A CIA K-9 unit left “explosive training material” on a school bus in Virginia after a routine training exercise last week, according to a statement posted on the agency’s website.
In a monumental error, the bus was used to transport children on Monday, March 28th, and Tuesday, March 29th, with the explosive material still sitting under the hood, according to the statement.
The CIA and the Loudon County Sheriff’s Office stressed that the children were not in any immediate danger.
“The training materials used in the exercises are incredibly stable and according to the CIA and Loudoun County explosive experts the students on the bus were not in any danger from the training material,” the Loudon County Sheriff’s office told The Washington Post.
The CIA placed the explosive material — a putty — under the hood of the school bus and in locations around a local school to test a dog’s ability to sniff it out. The dog successfully found the material, but some of it fell deeper into the engine compartment and became wedged beneath the hoses. The material was found when the bus was taken in for a routine inspection, after ferrying 26 children to school, reports The Washington Post.
The CIA said it will take “immediate steps to strengthen inventory and control procedures in its K-9 program,” and “conduct a thorough and independent review” of its procedures, according to the statement.
“We’re all very upset by what happened, but we’re going to review everything that did happen,” Wayde Byard, the Loudon County schools spokesman told The Washington Post. “Obviously we’re concerned. The CIA really expressed its deep concern and regret today, and it was sincere.”
“Marines will low crawl through a thousand miles of barbed wire and broken glass to help a brother Marine or a member of his family – even when they have never met.” – MSgt Andy Bufalo, USMC
On January 24th, Marine Corps veteran Bobby Donald Diaz suffered a major stroke. Diaz, 79, has been receiving treatment at The Woodlands Hospital in Texas for swelling of the brain. He has lost some function of his left side and some of his vision.
On Saturday, he asked his immediate family to call on his Marine family to visit him.
“He was getting depressed on his back for so long,” Diaz’ wife of 40 years, Marilyn, said. “He wanted to talk to one of his brothers, so my son-in-law put the word out.”
Within hours, Marines – many of whom Diaz had never met — came running. The former sergeant, who served for four years in the Korean War, has received a steady stream of visits and calls from Marines of all ages, from all over.
“I’ve lost count,” Marilyn said. “I’m overwhelmed; it’s unbelievable, and the stories [they share] are unreal.”
Marine vet Adam Blancas shared this about his visit with Diaz on his Facebook page:
I had the extreme honor of being able to show love and support to a Marine brother in need. Bobby Diaz had a bad stroke a few weeks back and had told his son/daughter in law he wanted to see a couple of his brothers (Marines). This was two days ago. When I saw him today the family said over 100 people have been by, not a single one knowing anything about Bobby other than his shared service with us.
About 45 minutes in Congressman Brady stopped by to visit. He couldn’t have been nicer and made sure the focus stayed on Diaz. Bobby’s reaction to being surrounded with brothers was amazing. He started talking and laughing while sharing old corps stories with anyone eager to listen, and we all were.
The oldest Marine on deck visiting was 82, I was the youngest at 26. Seeing that kind of love in action was an experience I’ll never forget.
“It just goes to show you that in the Marine Corps: once a brother, always a brother, no matter what,” Diaz told a KHON reporter. “When you feel bad, you can’t feel bad because all your brothers are here.”
In true joint military fashion, the Marine visitors discovered there was an Air Force veteran two rooms down from Diaz, and many of them visited him as well.
Watch video coverage of Marines visiting Diaz here.
Contribute to the gofundme campaign set up to assist with Diaz’ medical care costs here.
The Navy will soon finish initial prototyping of new weapons tubes for its Virginia-Class submarines designed to massively increase missile firepower, bring the platform well into future decades and increase the range of payloads launched or fired from the attack boats.
The new missile tubes, called the Virginia Payload Modules, will rev up the submarines’ Tomahawk missile firing ability from 12 to 40 by adding an additional 28 payload tubes – more than tripling the offensive strike capability of the platforms.
Prototyping of the new submarines amounts to early construction, meaning the missile tubes now being engineered and assembled will be those which will ultimately integrate into the completed boat. In essence, construction and metal bending for elements of what will become the first VPM are underway.
“Prototyping is underway,” Rear Adm. Charles Richard, Director of Undersea Warfare, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
Increasing undersea strike capability is a key element of the strategic calculus for the Navy as it continues to navigate its way into an increasingly high-tech and threatening global environment; potential adversaries are not only rapidly developing new quieting weapons and sonar detection technologies but also fielding long-range, precision-guided anti-ship missiles designed to target surface ships at long ranges.
The nation’s newest and most advanced nuclear-powered attack submarine and the lead ship of its class, PCU Virginia. | U.S. Navy photo by General Dynamics Electric Boat
The Chinese DF-21D and subsequent follow-on weapons in development are engineered to destroy carriers, destroyers and other surface vessels from distances as far as 900-miles off shore; if there is not a suitable defense for these kinds of long-range “anti-access/area-denial” weapons, the Navy’s ability to project power and launch attacks could be significantly limited. Carriers, for example, could be forced to operate further from the coastline at ranges which greatly complicate the aerial reach of many fighter aircraft which would launch from a carrier air-wing. If carriers are forced by the threat environment to operate at ranges further than fighter aircraft can travel, then new potentially dangerous aerial refueling options become much more complicated and challenging.
Navy strategy is therefore looking much more closely at the size and mission scope of its submarine fleet moving into the future, as undersea assets will most likely have an ability to conduct reconnaissance or strike missions far closer to an enemy shoreline – locations where it may be much harder for surface ships to operate given the fast-increasing threat environment. While the service is, of course, massively revving up its surface-ship offensive and defensive weaponry designed to allow vessels to better operate in so-called “contested” or high-threat areas, submarines are expected to increasingly play a vital role in a wide range of anticipated future mission requirements.
For example, improved increased sonar and quieting technologies referred to as Navy “acoustic superiority” are expected to allow submarines to conduct undersea reconnaissance missions much closer to enemy forces – and possibly behind defended areas. Such an ability could prove to be particularly relevant in coastal waters, shallow areas or islands such as portions of the South China Sea. These are precisely the kinds of areas where deeper draft surface ships may have trouble operating.
Building Virginia payload modules
The Navy plans to engineer a new 84-foot long module into the length of the submarine in order to add four 87-inch launch tubes into the body of the ship.
The tooling and initial castings are now nearing completion in preparation for the first prototyping of the VPM tubes which will be finished in 2017, developers explained. Construction of the first VPM boat is slated for 2019 en route to being finished and operational by 2024 or early 2025. Initial work is underway at an Electric Boat facility in Quonset Point, R.I.
“The first tube fabrication begins next April,” Ken Blomstedt, Vice President of the Virginia-Class Program here at Electric Boat, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
The second submarine construction among the planned Block V Virginia-class attack submarine will be engineered with integrated VPM. It is called SSN 803, Blomstedt explained. The last 20 ships of the class, in Blocks V, VI and VII, will have VPM integrated.
A new massive module will be emerging from an Electric Boat manufacturing facility in Quonset Point, R.I.
“We are able to add that amount of strike capability in for a 15 percent increase in the price of the vessel – all on-track coming in very nicely. We are excited about the progress of the design. We are finishing up the castings of the integrated tube and hull,” Richard said.
“Tube and hull” forging
Electric Boat developers tell Scout Warrior the VPM technical baseline has now been approved by the Navy, clearing the way for initial construction.
“The module consists of four 87-inch vertical payload tubes. The module is broken up into three sections – a forward support base, center section with four vertical payload tubes and an internal ballast tank to preserve or restore buoyancy for increasing the length of the ship,”
The technical baseline, which was informed by 39 key decisions, has been formally submitted and approved by the Navy as of February of this year.
“Will be exciting to see that first 184-foot module with VPM installed. Key to the module is using an integrated tube and hull approach,” Blomstedt added.
Electric Boat is using an emerging construction technique, called “tube and hull forging” design to expedite building and lower costs. The tactic involves connecting the top section of the tube to the pressure hull as one monolithic piece, he said.
“From a technology standpoint, we are broadening the base with a one-piece casting. That piece comes into the missile tube fabricator,” Blomstedt said.
Along with firing Tomahawk missiles, the additional 87-inch payload tubes are being engineered to accommodate new weapons as they emerge and possibly launch other assets such as unmanned underwater vehicles.
The Navy will likely use the pace for a whole bunch of future payloads that they are just starting to think about,” Blomstedt said.
While it is certainly conceivable that Torpedoes and other weapons could eventually be fired from VPM tubes, Virginia-Class boats currently have a separate torpedo room with four torpedoes able to launch horizontally
A ballast tank has a pressure hull where the crew can operate, water levels inside the boat are adjusted to raise or lower the boat within the ocean; the weapons are designed to fire out of the launch tubes from a variety of different depths.
“When you submerge the ship, there is normally sea water all around the tubes,” he said.
Need for more undersea fire power
The reason for the Virginia Payload Modules is clear; beginning in the 2020s, the Navy will start retiring four large Ohio-class guided-missile submarines able to fire up to 154 Tomahawk missiles each. This will result in the Navy losing a massive amount of undersea fire power capability, Navy developers have explained.
From 2002 to 2008 the U.S. Navy modified four of its oldest nuclear-armed Ohio-class submarines by turning them into ships armed with only conventional missiles — the USS Ohio, USS Michigan, USS Florida and USS Georgia. They are called SSGNs, with the “G” designation for “guided missile.” These boats were among US military assets that provided firepower during action against Libya in 2011 – by firing Tomahawks from undersea at key locations such as enemy air defenses designed to clear the way for strike aircraft.
If the VPM action is not taken, the Navy will lose about 60-percent of its undersea strike launchers when the SSGNs retire in the 2020s. When VPM construction begins in 2019, that 60-percent shortfall will become a 40-percent shortfall in the 2028 timeframe.
Accordingly, building VPMs is designed to eliminate the loss of firepower. The rationale for accelerating VPM is to potentially mitigate that 40-percent to a lower number, Navy developers have said.
Virginia-class submarines, engineered to replace the 1980s-era Los Angeles-class attack submarines, are being built in block increments. Blocks I and II, totaling 10 ships, have already been delivered to the Navy. Block III boats are currently under construction. In fact the first Block III boat, the USS North Dakota, was delivered ahead of schedule in August of 2014.
The first several Block IV Virginia-class submarines are under construction as well — the USS Vermont and the USS Oregon. Last April, the Navy awarded General Dynamics’ Electric Boat and Huntington Ingalls Industries Newport News Shipbuilding a $17.6 billion deal to build 10 Block IV subs with the final boat procured in 2023.
Also, design changes to the ship, including a change in the materials used for the submarines’ propulsor, will enable Block IV boats to serve for as long as 96-months between depots visits or scheduled maintenance availabilities, Navy developers explained.
Ed Timperlake was VA assistant secretary for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs from 1989 to 1992, and served in the U.S. Marine Corps as a fighter pilot and squadron commander.
One of the little-known facts of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq is that the nature of combat wounds has changed dramatically.
For most of human history, the most common combat wound was a piercing injury. Primitive spears, the Roman gladius, medieval lances and bullets all create piercing wounds, and battlefield medicine was largely focused on treating these types of injuries.
As an assistant secretary for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs during the George H. W. Bush administration, I saw up close how VA health care responded to the after-effects of these combat wounds. But in the years since, veteran care reflects an entirely new and complex type of injury.
Most of these troops have returned to duty, but one of the most common and least seen aspects of these injuries is hearing loss. The auditory sense is highly vulnerable to explosive mechanisms and, unlike most of the human body, many tissues associated with hearing do not regenerate themselves. When they are destroyed, they are destroyed forever. Tinnitus, otherwise known as ringing in the ears, while less serious than absolute hearing loss, is still harmful in the long term and is pervasive among troops serving in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Hearing loss is personal for my family. One of my nieces was born with significant hearing loss, and another is pursuing her doctorate at Gallaudet University, developing better ways to accurately test and address hearing loss. My own hearing has been degraded due to military noise. I can never forget the roar that reverberated through my head the first time I was catapulted from the deck of an aircraft carrier. As a young Marine Corps fighter pilot, the “scramble orders” I and my squadron mates received in response to threats from Cuban MiGs resulted in ear-shattering experiences with every sortie, for months at a time.
Today, more than 1.25 million veterans suffer from hearing loss, with nearly two million suffering from tinnitus. Combined, they represent the top two service-connected disabilities addressed by the VA. To its credit, the VA is doing a good job of addressing the problem with hearing conservation programs and high-tech hearing aids.
But the Defense Department is playing catch-up on the issue. After having issued faulty hearing protection to active-duty forces over the past decade, leading to countless cases of unnecessary hearing loss, the Pentagon is now testing several different styles of hearing protection for troops in the field, and confidence is high that the next generation of combat hearing protection will represent a substantial improvement.
Once these troops muster out of uniform and transition to veteran status, a large part of the challenge in helping these vets with hearing loss is technological. Low-cost hearing aids that simply amplify sound do little good, often making background noise too loud to provide any meaningful improvement in hearing conversation, music and other audible intelligence.
The private sector is making good progress on developing and improving this technology with Bluetooth capabilities and even fitness trackers, offering hope to veterans with hearing loss as they re-acclimate to civilian life.
The prospects for better hearing protection and improved service to veterans with hearing loss and tinnitus is encouraging. But we have to keep our eye on the ball to make sure our warfighters get the combat gear they need, and that veterans receive the care they earned through their sacrifice.
“As I reflect back on four decades of service in uniform, it is clear that the pace of change has accelerated significantly,” Dunford said.
He noted that when he entered the Marine Corps in the 1970s, he used much the same equipment that his father used during the Korean War. “I used the same cold-weather gear my dad had in Korea 27 years earlier,” he said. “The radios I used as a platoon commander were the same uncovered PRC-25s from Vietnam. The jeeps we drove would have been familiar to veterans of World War II, and to be honest, so would the tactics.” Marine units, he added, fought much the same way their fathers did at Peleliu, Okinawa or the Chosin Reservoir.
Accelerated Pace of Change
Today, “there are very few things that have not changed dramatically in the joint force since I was a lieutenant,” Dunford said.
He spoke of visiting a Marine platoon in Farah province, Afghanistan. “This platoon commander and his 60 Marines were 40 miles from the adjacent platoons on their left and right,” he said. “His Marines were wearing state-of-the-art protective equipment and driving vehicles unrecognizable to Marines or soldiers discharged just five years earlier. They were supported by the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, which provided precision fires at a range of 60 kilometers.”
The platoon, Dunford recalled, received and transmitted voice, data and imagery via satellite in real time, something only possible at division headquarters just five years before his visit.
These changes are mirrored across the services and combatant commands, the chairman said, giving commanders amazing capabilities, but also posing challenges to commanders on how to best use these new capabilities.
“Leaders at lower and lower levels utilize enabling capabilities once reserved for the highest echelons of command,” Dunford said in the article. “Tactics, techniques and procedures are adapted from one deployment cycle to the next.”
This accelerated pace of change is inextricably linked to the speed of war today, the general said. “Proliferation of advanced technologies that transcend geographic boundaries and span multiple domains makes the character of conflict extraordinarily dynamic,” the chairman said. “Information operations, space and cyber capabilities and ballistic missile technology have accelerated the speed of war, making conflict today faster and more complex than at any point in history.”
Shortened Decision-Space Adds New Risks
The American military must stay ahead of this pace because the United States will not have time to marshal the immense strength at its command as it did in World War I and II and during Korea, Dunford said. “Today, the ability to recover from early missteps is greatly reduced,” he said. “The speed of war has changed, and the nature of these changes makes the global security environment even more unpredictable, dangerous and unforgiving. Decision space has collapsed and so our processes must adapt to keep pace with the speed of war.”
The situation on the Korean Peninsula is a case in point, the chairman said. In the past, he said, officials believed any war on the peninsula could be contained to the area. However, with the development of ballistic missile technology, the North Korean nuclear program and new cyber capabilities that is no longer possible, Dunford said. A war that once would have been limited would now spiral, almost immediately, with regional and global implications, he said.
“Deterring, and if necessary, defeating, a threat from North Korea requires the joint force to be capable of nearly instant integration across regions, domains and functions,” Dunford said. “Keeping pace with the speed of war means changing the way we approach challenges, build strategy, make decisions and develop leaders.”
This means seamlessly integrating capabilities such as information operations, space and cyber into battle plans, the chairman said. “These essential aspects of today’s dynamic environment cannot be laminated onto the plans we have already developed,” he said. “They must be mainstreamed in all we do, and built into our thinking from the ground up.”
Integrated Strategies Improve Responsiveness
Dunford said the joint force must also develop integrated strategies that address transregional, multidomain and multifunctional threats. “By viewing challenges holistically, we can identify gaps and seams early and develop strategies to mitigate risk before the onset of a crisis,” he said. “We have adapted the next version of the National Military Strategy to guide these initiatives.”
The military must make the most of its decision space, so military leaders can present options at the speed of war, Dunford said. “This begins with developing a common understanding of the threat, providing a clear understanding of the capabilities and limitations of the joint force, and then establishing a framework that enables senior leaders to make decisions in a timely manner,” the chairman said.
Leadership is essential, said the chairman, noting the joint force depends on leaders who anticipate change, recognize opportunity and adapt to meet new challenges.
“That is why we continue to prioritize leader development by adapting doctrine, integrating exercise plans, revising training guidance and retooling the learning continuum,” Dunford said. “These efforts are designed to change the face of military learning and develop leaders capable of thriving at the speed of war.”
Adaptation and innovation are the imperatives for the Joint Force, the chairman said. “The character of war in the 21st century has changed, and if we fail to keep pace with the speed of war, we will lose the ability to compete,” he said.
“The joint force is full of the most talented men and women in the world, and it is our responsibility as leaders to unleash their initiative to adapt and innovate to meet tomorrow’s challenges,” Dunford said. “We will get no credit tomorrow for what we did yesterday.”
When thinking about 18th and 19th century weaponry, the standard perception is of cumbersome muskets loaded standing up and only the skilled and lucky getting off as many as three rounds in a minute. But an innovative air-powered semi-automatic rifle developed by an Austrian watchmaker in 1779 or 1780 served several armies for decades, and even played a role in the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
Bartholomaus Girandoni, an watchmaker from the Austrian Empire province of Tyrol, had developed an innovative form of firearm, especially for the technological limitations of the time. A pressurized container of air, in the form of a removable stock, would propel a .46 calibre musket ball at speeds comparable to modern day handguns. A tube magazine, typically holding more than 20 rounds, fed through a manual switch.
The weapon was pointed upward and a switch was pressed to reload. Considering that standard muskets at the time required the operator to be standing while reloading, this let soldiers keep low to the ground, presenting a much smaller target and allowing them to stay under cover. It was comparable in range, accuracy, and penetration to a standard musket.
A soldier armed with the rifle typically carried three air tanks and a hundred lead shot in a special leather case.The air canister was good for perhaps 30-40 effective shots, with range and accuracy dropping as the pressure went down. An additional benefit was that it was much quieter than gunpowder based weapons.
A semi-automatic weapon of this level of effectiveness was basically unknown, and the Austrian Army eagerly adopted the design. It saw extensive action in the Napoleonic Wars, and was used for over 30 years.
Thomas Jefferson, who always had a keen interest in inventive new technology, purchased several of the rifles. One of them was carried by the legendary Lewis and Clark expedition, whom demonstrated the rifle to American Indian tribes they met along the way. The Indians were impressed with the weapon’s firepower and it’s much quieter report than a standard musket.
But the weapon had a number of disadvantages. Recharging a canister could take over 1,500 cranks from a small hand pump, though larger horse drawn recharge stations were often used. The weapon was complex and easily damaged, and the leather seals connecting the tank to the gun had to be kept wet in order to prevent leaks. Compared to the relative simplicity of regular muskets, it required a lot of training to maintain and suffered from serious reliability issues.
The weapon was simply too complex for the technology at the time, and in mass production suffered from too many defects and expense. The conscript armies of the period needed simple weapons that could be built and maintained anywhere, and it was never widely adopted by other European armies.
Though it was phased out by 1815, the weapon’s technology was unique, and an infantry weapon of similar capabilities in sustained rapid fire were not seen again for 50 years. In the end, it’s real flaw is that it was ahead of it’s time.
The Vietnam war gave us a lot of things: Zippos, M16s, and the list goes on. Before it popped off, there hadn’t been a war like it; it was highly televised, deeply protested, and involved heavy use of special operations units. From this war came tons of stories of heroism and courage in the face of extreme danger. One such story that stands out from the rest is that of U.S. Army Captain William Albracht.
Albracht graduated from Alleman Catholic High School in Illinois in 1966 and found himself in Vietnam just three years later. He wasn’t just a Green Beret captain, he was the youngest Green Beret captain in the entire country. He took command of a hilltop outpost known as Firebase Kate with a total of 27 American Soldiers and 156 Montagnard militiamen. This is where Captain Albracht earned his place in history and solidified his status as an American badass.
This is the story of the youngest Green Beret captain in Vietnam:
Landing Zone Kate in 1969.
Landing Zone Kate, also referred to as Firebase White, was built in 1969 on a hilltop northwest of Quang Dug Province in Southern Vietnam. It was near the Cambodian border. It was also the first command for Captain Albracht, who was just 21 at the time.
The young captain saw the hilltop location as problematic, primarily because the North Vietnamese Army controlled the nearby road and could freely fire from Cambodia. To make matters worse, supplying the base was also a very tricky.
Army Special Forces and Rangers in Vietnam.
Supplies & discipline
Since the NVA controlled the road, supplies and personnel for LZ Kate could only be delivered via helicopter. Despite each delivery being protected by a wide range of aircraft, Captain Albracht felt it wasn’t enough support for their location.
On top of that, Sergeant Daniel Pierelli arrived ahead of Captain Albracht to find the troops located there playing volleyball and lounging around instead of preparing to defend the place. He and Captain Albracht made sure to address this before increasing patrols in an effort to gain more intelligence on the NVA. Unfortunately, fate had other plans.
Army artillerymen in Vietnam.
Siege at LZ Kate
On the morning of October 29th, the NVA launched the first assault on the Firebase, outnumbering the defenders 40 to 1. For the next few days, the men there sustained heavy casualties from small-arms gunfire, mortars, rockets, and artillery.
The wounded included Captain Albracht, who sustained a shrapnel wound in his arm on October 29th while he directed a medevac helicopter. He was given the opportunity to leave, but instead decided to stay at Kate and continue to lead his men.
Members of Mike force on the left and a member of the Montagnard militia on the right.
A great escape
Supplies dwindled fast, and the situation wasn’t getting any better. Eventually, on November 1st, Captain Albracht realized Kate could not be saved and decided they needed to escape. They destroyed their gun tubes, artillery ammo, and anything that could be considered intelligence before slipping away.
He, along with around 150 men, eventually arrived at another Special Forces camp, only losing one American soldier in the jungle. In the early hours of November 2nd, they linked up with SF Mike Force, their closest allies. To do so, Captain Albracht had to cross an open field three times, putting himself at risk of being spotted by the enemy, to ensure the safety of his men.
Due to his heroics, the men safely escaped.
Captain William Albracht in 2016.
(Photo by Kevin E. Schmidt)
Captain William Albracht
For his service and actions during the war, he earned three Silver Stars, three Purple Hearts, and five Bronze Stars. After the war, he continued serving his country in the Secret Service, guarding five presidents during his time. He then went on to manage security for the Ford Motor Company.
He returned home to Illinois in 2005 and, in 2012, he ran for Senator for Illinois’ 36th district. He co-wrote the book, Abandoned in Hell: The Fight for Vietnam’s Firebase Kate, and his story is featured in a documentary entitled Escape from Firebase Kate.
“They are in dark corners of the world and even their training is very dangerous,” Jen Paquette, executive director of the Green Beret Foundation, wrote on Facebook.
Staff. Sgt. David Whitcher, 30, died Wednesday during a dive training exercise off the coast of Key West, Florida, according to US Army Special Operations Command. He was previously assigned to the 7th Special Forces Group at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida.
On Thursday, Capt. Andrew Byers, 30, and Sgt. 1st Class Ryan Gloyer, 34, were killed during a firefight with Taliban forces in Kunduz, Afghanistan. Both were assigned to the 10th Special Forces Group out of Fort Carson, Colorado.
Three other soldiers with the Fort Campbell, Kentucky 5th Special Forces Group were killed while entering a military base in Jordan on Friday. The soldiers, Staff Sergeants Matthew C. Lewellen, 27, Kevin J. McEnroe, 30, and James F. Moriarty, 27, were apparently fired upon by Jordanian security forces at the gate to Prince Faisal Air Base, where they were deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.
All six of those deaths are under investigation, the Army said.
When Master Sgt. Mike Maroney was a staff sergeant he rescued 3-year-old LeShay Brown a few days after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in 2005. An Air Force Combat Photographer happened to be on the mission, and snapped a now-iconic photo.
“They just happened to snap a photo of this little girl who really, for me, made the day. It was a rough day,” Maroney told the cast of The Real, a nationally syndicated daytime talk show. “It was seven days into Katrina. Earlier in July, I just got back from a deployment to Afghanistan, it was my worst deployment. To see New Orleans under water and destroyed just really took a toll on me, so when she gave me that hug I wasn’t even on the planet at that point.”
Maroney saved 140 people in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina but the memory of that hug stayed with him. Maroney, now 40 years old and a 19-year Air Force Veteran kept that photo on his wall for the past decade which he says helped him through a lot of dark times stemming from his service.
He never knew that little girl’s name. One day, he decided to find her and posted the photo on Facebook, hoping it would go viral. Someone reached out to Maroney after noticing the search for the girl had not gone very far.
“I had the idea to put it on Facebook to see if anyone is looking for her,” Maroney said. “It got 42 likes. Nothing. Up ’til last year, nothing. Then a young man named Andrew [Goard] wrote me and said, ‘Hey, its my life’s goal. I’m gonna help you find this little girl.”
Goard is a high school student in Waterford, Michigan whose grandfather served in Vietnam, and he idolized Pararescue Jumpers (he even has an Instagram page devoted to them). He helped the hashtag #FindKatrinaGirl go viral. The story was eventually picked up by Air Force Times and distributed around to smaller news outlets, until it ended up in front of LeShay Brown, who is now 13 and living in Waveland, Mississippi.
“I wish I could explain to you how important your hug was,” Maroney told LeShay Brown. “Your small gesture helped me through a dark phase. You rescued me more than I rescued you.”
“In my line of work, it doesn’t usually turn out happily,” Maroney said. “This hug, this moment, was like – everybody I’ve ever saved, that was the thank you.”
The U.S. Army on Tuesday announced 500 soldiers will deploy to Afghanistan this summer as part of a scheduled troop rotation.
The service in a release said the soldiers from the 1st Cavalry Division Headquarters and Sustainment Brigade, based at Fort Hood, Texas, will replace the headquarters of the 10th Mountain Division at Bagram Airfield in the northeastern part of the country.
The unit will support Operation Freedom’s Sentinel at the location as the national support element, according to the statement.
“The 1st Cavalry Division has once again been called by our nation’s Army,” Maj. Gen. John C. Thomson, III, commander, 1st Cavalry Division, said in the release. “First Team troopers are trained, well-led, and ready to accomplish assigned missions in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel.”
The Army had previously announced that about 1,000 others from the 3rd Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, also based at Fort Hood, are also preparing to deploy to Afghanistan.
The soldiers were also expected to switch out with a number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan and aren’t likely to change the overall American military presence in the country of about 9,800 service members.
At the time of the previous announcement, Lt. Col. Sunset Belinsky, a spokeswoman for the 1st Cavalry Division, said the regiment will probably deploy in May or June. Soldiers were returning from the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, and planned to take a week or two of family leave before heading overseas, she said.
Belinsky said at least some of the soldiers may join colleagues from the 10th Mountain Division in the southern part of the country, but added that planners were still “looking at the mission closely, so it may not be exactly there.”
The Defense Department announced in February that about 500 soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 87th Regiment, 10th Mountain Division, based at Fort Drum, New York, would be sent to Helmand Province to shore up an Afghan Army Corps battered by the Taliban.
In recent weeks, American F-16 fighter jets have “significantly increased pressure and the number of strikes” in eastern Nangarhar province bordering Pakistan, where fighters pledging allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, were believed to number 1,000-3,000, according to Army Brig. Gen. Wilson Shoffner, chief spokesman for U.S. Forces-Afghanistan.
President Barack Obama last year adjusted plans for U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan.
Rather than reduce the military footprint in the country to a nominal embassy presence in Kabul by the end of 2016, Obama said the U.S. will maintain 5,500 troops and a small number of bases, including at Bagram and Jalalabad in the east and Kandahar in the south into 2017 to continue the mission of training and providing support to Afghan security forces, according to the Pentagon.
The day my dad left for deployment brought me hard feelings – feelings that were hard for me to process. The thought of him being in harms way made me afraid. Knowing how much I would miss him made be unbelievably sad. All that I knew for sure is that I did not want to take him to the drop off point.
I wanted him to stay.
Once we arrived at the squadron, I tried to convince myself to hold everything together, hiding how I was feeling and I put on a brave face. I certainly did not want to lose control of my emotions in front of a room full of strangers. But when I heard the loud slam of the van door closing and I realized that my Daddy was about to drive away, I stopped caring about who was around.
I sprinted toward the vehicle, wildly yanking at the door handle. “I just want you to stay. Please. Please stay.” I started to cry. The feeling of dread loomed over me. He opened the door and gave me one last hug. My Dad held me close and promised that everything would be okay.
But it wasn’t okay.
Living without my Dad was harder than I thought. I wanted to talk to him -to tell him about all the things I was learning and fun things I was doing. He missed a lot. He missed Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. It was awful. Christmas was not the same. I was glad we could open presents over video chat, but all I wanted for Christmas was to have him home.
Everything about life without him stressed me out and I began to be overly anxious. There were several times where my head felt like it was spinning. I was overwhelmed with worry. Many nights, I wouldn’t sleep. I cried a lot. Living life without my dad home just made me feel blue.
Nothing felt normal. When Dad is home, he takes me out to dinner and spends time with me. I can tell him all about what is happening and how I feel. I really missed these nights. We could really only talk for a few minutes because there was a seven-hour time difference. Night time was the worst. I feel safer when he is here.
It wasn’t all bad. We went on a few family vacations and even went to Great Wolf Lodge. I mean, we only went to Great Wolf because of the eight million delays for dad’s homecoming- making Dad miss my brother’s birthday. But it was fun.
If I had to do all over again (which I hope won’t be for a while), I would do a few things differently. Maybe, if you are a kid in the middle of a deployment -or getting ready for one – here are a few things I learned.
You can’t control everything. Don’t try. Stop trying to make everything perfect. You can’t. Recognize the things that you can control, like yourself or how clean your room is, and control what you can. I organized my books, made slime, and did things that made me feel comfortable.
Be patient with your family. Everyone is sad or stressed. Emotions are running hot and even the littlest things feel more annoying. Do your best to give people a break and stay calm. When I got overwhelmed, I would retreat to my room and count backwards from sixty. I would count colors or patterns in my room. Also, I bout “Pinch Me” dough, which smelled like the beach. Find something that brings you joy and peace.
Have lots of comfort food. (Oreos are always a good choice.) Nothing beats a snack. Snacks are wonderful, and sharing them with a friend is even better. When I was feeling sad or frustrated, I would invite my next-door neighbor over for a snack and a chat. It always made me feel better.
Lastly, call your friends. The beauty of military life is that you have friends everywhere. When I needed to, I would call my best friends, Talia and Aurea. They would cheer me up, help me think through what I feel, and give me encouragement. They know what this is like. Both of them, like me, are military kids.
Deployment seasons might not always be “okay,” but they are only temporary. They don’t last forever. I know that my dad does hard things, like being away, because he wants to serve our country. I can do hard things, too. He believes in freedom and he tells me that I can do my part too. I’m strong because he is strong. I love you, Daddy. Thank you for all you do.
U.S. Army weapons officials will not evaluate an improved version of the service’s Cold War-era 9mm pistol, choosing instead to search for a more modern soldier sidearm.
In early December, Beretta USA, the maker of the U.S. military’s M9 pistol for 30 years, submitted its modernized M9A3 as a possible alternative to the Army’s Modular Handgun System program — an effort to replace the M9 with a more powerful, state-of-the-art pistol.
The improved M9 features new sights, a rail for mounting lights and accessories, better ergonomics and improved reliability, Beretta USA officials said.
But by late December, it was all over for Beretta’s engineering change proposal for the M9. The Army’s Configuration Control Board decided not to evaluate the M9A3, according to a source familiar with the decision.
The move clears the way for the Army to release a pending request for proposal that will launch the MHS competition.
Program Executive Office Soldier would not comment for this story until Army Public Affairs has approved a statement, PEO Soldier spokesman Doug Graham said Thursday night.
The Army began working with the small arms industry on MHS in early 2013, but the joint effort has been in the works for more than five years. If successful, it would result in the Defense Department buying nearly 500,000 new pistols during a period of significant defense-spending reductions.
Current plans call for the Army to purchase more than 280,000 handguns from a single vendor, with delivery of the first new handgun systems scheduled for 2017, according to PEO Soldier officials. The Army also plans to buy approximately 7,000 sub-compact versions of the handgun.
The other military services participating in the MHS program may order an additional 212,000 systems above the Army quantity.
The effort is set to cost at least $350 million and potentially millions more if it results in the selection of a new pistol caliber.
Beretta USA officials said they have not received official notification of the Army’s decision.
“Obviously, they didn’t take a whole lot of time on this,” said Gabriele De Plano, vice president of military marketing and sales for Beretta USA, reacting to the news of the Army’s pre-Christmas decision after the M9A3’s December 10 unveiling.
Army officials “didn’t ask a single question; didn’t ask for a single sample” for evaluation, De Plano said.
The Army maintains that the M9 design does not meet the MHS requirement. Soldiers have complained of reliability issues with the M9. One problem has to do with the M9’s slide-mounted safety. During malfunction drills, the shooter often engages the lever-style safety by accident, Army weapons officials say.
The M9A3’s “over-center safety lever” can be configured to act as a de-cocker, a change that eliminates the accidental safety activation, De Plano said.
As part of the joint requirement process for MHS, Army weapons officials did a “very thorough cost-benefit analysis” that supported the effort, Army weapons officials said. The old fleet of M9s is costing the Army more to replace and repair than to buy a new service pistol, officials said.
The M9A3 is not a perfect pistol, De Plano says, but the Army should at least evaluate it.
The M9 pistol can be “improved for hundreds of millions less than a new MHS pistol,” De Plano said. “We can sell them this new pistol for less than the M9 pistol.”
Beretta currently has an open contract for M9s that the Army awarded in September 2012 for up to 100,000 pistols. Deliveries of about 20,000 have been scheduled, leaving 80,000 that could be ordered in the M9A3 configuration for less than the cost of the current M9, De Plano said.
“Why not do a dual-path like they have done in other cases,” De Plano said.
The Army was determined to do just that when it set out to search for a replacement for the M4 carbine. The service launched a competition to evaluate commercially available carbines while, at the same time, it evaluated improvements to the M4.
One Marine is dead, another is injured, and five are missing after an F/A-18 Hornet collided with a KC-130J refueling tanker during a night-time training mission off the coast of Japan on Dec. 5, 2018.
Capt. Jahmar F. Resilard, the pilot of the F/A-18, was rescued after crash but died on Dec. 6, 2018. The other Marine aboard the Hornet was rescued and is in stable conditions, but all five Marines aboard the KC-130J remain missing.
The deadly incident is the latest in series of fatal and costly accidents among Marine Corps aircraft that have raised concerns about the condition of aircraft and quality of training in the Corps and across the US military.
On July 10, 2017, a Marine Corps KC-130T tanker aircraft crashed in Mississippi, killing 15 Marines and a sailor.
A Marine Corps KC-130T deploys a high-speed drogue during an aerial refueling mission at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, June 16, 2018.
The KC-130T was introduced in the early 1980s. The aircraft in that incident, one of the last ones still flying, was set for retirement within a few years.
The proximate cause of the accident, however, was a corroded propeller blade that went unfixed when it entered an Air Force maintenance depot in 2011, according to an investigation released in December 2018. The corrosion became a crack that allowed the blade to shear off in flight and rip through the fuselage, causing the plane to break up.
Data compiled by Breaking Defense in September 2017 — after a summer in which deadly accidents led Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller to order rolling stand-downs across aviation units — showed that over the previous six years, 62 Marines had been killed in aircraft accidents, compared to just 10 personnel from the Navy, which has more people and more aircraft.
The Corps also had more Class A Mishaps, the most serious category of accident which involve loss of life or more than id=”listicle-2622946621″ million in damage.
The Marine Corps has fewer aircraft than the Navy, so a few accidents can boost the accident rate considerably. Marine Corps aircraft are also frequently carrying troops, which can make fewer accidents more deadly.
The age and nature of Marine Corps aircraft also complicate matters. The F/A-18 Hornet and the KC-130T both entered service around the same time. (The Corps has said it will get rid of its oldest Hornets, but delays in the F-35 program have slowed that process.)
Planes like the AV-8B Harrier, which first became operational in 1971, and the newer MV-22 Osprey are vertical takeoff and landing aircraft, which makes them trickier to fly even when they’re new.
An MV-22 Osprey from Marine Medium Tilt Rotor Squadron (VMM) 166 (Reinforced) lands on the flight deck of the dock landing ship USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49) to conduct a personnel transfer.
(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Zachary Eshleman)
But, as Breaking Defense found, the Corps was seeing accidents at a much higher rate than the Navy — 10% more in the best year.
An investigation by Military Times this spring found Marine Corps aviation accidents had increased 80% over the previous five years, rising from 56 in fiscal year 2013 to 101 in fiscal year 2017. The greatest increase came among Class C mishaps, where damage is between ,000 and 0,000 and work days are lost due to injury.
2013 marked the beginning of mandatory budget cuts known as sequestration, and other services also saw an increase in mishaps starting that year as squadrons reduced flying hours for training.
The Marines, however, have a smaller budget, fewer personnel, and fewer aircraft. After 2013, flying hours were reduced and and experienced maintainers supervisors were released.
Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Zachary Almendarez, cleans the inside of a nacelle on a V-22 Osprey aboard USS Iwo Jima, Oct. 7, 2018.
(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Margaret Gale)
The next year, military operations increased as a part of the campaign against ISIS and in response to Chinese activity in the South China Sea. Flying hours for deployed pilots grew while returned pilots were “flight-time deprived.”
Along with increased flight hours for deployed Marine pilots, maintenance suffered, as the Corps was not able to replace some of its more experienced maintainers and crew members. That drove an increase in the number of aircraft that were unable to fly, in turn depriving pilots of flight time for training.
The loss of both skilled maintainers and pilot hours increases the chances a mishap will occur and the chances that a minor mishap will escalate, defense analysts told Military Times.
“You got worse at everything if you flew two or less times a week,” John Venable, a former F-16 pilot and senior defense fellow at the Heritage Foundation, told Military Times. “And the average units have been flying two or less times for five years. It lulls your ability to handle even mundane things.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.