The AC-130 just got its signature weapon back – and many in the public may not have known it was gone.
According to a report by Strategypage.com, the decision ends a 12-year hiatus on the powerful cannon, which has been used on versions of the Spectre gunship since 1972 – along with two 20mm Vulcan cannon and a 40mm Bofors anti-aircraft gun in the AC-130H. The AC-130U replaces the two 20mm guns with the 25mm GAU-12 used on the AV-8B Harrier.
The decision had been made to halt use of the 105mm gun in favor of missiles like the AGM-114 Hellfire and AGM-176 Griffin as well as the GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb. The problem was, the need for guns didn’t go away. The Air Force started out by adding the 30mm Bushmaster II chain gun. This helped out, especially when troops were in close contact or there was a need to avoid collateral damage.
The gun’s rounds were also a lot cheaper than the missiles – even though the guns are only really useful at night.
The “boots on the ground” and the crews, though, kept making the case to bring the 105mm gun back. So, the Air Force tested a new mount for the 105mm gun. While previous incarnations of the AC-130 had the gun mounted to the side, now the gun will be fired from the rear of the plane.
While this puts an end to the famous pylon turn, it also means the AC-130 can hold twice as many 105mm howitzer rounds as it used to.
Testing of the new mount was finished in 2017, and will go on the new AC-130J Ghostrider, which will replace older AC-130H, AC-130U, and AC-130W aircraft by 2021.
Hollywood tends to get military life wrong — and portrayals of helicopter pilots in the Vietnam War are no exception. Despite what you’ve seen in movies, daily operations didn’t always involve pulling troops from a hot landing zone or going in with guns and rockets blazing — and it wasn’t always done in a Huey, either.
In fact, while it’s best-known for playing a key role in Operation Enduring Freedom, the CH-47 Chinook saw a lot of action in the Vietnam War. This helicopter has served with the Army for over half a century and year and is still going strong — new variants, the CH-47F and MH-47G, are rolling off the production lines as we speak!
CH-47 Chinooks and UH-1 Hueys load troops during Operation Crazy Horse. Over 30,000 troops were moved into difficult terrain in that 1966 operation.
(US Army photo)
For a lot of helicopter pilots, especially those who flew the CH-47A, CH-47B, and CH-47C models of the Chinook, the Vietnam War was mostly about moving cargo from one part of the operating theater to another, often hauling upwards of 7,000 pounds of cargo inside its cavernous cabin. The Chinook has a history of doing precisely that, whether in Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, Desert Storm, or any number of peacetime operations.
In Vietnam, CH-47s were also used to recover planes and helicopters. These would often be taken back to repair depots, like USNS Corpus Christi Bay (T ARVH 1). Chinooks were also often used for moving artillery pieces — and their crews and ammo — to new locations. It was faster and safer than going by ground, even though the helicopters sometimes found themselves overloaded by troops. In 1966, the Chinook made a name for itself during Operation Crazy Horse, during which over 30,000 troops were transported by chopper into very difficult terrain.
A CH-47F in Afghanistan. The latest versions of the Chinook carry three times as much cargo as the ones that flew in Vietnam.
(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Nathan Hoskins)
At least 200 CH-47s were lost during Vietnam, either to enemy action or operational losses. Those harsh experiences, however, led to improvements. Today’s CH-47s haul 24,000 pounds, more than three times the 7,000 pounds carried by early Chinooks in Vietnam.
See what a day in the life of a Vietnam War Chinook pilot was like in the video below!
Since April 2014, U.S. Army Europe has rotated units from the U.S. to the European continent in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve. The ongoing operation aims to enhance NATO’s eastern flank against Russian aggression and deter future conflicts like the War in Donbass. The rotations and joint and multinational training build readiness and strengthen bonds with NATO allies. For one helicopter crew, the training turned into a real-life emergency response.
On December 15, 2020, the five-soldier crew of a CH-47F Chinook was returning from a training mission. The crew, assigned to B Company, 6th General Support Aviation Battalion, 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), is posted in Illesheim, Germany in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve. However, on their way home, the crew witnessed an emergency on the ground.
“We were flying over a ridgeline in a rural area,” said pilot Chief Warrant Officer 2 Dave Acton. “Once we cleared it, my crew chief in the back came on the comms system and said he saw a puff of white smoke on the road below.” A civilian car got into a serious accident on the road below the Chinook.
“After I called that in, I looked further down the road and saw a car roll over two or three times, “said crew chief Spc. Bruce Cook. Now aware of the emergency situation on the ground, the crew requested permission to assist.
“It was like we all simultaneously thought the same thing…that the right thing to do was to assist however we could,” said co-pilot Chief Warrant Officer 2 Robert Riedel. “I like to think its natural human instinct to want to stop and help in any way that you can.” The air mission commander gave them the green light and the Chinook descended to the site of the car crash.
Once the helicopter was on the ground, brigade flight surgeon Maj. Benjamin Stork assessed the situation, jumped out, and ran to the crash. “I checked my medical pack attached to my vest to make sure I had everything I might need to stabilize possible injuries,” said Stork. “Once I got to the man in the crash, I checked his vitals and made sure he was cognizant; thankfully, he spoke English pretty well because my German is pretty broken.”
Stork stabilized the man’s neck and back before an ambulance arrived on the scene. After briefing the paramedics on the situation, Stork helped them transfer the man to the ambulance and ran back to the helicopter. “All in all, from noticing the car flip to getting the wheels up off the ground, about 30 minutes passed,” said Stork. “Every piece of the operation felt organic, smooth and controlled because of how well these guys talk to each other.”
The quick, efficient, and professional response by the Chinook crew demonstrates the effectiveness of the countless hours of training that they go through. “We are in Europe in support of Atlantic Resolve, and for the most part that means that we train together with our ally and partner military forces,” said Col. Travis Habhab, commander of the 101st CAB. “I think that an important part of building that partnership and trust also lies in connecting with and supporting the local community where we can. The level we train at is what allows us to let these types of responses happen organically, and I’m incredibly proud of our Wings of Destiny Soldiers for making the call to help someone in a situation that could have been much worse.”
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is responsible for some of the world’s most significant scientific and technological breakthroughs.
DARPA has had a hand in major inventions like GPS, the internet, and stealth aircraft. And it’s always developing new technologies — military or intelligence-related systems that could end up having a huge impact outside the battlefield as well.
We’ve looked at some of DARPA’s active projects, and found some of the more astounding systems that are currently in the works.
Generally, surface-to-air missiles are faster than the plane they’re targeting, making it difficult for an aircraft to evade fire. The HELLADS program attempts to use lasers to disable incoming missiles.
DARPA is also planning on increasing the strength of the HELLADS laser in order to make it an offensive weapon capable of destroying enemy ground targets.
ARES will be a dual-mode vehicle capable of both driving on the ground and achieving high-speed vertical takeoff and landing. Twin tilting fans will allow the vehicle to hover and land. The vehicle can also configure itself for high-speed flight.
DARPA hopes that the ARES will be especially resistant to IEDs — while also being able to evade aerial threats, like air-to-air missiles.
The Legged Squad Support System (LS3) introduced by DARPA and in development by Boston Dynamics is a mobile, semi-autonomous, four-legged robot that can function as a beast of burden on the battlefield.
Boston Dynamic’s AlphaDog can currently go70% to 80% of the places that troops are capable of walking. The prototype can carry hundreds of pounds of gear, lightening the burden for soldiers. It is currently taking part in testing trials alongside Marines in Hawaii.
DARPA’s One Shot XG program aims to improve the accuracy of military snipers through a small mountable calculation system that can be placed either on a weapon’s barrel or on its spotting scope.
The One Shot system is designed to calculate a number of variables, such as crosswind conditions, the maximum effective range of the weapon, and weapon alignment, using an internal Linux-based computer. The system would then indicate an ideal aim point for the marksman.
The One Shot XG began testing in March 2013.
A system that provides almost immediate close air support
The tactic of close air-support — in which soldiers call in attack aircraft to gain advantage in the midst of a ground engagement — has remained relatively unchanged since its emergence in World War I. In conventional close air support, pilots and ground forces focus on one target at a time through voice directions and a shared map.
US soldiers must operate in ever condition imaginable, including environments rife with physical obstacles that require soldiers to rely on ropes, ladders, or other heavy-climbing tools.
To overcome this challenge, DARPA has initiated the Z-Man program.
Z-Man seeks to replicate the natural climbing ability of geckos and spiders. One of the main products of the Z-Man program is “Geckskin,” a synthetically produced high-grip material. In a 2012 trial, a 16-square-inch sheet of Geckskin successfully attached to a glass wall — and managed to hold a static load of 660 pounds.
The initial phases of the program are aimed at aiding soldiers and officials with active translation of English into a listener’s native language and vice versa. DARPA plans on eventually expanding BOLT into a tool that could allow everyone to communicate fluidly without having to learn each other’s language.
DARPA awarded a $89 million contract to Boeing to develop the Solar Eagle unmanned drone.
Part of DARPA’s Vulture II program, the Solar Eagle is designed to stay in the air for a minimum of five years using solar energy. The drone will have a 400-foot wing span, equivalent to a forty-story building, and can fly at stratospheric altitudes.
The drone will have intelligence, communications, surveillance, and reconnaissance functions.
A system that gives soldiers enhanced optical awareness
The Soldier Scentric Imaging via Computational Cameras (SCENICC) began in 2011 but is still at an early point in development. The program imagines a final system comprised of optical sensors that are both soldier and drone-mounted, allowing a synthesis of information that greatly increases battlefield awareness.
The program could provide soldiers with second-by-second information relating to their missions using a completely hands-free system.
The program aims to create an autonomous, unmanned high-altitude airship capable of conducting persistent wide area surveillance, tracking, and engagement of air and ground targets for a ten-year period. The airship will be fully solar powered as well.
Naval supply payloads hidden at the bottom of the ocean
Re-supply in remote sections of the ocean is one of the key difficulties that the Navy faces.
The Upward Falling Payloads (UFP) program envisions the deployment of supply stockpiles throughout the bottom of the earth’s oceans. These supplies will be placed in capsules that can survive for years under extreme ocean floor-level pressure.
When needed, a passing ship would be able to send a signal to the supplies, causing them to rapidly rise through the water to the ship.
The VTOL X-Plane further pushes the boundaries of hybrid-wing aircraft beyond what the V-22 Osprey can already accomplish.
DARPA’s VTOL X-Plane envisions a new type of aircraft that can maintain a flight speed of 345 to 460 miles per hour, but is still capable of super-efficient hovering while carrying at least 4,800 pounds of cargo.
The X-Plane is scheduled for three phases of development between October 2013 and February 2018.
The SeeMe program would consist of a number of satellites that travel in a set band across the earth. This satellite constellation would provide precise imagery for any location within the pre-set band within a 90-minute time frame, making the program a potentially invaluable asset for military intelligence.
The constellation satellites would fly for 60-90 days before burning up in the atmosphere, leaving behind no space debris behind.
A precise lightweight laser weapon
The Pentagon is constantly attempting to reduce combat risk in urban situations where less-precise conventional weapons may cause unintended collateral damage.
DARPA’s Excalibur program is aimed at allaying these fears through light-weight laser weapon. Eventually, DARPA hopes the program will produce a 100-kilowatt laser that could be used in precision strikes against ground and air targets.
Army recruits from 10 Southern states are the most unfit and prone to injury in training compared to other regions of the country, according to a new study.
The study finds that recruits from Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas “are significantly less fit, and consequently are more likely to encounter training-related injuries [TRI] than recruits from other U.S. states.”
Although the South is the top recruiting region, the study, based on U.S. Army data, shows that “male and female soldiers coming from these states are 22 to 28 percent more likely to be injured” in training.
The study was released by the Citadel, the military school in Charleston, South Carolina, in collaboration with the U.S. Army Public Health Center and the American Heart Association.
Soldiers assigned to Schofield barracks are doing THIS for PT. (U.S. Army photo by Kristen Wong, Oahu Publications)
“Our results suggest that the [Southern] states identified here pose a greater threat to military readiness than do other states,” the study says.
“Each recruit lost to injury has been estimated to cost the Department of Defense approximately $31,000,” says the study, published Jan. 10 by the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice.
A Citadel release said the study is the result of a four-year effort led by Citadel Health, Exercise, and Sports Science professor Daniel Bornstein, Ph.D.
Other participants in the study include Laurie Whitsel, Ph.D., of the American Heart Association and Keith Hauret and Bruce Jones, M.D., of the U.S. Army Public Health Center. Participants from the University of South Carolina include George Grieve, Morgan Clennin, Alexander McLain, Ph.D., Michael Beets, Ph.D., and Mark Sarzynski, Ph.D.
“It is our hope that the states identified through this analysis, along with federal entities, work to establish policies and environments proven to support physically active lifestyles,” Bornstein said in a statement.
“If such actions were taken, physical fitness levels among residents of these states would rise and each state’s disproportionate burden on military readiness and public health could be minimized,” he said.
The report says, “Many states in the southern region of the United States are recognized for higher rates of obesity, physical inactivity, and chronic disease. These states are therefore recognized for their disproportionate public health burden.”
In addition, the 10 Southern states “are also disproportionately burdensome for military readiness and national security,” the report states.
The study notes the presence of “high physical inactivity and obesity prevalence” in the South, and says “physical inactivity and obesity are well recognized among the most critical public health challenges of the 21st century.”
The study warns that the overall recruiting pool for the military is dwindling and cites estimates that 27 percent of Americans aged 17-24 are too overweight to qualify for military service, “with obesity being the second-highest disqualifying medical condition between 2010 and 2014.”
In comments to the Citadel on the study, retired Army Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling said the findings provide “critical insight into the real national security issues posed by recruits who are less physically fit and less prepared for military service than they have ever been in our history.”
“I know firsthand the challenges faced in addressing the fitness levels of our youth after having served as commander of all U.S. Army basic training units,” said Hertling, now a CNN analyst.
“While commanding in combat, I saw the effect training-related injuries had on mission accomplishment,” and “in basic training, the number of unfit recruits forced changes to our physical training procedures and dining menus,” he said.
The global economy has taken yet another unprecedented hit after coronavirus lockdowns around the world triggered a historic plunge in U.S. crude oil prices on April 20.
Stock markets across the world were reeling in volatility after some traders who had bought U.S. oil futures contracts were actually paying others to take the deliveries off their hands.
That left the U.S.-produced oil with a listed price of for the first time in history.
The price of both Brent Crude and Russian-produced Urals oil also declined markedly after the negative oil prices seen in the United States.
Here are answers to some of the main questions caused by the historic crash of U.S. oil prices.
What is the cause of the historic fall of global oil prices?
The coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc on the global demand for oil, creating a supply glut and filling oil-storage facilities around the world to near capacity.
Due to the basic market forces of supply and demand, traders now have difficulty finding buyers willing to purchase futures contracts for crude oil deliveries in May or June.
That has sent the price of oil futures contracts spiraling downwards.
The benchmark price for North Sea Brent Crude on April 21 fell by nearly per barrel overnight for June deliveries, selling at an 18-year low of just per barrel.
That is a fall of more than 60 percent from January’s peak this year.
Brent Crude is easier and cheaper to transport than its U.S. counterpart because Brent Crude is extracted directly from the North Sea.
The West Texas Intermediary (WTI) price, the U.S. benchmark for light crude, fell well into negative territory for the first time in history on April 20 — with May futures selling as low as minus per barrel.
The WTI price recovered slightly on April 21 but was negative mainly before trading at about id=”listicle-2645815893″ per barrel in late afternoon trading.
In a nutshell, there is an enormous global surplus in oil supplies with little demand for it, and oil companies are running out of places to store it.
Thus, some traders on April 20 essentially began paying buyers to take extra oil off their hands.
What is an oil futures contract?
An oil futures contract is a legal agreement by traders to buy or sell oil for a set price at a specified date in the future.
Those who enter a futures contract are obliged to carry out the deal at the specified price and date.
That means traders are essentially making a bet on what the price of oil will be in the future.
They hope to profit from the difference between the price specified in their futures contract and the actual price of oil on the date that the futures contract comes due.
“This has never happened before, not even close,” says Tim Bray, a portfolio manager at GuideStone Capital Management in Dallas, Texas. “We’ve never seen a negative price on a futures contract for oil.”
The WTI’s negative price suggests it is traders who’d bought May oil futures who are offering to pay somebody else to deal with the oil due to be delivered next month.
But many analysts describe the negative oil price as technical, saying it is related to the way futures contracts are written.
They note that most buyers are purchasing oil for delivery in June, not May.
Energy strategist Ryan Fitzmaurice of the Dutch-based Rabobank says negative oil prices are “more technical in nature and related to the futures contract expiration.”
“We could see isolated incidents where oil companies pay people to take their oil away as storage and pipeline capacity become scarce but that is unlikely on a sustained basis,” Fitzmaurice says.
Why hasn’t Moscow’s deal with Saudi Arabia to cut oil production protected the Russian economy from falling oil prices?
The impact of coronavirus restrictions on global oil prices has been devastating for Russia’s petrostate economy — which depends upon revenues from oil and natural-gas exports.
The price of Russia’s Urals variant of oil is determined by the global price index for Brent Crude.
Generally, Urals oil costs a few dollars less per barrel than Brent Crude.
Tumbling WTI and Brent Crude benchmarks mean dramatic declines for the price of Russian oil as well.
Meanwhile, many traders fear that an April 12 OPEC+ oil-production agreement between Russia and Saudi Arabia does not go far enough to compensate for the historic fall in global demand.
That deal calls for 23 oil-producing countries, including Russia and Saudi Arabia, to reduce their total output by 9.7 million barrels per day for May and June, cutting about 10 percent of the global supply.
What knock-on effects do falling oil prices have on Russia’s economy?
The oil markets have shown a cautious response of traders to the OPEC+ deal.
Now Russia’s stock market indices and the value of the Russian ruble also are falling.
Of course, oil shares have been the biggest losers on Russia’s stock market indices.
In early trading on April 21, the RTS Index lost 4.3 percent of its value while the MOEX Index was down by 1.8 percent.
On foreign-currency exchanges, Russia’s ruble early on April 21 had fallen about 2 percent from its value just 24 hours earlier. It fell even further later in the day.
“Taking into account the mood in the oil market, the risks for the Russian currency temporarily point towards further weakening,” Nordea analyst Grigory Zhirnov says.
By choosing the already-fielded Heckler Koch M27 as the new service rifle for Marine Corps infantry squads, the service saved up to $24 million and avoided years of delay, top leaders told a congressional committee early March 2018.
In a hearing on readiness before a panel of the House Armed Services Committee on March 6, 2018, Marine Corps brass defended the service’s decision to publish a request for proposal for more than 15,000 of the M27, which is already serving as the Corps’ infantry automatic rifle.
Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., chairman of the HASC subcommittee on readiness, expressed concern for the U.S. industrial base as the Corps prepares to make the large purchase from German company HK.
“Do you believe the U.S. defense industrial base could support such a request and … do you believe that issuing a sole-source contract for such a large number of rifles from an internationally based company poses any logistical readiness challenge in meeting the demand for not only rifles but supplementary parts?” Wilson asked the three general officers testifying.
Lt. Gen. Brian Beaudreault, deputy commandant for Plans, Policies, and Operations, said the Marine Corps had held an open competition before the M27 was originally fielded in more limited quantities in 2008.
“It would cost probably … I’ve seen a figure as high as $24 million, to go through a recompetition for that weapon,” he said. “There’s no additional requirements, it’s to purchase as-is, and it’s simply an increase in a quantity of a weapon.”
Beaudreault said the Government Accountability Office had also completed a report looking at the Corps’ request and found it “within legal parameters” to pursue the sole-source contract the service wants. He added that the Marine Corps is now in the final stages of setting a price with HK for the lot of M27s.
“Do I think the industrial base could support those types of quantities? Absolutely,” Beaudreault said. “But what we would experience by reopening a competition would be, perhaps not being able to recover the additional money that would go into the [competition] … and probably a two-year delay in fielding that weapon to the rest of the infantry.”
Commandant Gen. Robert Neller confirmed to Military.com in December 2017 that the Corps had committed to purchase the M27 for all members of infantry squads to replace the M4 carbines they currently carry. Weapons experts say the M27 is more accurate and has a longer effective range than the M4, and would place greater combat power and lethality in the hands of infantrymen.
What hasn’t been clear until now is how many of the high-end rifles the Marine Corps planned to purchase. In February 2017, the service published a request for information for 11,000 infantry automatic rifles; then in August 2017, it published a pre-solicitation for up to 50,000 M27s.
Beaudreault told Wilson the request send to industry was for 15,000 rifles, enough to equip squads, with some left over for others as well.
Neller told Military.com he was considering giving the weapon to other ground combat Marines, including artillery forward observers, fire support teams, and even engineers.
A U.S. Marine with Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, fires aanM27 infantry automatic rifle at simulated enemies during an Integrated Training Exercise (ITX) at Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Danny Gonzalez)
“I’m going to wait and see,” he said in December 2017. “It’s not that much [money].”
The Marine Corps does expect to get a good deal on the rifles this time around. At SHOT Show in Las Vegas in January 2018, HK executive Robert Reidsma told Military.com that global demand for the M27 was driving down cost. The larger order the Corps is making will help too.
“Obviously, they want a bigger quantity and the economies of scale have changed,” he said then. “I think it’s one of the most affordable prices I’ve seen for the capability they’re getting.”
On March 6, 2018, Beaudreault emphasized that going with the M27 isn’t just the cheap and fast choice for the Corps. It’s also the best option, he said.
“The Marine Corps looked at some other options, and the M27 outperformed some of the other weapons that we’re also considering,” he said. “So it’s a great weapon, gets great reviews from Marines, and we were very eager to try to get it fielded as rapidly as we could.”
At 26 inches long, the Stealth Recon Scout by Desert Tech is the shortest sniper rifle you’ll ever see. Thanks to the same bullpup design made famous by FN Herstal’s P90 sub-machine, it’s nearly a foot shorter than conventional sniper rifles.
The design places the gun’s feeding mechanism in the buttstock, behind the grip and the trigger. This allows for a shorter overall weapon for the given barrel length while maintaining all the advantages of a traditional sniper rifle.
The Stealth Recon Scout is also versatile in that it can be adapted to individual mission requirements by changing the caliber and length. It can be adapted for use by a police sniper shooting 50 yards away or a military sniper shooting a mile down range.
Three US Army Special Forces troops were killed and two were wounded while conducting a patrol with Nigerien troops in southwest Niger on October 5, The New York Times reported.
The wounded Green Berets were reportedly in “stable condition” and evacuated to Niamey, the country’s capital, where they were set to then be transported to Germany.
The joint patrol, conducted to train Nigerien troops, was considered routine, according to US military officials cited by Fox News. Eight to 10 US troops were reportedly part of the patrol.
Five Nigerien soldiers were also killed, according to an official for the region of Tillaberi.
“We can confirm reports that a joint US and Nigerien patrol came under hostile fire in southwest Niger,” a spokesman for US Africa Command said. The US military has had a presence in the volatile region for several years.
The military-news site Sofrep cited a source in the Special Operations community as saying the US troops were part of 3rd Special Forces Group, a military detachment that has shifted its area of operations to Africa in recent years. The site also said about 40 enemy combatants carried out the ambush.
In 2013, the US set up a drone base in Niger to combat extremist organizations in West Africa, including the Islamic State, Boko Haram, and an affiliate of Al Qaeda.
The nominee to lead U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) told lawmakers Dec. 4, 2018, that the unrelenting pace of operations may force the elite organization to pass some missions off to conventional combat units.
Army Lt. Gen. Richard Clarke, testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee as part of his nomination process to assume command of SOCOM, said he believes it has an “adequate” number of personnel but needs to avoid taking on missions that conventional forces are capable of handling.
“Special Operations Command should only do those missions that are suited for Special Operations Command, and those missions that can be adjusted to conventional forces should go to those conventional forces,” he said.
Currently, special operations forces are responsible for conducting U.S. counter-terrorism missions in Afghanistan and elsewhere and handling missions such as combating weapons of mass destruction.
A U.S. Army Special Forces Soldier, from Special Operations Task Force-East, watches Afghan Commandos, from 2nd Commando Kandak, while patrolling a village in Dand Patan district during an operation.
(US Army photo)
The elite, multi-service SOCOM, made up of about 70,000 service members, also is slated to play a significant role in the Pentagon’s new defense strategy, which focuses on near-peer adversaries such as Russia and China.
Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, asked Clarke whether there is a clear delineation within the Defense Department between SOCOM and conventional missions.
Clarke said Defense Secretary Jim Mattis “has been very clear … that SOCOM should be specific to SOCOM missions, so I don’t think there is any issue of delineation within the Department of Defense with that.”
Hirono then asked whether the U.S. military needs to do a better job adhering to the policy of assigning SOCOM-specific and conventional missions.
“The publishing of the National Defense Strategy and relooking at the prioritization of the force has given us a very good opportunity to relook at all of our deployments, look where the forces are and make sure that SOCOM forces are, in fact, dedicated to the missions that are most important and are specific to special operations forces,” Clarke said.
Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas, said recent proposals to leave SOCOM out of the proposed 5 percent cut to the DoD’s budget would not guarantee that the command would not suffer.
A Special Forces Operation Detachment-Alpha Soldier scans the area as Afghan National Army Commandos, 2nd Company, 3rd Special Operations Kandak conduct clearance of Mandozai village, Maiwand district, Kandahar province, Afghanistan.
“At a time of tight budgets, when some in the administration are already talking about cutting 5 percent from the Department of Defense budget, many people say, ‘But that’s OK, because since the Special Operations Command is bearing so much of the fight, it will be fully funded,’ ” he said. “Can you talk about your dependence on the rest of the conventional military and how our special operations forces fight with them, and why stable, predictable and increasing funding for those conventional forces is so important for Special Operations Command?”
Clarke replied that SOCOM relies heavily on conventional forces from every branch of service.
“Especially for longer-term operations, we need the support of the services,” he said. ” … Special Operations Command is made up of the services. Much of the recruitment, much of the force, is actually started in the conventional force and actually came up through the ranks, and they were identified as some of the best of breed in that particular service in which they served, and they raised their hand and volunteered for special operations.”
The Army’s conventional forces have taken responsibility for training and advising conventional forces, standing up six Security Force Assistance Brigades to help establish, instruct, and enable conventional forces in countries like Afghanistan and elsewhere.
In the past, the mission to train foreign militaries fell to Army Special Forces. Special Forces units now focus on training foreign commando units.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Johnny T. “Tommy” Clack has military heritage in his blood. He’s proud of being the eighth generation to serve and proud of his son for being the ninth. He wants to continue to recognize returning veterans, as well as those who came before.
“We go all the way back to founding of Savannah when Oglethorpe landed in Georgia,” Clack says. “We started out as redcoats. By the second generation, we were on Washington’s side and have been on the right side ever since. ”
Clack dropped out of college to enlist in the Army in 1966. He served as an artillery officer in Vietnam, a forward observer assigned to an infantry unit to call in artillery during firefights.
“Artillery is known as the King of Battle,” Clack muses. “It brings on massive destruction. I volunteered for artillery officer candidate school because I like to play with the biggest firecrackers. And I volunteered to go to Vietnam a few times before I finally got orders. I had to find out if I was half the man my dad was! He was a World War II and Korea veteran.”
After being in country for eight months, on My 29, 1969 then-Captain Tommy Clack was seriously wounded on the Cambodian border. He suffered massive internal injuries, hearing loss, and lost three of his limbs. He would spend 22 months recovering at a VA medical facility in Atlanta, undergoing 33 operations. Since May 1969, he survived 65 surgeries.
“Every day you wake up is a great day to be alive,” he says.
Clack recently sat with former Air Force combat photographer Stacy Pearsall as a part of Pearsall’s Veterans Portrait Project (VPP). The VPP honors veterans from every conflict, hearing their stories, thanking them for their service and preserving their image for generations to come. In 2008, the first year of the VPP, she photographed over 100 veterans. Since then, she’s made portraits of nearly 4000 more. See more of the VPP here.
A popular perception of the Vietnam War is that a vast majority of the men who fought there were draftees. In reality – a reality Tommy Clack wants to make sure everyone remembers – two-thirds of the troops sent to Vietnam were volunteers.
“I got spit on and called a baby killer all the time,” he remembers. “When you got out, you dealt with that all the time from the community. I’m missing three limbs. I didn’t have to explain to anyone how that happened. But I’m not afraid to stand up for myself or any other vet. I will not be intimidated by anyone who disagrees with me.”
That dedication to supporting those like him drove much of Tommy Clack’s life. He spent his post-war career as a Georgia state Veterans Service Officer. Now 68 years old, he spent the time in-between standing up for veterans and their families, working to get them the help they need and the benefits they deserve.
“You continue to be yourself,” Clack says. “That’s what God left me alive to do. The meaning of life is to get involved and be productive. That’s what I do.”
That is exactly what Clack does. He is now the President of the $32-million Walk of Heroes memorial in Rockdale County, Georgia.
“It’s the most unique memorial ever built in America,” he says. “It’s an educational complex honoring everyone who served in the U.S. military – Active, Guard, or Reserve – from January 1, 1900 through today.”
Clack was part of the original concept, after Georgia donated the land in 1998. They broke ground in 2000 but the memorial sat unfinished for years. In 2011, Captain Clack took over.
“I decided to finish this baby,” he recalls. “When I became president in 2011, I put together a Board of Directors who aren’t afraid of doing the hard work. This is all I do now. I work on this memorial 12-18 hours a day.”
The memorial walkway is crossed by 71 marble bands ranging from 10 to 20 inches wide, engraved with the actions of America’s military during that year. From the Boxer Rebellion to the Global War On Terrorism, each marble band represents a year where American Armed Forces were deployed overseas in armed conflicts.
“We have to ensure our vets from every era are remembered for what they did,” Clack says. “Today’s generation is no different, and we need to recognize that.”
Air Force officials said this spring that the force was 1,555 pilots short — about 1,000 of them fighter pilots. But the shortage of pilots continued to grow during the 2017 fiscal year, which ended in September.
At that point, it had expanded to 2,000 total force pilots — active duty, Air National Guard, and Air Force Reserve. That includes nearly 1,300 fighter pilots, and the greatest negative trends over the past two fiscal years have been among bomber and mobility pilots, Air Force spokeswoman Erika Yepsen told Business Insider.
But fliers aren’t the only ones absent in significant numbers
According to Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein, the lack of maintainers to keep planes flying has also become a hindrance on the service’s operations.
“When I started flying airplanes as a young F-16 pilot, I would meet my crew chief … and a secondary crew chief at the plane,” said Goldfein, who received his commission from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1983, in a briefing in early November, adding:
We’d walk around the airplane. I’d taxi out. I’d meet a crew that was in the runway, and they’d pull the pins and arm the weapons and give me a last-chance check. I’d take off. I’d fly to a destination [where] different crew would meet me. Here’s what often happens today: You taxi slow, because the same single crew chief that you met has to get in the van and drive to the end of the runway to pull the pins and arm the weapons. And then you sit on the runway before you take off and you wait, because that crew chief has to go jump on a C-17 with his tools to fly ahead to meet you at the other end. This is the level of numbers that we’re dealing with here.
U.S. Air Force Senior Airmen Krystalane Laird (front) and Helena Palazio, weapons loaders with the 169th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, South Carolina Air National Guard, download munitions from an F-16 fighter jet that was just landed after a month-long deployment to Łask Air Base, Poland. (South Carolina Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Caycee Watson)
‘The tension on the force right now is significant’
The pilot and maintainer shortages are part of what Air Force officials have called a “national air-crew crisis” that has been stoked by nearly 30 years of ongoing operations, hiring by commercial airlines, as well as quality-of-life and cultural issues within the force that drive airmen away. In recent years, pressure from budget sequestration has also had a impact on Air Force personnel training and retention.
The maintainer shortage has been a problem for some time. In 2013, the total shortage was 2,538. But the force’s drawdown in 2014 — during which the Air Force shed more than 19,800 airmen — added to the deficit. Between 2013 and 2015, the shortage of maintainers grew by 1,217, according to Air Force Times.
By the end of fiscal year 2015, the service was short some 4,000 maintainers, Yepsen told Business Insider.
The shortage of maintainers created hardship for the ones who have remained.
The commander of the 52nd Maintenance Group at Spangdahlem Air Force Base in Germany told Air Force Magazine in late 2016 that workdays had stretched to 13 or 14 hours, with possible weekend duty meaning air crews could work up to 12 days straight. In the wake of the 2014 drawdown, maintainers at Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina saw their workdays extend to 12 hours or more, with weekend duties at least twice a month.
“There comes a point where people stop and say it isn’t worth it anymore,” Staff Sgt. Stephen Lamb, an avionics craftsman from the 20th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Shaw, told Air Force Times in March. “I’ve seen, in the past few years, a lot of good friends walk out the door.”
As with pilots, the Air Force has made a concerted effort to improve its maintainer situation. In 2016, the force quadrupled the number of jobs eligible for initial enlistment bonuses — among them 10 aircraft maintenance and avionics career fields.
The Air Force has also offered senior crew chiefs and avionics airmen perks, such as reenlistment bonuses and high-year tenure extensions. At the end of 2016, 43 Air Force specialty codes, many of them flight-line maintainers, were being offered bonuses averaging $50,000 to remain in uniform for four to six more years.
Lt. Gen. Gina Grosso, the Air Force’s deputy chief of staff for manpower and personnel services, said earlier this year that the service closed 2016 with a shortage of 3,400 maintainers, warning that the ongoing shortage held back personnel development.
“Because of this shortage, we cannot generate the sorties needed to fully train our aircrews,” Grosso told the House Armed Services’ personnel subcommittee at the end of March.
According to Yepsen, the Air Force spokeswoman, that shortage has continued to decline, falling to 400 personnel at the end of fiscal year 2017. Several Air Force officials have said they hope to eliminate the maintainer shortage entirely by 2019.
But the health of the Air Force maintainer force won’t be solved by simply restoring its ranks. The complex aircraft the Air Force operates — not to mention the high operational tempo it looks set to continue for some time — require maintainers with extensive training. Air Force units can only absorb and train so many recruits at one time.
“We have to have time to develop the force to ensure that we have experienced maintainers to support our complex weapons systems,” then-Col. Patrick Kumashiro, chief of the Air Force staff’s maintenance division, told Air Force Magazine in late 2016. “We cannot solve it in one year.”
Heftier bonuses for senior air-crew members are also a means to keep experienced maintainers on hand for upkeep of legacy aircraft and to train new maintainers, with the addition of those new maintainers allowing experienced crew members to shift their focus to new platforms, like the F-35 fighter and the KC-46 tanker.
“While our manning numbers have improved, it will take 5-7 years to get them seasoned and experienced,” Yepsen told Business Insider. “We are continuously evaluating opportunities to improve our readiness as quickly and effectively as possible.”
“We’re making the mission happen, but we’re having to do it very often on the backs of our airmen,” Goldfein said during the November 9 briefing. “The tension on the force right now is significant, and so we’re looking for all these different ways to not only retain those that we’ve invested in, but increase production so we can provide some reduction in the tension on the force.”
The United Kingdom’s Royal Marines are heirs to a warfighting legacy older than the entire U.S. military.
They fought in both Gulf Wars, both World Wars, and literally dozens of other conflicts around the world since the Royal Marines were established in 1664.
The Royal Marines were first organized as a group of 1,200 land soldiers assigned to sea service in the Royal Navy. They made a name for themselves 40 years later when they seized the Gibraltar fortress alongside Dutch allies and then held that fortress against sieges for nine months.
They were instrumental in the defeat of Napoleon at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 and conducted numerous amphibious assaults throughout World War I and World War II.
It was during World War II that the Royal Marines began organizing as commandos and adopted their distinct dark green berets. Since the end of World War II, these troops have been deployed to combat every year except 1968.
To learn even more about the Royal Marines and to see footage from their exploits since 1664, watch this video from the British Royal Navy: