Early March 2018, the Russian Ministry of Defense asked people to choose between names for what it described as a new breed of hypersonic intercontinental ballistic missile:
На официальном сайте Минобороны РФ запущен специальный сервис, предназначенный для выбора наименований новейших образцов российского оружия. С сегодняшнего дня любой посетитель официального сайта Минобороны России с помощью простого и понятного сервиса https://t.co/Fg0eglezqTpic.twitter.com/ozDnpNScCk
The results have since been announced, and they decided that the new missile should be called Burevestnik, a type of bird. It narrowly beat Palmyra, a site of clashes in Syria between Russia and the Islamic State terrorist group, and Surprise.
It also reflects a broader tendency for Russian diplomatic channels to joke about international relations.
After Russia was accused of being behind the poisoning of a Russian former spy on British soil, the action that prompted the US to expel the Russian diplomats, Russia’s embassy in the UK tweeted that Agatha Christie’s fictional detective Hercule Poirot should be sent to figure out the truth.
The opening ceremony of the 2019 Department of Defense Warrior Games began with the traditional procession of service-member athletes representing their countries. The national anthem for each country was played marking the international participation of the games, but when U.S. Army Maj. Luis Avila, a wounded warrior, sang the Star-Spangled Banner, you had a sense these games were going to be special.
Jon Stewart, a comedian, was once again the master of ceremonies to officially open the games. He mixed humor with a compassion and seriousness about wounded warriors that seems to resonate with service members and families.
“Thank you very much for coming out to the Warrior Games,” Stewart said. “We have had a tremendous day or two of competition. The athletes are finding out what it is like to be in a city that was built inside of a humidifier.”
“We are here to celebrate these unbelievable athletes from all of the branches (of military service),” Stewart continued. “These are men and women that refuse to allow themselves to be defined by their worst day, but define themselves by their reaction to that day and the resilience, and the perseverance, and the dedication, and the camaraderie, and the family you are going to witness this week.”
Jon Stewart at the opening ceremony of the Department of Defense Warrior Games.
(DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)
Stewart stated the athletes have gone through a lot to get to the games, but no one gets there by themselves.
“The families and the caregivers so often work as hard as the athletes to get them prepared and to get them going and to be there,” Stewart said.
Kenneth Fisher, chairman and chief executive officer of the Fisher House, plays a huge role in helping the families. Fisher acknowledged the work with wounded warriors that Jon Stewart continues to do as an advocate for service members in and out of uniform, and focused on family support.
“I have had the great honor of meeting so many of this nation’s wounded people and never a day goes by when I am not inspired by you; amazed by what you have accomplished and humbled by the unconditional support given to you by your families, your friends, your spouses, your children; by all those who love you the most.”
Approximately 300 wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans will participate in 13 athletic competitions over 10 days as U.S. Special Operations Command hosts the 2019 DoD Warrior Games.
(DoD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. James K. McCann)
Former President George W. Bush and U.S. Senator Rick Scott, Florida, sent videotaped messages to the athletes, wishing them well during the competition. Congresswoman Kathy Castor noted the fantastic job U.S Special Operations Command has done hosting this year’s Warrior Games.
Deputy Secretary of Defense David Norquist had an opportunity to watch the U.S. Army wheelchair basketball team practice earlier in the day.
“Coach Rodney Williams has those three-time defending champions looking pretty good,” Norquist noted. “They got (retired) Spc. Brent Garlic who was part of last year’s team, and (retired) Staff Sgt. Ross Alewine, who is the defending Warrior Games Ultimate Champion.”
Norquist welcomed and thanked all the international participants at this year’s competition, and alluded to the qualification to participate in the games.
“To compete in the Warrior Games, it is not enough to be strong; it is not enough to be fast. In the Warrior Games, there is a level of resolve; a unique ability to embrace and overcome adversity and that is the price of admission. Just to get to this event, it requires unbelievable grit and resilience.”
Air Force athletes enter the arena for the opening ceremony of the Department of Defense Warrior Games in Tampa, Fla., June 22, 2019.
(DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)
Tim Kane, father of Army Sgt. Tanner Kane, said, once his son got involved with adaptive reconditioning sports, he found a purpose to get up and out in the mornings.
“Tanner didn’t speak for two years and then he connected with other Soldiers, it all changed. Tanner realized his former state was wasting away at his spirit and this program was here to help and aid other Soldiers on their progress to healing.”
Tiffany Weasner, wife of retired Army Sgt. Johnathan Weasner said, “I know what this program has done for my husband Jonathan and our family. To look around this arena and see the joy on other families faces, I can only imagine what adaptive reconditioning has done for other families; it’s a blessing.”
Veterans and staff members at the Biloxi VA Medical Center hosted a special visitor earlier this year. Ernest Andrus stopped by the hospital at the end of January, one of his days off, to attend a reception in his honor. These days it’s not so easy to get on Andrus’ calendar as the 92-year-old WWII Veteran runs across the country four days a week to raise awareness of the sacrifices the men and women of the military made during World War II and the many conflicts since that time.
“Freedom isn’t free,” Andrus said. “We can’t forget our comrades that were injured or killed serving and protecting our country. That’s what I hope I can achieve with this run. Plus I always wanted to do this.”
Once Andrus made up his mind to run across the country, he spent several months planning the trip. In October 2013 he touched the Pacific Ocean near San Diego, turned east and began jogging. He’s been running ever since, and in January, as he ran along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, VA staff jumped at the chance to invite him over.
“As you can see from this large turnout,” said Anthony Dawson, the director of the Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System, “we are all in awe of what you are doing and honored to have you here today for a visit. If we switched the numbers of your age making you 29 it would still be an amazing accomplishment. But at 92, wow!”
Here’s how Andrus came to running across the country at age 92.
Ernest Andrus was a corpsman in the Navy, joining at the start of the war. He left the Navy when the war ended in 1945, and enrolled in college on the VA GI Bill, found a job and went on with his life. He didn’t spend a lot of time dwelling on his experiences during the war, as some did. He said it was too hard to do.
“I wasn’t right in the middle of the action,” Andrus said, “but I saw enough. I found it easier to just not spend a lot of time thinking about those that didn’t come back. Not like some of my crewmates did. Not for a long time.”
As a corpsman aboard a LST (Landing Ship, Tank), Andrus said he stayed busy tending to the wounds and illnesses associated with war. He assisted in surgeries, and to this day recalls an amputation that was performed aboard his ship. As the surgeon began the procedure, the patient needed blood. Andrus was the same blood type so he rolled up his sleeve, while he was holding the IV bag (they didn’t have a pole), and gave blood. He had to do this several times throughout the night. He remembers feeling light headed and weak.
“We all did what we had to do,” Andrus said. “I didn’t do anything that any other man in our crew wouldn’t have done.”
Andrus’ life ticked along at a normal pace for the next 60 years or so. One day he received a phone call from some of his former crew members, to include the skipper, and nothing was ever the same after that.
“We were at a point in our lives when our families were grown, our careers were over and now we had time to think. So we began reminiscing about our time in the service. And one thing we all agreed on was we wanted the younger generations to understand the sacrifices so many made which made America the country it is today,” he said.
“We wanted the younger generations to understand the sacrifices so many made which made America the country it is today,” Andrus said.
So the group of about 30 got together and decided they could preserve the memories of life aboard a Navy LST by finding and refurbishing a decommissioned ship and turning it into a floating memorial. They located the USS LST-325 in Greece, got it back to America and it now is available for tour in Indiana. The refurbishment took years of red tape, fundraising and countless hours of coordination, but the group persevered. The effort serves as a testimony to Andrus’ sheer grit and determination as he treks across the country to share the message that America should acknowledge and appreciate all that Veterans have done to preserve freedom.
“We have a great country,” Andrus said. “We can’t forget how we got here.”
If all goes as planned, Andrus will arrive on the east coast of Georgia, near Brunswick, on Aug. 20, 2016, one day after his 93rd birthday.
After decades of sustained land operations, the Navy SEAL Teams are pivoting back to their underwater roots. The acquisition of the SEAL Delivery Vehicle Mark 11 has marked this strategic shift.
SEAL Delivery Vehicles are used to clandestinely transport SEAL operators closer to a target. Naval Special Warfare currently uses the venerable SDV Mark 8.
But the Mark 11 is an improvement to the old design. The new mini-submarine comes with better navigational abilities and increased payload capacity. The new vehicle also weighs 4,000 pounds more and is 12 inches longer, 6 inches taller, and 6 inches wider.
SDVs are wet submarines, meaning that water flows in the vehicle. The SEAL operators have to have underwater breathing apparatuses and wetsuits to survive. They are cumbersome and taxing on the operators, but they get the job done. Naval Special Warfare, however, is looking to add dry submarines to its fleet of midget subs – what you would think of a submarine — in the near future.
The new SEAL Delivery Vehicle (SDV) Mark 11 during navigation training in the Pacific Ocean (US Navy).
Last October, the U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) awarded Teledyne Brown Engineering a 8 million contract for the ten Mark 11s. The company has delivered five midget subs already, the last one in June. The remaining five are to be spaced out between Fiscal Year 2021 and 2022.
Currently, the Mark 11 is undergoing operational testing. Of particular importance is the landmark test of deploying and recovering a Mark 11 from a submarine.
Expediting the date of initial operational capability is the fact that both the Mark 8s and Mark 11s utilize the same Dry Dock Shelter (DDS) platform. DDS are attached to a submarine and carry the SDVs closer to the target.
A SEAL Delivery Vehicle (SDV) is loaded aboard the Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine USS Dallas (SSN 700). A Dry Deck Shelter (DDS) equipped submarine is attached to the submarine’s rear escape trunk to provide a dry environment for Navy Seals to prepare for special warfare exercises or operations. DDS is the primary supporting craft for the SDV (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Journalist Dave Fliesen).
The improved SDV capabilities of Naval Special Warfare are in response to the National Defense Strategy, which has marked the shift from counterinsurgency operations to near-peer warfare and categorized Russia and China as the biggest threats to U.S. national security. China, in particular, seems to be the main focus of that drive for a potent and well-maintained SDV capability.
“After decades of combat superiority across nearly all operating environments, our military now faces a world in which every domain is aggressively contested,” had said Rear Admiral Collin Green, the commanding officer of Naval Special Warfare in a discussion about the future of his force.
To begin with, there is China’s pugnacious and expansionist foreign policy in the South China Sea. The Chinese Navy, moreover, seems to be going through an arms race reminiscent of the Dreadnaught race between the United Kingdom and Germany that adumbrated the First World War. It can field more than 700 ships in the case of a conflict.
“We are adapting to the evolving strategic environment in order to remain the NSW force the nation expects – flexible, agile, networked, sustainable, and lethal. I am proud to lead this incredible force of highly skilled and creative problem solvers. Our strength lies in the diversity of thought, background, race, gender, and experience found throughout our force,” had added RADM Green.
Last year, Naval Special Warfare Command decided to reactivate SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team 2 (SDVT-2) as the committed East Coast SDV unit after 11 years, further signaling its commitment to return its underwater special operations roots. SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team 1 (SDVT-1) is responsible for the West Coast.
Here’s an interesting fact about the SDV Teams: Master Chief Kirby Horrell – the last Vietnam era Navy SEAL to retire from active duty after an astounding 47 years in uniform – went through the three-month-long SDV school at the age of 56 (he was promoted to Master Chief while in the course). Training dives in SDV school and the SDV Teams are no joke. Some last eight hours or even more.
The first regimental set of the Russian-made advanced air-defense system known as the S-400 has arrived in China, a military-diplomatic source told Russia’s official news agency Tass in May 2018.
China became the first foreign buyer of the S-400 when it signed a contract in late 2014, and the first two ships carrying S-400 components from Russia arrived in China at the beginning of April 2018.
According to the Tass report, cited by The Diplomat, a third and final ship carrying support equipment arrived in May 2018.
“The ship has brought the equipment not damaged during a storm in the English Channel and the damaged equipment after repairs,” the source said, referring to what a Russian military spokeswoman described as secondary components that were returned to Russia after the storm.
The arrival of all three ships brings a full regimental set of the S-400 system to China, including command centers, launchers, guided missiles, and power-supply equipment. Russian personnel are to start handing the equipment over to China at the end of May 2018 — a process expected to take two months, according to Tass.
(Russian Ministry of Defense photo)
An S-400 regiment consists of two battalions, and each battalion, also referred to as a division, has two batteries, according to The Diplomat. A standard battery has four transporter erector launchers — each with four launch tubes — as well as fire-control radar systems and a command module.
Some reports indicate that China purchased four to six S-400 regimental sets, though the Tass report said Beijing is only getting two.
China is only one of several foreign buyers. Turkey, India, and Saudi Arabia have all reportedly bought the S-400 or are in talks to do so.
While the S-400 has not been used in combat conditions, it has been heralded as one of the best air-defense systems in the world. The deployment of a second division to Crimea in early 2018, worried US military officials, who said it could give Russia more coverage of the Black Sea and was a sign of Moscow’s willingness to use force.
In addition to having improved radar, the S-400 can reportedly fire several new and upgraded missiles with ranges up to 250 miles.
China reportedly has 15 divisions of the S-400’s predecessor, the S-300, stationed along the coast of Fujian, a province in the country’s southeast overlooking northern Taiwan.
Depending on which missiles China’s S-400s are equipped with, batteries in Fujian could reportedly cover all of Taiwan, while batteries placed in northern Shandong province could reach the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands, over which Japan and China dispute control.
While its eventual armaments are not clear, the S-400 arrives in China at a time of increased tension in the region.
China has been more hostile toward Taiwan, which claims independence but China views as its territory, since Taiwan’s 2016 election of President Tsai Ing-wen, who has said she wants peace but Beijing suspects wants formal independence.
China has stepped up its military exercises around Taiwan, including several in April 2018, which were followed by two US Air Force B-52H Stratofortress bombers patrolling through the area — reportedly flying within 155 miles of the southern Chinese coast.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The internet is a powerful tool for veterans. It allows them to keep up with friends, access their hard-earned benefits and shop for the things they need. Unfortunately, former service members are more likely than civilians to be targeted by online scammers while doing these things. Veterans are twice as likely to lose money to fraud because of identity theft, phishing, impostor scams, and investment, loan, or donation deceptions.
Many of these scammers target Veterans to alter or access their government-provided aid, swindling them out of the money or benefits they have earned. This is a widespread issue. Nearly 80% of Veterans say they have been targeted by scams due to their service, according to an AARP survey. These scams are diverse and range from phishing attempts to solicitations for fraudulent Veteran-focused charities.
“Help the Vets” is one example of a fraudulent charity targeting Veterans. It claimed to fund medical care and mental health services for Veterans. An investigation found that “Help the Vets” spent 95% of donations on administrative costs and compensation for its founder. Just 5% of proceeds were actually used to benefit Veterans.
Scammers and identity thieves also target financially stressed Veterans with promising investment opportunities. Recently, a man defrauded about 2,600 people—many of whom are pension-holding Veterans—in a Ponzi scheme. The investor told these pension holders to make monthly payments and disguised them as cash flows.
Identity thieves have developed both low-tech and high-tech ways to steal Veterans’ data, like shoulder surfing and skimming. Shoulder surfing requires that someone physically look over your shoulder to steal your password, PIN, or credit card number. Skimming utilizes a device that fits onto regular credit card machines, allowing scammers to steal your credit card information.
How to protect your information
Veterans can take simple actions to better protect their information:
Use unique passwords for your online accounts. Re-using passwords increases the risk of cyber theft.
Use multi-factor authentication (MFA). This combines more than one authenticator type based on information users know and information users receive. It also adds another level of security when Veterans log in to access and manage VA services and benefits.
VA works hard to prevent Veteran identity theft. VA delivers cybersecurity awareness training for all VA employees. It ended the use of Social Security numbers in its business processes. Lastly, VA gives free credit monitoring to Veterans and beneficiaries whose data was compromised by a VA breach. Veterans or beneficiaries of identity theft not caused by a VA breach can contact the toll-free Identity Theft Help Line at 1-855-578-5492 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday.
Veterans can also find additional information on protecting their identity and what VA is doing to help by visiting the More Than a Number website.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
Over the weekend, two videos emerged that made their rounds — not just in the military community, but all over the world. In Portland, Oregon, where civil rights protests have occurred daily since the murder of George Floyd, there has been a mix of mostly peaceful demonstrations with some outbreaks of violence and destruction.
In the midst of this, the first video shows presumed law enforcement officials in military fatigues without any sort of identification yanking protestors off the street into unmarked cars. This drew a furious reaction from lawmakers on both sides, lawsuits from the state or Oregon to civil rights groups, and drew out even more protestors who were not very happy that federal officials would resort to such tactics.
One of those men was Christopher David, a Navy veteran, who showed up to make his voice heard. David’s interaction with the police was recorded and immediately went viral after he was attacked, beaten and maimed — but not broken in spirit.
David, age 53, spoke to the Associated Press about the incident, why he went out there and what he hopes happens now.
“It isn’t about me getting beat up. It’s about focusing back on the original intention of all of these protests, which is Black Lives Matter,” David told the AP.
David said he was hanging back as this was the first time he ever protested anything. He also wore his Naval Academy sweatshirt to show the police that he wasn’t some crazy anarchist. He said the protest started as a bunch of pregnant women standing with linked arms. He said he was trying to talk to the men in fatigues. He said he told them, “You take the oath to the Constitution; you don’t take the oath to a particular person,” when one officer pointed a weapon at David’s chest. Another pushed him back and he stood there with his hands at this side. That is when the video shows a law enforcement officer strike David five times with a baton. The attack seems to not faze David at all, but then he gets pepper sprayed in the face. Only then does he fall back, but not before giving the officials a hand gesture to show his displeasure.
While various people on Twitter spoke of him standing tall like a mountain and not being hurt, David says he actually has two broken bones in his hand which will require surgery to fix.
David is a 1988 graduate of the Naval Academy and served in the Navy’s Civil Engineer Corps before getting out. He doesn’t plan on going back out to protest anytime soon. “My ex-wife and my daughter would kill me if I did that. They’re so angry at me for doing it in the first place because I got beat up,” he said. “I’m not a redwood tree. I’m an overweight, 53-year-old man.”
According to CNN, the Portland Police and Customs and Border Protection have denied the officers belonged to their respective departments. So far, Homeland Security and the U.S. Marshals have refused to acknowledge if the men belong to their departments.
Two U.S. Air Force pilots have ejected after a U-2 spy plane crashed around noon local time during a training mission on the West Coast, a service spokesman said.
Lt. Col. Michael Meridith, a spokesman for the Air Force, confirmed the incident on Tuesday at the Air Force Association’s annual conference outside Washington, D.C., but he didn’t know the whereabouts or the condition of the service members. “It did crash,” he said when asked if the plane went down. “Two pilots ejected.”
Meridith said a search and rescue operation for the crew was under way.
The U.S. Air Force press desk later tweeted, “We can confirm a U-2 from @9thRW Beale AFB has gone down in Sutter County, CAA; 2 pilots have ejected; details to follow when available,” referring to the 9th Reconnaissance Wing.
But officials walked back their initial statements on the pilots’ condition as the day went on.
“We have no official confirmation on the pilots’ condition,” Beale Air Force Base tweeted later in the day. “We will provide updates when more information is available.”
Air Combat Command around the same time issued a similar statement to correct a previous one that wrongly stated the pilots had “safely” ejected and were “awaiting recovery with aircraft in isolated area.”
The U-2 Dragon Lady is a Cold War-era surveillance plane based at Beale Air Force Base in California. Trainer models of the aircraft hold two crew members.
Marc Lonergan-Hertel grew up in Massachusetts with the dream of becoming a Navy SEAL — a dream he made into a reality. But he had a long way to go before achieving such a feat. He decided he needed to toughen up first, so he joined the Marine Corps, where he eventually found himself in Force Recon.
His military career took him through some of the toughest training the military has to offer. And he wrote about it in his memoir, Sierra Two: A SEAL’s Odyssey in War and Peace.
But Lonergan-Hertel didn’t stop there. He continued a life of adventure and service after leaving the military and today, he wants to call attention to real-world heroes he met along the way. He wants his transformative journey to help inspire others — namely, our nation’s youth — so they can maximize their full potential and achieve their dreams.
He calls himself a Protector.
Lonergan-Hertel and 1st Force Recon.
(Courtesy of Marc Lonergan-Hertel)
“Those who fight monsters inevitably change,” Lonergan-Hertel says, explaining what he means by the title “Protector.” It’s from a popular saying about post-traumatic stress, written by an unknown author. The quote goes on to note that if you stay in the fighting long enough, you will eventually become the monster. The former Navy SEAL wants to keep Protectors from getting that far.
“There is a cost to being a protector. Love is the only way to heal the wounds [that change you]. Remember this: As a protector, you run toward the things that others run away from. You go out to fight what you fear. You stand between others and the monsters on the other side of the wall.”
Lonergan-Hertel in his world-record paraglider flight, 70 South Antarctica.
(Courtesy of Marc Lonergan-Hertel)
You can read about his adventures fighting monsters in his book, Sierra Two. After his time in Force Recon, he left the military and worked as a Emergency Medical Technician in Los Angeles as well as a hunting guide in Colorado. Eventually, he decided to explore the Army and join the Special Forces. Shortly after joining the California National Guard, he was able to wear a maroon beret in support of 19 Special Forces Group and prepared to try out for Delta Section. He didn’t make Delta, but it did prepare him a selection packet he could submit to the Navy. He graduated from BUD/S in 1996 and joined SEAL Team Four. He left the military in 2000, but didn’t leave behind the adventurer’s life.
“My platoon chief recommended me for an around-the-world expedition through the Cousteau Society,” Lonergan-Hertel says. “I ended up getting the position as a team member and expedition leader and scout for NatGeo and Discovery Channel programs to Antarctica the Amazon jungle, where I had experience as a SEAL.”
Lonergan-Hertel and his NatGeo Team. Lonergan-Hertel is center, in the cowboy hat.
(Courtesy of Marc Lonergan-Hertel)
During his military career and post-military adventuring, he began to question what he valued most in life. He began to look for his true purpose. As his journey sharpened his self-awareness, he was soon transformed into a new person. He became a Protector – and wanted to be the best Protector he could be. His life took him to rescue hurricane victims, assess the environment in Antarctica while diving under the ice shelves, hike up the Amazon River Basin alone and encounter endangered tribes along the way — he even lost his best friend to pirates along the same river.
“I wrote my book because I realized how much our life journey sharpens our awareness of what really matters in life,” Lonergan-Hertel says. “Real life experiences transform us as human beings and gives us an understanding of risk and sacrifice.”
He even has a line of survival gear, that includes a heat reflective thermal field blanket sleep system, called First Line Survival. Lonergan-Hertel calls it “base camp in a bag” and all the proceeds from First Line Survival benefit his Protectors tour.
But the longtime adventurer is more than just an author. He’s crossing the country with fellow Protectors to tell their stories in stage presentations, meant for school-age children but meaningful to parents as well. He wants children to grow up with the confidence to realize their abilities and potential, to see a personal path toward a positive future, and realize they have the power to do this within themselves at all times.
“I understand very clearly that the gift of life can be away very quickly,” Lonergan-Hertel says. “The best thing I can leave behind is to inspire others to have confidence in themselves and to help others who have a more difficult journey in life.”
In an action that has been long overdue, Congress has approved the award of the Congressional Gold Medal to members of the famed Merrill’s Marauders of World War II. The House passed the resolution last week after the Senate had approved it last fall. It is expected that President Donald Trump will sign it shortly.
Only one Congressional Gold Medal is awarded each year to a person or institution. It is deemed, “the highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions” according to the award’s official website.
Merrill’s Marauders were named after General Frank Merrill. The 3,000-strong unit was officially the 5307th Composite Unit. It was trained to work behind Japanese lines during the Burma campaign of World War II.
Marauders move under fire against Japanese positions.
Unfortunately, combat, disease, and time have taken their toll. Today there are only eight surviving members of the famed unit. When the push for awarding the medal began in 2016, there were still 28 Marauders still alive.
“I feel like I’m floating on air,” Robert Passanisi, a 96-year-old veteran of the unit, who is also the spokesman for the surviving members and a historian, said when hearing the news.
“It has been a long journey, and we’ve had to struggle through three congressional sessions to obtain this great honor,” Passanisi said. “My one regret is that only eight of us are alive to enjoy this historic honor.”
Some individual members of the unit, including Japanese-American interpreters as well as OSS troops who fought with the Merrill’s Marauders in Burma, had already been awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.
The House passed the bill one day after the 77th anniversary of 2,000 volunteers boarding the SS Lurline on Sept. 21, 1943, in San Francisco to ship out to New Caledonia. There, another 1,000 veterans from the South Pacific front joined them.
After the U.S. troops had been driven out of Burma by the Japanese in 1943, the Americans decided that they needed a “Long Range Penetration” mission behind Japanese lines. The plan was to disrupt and destroy the enemy’s supply lines and communications, to attack him from behind, and to try to regain the Burma Road.
General Joseph “Vinegar Joe” Stilwell grimly summarized the campaign: “I claim we got a hell-of-a-beating. We got run out of Burma, and it is as humiliating as hell. I think we ought to find out what caused it, go back, and retake [Burma].”
The call went out for volunteers for “A Dangerous and Hazardous Mission.” Over 3,000 men answered that call, some from far-flung bases in Panama and Trinidad; others were veterans from New Guinea, Guadalcanal, and elsewhere. Thus the 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional) was born.
Merrill (holding the map) with members of his staff.
The unit got its nickname from Time correspondent James R. Shepley. Reporters sent to cover the fighting in Burma were looking for a hook to capture the imagination of the American public back home. Nicknaming the unit served that purpose.
Frank Merrill didn’t look like a man whose job it was to lead a Special Operations Task Force behind enemy lines. Although he was a powerfully built man, he was plagued with a bad heart and poor eyesight. He had graying hair and smoked his pipe non-stop. He had little experience commanding troops but was a brilliant and unshakable leader.
During training and operations, Merrill drove himself even harder than his men; because of that, they loved, respected, and believed in him. The Chinese troops, part of General “Vinegar Joe” Stillwell’s command, loved him nearly as much as General Chenault, the commander of the “Flying Tigers.”
Merrill was born in the small town of Hopkinton, Mass. (the starting point for the Boston Marathon.) He tried unsuccessfully to get into West Point before joining the Army as a private. Working his way up to Staff Sergeant, he was finally accepted to the U.S. Military Academy on his sixth application. He graduated and was commissioned as a cavalry officer.
Merrill spent time in Japan as an assistant military attaché and learned Japanese while stationed there. Just prior to Pearl Harbor, he was assigned to the Chinese-Burma Theater and was with Stillwell on his long march out of Burma.
He trained his unit hard, working them for three months with Orde Wingate’s Chindits, the British unit that had already carved a name for themselves in the theater.
The Marauders were divided into three battalions and formed into six combat teams (400 per team), color-coded Red, White, Blue, Green, Orange, and Khaki. There were two teams to a battalion. The rest of the men formed the H.Q. and Air Transport Commands.
During the next four months, Merrill’s Marauders would take part in five major and 30 minor engagements with the Japanese veteran 18th Division which had taken both Singapore and Malaya.
In their first action against the Japanese 18th Division, they moved to set up blocking positions at Walawbum 10 miles behind the Japanese lines. General Tanaka, who commanded the Japanese forces, fearing that Stillwell was trying to encircle his forces, promptly attacked the Marauders.
The Americans beat back several bayonet attacks and caused significant casualties. The Japanese had 650 dead and as many wounded. The Americans had just seven killed and 36 wounded.
In the south, Wingate’s Chindits were hitting Tanaka hard cutting the railway lines and forcing him to withdraw northward. After two months of near-constant fighting, the Marauders were reeling; many of them were already sick with malaria. But their biggest mission lay ahead.
Less than a year after its creation, the unit was tasked with conducting a long and dangerous mission over the mountains. They had to trek across nearly 1,100 miles over the mountainous, nearly impenetrable jungle, in the foothills of the Himalayas, with no tanks or heavy artillery, to attack the Japanese. Their goal was to capture the important Japanese airfield at Myitkyina. The Operation would be known as “End Run.”
Capturing the airfield would benefit the supply aircraft since it would no longer have to fly over “the Hump” to ferry supplies to Kunming, China. It would also allow the Allies to construct the Ledo Road through which supplies could also travel to Kumming.
Augmenting the Marauders, who were down to about 50 percent strength due to casualties and tropical diseases, were two Chinese regiments and 300 Kachin tribesmen who were led by the OSS.
Merrill, having just returned to duty after his second heart attack, was beside the men and encouraging them all the way. The trek was so steep, muddy, and treacherous. Merrill’s men would lose half of their pack animals, along with their necessary equipment. And nearly half of the men became sick with amoebic dysentery after drinking water from streams that the Chinese were using the streams as a latrine.
After wiping out a small Japanese garrison at Ripong, 149 of the men came down with typhus. Several of the men died including Colonel Henry Kinnison, one of the team leaders. The Marauders arrived at their target location on the night of May 16.
The next morning they began their assault which was led by Lt. Colonel Charles Hunter. The Marauders and two Chinese regiments snuck past the Japanese undetected and attacked the airfield from the north, south, and west. They took the Japanese completely by surprise.
Not only did they seize the airfield but the Chinese troops also took a ferry landing on the Irrawaddy River. By 1530 hrs on the 17th of May, Merrill had radioed the code words “Merchant of Venice” which meant that the airstrip was already set for taking in C-47 transport aircraft.
Lord Mountbatten sent Stillwell the following message:
“By the boldness of your leadership, backed by the courage and endurance of your American and Chinese troops, you have taken the enemy completely by surprise and achieved a most outstanding success by seizing the Myitkyina airfield.”
The airfield seizure was considered a brilliant military move. Yet the Americans had lost a major opportunity in not capturing the town of Myitkyina. The town was only defended by about 700 Japanese troops but Hunter had been given no orders to take it.
Additionally, a fresh division, the British 36th, could have easily joined the Americans but Stillwell wanted no part of the British in this operation. This was a big mistake. Stillwell then sent anti-aircraft crews and engineers to fix an airstrip that was already totally operational, instead of securing badly needed arms and ammunition. By the time Merrill’s Marauders’ 2nd Battalion attacked the town, the Japanese had been reinforced and now had 3,500 well dug-in troops. The Marauders’ attacks failed.
Merrill and Stillwell in Burma.
Diseases, typhus, malaria, and dysentery, kept reducing the Marauders’ numbers until only 200 effective riflemen were left. In response, Stillwell scraped together more engineers and support troops; yet these men were totally green.
The Japanese managed to hold onto the town of Myitkyina until late summer. By then, the Marauders were no longer an effective fighting outfit. They were pulled out of the line finally in June and disbanded by August.
But by the excellent efforts of both the Marauders and the Chindits, the airfield at Myitkyina saved the transports from flying over the dangerous “Hump” into China. And with the Ledo Road complete, the 1,100-mile supply route to Kunming was now open.
Merrill was promoted to Major General and was transferred to the Pacific Theater. He was the Chief of Staff of the 10th Army under General Buckner during the Okinawa campaign. Later he held the same position for the Sixth Army in the Philippines. He was present on the battleship Missouri for the Japanese surrender in Tokyo Bay.
After the war, he was briefly the Deputy Chief for the Military Advisory for the Philippines but a third heart attack forced him into retirement. He returned to his native New England and retired in New Hampshire where he was given the job of State Highway Commissioner by the governor. Merrill died of a heart attack in Fernandina Beach, Florida on December 11, 1955. He was only 52 years old. He was buried at West Point next to General Stillwell per his wishes.
On August 10, 1944, the surviving Merrill’s Marauders were consolidated into the 475th Infantry, which continued service in northern Burma until February 1945. In June of 1954, the 475th Infantry was redesignated as the 75th Infantry. Thereby, the men of Merrill’s Marauders became the parents of the 75th Infantry Regiment, from which descended the 75th Ranger Regiment of today. This is why the six colors that represented the Marauders’ combat teams are now worn on the beret flash of the Ranger Regiment.
Merrill was inducted into the Ranger Hall of Fame in 1992. In his honor, Camp Frank D. Merrill in Dahlonega, Georgia, is home to the 5th Ranger Training Battalion and the mountain phase of the U.S. Army Ranger School.
There’s a new company vying to build the Army’s new family of helicopters, and the gyrocopter design is at least as radical as the compound helicopters being offered by Sikorsky or the tilt-rotors that Bell is building.
The company, Skyworks Global, has a history of producing gyrocopters. These look a bit like helicopters, but they’re much less complex, are often more efficient, and cost a lot less. But they have a big weakness against helicopters: they can’t traditionally take off or land vertically.
That would leave a lot of upgrade money for the company to strap on sensors, a more powerful engine, and other upgrades and still stay way below the Army’s planned million per aircraft to replace the Black Hawk by 2030.
The aircraft is known as a VertiJet, and while it looks like a traditional helicopter, the physics are quite different. Basically, a traditional helicopter has a powerful engine that powers the main rotor—the spinning, horizontal blades mounted on top of the aircraft—as well as an anti-torque rotor that keeps the rest of the aircraft from spinning. The main blades produce lift and allow the helicopter to fly.
On a gyrocopter, the big blades on top of the aircraft don’t receive any engine power. Instead, power is delivered to a rotor at the front or rear of the aircraft. That sends the aircraft forward and feeds air over the blades. That air spins the blades, and that generates the lift that sends the aircraft skyward.
This has some serious advantages for the military. First, air generally flows up through a gyrocopter’s rotors instead of down, eliminating brownouts and improving pilot visibility near the ground. But there’s a severe downside, the gyrocopter has to get good forward speed before it can take off, and it can’t hover.
Skyworks turned to a 1950s experiment to fix the vertical takeoff problem. Their design feeds air up through the rotor and out of the blade tips during takeoff, causing the blades to spin like a traditional helicopter’s would during takeoff or hover. Since this is achieved with compressed air instead of engine power, they don’t need to add a transmission or masthead.
Even with Scaled Composites’ skill at rapidly developing prototypes, it’ll be pretty late to the game for the Future Armed Reconnaissance program to produce a new armed scout. But other Army programs could be a good fit, and the Marine Corps is looking for helicopters or helicopter-like aircraft that can keep up with the V-22 Osprey. Skyworks has not said what programs it will compete for with the new push.
For decades in the early 20th century, the military only flew balloons and piston-powered planes. In World War II, the first helicopters joined the war effort. Over 45 years later, the V-22 became the first tilt-rotor aircraft to enter military production. Now, there are two new aircraft designs in consideration, the compound helicopter and the gyrocopter.
The skylines over military bases are about to get a lot more interesting.
China has stopped major land-reclamation in the South China Sea but is continuing to work on facilities it has already built there, according to the US Defense Department’s annual report on Chinese military activity, which noted that China could soon add nuclear power plants to the mix.
After adding 3,200 acres of land to seven reefs and islands it occupies, China hasn’t done substantial artificial-island creation since late 2015, but at three of those outposts, the Pentagon report said, “Construction of aviation facilities, port facilities, fixed-weapons positions, barracks, administration buildings, and communication facilities at each of the three outposts was underway throughout 2017.”
“The outposts may be capable of supporting military operation in the Spratly Islands and throughout the region, but no permanent large-scale air or naval presence has been observed,” according to the report.
Other countries have disputed China’s claims in the South China Sea — through which an estimated one-third of global shipping travels — and an international tribunal has rejected China’s claims to islands there.
Aerial view of Woody and Rocky Islands in the South China Sea.
While China has said those projects are meant to improve the lives of personnel at those outposts, the work may be part of an effort to assert de facto control of the area and to maintain a more flexible military presence in order to boost its operational and deterrence abilities, the Pentagon report said.
“China’s plans to power these islands may add a nuclear element to the territorial dispute,” the report added. “In 2017, China indicated development plans may be underway to power islands and reefs in the typhoon-prone South China Sea with floating nuclear power stations.”
State-owned China National Nuclear Power said in late 2017 that it had set up a joint venture with several energy and ship-building firms to boost the country’s nuclear-power capabilities as a part of Beijing’s aim to “become a strong maritime power.”
That announcement came about a year after the state-run China Security Journal said Beijing could construct up to 20 floating nuclear power plants to “speed up the commercial development” in the South China Sea.
Floating nuclear power plants could bolster China’s nuclear-energy capacity and support overseas activities by providing electricity and desalinated water to isolated outposts.
“China sees securing the ability to develop marine nuclear tech as a manifestation of its maritime power status,” Collin Koh, a military expert at Singapore’s Nanyang Technology University, told The South China Morning Post in 2017. “It will enhance Beijing’s staying power and assert its claims, as military garrisons and civilian personnel living on those remote outposts would be able to sustain themselves better [and therefore stay longer].”
A Chinese Coast Guard ship patrols the South China Sea about 130 miles off the coast of Vietnam.
(Screenshot / Reuters TV)
Experts have said that the technology for floating plants, which provide about one-quarter of the energy produced by onshore plants, is not yet mature but that major powers are pursuing their development because of the mobility they provide.
Russia has already deployed its own floating nuclear reactor. In May 2018, the Akademik Lomonsov, the first nuclear power plant of its kind, arrived at the port of Murmansk on the Barents Sea ahead of a voyage to Russia’s far east, where it is to provide power for an isolated town on the Bering Strait.
While Russia has decades of experience operating nuclear-powered icebreakers, activists have criticized the plan. Greenpeace has dubbed the plant the “nuclear Titanic” and a “floating Chernobyl.”
“There are serious challenges unique to regulating the operational safety of floating nuclear power plants due to the novelty of the technology, the difficult operating conditions, and the inherent safety limitations of these plants,” like a higher chance of incidents due to collisions or capsizing, Viet Phuong Nguyen, a nuclear researcher at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, wrote for The Diplomat in early 2018
In light of civil-liability issues related to potential accidents with these plants and safety risks stemming from piracy or terrorism, “the best case scenario” for the region would be China reconsidering the plan or delaying the deployment, he wrote.
But China’s plan to test the plants at sea before 2020 makes that scenario unlikely, he said, so Southeast Asian countries “should soon seek at least a communication channel with China on how to exchange information on the safety of the fleet and the regulation of its operation, while not compromising the territorial claims of each country over the islands in the South China Sea.”
Featured image: the floating Russian nuclear power plant Akademik Lomonosov.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
During a cold, gloomy first week of December, total force airmen teamed up at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, to test the capability of the Air Force’s largest aircraft to perform aeromedical evacuation during a proof of concept event.
The goal was to establish the C-5M Super Galaxy as part of the universal qualification training program for AE forces. If successfully certified, the C-5M will have the capability to move three times the current capacity in one mission compared to other AE platforms.
The PoC event was made possible by recent upgrades to the C-5M that made the cargo compartment more suitable for AE operations.
“The engine upgrade allowed the aircraft to produce a lot more power and to use the jet more efficiently,” said Master Sgt. Christopher Boots, 60th Operations Group Standardization and Evaluation C-5M flight engineer evaluator. “Another factor was the environmental system received upgrades. We now have better control over the systems and we’re able to better control the environment (temperature and cabin pressure) that the AE folks would have downstairs in the cargo compartment.”
Airmen with the 22nd Airlift Squadron and 60th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron from Travis Air Force Base, Calif., along with Air Mobility Command airmen onload aeromedical evacuation equipment onto a C-5M Super Galaxy aircraft at Scott Air Force Base, Ill., during an AE proof of concept evaluation, Dec. 2, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Joey Swafford)
The C-5M upgrades allowed the proof of concept to work, but the airmen’s innovation is what made it happen.
“The Air Force as a whole is more interested in using the assets that we have more efficiently and maximizing the capability that we can get out of different airplanes,” said Maj. Kevin Simonds, 22nd Airlift Squadron C-5M pilot. “I think this is an example of that. It’s a priority within the force and in the MAJCOM (Air Mobility Command) as well to try to maximize the way we use the assets that we have.”
With the Department of Defense’s shift to focus on great power competition and maintaining readiness, the C-5M’s greater capability to the AE enterprise could be a game changer.
“It was great to observe, first hand, our airmen working hard to make innovative strides using our existing platforms to get after a critical mission set,” said Brig. Gen. Darren James, AMC’s Operations, Strategic Deterrence and Nuclear Integration director. “Last week’s test provided valuable learning as we move forward in evaluating ways to increase our readiness and support of the 2018 National Defense Strategy.”
Staff Sgt. Ethan Heitner, 22nd Airlift Squadron C-5M Super Galaxy loadmaster, completes a post-flight inspection on a C-5M Super Galaxy aircraft after an aeromedical evacuation proof of concept flight at Scott AFB, Ill., Dec. 6, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Joey Swafford)
Not only will the C-5M AE mission benefit readiness for any future conflict(s), it will be a benefit during any future natural disasters.
“Using the C-5 for AE is going to be a pivotal point moving forward because it can be another platform for AE to move troops and also to aid in humanitarian missions and perform mass evacuations,” said Maj. Catherine Paterson, 439th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron flight nurse.
The C-5M and crew traveled from Travis AFB. They were joined in the PoCby other active-duty airmen and civilians from AMC, Scott AFB and the 43rd AES,Pope Army Air Field, North Carolina. Reserve AE teams from the 439th AES,Westover Air Reserve Base, Massachusetts, 433rd AES, Joint Base San Antonio, Texas. Lastly, the team included the 142nd AES, Delaware Air National Guard, making it a total force effort.
This effort allowed for training standardization and boosted readiness for operational missions.
Aeromedical evacuation team members participate in a training scenerio during a C-5M Super Galaxy AE proof of concept flight from Scott Air Force Base, Ill., Dec. 5, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Joey Swafford)
“It’s always beneficial to have the total force working together as one team,” said Paterson. “You always learn new things from working along with people from different backgrounds. You get different ideas, different concepts and you work together with the sole purpose of bringing troops home safely.”
With the proof of concept successfully testing the cargo department as a viable option for AE missions, the AE community is waiting for the Air Force to certify the use of the platform before the C-5M is officially part of their mission.
“We have made a great amount of progress in the last eight months,” said Maj. John Camacho-Ayala, Headquarters AMC branch chief for aeromedical evacuation operations and training. “I think that sometime in the near future we will definitely have a C-5M as part of our arsenal and a part of our weapons systems for the AE enterprise.”
Once all the certifications are completed, the AE community will gain their biggest ally yet with the Air Force’s largest plane.