The list of female astronauts who could potentially is a short one. Only 12 would be able to go to the moon by 2024, in line with President Trump’s direction that the Space Agency should return to the moon, according to NASA. But only one of those women is Army strong.
Lt. Col. Anne McClain goes by the call sign “Annimal,” a reference to her old rugby nickname. She started her career as a Kiowa Warrior pilot flying combat missions in Iraq, graduated from test pilot school, and was eventually chosen to be part of astronaut group 21, the youngest astronaut on NASA’s roster. Her Army career took her to the International Space Station in 2018, and she completed her first spacewalk in March 2019. She has since returned to Earth.
In December 2017, President Trump directed NASA to prepare to send astronauts back to the lunar surface to make way for a long-term human presence on the moon. The project, dubbed Artemis, is not just a vanity project for the 45th President. It’s an effort for NASA to prepare for an even longer trip, sending human astronauts to Mars. When deciding to return humans to the moon, NASA determined they would send a woman.
McClain took a selfie during one of her spacewalks.
While it may seem odd to send an Army troop to the moon, one could argue there’s no better preparation for going to the moon – or even Mars – than a few years in the Army. Working in austere, desert environments with barely enough tools to complete the mission but still somehow succeeding is what the Army is all about.
For Ann McClain, she’s a decorated Army combat veteran with more than 2,000 flight hours, a West Point-educated engineer, and the perfect soldier to lead a project called Artemis, named after the twin sister of Apollo, who was the namesake of the effort to put a man on the moon.
An artist’s illustration of the Parker Solar Probe approaching the sun.
NASA’s record-breaking solar probe has discovered new, mysterious phenomena at the edge of the sun.
Since it launched in August 2018, the Parker Solar Probe has rocketed around the sun three times, getting closer than any spacecraft before it and traveling faster than any other human-made object in history.
The research revealed never-before-seen activity in the plasma and energy at the edges of the sun’s atmosphere, including reversals of the sun’s magnetic field and “bursts” in its stream of electrically charged particles, called solar wind.
A sunrise near the International Space Station on December 25, 2017.
‘Bursty’ solar wind bends the sun’s magnetic field
This wind surges into space and washes over Earth, so studying its source could help scientists figure out how to protect astronauts and Earth’s electric grid from unpredictable, violent solar explosions.
By sending the Parker probe to the sun, NASA is studying this dangerous wind in more detail than scientists could from Earth.
“Imagine that we live halfway down a waterfall, and the water is always flowing past us. It’s very turbulent, chaotic, unstructured, and we want to know what is the source of the waterfall up at the top,” Stuart Bale, a physicist who leads the team that investigates the probe’s solar-wind data, said in a press call. “It’s very hard to tell from halfway down.”
The Parker Solar Probe observed a slow solar wind flowing out from the small coronal hole — the long, thin black spot seen on the left side of the sun in this image captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory — on October 27, 2018.
NASA scientists are seeking answers to two major questions about the sun: What causes solar wind to accelerate as it shoots out into space? And why is the sun’s outer layer, called the corona, up to 500 times as hot as its inner layers?
The new data offers some initial clues. For the first time, Parker identified a clear source of a stream of slow, steady wind flowing out from the sun. It came from a hole in the corona — a spot where the gas is cooler and less dense.
Scientists knew that wind coming from the sun’s poles moves faster, but this was the first time they detected an origin point for the slow wind coming from its equator.
The Parker probe also detected rogue waves of magnetic energy rushing through the solar wind. As those magnetic waves washed over the spacecraft, the probe detected huge spikes in the speed of the solar wind — sometimes it jumped over 300,000 mph in seconds. Then just as quickly, the rapid winds were gone.
“We see that the solar wind is very bursty,” Bale said. “It’s bubbly. It’s unstable. And this is not how it is near Earth.”
The bursts could explain why the corona is so hot.
“We think it tells us, possibly, a path towards understanding how energy is getting from the sun into the atmosphere and heating it,” Justin Kasper, another physicist who studied Parker’s observations of solar wind, said in the call.
Scientists had never observed these bursts and bubbles before, but they seem to be common; the Parker spacecraft observed about 1,000 of them in 11 days.
The rogue spikes of energy also delivered an additional surprise: The bursts were so strong that they flipped the sun’s magnetic field.
The scientists call these events “switchbacks” because in the affected area the sun’s magnetic field whips backward so that it’s almost pointing directly at the sun.
The switchbacks seem to occur only close to the sun (within Mercury’s orbit), so scientists could never have observed them without the Parker probe.
“These are great clues, and now we can go look at the surface of the sun and figure out what’s causing those [bursts] and launching them up into space,” Kasper said.
An illustration of NASA’s Parker Solar Probe as it flies toward the sun.
Parker confirmed that there’s a dust-free zone around the sun
Scientists have long suspected that the sun is surrounded by an area without cosmic dust, the tiny crumbs of planets and asteroids that float through space and fall into stars’ orbits. That’s because the sun’s heat should vaporize any solid dust that gets too close.
For the first time, Parker flew close enough to the sun to provide evidence that such a dust-free zone exists. It observed that the dust did indeed get thinner closer to the sun.
Still, this zone wasn’t quite what scientists expected.
“What was a bit of a surprise is that the dust decrease is very smooth,” Russell Howard, another astrophysicist working with the probe, said in the call. “We don’t see any sudden decreases indicating that some material has evaporated.”
That will be another mystery to prod as the spacecraft gets closer to the sun.
6 more years and 21 more flybys
More knowledge about solar wind and the sun’s magnetic field could help scientists better protect astronauts and spacecraft from two types of violent space weather: energetic-particle storms and coronal mass ejections.
In energetic-particle storms, events on the sun send out floods of the ions and electrons that make up solar wind. These particles travel almost at the speed of light, which makes them nearly impossible to foresee. They can reach Earth in under half an hour and damage spacecraft electronics. This can be especially dangerous to astronauts traveling far from Earth.
In a coronal mass ejection, the sun sends billions of tons of coronal material hurtling into space. Such an explosion could massively damage Earth’s power grids and pipelines.
Over the next six years, Parker is set to approach the sun 21 more times, getting closer and closer. In its final pass, it should fly within 4 million miles of the sun’s surface.
During each flyby, the probe will gather more data that could answer physicists’ questions about the sun’s corona and solar wind.
“As we get closer, we’ll be right in the sources of the heat, the sources of the acceleration of particles, and of course those amazing eruptions,” Nicola Fox, NASA’s director of heliophysics, said in the call. “Even with what we have now, we already know that we will need to adjust the model used to understand the sun.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
US subs remain far better than their Chinese counterparts, but in a conflict, numbers, and geography may help China mitigate some of the US and its partners’ advantages.
Naval modernization is part of Beijing’s “growing emphasis on the maritime domain,” the US Defense Department said in its annual report on Chinese military power.
As operational demands on China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy have increased, subs have become a high priority — and one that could counter the US Navy’s mastery of the sea.
The force currently numbers 56 subs — four nuclear-powered missile subs, five nuclear-powered attack subs, and 47 diesel-powered attack subs — and is likely grow to between 69 and 78 subs by 2020, according to the Pentagon.
China has built 10 nuclear-powered subs over the past 15 years. Its four operational Jin-class missile boats “represent China’s first credible, seabased nuclear deterrent,” the Pentagon report said.
In most likely conflict scenarios, however, those nuclear-powered subs would have limited utility, said Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at the Center for Budgetary and Strategic Assessments.
“They’re relatively loud, pretty easy to track, and don’t really have significant capability other than they can launch land-attack cruise missiles, and they don’t have very many of those,” Clark said. “They’re more of a kind of threat the Chinese might use to maybe do an attack on a … more distant target like Guam or Hawaii.”
The locations and composition of major Chinese naval units, according to the Pentagon.
(US Defense Department)
Conventionally powered subs are the “more important part of their submarine force,” Clark said, particularly ones that can launch anti-ship missiles and those that use air-independent propulsion, or AIP, which allows nonnuclear subs to operate without access to atmospheric oxygen, replacing or augmenting diesel-electric systems.
Since the mid-1990s, China has built 13 Song-class diesel-electric attack subs and bought 12 Russian-made Kilo-class subs — eight of which can fire anti-ship cruise missiles.
Kilos are conventional diesel subs, which means they need to surface periodically.
“Even with that, they’re a good, sturdy, reliable submarine that carries long-range anti-ship missiles,” Clark said. On a shorter operation where a Kilo-class sub “can avoid snorkeling, it could … sneak up on you with a long-range attack, so that’s a concern for the US.”
China has also built 17 Yuan-class diesel-electric, air-independent-powered attack subs over the past two decades, a total expected to rise to 20 by 2020, according to the Pentagon.
Then-Navy Secretary Ray Mabus leaves the Chinese Yuan-class submarine Hai Jun Chang in Ningbo, November 29, 2012.
(US Navy photo by Chief Mass Comm. Specialist Sam Shavers)
“The Yuan AIP submarine is very good,” said Clark, a former US Navy submarine officer and strategist.
“For the duration of a deployment that it might normally take, which is two or three weeks, where it can stay on its AIP plant and never have to come up and snorkel, they’re very good,” Clark added. “That’s a big concern, I think, for US and Japanese policymakers.”
Yuan-class boats can threaten surface forces with both torpedoes and anti-ship missiles.
For US anti-submarine-warfare practitioners in the western Pacific, Clark said, “it’s the Yuan they generally point to as being their target of concern, because it does offer this ability to attack US ships and [is] hard to track and there may be few opportunities to engage it.”
Despite concerns China’s current diesel-electric subs inspire, they have liabilities.
A Chinese Yuan-class attack submarine.
(Congressional Research Service)
As quiet as they are, they are still not as quiet as a US nuclear-powered submarine operating in its quietest mode. They don’t have the same endurance as US subs and need to surface periodically. China’s sub crews also lack the depth of experience of their American counterparts.
“Chinese submarines are not … as good as the US submarines, by far,” Clark said.
China’s subs have made excursions into the Indian Ocean and done anti-piracy operations in waters off East Africa, but they mostly operate around the first island chain, which refers to major islands west of the East Asian mainland and encompasses the East and South China Seas.
Chinese subs also venture into the Philippine Sea, where they could strike at US ships, Clark said.
Much of the first island chain is within range of Chinese land-based planes and missiles, which are linchpins in Beijing’s anti-access/area denial strategy. It’s in that area where the US and its partners could see their advantages thwarted.
The approximate boundaries of the first and second island chains in the western Pacific.
(US Defense Department)
“Now the Chinese have the advantage of numbers, because they have a large number of submarines that can operate, and they’ve only got a small area in which they need to conduct operations,” Clark said.
China could “flood the zone” with subs good enough to “maybe overwhelm US and Japanese [anti-submarine warfare] capabilities.”
The anti-submarine-warfare capabilities of the US and its partners may also be constrained.
US subs would likely be tasked with a range of missions, like land attacks or surveillance, rather than focusing on attacking Chinese subs, leaving much of the submarine-hunting to surface and air forces — exposing them to Chinese planes and missiles.
“The stuff we use for ASW is the stuff that’s most vulnerable to the Chinese anti-access approach, and you’re doing it close proximity to China, so you could get stuck and not be able to engage their submarines before they get out,” Clark said.
Crew members demonstrate a P-8A Poseidon for Malaysian defense forces chief Gen. Zulkifeli Mohd Zin, April 21, 2016.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 1st Class Jay M. Chu)
Numbers and location also give China a potential edge in a “gray-zone” conflict, or a confrontation that stops short of open combat, for which US Navy leadership has said the service needs to prepare.
China’s subs present “a challenge [US officials] see as, ‘What if we get into one of these gray-zone confrontations with China, and China decides to start sortieing their submarines through the first island chain and get them out to open ocean a little bit so they’re harder to contain,'” Clark said.
“If we’re in a gray-zone situation, we can’t just shoot them, and we don’t necessarily have the capacity to track all of them, so now you’ve got these unlocated Yuans roaming around the Philippine Sea, then you may end up with a situation where if you decide to try to escalate, you’ve got worry about these Yuans and their ability to launch cruise missiles at your ships,” Clark added.
“As the home team, essentially, China’s got the ability to control the tempo and the intensity,” he said.
The US and its partners have already encountered such tactics.
Beijing often deploys its coast guard to enforce its expansive maritime claims in the South China Sea (which an international court has rejected) and has built artificial islands containing military outposts to bolster its position.
When those coast guard ships encounter US Navy ships, China points to the US as the aggressor.
In the waters off the Chinese coast and around those man-made islands, “they do a lot of that because they’re on their home turf and protected by their land-based missiles and sensors,” Clark said. “Because of that, they can sort of ramp [the intensity] up and ramp it down … as they desire.”
The circumstances of a potential conflict may give Chinese subs an edge, but it won’t change their technical capability, the shortcomings of which may be revealed in a protracted fight.
“Can the Chinese submarines — like the Yuans that have limited time on their AIP plants — can they do something before they start to run out of propellant, oxygen, and start having to snorkel?” Clark said.
“So there’s a little bit of a time dimension to it,” he added. “If the US and Japan can wait out the Chinese, then their Yuans have to start snorkeling or pulling into port … that might make them more vulnerable.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Jesse Iwuji, NASCAR driver, shows Luke Airmen tires that are used for the race during their visit through the garages at the Camping World 500 Mar. 19, 2017, at the Phoenix International Raceway, Avondale, Ariz. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman First Class Alexander Cook)
We Are The Mighty wants to wish a very Happy Birthday to our favorite racecar driver. Jesse Iwuji turns 33 today, and we are wishing him the happiest of days. While his birthday is no doubt a special day, this year’s celebration is a bit more sweeter.
As many of you know, Jesse is unique among NASCAR drivers. He is a Naval Officer who is following his dreams of becoming a racecar driver. That dream took a big step up this week.
Jesse was recently promoted into NASCAR’s Xfinity Series where he will be driving the No. 13 Toyota Supra for MBM Motorsports. He will continue to also race the No. 33 Chevrolet Silverado for Reaume Brothers Racing in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series.
In addition to the promotion in NASCAR, Jesse also was promoted to Lieutenant Commander in the United States Navy – talk about having an amazing month.
Here are some of Jesse’s friends, family, superior officers, fellow drivers and colleagues wishing him a happy birthday. You can tell the impact a man has from the company he keeps, and this collection of amazing people shows just how awesome Jesse is and why WATM is such a big fan:
Jesse Iwuji NASCAR Xfinity Series Debut at Road America | US Navy | Military | Congratulations
Jesse was born on August 12, 1987, the son of Nigerian immigrants. Born and raised in Texas, he was an athlete in high school and excelled in both sports and school. That excellence landed him at the United States Naval Academy. Jesse played for the Midshipman while learning to be a Surface Warfare Officer. In addition to playing safety, Iwuji also ran track for the Naval Academy.
He graduated in 2009 and went into the Fleet, first working on mine countermeasures which included a deployment to the Persian Gulf in 2012. He later served on the USS Comstock before moving into the Naval Reserves in 2017.
Moving into NASCAR is no easy feat. But with his belief in honor, courage and commitment, Iwuji pushed forward through all the obstacles. He first thought about becoming a racecar driver during a Navy football event at the Meineke Car Care Bowl. Throughout his active duty career, he balanced his duties and deployments with his pursuit of his passion. Upon entering the Reserves, he started accelerating his career with stints in the NASCAR KN Pro Series East and West which are regional proving grounds for drivers looking to prove themselves on the stockyard circuit.
From there, he moved into the truck series where he has competed for the last three years. His recent promotion to the Xfinity Series puts him one step closer to the NASCAR Cup Series which is, for those of you who don’t know, the highest echelon of stock car racing in the world.
Jesse’s debut on the Xfinity circuit was at the Henry 180 where he finished the race in the 26th spot. His next race should be at the legendary Watkins Glen road course this weekend.
Hopefully soon, we will see him racing in the Cup Series at places like Daytona, Talladega, Martinsville, Dover and Bristol.
Happy Birthday Jesse and congratulations on both your promotions!
U.S. Marines hit the streets in the local community [Chatan, Okinawa, Japan] to assist as crossing guards for Chatan Elementary School July 18, 2019.
Three Marines on camp guard duty volunteered their morning to serve as crossing guards near the elementary school in support of the recent safety campaign.
“Today I’m pretty much just helping the little kids cross the street to go to school,” said Lance Cpl. Timothy Silva, with Combat Logistics Battalion-4, 3rd Marine Logistics Group.
Silva is currently serving camp duty on Camp Foster, Okinawa for the next twenty days.
“The reason I am at this spot particularly is because there is a hill to my right, and what I was told was that, the cars, they just come speeding up here and can’t really see the kids when they are crossing, so I’m just here making sure that the kids that do come here, cross safely .” — Lance Cpl. Timothy Silva, with Combat Logistics Battalion-4, 3rd Marine Logistics Group
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Samuel Brusseau)
The elementary school personnel and Marine volunteers made an effective team working together to ensure student safety.
“I volunteered myself for this duty, it is fun,” Silva also stated standing on a street corner helping children attend their second to last day of the school year.
School will resume in September 2019.
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Samuel Brusseau)
Silva went on to say that this duty has given him the best look into Okinawan culture.
“You get to see all the little kids, the local kids, you say hello to them and see how they interact with each other in the morning when they are tired and on their way to school.”
Marine volunteers participate in activities island-wide to enhance the relationship with the local community.
This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.
Transitioning into civilian life can be tough. Veterans are often advised to look for a job in a field they’re passionate about and excited to join. Remember the old career day adage, Do what you love and you’ll never work a day?
One USMC veteran took that advice to heart and, being a Marine, decided not to do it halfway. As a result, the entertainer known as “Will Pounder” was recently honored as “Best Newcomer” at the AVN Awards. The Adult Video News Awards.
(Do we have to spell it out? He’s in X-rated films, people. You know, the kind you watch in your barracks alone. Not with your mom.)
Reached for comment for this story, Pounder said, “Best Male Newcomer to me means that I’m doing my job well.” He continued, saying, “I like to provide a safe experience that allows my scene partners to explore themselves sexually and to overall have a fun day so that everyone leaves with a smile on their face.”
His award got us wondering, how many other veterans have decided to earn their keep in the adult film industry?
Spoiler: A lot.
We can speculate on the reasons why, beyond the really obvious reason: sex. Maybe it’s because veterans are already used to frequent, random medical tests and they’re already comfortable with being naked in front of people? Maybe they just miss having close camaraderie with their co-workers? For the record, Pounder said he thinks the percentage of veterans to non-veterans working in the adult industry is probably about the same as in any other industry.
Regardless of their reasons, Pounder is far from the first to trade fatigues for his birthday suit. He wasn’t even the first vet to score that Best Newcomer award. Brad Knight—a Navy veteran—brought it home in 2016. That’s right. A sailor got it done before a Marine.
But we don’t even have to speculate on why some veterans are drawn to this particular industry. Brick Yates, a Navy veteran who runs a company that produces adult films about and starring military service members and veterans, agreed to answer the why question for us, at least as it applies to his films, in which service members and veterans perform.
“Active service members are always being told not to fraternize, but we all fantasize about good-looking people we work with,” Yates said. “So, it’s natural for a Marine or sailor or soldier to want to have sex with another service member because the military makes sure that is a very taboo subject still.”
Yates said that, though he understands that some people might find adult films featuring uniformed service members offensive, his company has the exact opposite intent. “We respect the uniforms these people don to the fullest,” he said, noting that he believes a military fetish is no different than a fetish for police officers or, that plot-staple, the pizza delivery guy. “People can disagree with me and that’s okay. I know not everyone is pleased with my work, but it is truly not meant to be degrading or disrespectful in any manner. We aren’t out here to make the service look bad in any way.”
Though typing your MOS into a job translator isn’t likely to yield a result of “X-rated movie star,” there does seem to be something of a …pipeline. (Sorry.) And while adult entertainment recruiters probably won’t have a table at any on-base hiring fairs, there are active efforts to recruit vets into the industry, ensuring that the supply of veterans-turned-adult-entertainers never dwindles.
Besides, military veterans have been starring in adult entertainment for decades, since even before X-rated film legend Johnnie Keyes took off his Army uniform in the early 1970s. Again, we’re not going to post links here, but the by-no-means complete list of vets who’ve gone on to adult entertainment fame includes, Johnni Black (Army), Dia Zerva (USMC), Chayse Evans (USMC), Julie Rage (Army), Nicole Marciano (USMC), Fiona Cheeks (USMC), Amber Michaels (Air Force), Kymberley Kyle (Army), Viper (USMC), Amanda Addams (Army), Misti Love (Army), Loni Punani (Air Force), Sheena Ryder (Army), Sheena Shaw (Army), Alura Jenson (Navy Army), Kim Kennedy (USMC), Alexis Fawx (Air Force), Lisa Bickels (Army) and Tiffany Lane (Army). Cory Chase (Army), is a vet even non-adult film viewers know as the female film star Ted Cruz got caught peeping.
And Diamond Foxx’s name might also be recognizable to those who aren’t familiar with her work. She was discharged from the Navy for “sexual misconduct” but entered military news again earlier this year when a West Point cadet tried to raise money online so that he could bring her to the Yearling Winter Weekend Banquet as his date.
With all we’ve said about vets in adult entertainment, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention retired LTC David Conners, aka “Dave Cummings”. After 25 years of service to the U.S. Army, he went on to service… sorry, sorry… he started his career in the adult entertainment industry at age 55, appearing in hundreds of adult films, and being inducted into both the AVN and XRCO (X-rated Critics Association) Halls of Fame, before his death last fall. Which, we suppose means that while Will Pounder and Brad Knight are USMC and Navy veteran adult film stars who certainly started their second careers strong, it was the old Army guy who really had the staying power. Hooah!
Loni Punani, Air Force veteran and adult entertainer.
Though adult films are totally legal for veterans to film, it’s a UCMJ violation for active duty service members to have a side job—any side job— without obtaining prior permission from their command. And commands have a long history of punishing, and even discharging, service members who engage in activities that prejudice “good order and discipline or that is service discrediting,” risk potential “press or public relations coverage” or “create an improper appearance.”
Yates said the “is this allowed” question can be tricky. “I have spoken with a few officers about their Marines being in my films and it really depends. It’s more the details of the film than it is the general fact of them doing (adult entertainment). Military brass are people, too, and some don’t care if their personnel do (adult entertainment), but some do. As long as they are safe, not reflecting poorly on their branch of service and not in their own uniform, they are usually fine.”
Air Force Staff Sgt. Michelle Manhart received a formal reprimand, was removed from her position as a training instructor and was demoted after she posed nude in a 2007 Playboy magazine spread.
And in 2006, seven paratroopers from the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division were court martialed on charges of sodomy, pandering and engaging in sex acts for money. According to reporters who covered the case, the soldiers were not gay but, because they engaged in homosexual acts on screen at a time when the military was still under the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, they were punished for the activity.
Yates also warned that service members and veterans who are interested in entering the adult industry should be savvy and a little suspicious. He said that while there are some really great people in the industry, there are also some bad ones. Potential adult film stars should verify that the companies that recruiters claim to represent are real and should ask to see references and examples of previous work before engaging in any onscreen work themselves.
All to say, if it’s your dream to turn your night passion into your day job, it might be safest to wait until you’ve got that DD-214.
Until then, feel free to enjoy the talents and attributes of your brothers and sisters in arms who’ve found their futures in a whole different kind of service.
Several months ago, no one believed us when we said that there would eventually be a Space Force. Everyone thought it’d be a foolish idea. We were the biggest fans of the idea from the very beginning. It’s not like we’re mad or anything — just that we’re calling first dibs in line at the Space Force recruitment office.
Whatever. Here’s a bunch of memes that are about the Space Force curated from around the internet and a hand full of other ones that aren’t space related, I guess.
The Navy has recently wanted to end ballistic missile defense (BMD) patrols. This mission, usually carried out by Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers equipped with RIM-161 Standard SM-3 surface-to-air missiles, has been to protect American allies from ballistic missiles from rogue states like Iran and North Korea, or from hostile peers or near-peers like Russia and China.
In June 2018 though, the Navy wanted to get away from this mission. The reason? They want to shift this to shore installations to free up the destroyers for other missions. Well, the ballistic missile defense mission is not going to go away any time soon. Here’s why:
A RIM-161 Standard SM-3 missile is launched from the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Hopper (DDG 70).
(U.S. Navy photo)
4. It will cost money to remove the capability
Even if there are shore installations handling the ballistic-missile defense mission, these Burke-class destroyers are not going to lose their capability to carry out the ballistic missile defense role. Maybe they won’t carry as many RIM-161s as they used to, but the capability will be preserved. The Navy has better things to do than to spend money to remove a capability from a ship.
The Kongo-class guided-missile destroyer Kirishima launches a RIM-161 Standard SM-3 missile during a joint exercise with the United States.
(U.S. Navy photo)
3. There is China’s anti-ship ballistic missile program to beat
China’s DF-21 anti-ship ballistic missile could be more than a cause of virtual attrition if China were able to figure out how to locate American carriers. In that case, the best option to stop a DF-21 could very well be the SM-3s on the escorts of a carrier. After all, the land bases will be too far away to cover the carrier.
Sea-based ballistic-missile defense assets have advantages of mobility and security over land-based ballistic-missile defense assets. Just try and find a ship like USS Decatur (DDG 73).
(U.S. Navy photo)
2. Land bases are vulnerable
Land bases are easy to support. You also have plenty of space, compared to a ship. Getting sufficient power and resources is also easy. The accommodations of the crew operating it are far more comfortable. But they don’t move, and everyone and their kid sister knows where they are or can find them on Google Earth. This makes them vulnerable to attacks from planes, missiles, special operations units… you get the idea.
Since war is unpredictable, one will always need the means to get ballistic-missile defense assets to a location — and the best method is a ship like USS Lake Erie (CG 70), pictured here.
(U.S. Navy photo)
1. You never know where you will fight
We think we know where the next war will start. But can we ever be sure? In his memoirs, Norman Schwarzkopf admitted he never thought he’d be fighting in Vietnam, Grenada, or Kuwait. If American troops needed to fight somewhere unexpected (say, a war breaks out in Mozambique), the initial BMD will have to come from ships, not land based units.
The fact is, the Navy may want to dump BMD patrols, but they will be sailing around to carry out this mission for a long time.
The new US strategy in Afghanistan, by working more closely with Kabul and taking a harder line toward Pakistan, stands a better chance of working than previous plans, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said on Sept. 20.
Speaking at an Asia Society meeting in New York, Ghani said former President Barack Obama’s previous strategy to try to successfully conclude the 16-year war and withdraw US troops failed because Obama “did not have a partner in Afghanistan.”
Ghani did not elaborate, but his remarks implicitly criticized his predecessor, Hamid Karzai, who had a sometimes rocky relationship with Washington.
Unlike Obama, US President Donald Trump has “a team of partners in Afghanistan,” Ghani said, and Trump developed his strategy after holding “immense consultations with us.”
Ghani gave Obama credit for his decision to maintain some US forces in Afghanistan rather than following his pledge to pull them all out, saying that decision “ensured our survival” at a time when Taliban militants were strengthening in their drive to defeat and unseat the government.
Ghani, in a separate interview with National Public Radio due to air on Sept. 21, revealed some details of Trump’s Afghan strategy not previously disclosed by the White House.
He said the administration’s objective is to bring 80 percent of Afghanistan back under the government’s control in the next four years. The United States currently estimates that the government directly controls only about half the country.
Ghani told NPR that the new strategy’s goal is to double the size of the Afghan commando force and elevate it from a division to a corps command, while bolstering the Afghan military’s airpower.
All this would occur as Kabul overhauls its military leadership, he said.
“We ourselves are changing management and leadership. Our minister of defense is under 40. A new generation is taking over,” he told NPR, adding that older generals are being honorably retired.
Under the plan, Ghani told NPR that US troops will continue to advise, assist, and train Afghan forces and will not return to a combat role.
But “the advisers will be working now at the division level to make sure that the systems processes are there,” he said.
US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said this week that more than 3,000 additional US troops are being deployed to Afghanistan under the new strategy, raising the total number of US forces to more than 14,000. That compares with a high of more than 100,000 troops under Obama.
Part of Trump’s announced strategy is to take a tougher line toward Pakistan for allegedly providing refuge to the Afghan Taliban and other extremist groups. Pakistan denies the accusations.
Ghani told the Asia Society that by targeting Pakistan and taking a more “regional approach,” the Trump strategy provides a new opening for peace talks.
“The message to Pakistan to engage and become a responsible stakeholder in the region and in the fight against terrorism has never been clearer,” he said.
“What I am offering the Pakistan government, the Pakistan security apparatus, is the invitation to a comprehensive dialogue,” Ghani said. “If Pakistan does not take this opportunity, I think they will pay a high price.”
Ghani said Afghan forces are getting better, having gained more experience by assuming a bigger role in the fighting after the massive cuts in US forces under Obama.
He said he believes it will not take another decade to win or settle the war but rather “some limited years.”
Los Angeles residents got a surprise this week when helicopters, ostensibly filled with Special Forces operators, began flying around the Los Angeles and Long Beach skylines, disgorging their fully armed passengers into parking lots while simulated gunfire and explosions rang out.
If you’re surprised to hear that the military instituted martial law in Los Angeles last night, well, obviously, it was an exercise.
As surprised residents began contacting journalists and taking to social media, the Army answered questions from journalists and told them that Los Angeles had been selected as a training location because its urban terrain is similar to that which soldiers might be deployed to in future conflicts.
Military exercises rattling nerves around LA | ABC7
“The local terrain and training facilities in Los Angeles provide the Army with unique locations and simulates urban environments the service members may encounter when deployed overseas,” the Army told CBS. “There is no replacement for realistic training. Each location selected enables special operations teams and flight crews to maintain maximum readiness and proficiency, validate equipment and exercise standard safety procedures.“
The Army said that it had alerted local residents to the training, but it’s hard to get the word out to everyone in such a densely populated area. Apparently, some people missed the memo or were simply driving through the exercise area and didn’t know about the drills until they saw what appeared to be a raid happening in front of their eyes.
Some property owners had given permission for the military to use their land and buildings, so the operators had a lot of options in their work. The training is scheduled to go through Saturday, February 9.
This isn’t the first time that local residents have gotten surprised by military training. For instance, in 2015, Texas residents had gotten plenty of warning that Jade Helm 15, a massive exercise including vehicles, special operators, and aircraft, would be taking place.
Texans protested the training and pressured the governor to assign member of the Texas State Guard, separate from the National Guard, to monitor the training and ensure the federal troops didn’t take any illegal actions during the exercise. It grew into a massive conspiracy theory before the event took off, but the actual exercise took place with little drama.
Update: An earlier version of this story said that Jade Helm included tanks, something that caused the author to slap himself in the face the next morning when he realized that he had said that. Jade Helm did not include tanks. It did include some vehicles, but mostly just HMMWVs.
The Army is reinstating a program to provide its personnel a temporary pay bump for deployments longer than nine months.
Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael Grinston announced the change over the weekend, calling the move a way to ease the burden on personnel as the Army continues to work on ways to “create more predictable deployment cycles.”
Some 180,000 Army active-duty, National Guard, and reserve personnel remain mobilized or forward-deployed, according to Army officials. Known as “hardship duty pay-tempo,” the new benefit will dole out up to $495 a month for personnel whose deployments have been extended past nine months.
Grinston, who was sworn in as the 16th sergeant major of the Army in August 2019, announced the change over the weekend on both Twitter and Instagram, reflecting an ongoing effort by the Army’s most senior enlisted member to improve morale and leadership by reaching out to troops over social media platforms.
As part of his outreach effort, Grinston held a Thanksgiving town hall meeting with a cross-section of personnel from the Army’s Air Defense Artillery branch to discuss issues related to the Army’s operational tempo. Deployment length was one of the hot topics.
“One of the major problems was deployments regularly being extended past the original 9 months,” Grinston tweeted on Sunday, describing the outcome of the Thanksgiving meeting.
While the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq now require a fraction of the manpower they once did, Army personnel are still deployed to those theaters as well as in myriad other locations worldwide — not only to fight terrorism, but to deter America’s near-peer adversaries of China and Russia in ways reminiscent of the Cold War.
In addition to additional counterterrorism operations in Africa and Syria, Army troops also frequently rotate in and around Eastern Europe in training exercises and deployments to deter Russian aggression. Army personnel are also in Ukraine, continuing a training mission that dates back to 2015 — one year after Russia invaded. That worldwide presence puts on a strain on Army personnel and their families, especially with the added burden of the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to law, service branch secretaries can authorize supplemental hardship duty pay when a mobilization or deployment “requires the member to perform duties in an operational environment for periods that exceed rotation norms.”
“This doesn’t give you time back with your family, but I hope this shows that Army leaders are LISTENING, and your service makes a difference,” Grinston tweeted on Sunday, adding: “I told you People First meant aligning time and money to help Soldiers. We have to get this right. More details coming soon.”
Johnie Webb’s corner office is full of memories from a grim but fulfilling mission.
As the Army veteran leans over his desk — strewn with gifts given to him over the course of a 40-year career — he grabs a wooden box and pulls out a modest bracelet. Engraved on stainless steel reads the name of a staff sergeant killed in the Vietnam War.
When he begins to share the story of how he received it, his light blue eyes well up with tears.
“I keep it on my desk, because this is what we’re all about,” said Webb, deputy of outreach and communications for the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.
Since 1975, Webb has traveled dozens of times to former combat zones as a Soldier and later as a civilian for the joint agency or one of its predecessors. The agency is responsible for locating the remains of the more than 82,000 Americans who are still missing from past conflicts.
While much of his time had been in search of those fallen service members, Webb, 72, is now an advocate for their families who continue to wait for updates.
“I’m not going to say closure, because I’m not sure if there ever is closure when you lose a loved one. But at least [we can] provide them answers and give that loved one back,” he said. “That’s extremely important and I’m honored to play a small part.”
Early in his Army career, Webb, a retired lieutenant colonel, led convoys as a logistics officer all over Vietnam to ensure bases had fuel for operations during the war.
Under the constant threat of roadside bombs and ambushes, he briefed his Soldiers to move their vehicle out of the road if it were ever hit so other vehicles could escape.
“If you block the road, then we’re all done,” he recalled saying.
During one of those missions, a Soldier did just that after a rocket-propelled grenade struck the cab of his 5-ton vehicle and left him with severe burns.
His sacrifice was something Webb never forgot.
“Unfortunately, he didn’t survive,” he said. “But he probably saved the rest of us by doing what we were trained to do and that was to get his truck off the road.”
A few years after his tour, the Army assigned Webb to the Central Identification Laboratory-Thailand, which was later moved to Hawaii and consolidated into DPAA.
The role of the new unit was to find the remains of Americans from the Vietnam War.
At first, he was confused, he said, since he knew nothing about the organization or its mission. In the Army’s eyes, though, he was qualified for the job because as a young lieutenant he once took a course on graves registration.
It would eventually come full circle for Webb in 1985, when he was chosen to lead the first recovery team into Vietnam only a decade after the end of the war.
“It became very personal for me,” he said, regarding the sacrifices made by fallen comrades. “We couldn’t let them be forgotten.”
Being back in Vietnam was initially “unnerving,” he said. After all, he had once fought an enemy there and it was uncertain how his team would be treated.
The mission was to search for human remains from a B-52 bomber crash site near Hanoi. But the team’s visit to Vietnam was also an opportunity to rebuild the diplomatic relationship between the former warring nations.
The Vietnamese still distrusted Americans then, he said, and even photographed his team with cameras that were crudely hidden in briefcases.
Now, more than 30 years after that first mission, Vietnamese officials work closely with the DPAA teams that rotate in and out of the country each year. The agency is even permitted to permanently base one of its detachments in Hanoi to support teams as they search for roughly 1,600 Americans missing from that war.
“We were there before we had diplomatic relations. We were there before an embassy was ever established,” Webb said. “A lot of groundbreaking effort went into getting us to where we are today.”
While the agency’s mission started with the work to account for those lost in Vietnam, it grew to include sites from World War II, the Korean War, the Cold War and other conflicts.
Webb was again behind another pioneering effort, but this time in North Korea. He and others took several trips to the country and helped negotiate with the North Koreans so teams could conduct missions at former battle sites from 1996 to 2005.
They even traveled from the capital, Pyongyang, to the Chosin Reservoir, where a decisive battle had taken place in the winter of 1950. As they were driven through the country, Webb recalled seeing how desperate the North Koreans had lived.
“It was very interesting times,” he said, “but it made sure you were really appreciative of being an American.”
As U.S. and North Korean governments currently aim to thaw relations between each other, Webb hopes it will lead the reclusive country to reopen its borders to the agency’s teams.
About 7,700 Americans are still unaccounted for from the Korean War, with the majority believed to be in North Korea.
“If we want to get answers to the families, and we definitely want to get them answers, we’re going to have to get access back into North Korea,” he said.
With the days of digging at excavation sites now behind him, Webb maintains a pivotal role in keeping families, distinguished visitors and veterans service organizations apprised of agency efforts.
“I couldn’t say enough good things about Johnie Webb and the fact that he is literally one of the staunchest contributors to this mission,” said Kelly McKeague, the agency’s director.
McKeague, a former Air Force major general, credits Webb’s “Texas roots” for his compassion and calm demeanor. There is no better person, McKeague said, to speak with families struggling with loss.
“Johnie has a sense about him to be able to communicate with them, to be empathetic to them, and to literally not just be their friend but be their confidant,” he said. “They have so much confidence in him.”
Whether in a foreign country or back at the headquarters in Hawaii, Webb said the younger troops at the agency have always impressed him.
“Most of them weren’t even born when the guy who they are trying to recover was lost,” he said. “Still, they feel that kinship to that military buddy who wore the uniform for them.”
The “grunt work” these troops — many of whom are Soldiers — do at an excavation site can take months to years to find remains, if there are any. Once recovered, it can take even longer to identify them by lab staff.
While the long process sometimes leaves families irritated, the agency wants to ensure human remains are properly excavated and identified.
“Not only is it frustrating to the families, it gets frustrating for us as well because we want to provide those answers,” Webb said. “We want to return that loved one, but we want to do it right.”
When the answers do come, some family members do not want to believe them.
Inside a wooden box on his desk, the engraved bracelet reminds Webb of one such family member.
The father of the staff sergeant whose name is on the bracelet often spoke to Webb about his missing son before he was found. He had hoped his son was still alive and pleaded to Webb to bring him back.
A team then discovered remains from a site of a crashed helicopter, which the staff sergeant was on. Shortly after, Webb advised the father to prepare to receive his son’s remains so he could honor his life.
“It was clear that he was not wanting to hear that,” Webb remembered.
Webb asked other families who knew the grief-stricken father and had also lost loved ones to talk to him so he could come to terms with the news. He finally did.
When his son’s remains were returned to the family, there was a huge outpouring of public support. The funeral had full military honors and even dignitaries showed up to it.
“It was a day of celebration for this young man to come back home,” Webb said. “I was happy that he had honored his son the way he should have been honored.”
A few weeks later, a brown envelope addressed to Johnie Webb came in the mail. In it, there was a “thank you” note along with the bracelet, which the father always wore.
“I’m giving to you the POW bracelet that I have worn since my son was lost,” Webb said, recalling what the father wrote. “I finally took it off when he came back home. I want you to have it as a token of my appreciation.”