start putting it more places,” said Draper. “At the same time, you’re increasing the reasoning capabilities of the machines to collect domain knowledge, assess the conditions and create courses of action.”
“We have sensors becoming very miniaturized and able to sense the human physiology without even being attached to the human,” Draper added. “In a vision of the future, Artificial Intelligence can serve to continually monitor the human while the human is engaged in various tasks, and then dynamically adapt the interaction with the machinery, the interaction with the environment, and the off-loading of tasks. All with the express purpose of better team performance.”
According to Draper, one of the Air Force’s first forays into the realm of operational autonomous computing was the introduction of flight management systems into cockpits during the 1980s.
“Up until then, you had pre-planning and the pilots did all the navigation with a navigator,” said Draper. “Then they introduced a flight management system, which would automatically generate routes … give you the waypoints all the way from point A to point B. However, the initial design of these systems was less than great and we ran into lots of problems, lots of mishaps. This inspired research in order to better design how humans interact with automation which is critical, especially when we start talking about increasingly intelligent systems that are going to be introduced to future military systems.”
These initial steps were the beginning of a slow gradation from applying of autonomous systems as advisors, to allowing them to shoulder some mission requirements, to a possible future of handling some tasks on their own.
“The Air Force in its history has focused very strongly on the cockpit and crew stations for aircraft. However, where we’re going is expanding well beyond the cockpit,” said Draper.
“The autonomous capability that we currently have is fairly nascent. Current algorithms are limited, certainly imperfect. We want to design to remedy that … intelligent assistants that sit on your shoulder that sift through data that look for correlations and relationships and present those in an easily digestible way to our Airmen to consider … We want to reduce the overall workload associated with the Airmen, but the Airmen still retain key decision making authority.”
The key ingredient in a symbiosis between carbon-based and silicon-based Airmen is the development of trust.
Consider the amount of trust you have that your consumer grade GPS or cellular navigation system will correctly plot the best route to your destination and give you timely cues to execute that route. This is the bridge that must be designed and optimized between Airmen and their synthetic counterparts.
“As autonomy becomes more trusted, as it becomes more capable, then the Airmen can start off-loading more decision-making capability on the autonomy, and autonomy can exercise increasingly important levels of decision making,” said Draper. “That’s a migration you slowly incorporate as you unleash autonomy, as its capability dictates, and then you reel it back in when you need to, when your trust in it drops and you know that you need to become more engaged, you tighten the leash. The Airman and machine will share decision making, and at times one or the other takes the lead depending on the particular context.”
Draper said this trust will be achieved by a paradigm designed with a series of checks and balances, where Airmen can override an autonomous decision and Artificial Intelligence can sense an Airman’s fatigue, stress or miscalculation and suggest an alternative course of action.
“Humans make errors too, right? We all know this,” said Draper. “We should have an almost equivalent Artificial Intelligence looking at overall system performance, telling the aiman, ‘Hey, human! What you’re doing here potentially can really disrupt some complex things. Do you really want to do that?'”
Draper believes autonomous systems will never be given the keys to the kingdom and turned loose to execute missions completely on their own without human management and authorization. There will always be an Airman in the loop working with technology, to do the right thing. The nature and level of Airman engagement will change with new technology, but the critical role of the Airman, as supervisor, teammate, overseer, will persist.
“Imagine a perfect assistant with you while you work on a car. You’re struggling and you’re switching between many different tasks. All the while, you have this intelligent assistant that is constantly supporting you; reaching and moving tools out of your way and bringing in new tools when you need it, or showing you pictures and giving you computer readouts of the engine at exactly the right time. That sort of symbiotic tight-synced relationship between humans and autonomy is what I envision 70 years from now. True teammates,” said Draper.
Back in the 1980s, when it still existed, the Soviet Union maintained a number of “friendly” relationships with a variety of African and Asian nations, mostly for the purposes of selling military hardware to counter the West.
One such nation was Libya, which opted to arm and equip its military with a variety of Soviet products, including MiG and Sukhoi fighters for its air force.
At the time, the USSR was also in the process of shopping around its Mil Mi-25 Hind-D, the export variant of the Mi-24 Hind helicopter. The Hind was a fairly unique vehicle at the time, as it was built from the ground up as a heavily-armed attack gunship with the ability to accommodate a maximum of eight fully-armed soldiers in an extremely cramped bay directly behind the cockpit. The Hind could therefore deliver special forces teams to the battlefield and remain in the area of operations for air support, or function solely as a very well-armed gunship, akin to the role the two-seater AH-1 Cobra played for American ground forces during the Vietnam conflict.
In contrast, the U.S. primarily used helicopters like the UH-1 Huey to deliver (and extract) troops from the battlefield, and they were moderately armed at best (in comparison to the Hind) with door-mounted machine guns serving as defensive weaponry more so than in the offensive role.
Now, around the time of the Hind’s introduction into service in the late 70s, the Central Intelligence Agency, along with British intelligence services, sought to learn more about this big Soviet helicopter. Interest heightened when word broke that Ethiopia pressed an export Hind into combat successfully. The Hind then quickly made an appearance in Afghanistan during the Soviet Union’s controversial involvement there, operating to great effect against mujaheddin fighters towards the beginning of the conflict.
Western intelligence needed to get a better look at the Hind and its heavily-armored airframe, especially for the purposes of determining whether or not an American equivalent needed to be designed, built, and fielded as a counter to the Hind’s capabilities.
An opportunity for such a look finally presented itself in the form of the discovery of a Libyan Mi-25 left behind in Chadian territory in 1987.
Historically, Libya and Chad weren’t exactly on the best of terms. Their strained relationship was mostly the result of repeated attempts from Libyan-backed rebel groups to usurp the Chadian government. Constant Libyan attempts to occupy sovereign territory belonging to the Republic of Chad didn’t do much to help their situation either.
When Chadian troops were finally able to fully expel Libyan forces from their borders in 1987, the retreating Libyans abandoned a considerable amount military hardware that would have otherwise bogged down and hindered their egress. Among the treasure trove of armored vehicles, guns, and light artillery stranded in the desert was a Hind-D in relatively good condition, parked on an old airfield ramp at Ouadi Doum.
The CIA, after confirming that such a helicopter did indeed exist at that particular location, quickly set its sights on recovering the helicopter, or at least as much of it as possible, before the Libyans knew about their missing gunship.
All this would have to be done through a covert operation. After negotiating with (and eventually gaining permission from) the Chadian government through diplomatic channels, the CIA enlisted the Department of Defense’s help, and both began planning the extraction of the abandoned helicopter to American-controlled facilities, where it would be taken apart and analyzed in details.
There’s a saying in the military that goes along the lines of: “Gear adrift is a gift”. Christmas was about to come very early for a bunch of CIA analysts and military technical experts.
Mount Hope III was the name bestowed upon the operation. The very first order of business was wrangling up a group of pilots skilled (and crazy) enough to perform the mission to perfection.
The preparation phase, creatively code-named Mount Hope II, began in April of 1987 in New Mexico. The dry, desert conditions would add a layer of realism to the training. CH-47 Chinooks from the 160th’s Echo Company were modified to bear the weight of the Hind-D, judged to be somewhere in the ballpark range of 17,000 to 18,000 pounds.
Chinooks are already able to sling-load different pieces of military equipment, including the Humvee utility vehicle. But there’s a huge difference between a four-wheeled Humvee and an oversized Mil-25. Load-bearing hooks needed to be reinforced, the engines and transmissions needed to be checked and tuned, and the relatively ideal placement of the carcass of the Hind underneath the Chinook needed to be determined.
Practice commenced in dark, low-light conditions. Six large blivets of water weighing roughly the same as the Hind were strapped to the underside of a Chinook. The Night Stalkers flying the Chinook were then supposed to fly to a “Forward Support Base” (or FSB for short) after stopping twice to refuel.
The first dry run went off without a hitch, so the next test was to strap an actual airframe similar to that of the Hind in terms of size and weight and perform the test run once again under the same conditions. The Night Stalkers once again proved themselves and their aircraft and in good time, Mount Hope II was completed, meeting or exceeding the expectations of the CIA and Department of Defense’s overseeing officers.
They were now ready for the real thing.
On May 21, the order to execute Mount Hope III was handed down from the Oval Office, and the Night Stalkers immediately geared up, loading two Chinooks aboard a C-5 Galaxy heavy airlift jet, departing for Germany first, and later on to the Ndjamena airfield in southern Chad.
The Army was to temporarily deploy an ADVON (advanced echelon) scouting and reconnaissance team to the location for around two weeks to keep an eye out for enemy forces, who weren’t all that far away from the airfield.
The French government added their support to the mission by sending over a contingent of soldiers to cover the operation on the ground and a set of Mirage F.1 fighter jets to provide top cover for all aircraft involved. A C-130 Hercules tactical airlifter would land at one of the Forward Arming and Refueling Points (FARPs) to provide fuel for the Chinooks on their way back to the FSB during the mission.
After arriving at Ndjamena on June 10, Night Stalker pilots and crew unloaded their Chinooks from the gargantuan Galaxy.
On June 11th, they proceeded with the mission as they had previously planned. The mission would see the Night Stalkers fly over 500 nautical miles under the cover of darkness, and would then pick up the abandoned Hind right at daybreak. An advance team (Chalk 1) flew to Ouadi Doum to ensure that the site was relatively secured for the incoming Chalk 2 Chinook and to prep the Hind for removal.
As I mentioned earlier, a large element of Libyan military forces were still highly active in the area, even after most had been expelled from Chad’s borders during the previous year’s conflict.
The slightest hint of military action nearby would have likely sparked a firefight and a subsequent international incident if it was discovered that the United States was actively trying to remove Libyan military hardware from the desert, even though the Hind was abandoned in Chadian sovereign territory.
The ADVON team had reported back with a detailed threat analysis, highlighting the fact that the Libyans were definitely still in the region.
Chalk 1, having been inserted at Ouadi Doum, cleared the location and quickly rigged the Hind for extraction while the Chalk 2 Chinook hovered close above, allowing for the team to sling-load the airframe to the waiting helicopter. Chalk 2 then left the area to return to Ndjamena. After covering Chalk 2’s extraction, Chalk 1 loaded up and got the hell out of Dodge.
The Libyans were totally clueless of what was happening just miles away from their positions.
Chalk 2 stopped twice to refuel, at one point on a French Foreign Legion airfield, rendezvousing with the Air Force C-130s at each location.
However, not long after stopping at FARP 2, the mission hit a slight snag in the form of an unanticipated 3000 ft sand storm. The Chinook bearing the weight of the Hind was now only 45 minutes out of home base.
Hauling ass, Chalk 2 reached Ndjamena just ahead of the storm, flying through near-zero visibility and setting down with little time to spare. Waiting a little over 20 minutes in their helicopters for the storm to move onward, the Night Stalkers finally loaded their aircraft and their newly-acquired prize into the Galaxy they arrived in, and within 36 hours were back on American soil.
After 67 hours in-country, the mission was completed; an unmitigated success. Mount Hope III was also the very first major operation where the Night Stalkers used their CH-47s.