The Army has chosen a new semi-automatic sniper rifle, replacing the M110 which entered service in 2008.
According to reports by the Army Times, the winning rifle was the Heckler Koch G28. According to the the company’s website, the G28 is a version of the HK 417 battle rifle — itself a variation of the AR-10 rifle.
This came after a 2014 request for proposals for a more compact version of the M110. The M110 is being replaced despite the fact that it was named one of the Army’s “Best 10 Inventions” in 2007, according to M110 manufacturer Knight’s Armament website.
So, what is behind the replacement of a rifle that was widely loved by soldiers after it replaced the M24 bolt-action system? According to Military.com, it was to get something less conspicuous as a sniper rifle. The M110 is 13 inches longer than a typical M4 carbine, something an enemy sniper would be able to notice.
Being conspicuous is a good way to attract enemy fire.
The new M110A1 does provide some relief in that department, being about 2.5 inches shorter than the M110. More importantly for the grunt carrying it, it is about three pounds lighter than the M110.
Both the M110 and the M110A1 fire the NATO standard 7.62x51mm cartridge, and both feature 20-shot magazines. The Army plans to spend just under $45 million to get 3,643 M110A1s. That comes out to $12,000 a rifle, plus all the logistical and support needs for the Army, including the provision of spare parts.
The Army has long made use of semi-automatic sniper rifles. During the Vietnam War, a modified version of the M14 known as the M21 was used by the service’s snipers. One of those snipers, Adelbert Waldron, was America’s top sniper in that conflict, scoring 109 confirmed kills.
The Kurdish YPG, a contingent of the US-backed forces fighting ISIS in Syria, released a video Aug. 29 showing the underground tunnels that ISIS digs to launch sneak attacks.
The video shows two rather large tunnels inside a captured, bombed-out mosque, from which the YPG claim that ISIS had been using.
“The barbaric group, aware of the YPG’s sensitivity towards people’s places of worship and other historic sites, has been using [mosques] as bases to delay the liberation of Raqqa,” text in the YPG video reads.
With those words, Air Force veteran Nadine Stanford became the first Community Living Center resident at VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System to complete a battlefield acupuncture (BFA) treatment.
Not more than 15 minutes before treatment, Stanford told VA Pittsburgh acupuncturist Amanda Federovich that the pain in her buttocks was a ten on the zero-to-10 pain scale. Ten reflects the worst pain Stanford could imagine.
Stanford had previously tried narcotic painkillers, analgesics, benzodiazepines, kinesthesia and music therapy. Nothing really worked for her pain until Federovich gently inserted five tiny needles into each of Stanford’s ears.
Five points on the ear correspond to specific areas of the body, explained Federovich. Point by point, the acupuncturist places needles in one ear and then the other until the patient says they feel better. By confining treatment to the ears, battlefield acupuncture practitioners can give care on the battlefield or whenever a service member’s entire body is not available for treatment.
“I have no pain,” said Nadine Stanford after treatment.
Each time Federovich placed a pair of needles, she asked Stanford to move her arms and hands. With every placement, Stanford found it easier to move. Every time Federovich asked Stanford if she wanted the treatment to continue, she responded with an enthusiastic “Oh yeah” or “Yes ma’am!”
“I was elated that Nadine was pain-free by the end of the session,” Federovich said. “Her daily life is a struggle due to pain from her contractures, spasms, and wounds. It is very overwhelming to see her that happy and relaxed.”
Federovich cautioned that battlefield acupuncture doesn’t always work so quickly and dramatically. “The average response to BFA is a 2.2-point reduction in pain [on the zero-to-10 scale] from pre- to post-session. Some veterans have a more significant pain reduction response than others. Having total pain relief is the best-case scenario.”
Federovich said that battlefield acupuncture, along with standard acupuncture, is a key component of the Whole Health movement. Whole Health focuses on outcomes the veteran wants for their life, as opposed to diseases or injuries they may have. It also arranges care to meet those outcomes.
“We’re empowering our veterans to be an active participant in their health care,” she said. “Things like chronic pain, anxiety, PTSD, these are things that battlefield acupuncture can address so the veterans are not dependent on meds.”
Federovich is the first advanced practice nurse at VA Pittsburgh to be certified in battlefield acupuncture. As a result, she is ready to train other health care practitioners. “I am eager to roll BFA out to the rest of the facility. I am hopeful that other veterans will have similar responses and improve their quality of life.”
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
In the parking lot of the National Guard armory, a soldier reaches into his glove box and carefully unfolds a letter safeguarded in the confines of his car for five months. Sitting on the edge of his passenger seat, in the late afternoon sun, he begins to read the pages once again. At first, he reads silently as if wanting to keep the special message private. Then, in little more than a whisper, he reads out loud the sentiments of a woman he has never met but whose life he would be responsible for saving. Occasionally, he looks up to explain a bit more about the woman behind the precious missive. While he reads, the front of the envelope can be seen addressed to ‘My Donor.’ One glance at the top of the first page, clearly written in very large print is an emphatic, ‘Thank you.
A member of the Texas Army National Guard, Spc. Akeem Martin, a 23-year-old from Houston, says he is no hero, “I am just doing what is right.” The journey to the right thing started nearly five years ago when he was an 18-year-old freshman at Central Texas College. Martin recalls, “I really didn’t think about it, we were going to lunch one day and they [Be The Match] were having a drive, giving away pizza and I signed up, they took a mouth swab and that was the last time I heard anything.” Shaking his head he continues, “then last year… I got a call from Be The Match saying that I had been matched with a person with leukemia and asking would I like to donate for them.”
Member of the Texas Army National Guard, Spc. Akeem Martin.
(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Suzanne Ringle)
Martin could have said no, but that is not in his character. “Because I signed up for it, just like any other commitment you make, you did the paperwork you said you were gonna do it, so…” Martin leaves the statement hanging as if the conclusion is obvious: you do what you say and say what you do; no more discussion needed. This attitude serves him well in both his military and civilian careers.
Martin has been a firefighter for two years with the South Montgomery County Fire Department. In the Texas Army National Guard, he is a chaplain’s assistant deployed to the southwest border for Joint Task Force Guardian Support with El Paso-based, 3rd Battalion, 133rd Field Artillery Regiment. As the chaplain’s assistant he gets many opportunities to counsel service members and help on an emotional level. “These Guardsmen have lives going on back home, and life happens every day. I am just glad I can help,” Martin says.
Just before deploying, Martin received the letter. “I keep the letter in my car, it was really touching. I guess I was waiting to meet her,” he says. “I got the letter and then I came on mission a couple of weeks later. I didn’t get a chance to write her back.”
When LaShonda Goines, a cancer nurse from Houston, Texas, wrote that letter four months after being diagnosed with two different forms of cancer, she knew for certain only two things; there was a perfect ten-out-of-ten match, and without a doubt, everything was going to be okay. “I never asked for the odds of survival, I would not accept them anyways. I just knew that God was going to bring me out of this. I knew I was going to beat it,” said Goines.
Member of the Texas Army National Guard, Spc. Akeem Martin.
(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Suzanne Ringle)
In her letter to Martin, Goines wrote, “I rejoice in the fact that God did not break the mold after he made me because he knew you were needed to help with repairs to my body. He created you to be a perfect match to repair my malfunctions. In this journey, I have learned to appreciate life, I want to take trips and do things once my body is strong enough. I am a very religious person. Your cells are going to a good and generous person.” After reading the letter once again, Martin points to his heart and with an awkward giggle says, “this letter really hits you in the feels,” while he takes a little extra time refolding the letter. Goines conveys a similar sentiment when she learns Martin has kept the letter all these months. She responds with a voice full of emotion. “That’s got me in tears. Yes, I am surprised. I know my son would be like, ‘I don’t know where that letter is.’ I did not know that letter was that precious to him.”
Goines closed the letter with a hope and a prayer, “I want to meet you one day. Hug you one day, whenever we can, if you like. Be blessed my friend, my life-sharing brother.” Little did she know all that she dreamed would come to fruition, in less than a year.
The good news came over the phone just 30 days after receiving Martin’s stem cells. “I am cancer free. Hearing those words was awesome. I mean I ran through the church. I gave my testimony. It was something, absolutely unbelievable, especially being a cancer nurse. Listening to the other patients in the holding area waiting to be seen, you hear their stories, how some of them had tried transplant and it didn’t work for them and this is maybe their second go around. But for me, this was a one-shot deal and now, I am cancer free,” Goines’ smile can be heard through the phone.
Donor meets recipient
Martin and Goines were invited to meet for the first time in Minnesota at the annual Be The Match council meeting. Their first time meeting each other would be onstage in front of more than two thousand people.
“I can’t even describe how amazing that moment was, it was so precious,” says Martin. He attempts to describe the event, seemingly at a loss for words, shrugging his shoulders and says, “I was really anxious and super excited. I was just really happy to get to that point. Just seeing her and being able to say that we got to that point because she made it, she was a fighter, it was something really special.”
Goines was anxious to finally meet the young man who saved her life. “The event was awesome. They had us separated through the entire meeting until Saturday night, even when they played the video of both of us. They called me to the stage first, and they would not tell me where he was in the room. And so, to see him walk up to the stage with his mother, he just has this heroic walk. It was awesome. He has a very heroic and humble walk, he never bolstered or anything. He’s an amazing fellow.”
Member of the Texas Army National Guard, Spc. Akeem Martin.
(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Suzanne Ringle)
When asked if they attributed the success of the transplant endeavor to just science or God, they had similar, but not identical, responses. Both have careers in the medical field and strong religious beliefs. Martin holds out his hands out as if making a scale for demonstration, “I have my religious background and I work in the medical field too. I feel like there is science and there is God, and they both work together.”
Goines praises God’s intervention, “God, this was nothing but divine intervention, divine intervention from God. Sitting in the room for 30-days doing my transplant I was crying out to God and this just shows me that God had his ear inclined to my cries.” Continuing she describes how special and lucky she felt, “I felt like I touched the hem of God’s garment and I was made whole again.”
Donor saves life
Few people can say they saved a life, but for Martin, saving lives is a reality, as a fireman and now as a stem cell donor. He says there is a uniquely strong bond between him and Goines, compared to other lives he has saved as a fireman. “I guess because we have such a bond now, when I met her it was like I’d known her my whole life, it was really weird. I met her sons as well and it was like we’ve been brothers forever. It was really something amazing.”
The special bond forged between the two gives each a bigger family. Without hesitation or searching for the words she would say to Martin, Goines exclaimed, “I got a new son out of this process. I want to tell him I love him and he’s an awesome human being and he needs to keep doing what he’s doing because God has bigger and better plans for him.”
The effects of this profound, life-changing match are clear, nearly 800 miles away, across the state of Texas, with one look at Martin’s cubicle inside the armory. The cubicle appears to be much like anyone’s cubicle. There are pictures of his family and another one of his fire truck, along with a cross and some obligatory notices and guidelines. There are two items quite unique and conspicuous amid the varying drab tones of tan, hanging proudly both inside and outside his partitions: two capes, one green the other blue, both emblazoned with the ‘Be The Match’ logo. Martin explains everyone gets the blue cape, but the green one is special for those donor-recipient matches that ended in saving a life.
Martin believes to care for others, you have to take yourself out of the equation. “When it comes down to saving a life, you should not think about yourself, there’s gonna be pain, you know everything good comes with a little pain. That little bit of pain goes a long way because there is someone whose life is really counting on you. Putting in a little work and a little pain will go a long way,” he says.
Goines went from a double cancer diagnosis to being cancer free in seven months because Martin decided to be a difference and saw it through. She says, “Sign up for Be The Match. It doesn’t matter if you are black, white, Hispanic, just sign up.”
Martin says his firsthand experience doesn’t make him a hero, but did make him want to share his story. “It is really important to educate people on the ‘Be the Match’ program or any marrow donor program because it does save lives. It does make a difference,” he says.
Be The Match is a nonprofit international organization that matches stem cell and bone marrow donors with recipients inflicted with certain cancers. The matches are based, partly, on ethnicity, and more often than not the match will come from outside one’s family. To find out more visit bethematch.org.
Mick never forgot his best friend from Vietnam – a dog named Hobo.
Kim “Mick” Michalowski still talks about his K-9 partner from 49 years ago, but only had one photo to remember his buddy. That is, until last week, when he reconnected on Facebook with an Air Force friend who sent him photos of Hobo he had kept all these years.
“When I got these photos, it was one of the best days for me,” Michalowski said. “I’m not going to say it was the best day of my life because I have three children, a beautiful wife and grandchildren. But it just uplifted my spirits so much.
Kim “Mick” Michalowski and Hobo in Vietnam.
“You can ask my wife. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t talk about Hobo in the 46 years we’ve been married. Probably not a day goes by I don’t tell someone about Hobo.”
Pictured above are Kim Michalowski and his wife Yolanda at the dog memorial he helped build in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin.
Michalowski joined the Air Force in 1970.
“We had no way of knowing what would happen or what we would get into. I still remember that last moment, getting on the plane. I was looking back at my dad, thinking I would never see him again. It’s one of the few times I saw my dad cry.”
Jumped at the chance to be a K-9 handler
Michalowski was a security policeman originally stationed at Phu Cat Air Base. He moved to Cam Rhan Bay Air Base, where he jumped at the chance to become a K-9 handler.
Hobo, on the other hand, wasn’t thrilled with his new partner.
“It took three and a half days for him to let me come into his kennel. He would jump at the gate, growling and snarling and stuff and would not let me in. I was finally able to get him muzzled and get him out. It took two more days to be able to get him to work with me.
“I still have scars on both my arms where he bit me, one on my left arm and another on my right wrist. One was from playing around and the other was me learning to be more careful.”
They became inseparable after that, patrolling the perimeter of Cam Rhan Bay Air Base.
“We literally spent 11 to 12 hours a day together patrolling. When we got off, it was another four hours taking care of him, checking for ticks, feeding him and making sure he had plenty of water. My shift would end at 0600, but I wouldn’t get back to my bunk until 10 o’clock.
Ted Kozikowski and his K-9 partner, Congo, in Vietnam.
Read his mail to Hobo
“I used to read my letters to my dog. Just having that ability to have someone to reach down and grab around the neck put me at ease. During the day I’d go back to the kennel to play with him.”
Michalowski had some close calls with incoming rounds, but Hobo always made him feel better.
“I always felt safer with Hobo. He was going to do his job and detect something before I would.”
Then it was time to go stateside.
“Up until my dad died, that was the worst day of my life. That dog was special to me. I took him out to the yard to work him around the obstacle course. I just hugged him real tight around the neck. I told him I loved him and was going to miss him.”
Michalowski separated from the Air Force as a sergeant in 1974, then joined the Army Reserve in 1977, retiring as a command sergeant major.
But he never forgot Hobo.
About five years ago, he helped raise money for a K-9 memorial in Menomonee Falls. There, he talked about his partner from so many decades ago. And then he was scrolling through a K-9 Facebook page and saw a familiar face.
That was Ted Kozikowski. “It blew me away,” Kozikowski said. “I remembered him right away. Veterans, we always want to go back to that stability in our life, whether we liked the military or not. It was an anchor of self-discipline and a camaraderie I’ve never experienced in the civilian world.”
Family sent dog biscuits from the states
In Vietnam, they were known as the “Skis” – easier that way when there are two Polish troops in the unit. “I was Ski and Michalowski was Ski 2,” Kozikowski says.
Like his buddy, Ski 2, he had an abiding love for his K-9 partner, Congo.
“That dog was a member of my family. My parents and my brother and sisters loved him too,” Kozikowski said. “My care packages from home went from cookies to dog biscuits. There was not a thing that dog didn’t know about me and my personal life. He knew me better than my family.”
The two have talked back and forth on Facebook, and Ted was happy to share photos of Hobo with his buddy.
“I’m glad to do that. Those dogs meant everything to us,” he said.
Michalowski shares the sentiment. “What do they call that term for dogs in heaven? The rainbow bridge? Hobo, he’ll be waiting for me.”
The United States Postal Services has been in the news lately as they, just like the rest of us, are feeling the impact of the economy. Now, there’s a way to support everyone’s buddy the USPS and a cause more than worthy of your support: PTSD.
In late March, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, the Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, and Rep. Gerry Connolly, the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Government Operations, issued the following statement after House Democrats introduced a stimulus package with emergency funds to save the Postal Service from imminent bankruptcy as a result of the coronavirus crisis:
“The Postal Service is in need of urgent help as a direct result of the coronavirus crisis. Based on a number of briefings and warnings this week about a critical fall-off in mail across the country, it has become clear that the Postal Service will not survive the summer without immediate help from Congress and the White House. Every community in America relies on the Postal Service to deliver vital goods and services, including life-saving medications. The Postal Service needs America’s help, and we must answer this call.”
According to the Postal Service, it is facing a potentially drastic direct effect in the near term on mail volumes and could be forced to cease operations as early as June.
A halt in Postal Service operations could have grave consequences across the country. For example, the Postal Service delivered more than a billion shipments of prescription drugs last year, and that number is expected to grow rapidly as a result of the coronavirus crisis.
These negative effects could be even more dire in rural areas, where millions of Americans are sheltering in place and rely on the Postal Service to deliver essential staples.
In addition, more than 25% of votes cast in recent elections are distributed through the mail and are critical to America’s democracy.
The resources included in the Take Responsibility for Workers and Families Act, would:
provide a billion emergency appropriation;
eliminate the Postal Service’s current debt; and
require the Postal Service to prioritize medical deliveries and allow it flexibility to meet crisis conditions.
So, how can you help? Buy stamps. And, for 10 cents more than a regular stamp, you can buy a “Healing PTSD” stamp. The additional cost is diverted to fundraising efforts for veterans with PTSD. The photo depicted is by Mark Laiata and is an illustration of a green plant sprouting from the ground, covered in fallen leaves. The image is intended to symbolize the PTSD healing process, growth and hope.
“The Postal Service is honored to issue this semi-postal stamp as a powerful symbol of the healing process, growth and hope for tens of millions of Americans who experience PTSD,” David C. Williams, vice chairman on the service’s board of governors, said in a press release issued when the stamp was introduced in December. “Today, with the issuance of this stamp, the nation renews its commitment to raise funds to help treat soldiers, veterans, first responders, health care providers and other individuals dealing with this condition.”
The Second World War saw the US government press a number of civilian aircraft into military service for use as transports and cargo haulers, thanks to a rising demand for vehicles. Known as the Civil Reserve Air Fleet, this force consists of hundreds of passenger and freight aircraft flown by companies such as JetBlue, UPS and United Airlines, which can be ushered into military service whenever the Department of Defense needs more aircraft to fulfill its various missions.
The CRAF was officially formed in December 1951 through an agreement brokered between the Department of Defense and the Department of Commerce that would streamline the realignment of civilian aircraft into military service if the military’s own airlift capabilities weren’t able to handle the volume of transport operations caused by national emergencies, crises, or war.
If called upon, airlines and freight carriers that have agreed to a CRAF contract would provide aircraft and aircrew (i.e. pilots and flight attendants) to the U.S. Transportation Command, which will then assign these airliners to airlift missions — from moving troops and gear to evacuating the injured and wounded in “air ambulance” roles.
At the moment, virtually all major American commercial aircraft operators — including international and domestic airlines and parcel delivery companies with aviation divisions — are fully-contracted members of the CRAF, making their aircraft available to USTRANSCOM as and when they are needed. This includes scores of short, medium and long-range airliners and cargo aircraft which can have their interiors reconfigured to carry gear or troops.
Long-range widebody airliners and cargo transporters, such as the Boeing 747 and 777, Airbus A330, or McDonnell Douglas MD-11, are operated in sizable numbers by carriers like FedEx, American Airlines and Delta Air Lines. These aircraft, according to the CRAF’s guidelines, are slated to augment the Air Force’s C-17 Globemaster III and C-5M Galaxy fleets because of their transoceanic range.
Smaller aircraft like the Boeing 737 series and the Airbus A320 series are also listed among the aircraft available to USTRANSCOM in the event of a CRAF activation. As they lack the range and capacity of larger widebody airliners, they are relegated to domestic roles instead.
The CRAF was last activated during the Persian Gulf War in the early 1990s to transport scores of American troops and tons of military hardware to the Middle East in preparation for Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.
Airlines like Pan Am, United and TWA were responsible for providing large passenger aircraft to haul Marines, airmen, soldiers and sailors from the continental United States to Saudi Arabia and other major staging points in advance of the coordinated assault on Iraqi forces.
In the years since, the US military has been mostly able to rely upon its own airlift abilities to fly troops and gear in and out of combat zones. However, should the need arise, the military also tenders contracts to civilian charter companies like Omni Air International, who provide aircraft and pilots to ferry personnel and equipment wherever the military requires.
Airlines can indeed opt out of joining the CRAF, but many choose not to as it makes them more competitive for government transportation contracts, including charter flights for military personnel across the world.
America’s top military commander in Europe wants more forces to deter Russia, but how much is enough?
The head of the United States European Command and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces, General Curtis Scaparrotti, suggested additional resources might be needed to protect allies from Russia. Since the Cold War, America’s nuclear capabilities have been enough to deter Russia, so what has changed?
Deterrence maintains peace because our nuclear weapons make an escalating war suicidal. As Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara laid out in his 1967 speech, deterrence is the “highly reliable ability to inflict unacceptable damage upon any single aggressor… even after absorbing a surprise first strike.”
The assertion that more military units are needed in Europe implies that America’s nuclear deterrence is insufficient to do the job on its own. There are only two reasons why this might be the case. The first is that America has incorrectly signaled to Russia that nuclear weapons will not defend the Baltics. The second, is that President Trump’s transactional mindset and past musings on not upholding mutual defense obligations are serious and have signaled to Russia Trump’s ambivalence towards NATO.
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)
Russia is modernizing its military and is capable of overrunning the Baltics in 24 to 60 hours. One of the reasons for the Scaparrotti’s concern is the geographical factthat the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are on Russia’s border. Yet America’s nuclear umbrella over Europe has held for almost 70 years. In fact, when asked whether Russia could overwhelm NATO, Scaparrotti said, “I don’t agree with that.” He worries about Russia’s advantage in regional forces, but he also thinks that NATO is stronger.
Indeed, NATO already committed more troops to defend the Baltics and Poland in 2016. Their press release stated there would be “four multinational battalion-size battlegroups in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, on a rotational basis.” Those battalions are led by America, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Germany with contributions from other European allies.
Eight European allies plan to meet their NATO defense spending guidelines by the end of 2018, up from three who currently meet it. Given the upcoming NATO summit in July 2018, more European allies may yet meet that threshold. While there is a growing divide between Europe and America, Washington has still maintained its signal of deterrence (Trump committed to NATO in mid-2017). As long as Russia believes American nuclear weapons will defend NATO territory, Moscow will not touch an inch of it.
Finally, recent studies carried out by RAND Corporation’s Andrew Radin have found that attacking the Baltics not only falls outside of Moscow’s core interests but that such an attack would likely be out of defense. Radin wrote in The National Interest, “[T]he main way that Russia would develop an interest in attacking the Baltics is if it perceives NATO building up sufficient forces to pose a threat.” Given America’s history with the Monroe Doctrine, the Zimmermann Telegram, and the Cuban Missile Crisis, it should come as no surprise that countries react forcefully to other’s forces on their doorsteps.
Therefore, America should focus on signaling deterrence without putting Russia in a corner. The idea that more boots are somehow necessary on top of 1,350 deployed nuclear warheads aimed at Russia’s cities is absurd. If over a thousand nuclear missiles cannot signal to Russia that an incursion into NATO territory is a bad idea, then any additional soldiers never will.
During its development in the late 1960s, the C-5 Galaxy was more than $2 billion over budget – more than $7 billion in today’s dollars, and well more than the cost of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The troubled program nearly broke the back of its developer, the Lockheed Corporation, and was the subject of House and Senate investigations once Congress found out about it. Enter A. Ernest Fitzgerald, once Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Management Systems, suddenly reduced to managing a bowling alley in Thailand before being dismissed altogether.
The reason for his dismissal was the disclosure of secret material… to the U.S. Congress. Eventually, he would be reinstated and, for the rest of his tenure in the Defense Department, he would be known as the “Most Hated Person in the Air Force.”
The C-5 Galaxy carries almost anything in the world but almost sunk Lockheed and the US Air Force.
Fitzgerald not only divulged the information to Congress, but he also testified before a Senate subcommittee on the subject of government waste, specifically targeting the C-5A program. He knew that just by testifying before the committee, he would be the subject of reprisals by his peers and his superiors. The program was years behind schedule and costing the government billions in its development. Lockheed, the civilian agency working on the program, even needed a bailout from the government to keep the C-5 program from taking the company down with it.
The expected reprisal was swift and harsh. Fitzgerald, a civil servant since 1965, lost his tenure, then lost his Pentagon position. He was transferred to managing chow halls and bowling alleys in Thailand before his job was eliminated completely. The entire process took less than a year and was approved by President Nixon himself.
“Get rid of that son of a b*tch.” – President Richard Nixon on Ernest Fitzgerald. No joke.
The C-5 Galaxy program was just the beginning for the man who preferred the term “truth teller” to “whistleblower.” His testimony to Congress was repaid in full by the Civil Service Commission when they forced the Pentagon to restore Fitzgerald. The man was shut out from oversight of weapons development, but secrets are hard to keep in the Pentagon. He continued to inform Congress about cost overruns and inefficiencies.
When Boeing overcharged the government for cruise missiles, Fitzgerald was there. When the Air Force paid 6.55 for plastic stool caps that cost 34 cents to produce, Fitzgerald told the world. He was even invited to show the American taxpayers on Late Night With David Letterman. Eventually, he was the go-to guy for whistleblowers in the Pentagon who wanted to leak info about fraud, waste, and abuse.
In the early morning of May 15th, 1967, U.S. Army soldiers from the 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division were ambushed near Song Tra Cau riverbed Duc Pho in the Republic of Vietnam. Outnumbered and outgunned, they faced an entire battalion of North Vietnamese soldiers with heavy machine guns and recoilless rifles. The 101st couldn’t hit their attackers and quickly took casualties.
Charles Kettles was a UH-1 Huey pilot on his first of two tours in Vietnam. When he learned soldiers on the ground were taking intense fire and many were wounded, he didn’t hesitate. Then-Maj. Kettles volunteered to lead a flight of six Hueys (including his own)into the firefight to drop off reinforcements and pick up the wounded.
“There wasn’t any decision to be made,” Kettles was quoted as saying in a recent Army Times piece. “We simply were going to go and pick them up.”
When the helicopters approached the landing zone, they came under the same intense fire. Kettles stayed in the fight until all the wounded were loaded and the 101st received their supplies. He then went to pick up more reinforcements. After dropping off the second wave, his gunner was injured and the small arms fire caused a ruptured fuel line. He got his bird back to Duc Pho but later that same day, the last 40 U.S. troops, with eight members of Kettles’ own unit (their helicopter was shot down) requested an emergency extraction. Maj. Kettles volunteered to go back with five other Hueys.
“The mission was simple,” Kettles said. “The situation was anything but simple.”
Kettles had what he thought was everyone, and so he departed the area. Once airborne, however, he learned that eight troops were pinned down due to the intense fire and didn’t make it to the helicopters. Kettles immediately broke off from the main group, turned his bird around, and went back for the missing eight men on his own. With no gunship or artillery support, Kettles flew what was now a giant, lurking target into the ambush area. A mortar immediately his tail boom, rotor blade, and shattered his front windshield. His Huey was raked by small arms fire. Despite the constant attack and severe damage to his helicopter, he held firm until the eight men were aboard and flew everyone to safety. When he landed, he was “unrattled and hungry.”
“I just walked away from the helicopter believing that’s what war is,” Kettles told USA Today. “It probably matched some of the movies I’d seen as a youngster. So be it. Let’s go have dinner.”
He did another tour in Vietnam, then retired in 1978 as a Lieutenant Colonel. He started a car dealership with his brother after his retirement, happy to receive the Distinguished Service Cross for his heroism in Vietnam. He had no expectations of receiving the Medal of Honor. That came about from the work of amateur historian William Vollano. Vollano, in the course of interviewing veterans for the Veterans History Project, heard Kettles’ story. With written accounts of men from the 101st who were there that day, Vollano was able to push the Army to reexamine Kettles. They determined that Kettles’ actions merited the nation’s highest honor.
“Kettles, by himself, without any guns and any crew, went back by himself,” said Roland Scheck, a crew member who had been injured on Kettles’ first trip to the landing zone that day. “I don’t know if there’s anyone who’s gotten a Medal of Honor who deserved it more.”
Then-Master Sgt. Benjamin F. Wilson was a veteran of World War II and a former officer when he led Company I of the 31st Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division, in an attack on a numerically superior group of enemy soldiers on June 5, 1951, during the Korean War.
When his men struggled to take the terrain, he rescued the lead element under hostile fire with grenades, led a bayonet charge that killed 27, and then protected his men from the enemy counterattack using his rifle and an entrenching tool.
Yeah, he fought off a counterattack by killing four enemy soldiers with a foldable shovel.
Company I’s attack on June 5 first faltered when dug-in enemy forces pinned down the advancing Americans using submachine guns and other weapons, according to Wilson’s Medal of Honor citation. That was the first time Wilson leapt into action to save his men.
He charged forward, firing his rifle and throwing grenades. His bold attack wiped out four enemy soldiers firing submachine guns, allowing Company I to continue the advance. The assault platoon moved up and established a base of fire.
So Wilson got a group of men together to press the attack with a bayonet assault. Wilson and the rest of the group killed 27 enemy soldiers and Company I began consolidating the gains it had so far. That was when the Koreans launched a counterattack.
The Americans were under severe pressure by the Korean assault, so Wilson again leaped into action. He initiated a one-man assault that killed seven and wounded two, shutting down the enemy’s drive.
When the Americans attempted another assault, it was decisively stopped by enemy fire. Wilson gave the order for the lead platoon to withdraw. But the withdrawal quickly went sideways with the commanding officer, platoon leader, and even Wilson suffering serious wounds.
That was when Wilson made his rifle/E-tool attack. He managed to kill three enemies with his rifle before it was wrested from his hands. That’s when he grabbed the E-tool and killed four more of the enemies.
His actions delayed the final Korean counterattack and allowed Wilson to evacuate the unit, but he suffered a second wound during that action.
Hurricane season has officially begun, and if 2020 was any indication of what is to come, the members of the Air Force’s 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron — known as the Hurricane Hunters — will be busy.
Based at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi, the squadron collects data about potentially dangerous weather systems from the Atlantic to the Pacific and the Gulf of Mexico to the Caribbean by flying into the literal eye of the storm.
“There’s no substitute for going directly into the storm system,” Capt. Ryan Smithies, a pilot with the 53rd, said. When NOAA’s National Hurricane Center in Miami needs more information about a tropical storm or hurricane, it calls the squadron. They stand by ready to take the call.
While the weather industry includes numerous methods of collecting data, Smithies said many critical measurements are only attainable by taking one of the squadron’s WC-130J Super Hercules planes directly into the weather system.
Once the squadron relays the data, NOAA then issues forecasts and any necessary warnings.
Weather and families
Smithies says there’s an immediacy to the tasks and end result of the Hurricane Hunters’ daily efforts. “When we land, we can see the work that we’ve done being played out in real time” in forecasts and potentially life-saving decisions, he says.
“Our mission is something that can hit home, so that’s always one of the concerns,” Lt. Col. Mark Withee, a navigator in the 53rd and Chief of Plans for the 403rd Wing, said.
If severe weather threatens the Biloxi area and aircraft evacuations are necessary — all while the squadron continues to fly into the very weather that looms — Withee said the 53rd does all it can to have one plane ready to fly the crews back to take care of their families.
“No matter where a storm goes, it seems like there’s usually someone that has some family member that is impacted like that. It’s really something where we can see the impact both for the country as a whole but then in many cases, we have specific close family ties.”
Weather trends and the Hurricane Hunters
According to Smithies, 2020 was the third busiest season in terms of flight hours flown on mission-related flights into tropical systems.
“We evacuated the airplanes four times from Keesler, and I don’t think anybody’s been able to find a year where we did that or more,” he said.
Dr. David Nolan, chair of the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Miami, says there has indeed been an uptick in the type of weather events the 53rd encounters, which helps to explain its recent demanding schedule.
“It’s pretty clear that the number of tropical storms and hurricanes in the Atlantic has increased in the last 30 years,” he said, adding the National Hurricane Center just updated the official yearly average (which is tallied every several decades) from 11 to 12.
It’s not that simple
Although there’s an upward trend, Nolan said the increase likely isn’t related to global warming but instead to other factors in the Atlantic.
“There’s an idea that in the future, there will be more hurricanes because of global warming and that is just not correct,” he explains. “It’s not that simple.”
What is evident, he said, is that as the planet grows warmer, hurricanes are stronger and wetter and potentially more dangerous.
“As for the strength of the hurricanes, it is consistent with the science of global warming and what’s been going on this idea that hurricanes will get stronger,” said Nolan. “When the atmosphere is warmer, it holds more water, so the storm systems carry more water, and they can produce more rain.”
So, what does it mean for the Hurricane Hunters if the pace and intensity of storms continue to ramp up?
There’s no doubt that the 53rd can field any challenges that come its way, said Smithies.
“We’re going to fly what we’re tasked to fly with the resources we have available regardless of whether that means a single flight in a slow season or multiple storm systems operating at the same time.”
After all, as the pilot says, “that’s why we’re here.”
-Feature image: USAF photo by Lt. Col. Brad Boudreaux
An F-22 prepares to be fitted with GBU-39s (Air Force Photo by Tech. Sgt. Dana Rosso)
The night sky is an inky black and the soldiers on the ground barely give it a passing glance. Their radar scopes are clear; no enemies inbound. The first sign that they receive of the American strike is the bombs falling on key strategic targets. Precision small-diameter bombs fall within inches of substations, radar sites, bunkers and anti-aircraft batteries.
The runway is also cratered by American bombs, but a few fighter planes manage to scramble into the air. Their pilots frantically check their radar for the unseen attackers—nothing. Suddenly, a volley of radar-guided AIM-120C AMRAAMs tears through the formation of fighters and erupts in an airborne spectacle of fire and twisted metal. The light from the fireball reflects the faintest glint of light on the visors of the American pilots as they turn their F-22 Raptors and FB-22 Strike Raptors for home.
Following the success of their F-22 Raptor stealth fighter, Lockheed Martin conducted a study in 2001 to determine the feasibility of developing a bomber platform from it. While the F-22 was designed as an air superiority fighter, it still maintained a degree of ground attack ability which Lockheed Martin hoped to exploit. If they could leverage the design and capabilities of the existing airframe, the cost of developing the new bomber would be significantly reduced.
Lockheed Martin developed a number of bomber concepts based on the F-22. Much of the Raptor’s avionics were retained and structural redesigns were focused on the fuselage and wings. An initial concept aimed to increase payload capacity by lengthening and widening the fuselage. However, this came with a penalty of a 25-30% increase in weight, materials and development costs. Instead, further concepts retained the same fuselage as the F-22 and bore elongated delta shape wings which allowed the concept bomber to carry more fuel and wing-mounted weapons.
With the new wings, the FB-22 Strike Raptor would have been able to carry up to 30-35 250-pound GBU-39 small diameter precision-guided bombs versus the F-22 Raptor’s payload capacity of eight such bombs. Unlike the F-22, the FB-22 would also have been able to carry bombs weighing up to 5,000 pounds. With weapons stored internally, the FB-22 would have had a maximum combat load of 15,000 pounds. With additional weapons mounted on the wings, the FB-22 would have lost some of its stealth capability but carry up to 30,000 pounds of weapons.
Its increased fuel capacity gave the Strike Raptor a range of 1,600 miles, nearly triple the F-22’s range of 600 miles, and could have been extended further with the addition of external fuel tanks. With this increased range, the FB-22 would have replaced the Air Force’s F-15E Strike Eagle and taken over some of the missions of the B-1 Lancer and B-2 Spirit bombers. In October 2002, Air Force Magazine reported that the FB-22 would have a combat effectiveness comparable to a B-2 Spirit armed with 2,000-pound bombs.
In order to power this larger airframe, the F-22’s Pratt Whitney F119-PW-100 engines would have been replaced with the Pratt Whitney F135s which now power the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II. Though early concepts featured no tailplanes, later concepts incorporated twin tailplanes. Additionally, since the Strike Raptor was meant to complement the F-22 with its ground-attack capability, dogfighting capability was not a priority and the thrust vectoring technology of the F-22 was omitted from the FB-22 concept. According to Flight International magazine, the FB-22 would have had a top speed of Mach 1.92.
In February 2003, Secretary of the Air Force James Roche reported to the House Armed Services Committee that he envisioned a strike force of 150 FB-22s, along with 60 B-1s, 21 B-2s, and 381 F-22s. Following this vision, in 2004, Lockheed Martin officially presented the FB-22 Strike Raptor concept to the Air Force. The concept met the Air Force requirement for a potential strategic bomber as an interim solution and would be operational by 2018.
Additionally, since it was developed from the existing F-22, the cost of fully developing the FB-22 was estimated to be 75% less than the cost of developing an entirely new bomber. Air Force Magazine also reported that the FB-22’s stealth capabilities had been increased, adding externally mounted detachable and faceted weapons pods that could carry weapons on the wings without sacrificing stealth.
Unfortunately, following the 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review, the FB-22 Strike Raptor project was cancelled. The DoD wanted a bomber with greater range and the Strike Raptor would be developed no further. However, disappointed aviation fans still have the opportunity to fly the FB-22 and experience the “next-generation stealth bomber that could have been” in the popular hybrid arcade-style flight simulator Ace Combat. The FB-22 is featured as a flyable aircraft in Ace Combat 5, Ace Combat X, Ace Combat Joint Assault, and Ace Combat Infinity.