The Pentagon has changed how it will lay off civilian workers - We Are The Mighty
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The Pentagon has changed how it will lay off civilian workers

Performance will be the primary factor in the future if the Defense Department has to resort to a civilian reduction in force, DoD officials said today.


The department revamped the rules for the reduction-in-force process as a result of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2016.

That law requires the department to establish procedures to provide that, in any reduction in force of civilian positions in the competitive or excepted service, the determination of which employees shall be separated from employment shall be made primarily on basis of performance.

The Pentagon has changed how it will lay off civilian workers
(from left) Officers Jacob Hughett and Adam Cruea, both with the 88th Security Forces Squadron, stand ready to answer any emergency or call for help, at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Sept. 12, 2016. Both officers work as GS level employees and are part of a civilian contingent within the 88th SFS. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Al Bright)

A reduction in force, or RIF, as it is known, is the term used when the government lays off employees. The RIF procedures determine whether an employee keeps his or her present position, whether the employee has a right to a different position or whether the employee must be let go.

In the past, tenure was the primary factor when making RIF calculations. Now, an employee’s performance rating of record will carry the greatest weight followed by tenure group, performance average score, veterans’ preference and DoD service computation date-RIF.

“The DoD civilian workforce is one of the department’s most important assets,” said Julie Blanks, acting assistant secretary of defense for civilian personnel policy. “However, there are times when the department must make difficult decisions that impact our civilians, and in doing so, it is imperative these decisions result in our continued ability to seamlessly execute our national security mission. When circumstances necessitate a RIF, the department must ensure we are retaining our highest performing employees.”

The changes will apply to almost all of DoD’s 750,000 civilian employees. This change in the RIF process only applies to DoD. The government-wide provisions that rank four retention factors by tenure of employment; veterans’ preference; length of service; and performance remain in place for other federal agencies.

The Pentagon has changed how it will lay off civilian workers
(U.S. Navy photo by Mark Burrell)

Under the new system, if an agency is forced to employ a RIF, employees will be placed on a retention register based on periods of assessed performance of 12 months or more or less than 12 months. The idea is to give an equitable comparison for employees whose performance has been assessed over a comparable period of time.

The first retention factor is rating of record. The rating of record is the average drawn from the two most recent performance appraisals received by the employee within the four-year period preceding the cutoff date for the RIF.

The second factor is tenure group. There are three tenure groups, with group III being temporary or term employees, these employees will be ranked at the bottom of the retention register below groups I and II.

Tenure group I and II employees are those serving on permanent appointments. Tenure group I includes employees who are not on probation and whose appointments are not career-conditional.

Tenure group II employees are those hired into permanent appointments in a career-conditional or probationary status. In general, tenure group II employees must have three years of creditable service and meet all other stated conditions of their probationary period in order to attain Tenure group I status. Tenure group I will be ranked above employees in tenure group II within each rating of record group.

The third factor is an employee’s average score. In general, an employee’s average score for one performance appraisal is derived by dividing the sum of the employee’s performance element ratings by the number of performance elements. For purposes of RIF, average score is the average of the average scores drawn from the two most recent performance appraisals received by the employee within the four year period preceding the “cutoff date” for the RIF.

The Pentagon has changed how it will lay off civilian workers
Under new rules, the Pentagon will evaluate job performance first before letting civilian employees go as part of any downsizing. (DoD photo)

Veterans’ preference is the fourth factor. “Veterans are a key part of the civilian workforce, representing a highly skilled, extremely well-qualified cadre of employees,” Blanks said. “The department firmly believes that highly performing veterans in the civilian workforce will not be disadvantaged by the new RIF policy.”

The final factor is the DoD service computation date-RIF, with those serving the longest having the edge.

DoD officials stress that a RIF is always the last resort for the department. They will do everything they can to mitigate the size of reductions, including the use of voluntary early retirement authority or voluntary separation incentive payments. Agencies will also use hiring freezes, termination of temporary appointments, and any other pre-RIF placement options.

The new DoD RIF policy and procedures are consistent with the implementation of the DoD Performance Management and Appraisal Program. This program standardizes the civilian performance appraisal system throughout the department.

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Watch Buzz Aldrin punch a moon landing denier in the face

The idea that the American moon landings were nothing but an elaborate government hoax sits somewhere between Elvis faking his own death and FDR knowing the Japanese were about to attack Pearl Harbor.


Only wing nuts need apply.

Still die hards like Bart Sibrel think the moon landings were staged — all of them — and he’s produced four feature-length films to prove his theory. But while Sibrel has no problem telling his handful of followers over the airwaves that America never took “one giant leap,” he’d better think twice before telling one of the astronauts who actually did that it’s a fake.

The Pentagon has changed how it will lay off civilian workers
Paul Giamatti could play him in the movie.

After a talk at the Smithsonian Institute in 2002, Sibrel got in the face of retired astronaut, former Air Force command pilot and all-around American hero Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin. That turned out to be a bad day for the conspiracy theorist because retired Cold Warriors don’t put up with that tin foil hat warble.

The Pentagon has changed how it will lay off civilian workers
Shoulda kept his guard up.

Sibrel chased down the retired astronaut to demand that Aldrin swear on a Bible that he landed on the moon. When the 72-year-old Aldrin tried gracefully to ignore the huckster, Sibrel turned up the heat and said some things he shouldn’t have. That’s when the eagle landed a right hook.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wptn5RE2I-k

So the next time you’re at the Smithsonian and think you see strings in the footage of the moon landing, remember how much wallop a Buzz Aldrin punch packs. And by the way, Aldrin wasn’t charged in the assault.

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If you truly want to ‘honor the fallen,’ you must do this

For weeks, we’ve watched reporters, journalists and political commentators use words like “waste”, “all for nothing” and “epic failure” when talking about two decades of war in Afghanistan. It seems people are far more interested in who to blame than to think about how such incendiary narrative could fall on the ears of the veterans who fought there. Almost as if to say: “Your service was a waste. Your fallen brothers and sisters in arms died in vain or all for nothing. You are an epic failure.”

Already, our military community was on edge. We were grieving the loss of 20 years worth of work – education for girls, rights for women, basic democratic principles for humanity. And then, the explosion at the airport happened.

The Pentagon has changed how it will lay off civilian workers

As soon as the news broke of the blast, all of us in this community knew what would follow. Our nation’s brave men and women were right there at Abbey gate, faithfully serving the oppressed and those marked for death seeking asylum.

We prayed. We reached out to the families of deployed service members. We fed each other. Loved each other. Because that’s just what you do. 

The numbers started rolling in. There’d be knocks on doors and phone calls with numbers no one wanted to see. It was agony for so many as they waited to see who’d receive them. Thirteen families did. They received life-altering news that their son, daughter, husband, wife, brother, sister, loved one was killed in a “humanitarian operation.” So much of what our military does falls under that umbrella. Day in and day out, for empty platitudes and a lack of true recognition for their selfless sacrifice. 

When we want someone to blame, it’s important we remember: Terrorists are to blame. Hatred is to blame. Greed. Power. Wealth. EVIL is to blame.

When terrorists attacked us on 9/11, I was 15 years old. I remember every moment of that day and what followed. My high school seniors enlisting and going off to war with so many not making it back home. My own husband completed boot camp and landed in training school when the towers fell. For 20 years of my life I’d witnessed my generation faithfully serve, over and over again. I’d also watch much of society forget about them when it wasn’t Memorial Day or Veterans Day. Despite the reality and loneliness of military service, our military always shows up. Always ready and always faithful.

On Aug. 28, the Department of Defense released all of the names of our fallen service members killed in Kabul last week. Though all brought heartache, there was one photo in particular which caused my whole body to freeze. 

Marine Corps Sgt. Nicole L. Gee. 

The Pentagon has changed how it will lay off civilian workers
Nicole Gee/Instagram

Just a few days prior, the photo of her cradling a rescued baby was being shared all over the internet. She herself shared it on Instagram with a caption we won’t soon forget: “I love my job.” She was the light in the dark of such a terrible week. 

In the moments before Gee was killed by terrorists, she was saving babies, children and allies. They are alive because of her. There’s a lesson in there for all of us. How do we honor our fallen? Our path through this heavy heartache, through this resentment, this anger, confusion, bitterness – this grief – is through giving hope. Through kindness. Compassion. Empathy.

Share and spread the message of democracy and freedoms which she and 12 other heroes all died for. Sit in gratitude for all you do have and minimize the bitterness of what you don’t. Serve the families they were saving, many of whom saved American lives in years past. Because of what these 13 and the thousands of others risked everything for, the effects of this rescue mission will echo through endless generations. The lives saved are immeasurable.

The Pentagon has changed how it will lay off civilian workers
Thirteen roses, two pink and eleven white, rest on the pedestal of the United States Marine Corps War Memorial, Arlington, Va., on Aug. 28, 2021, representing the thirteen U.S. service members who lost their lives while assisting non-combatant evacuation screening at Abbey Gate of Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Kelly L. Timney)

That’s the way to truly thank someone who would and has given it all for you. And above all, remember these moments and what countless service members now and in generations past have done for you, for us, for our children and generations to come. The way you express or show gratitude for them isn’t with words.

Instead, it’s by living your life to be worthy of their sacrifice.

Featured photo: U.S. Marines and Sailors with Bravo Company, Battalion Landing Team 1/4, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, carry a casket inside a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California, Aug. 12, 2020. The remains of seven Marines and a Sailor recovered Aug. 7 off the coast of San Clemente Island following a July 30 assault amphibious vehicle mishap were transferred to Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, for final preparation for burial before being released to their families. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Brendan Mullin)

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America’s ‘concrete battleship’ defended Manila Bay until the very end

Before the advent of maneuver warfare, nations defended their territory with massive fortifications. This was particularly true of coasts and harbors, especially if a nation owned the finest harbor in the Orient. This was the case for the American port at Manila Bay.


After the United States acquired the Philippines from Spain during the Spanish-American War, the U.S. Board of Fortifications recommended that important harbors be fortified. This led to the development of defenses on several islands at the mouth of Manila and Subic Bays. One of these was El Fraile Island which would later become Fort Drum, America’s concrete battleship.

The Pentagon has changed how it will lay off civilian workers

While other islands were fortified by more conventional means, the plans for El Fraile were much more extensive. Construction began in 1909 and completed by 1916. What was originally a rocky outcropping of an island was excavated down to the waterline. From there, the concrete battleship began to take shape.

The new structure was 350 feet long and 144 feet at the widest point. The exterior walls of the fortification were constructed of reinforced concrete 25 to 36 feet thick and rising 40 feet above the water. The top deck of the structure was reinforced concrete 20 feet thick that mounted two turrets containing twin fourteen inch guns and a 60 foot fire control tower to complete the battleship look.

The fort’s armament was rounded out by dual six-inch guns in armored casemates on each side as well as three-inch anti-aircraft guns mounted on the top deck. The fort’s 240 officers and enlisted lived deep inside the impregnable walls of the concrete ship along with all the stores they would need to hold out against a siege.

The Pentagon has changed how it will lay off civilian workers

That siege came after the Japanese invaded the Philippines in December 1941. In January 1942, the Japanese began to target Fort Drum and the rest of the harbor defenses from the air and by February the concrete battleship was in range of Japanese artillery on shore. The fort endured bombing and shelling, destroying the anti-aircraft batteries, temporarily disabling a six-inch gun, damaging its casemate and searchlight, chipping away large chunks of concrete.

The whole time Fort Drum was under attack, it returned fire against the Japanese. The fort’s resistance continued even after the fall of Bataan on April 10, 1942 left Fort Drum and the other islands of the harbor defense as the last American forces in the Philippines. The guns of the concrete battleship dealt serious blows to Japanese forces assaulting the island of Corregidor, inflicting heavy casualties.

Unfortunately for the men of E battery, 59th Coastal Artillery, their efforts were not enough to halt the Japanese onslaught as General Wainwright made the decision to surrender the remaining U.S. forces in the Philippines. However, the fort was never taken and its main guns were still firing five minutes before the surrender was announced.

After capturing the Philippines, the Japanese manned all former American positions, including the concrete battleship. Eventually, American forces recaptured Manila and a daring assault by the 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment U.S. forces recaptured Corregidor as well. That left Fort Drum once again as the last bastion of resistance. However, unlike the Americans some three years earlier, the Japanese had no intention of surrendering. This combined with the fact that the Americans had designed the fort to resist all manner of bombings and gunfire meant they would have to find another way to remove the defenders.

Unfortunately for the Japanese manning the concrete battleship, the idea the Americans came up with was rather grisly. The troops poured a mixture of two parts diesel oil and one part gasoline into the fort, lit it, and burned the defenders alive. The fire burned for several days afterwards but all the defenses of the harbor had been cleared of Japanese. The fort has never been reoccupied and still stands like a ghost ship in Manila Bay to this day.

The Pentagon has changed how it will lay off civilian workers

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is the site the 2020 Mars rover will explore

NASA has chosen Jezero Crater as the landing site for its upcoming Mars 2020 rover mission after a five year search, during which every available detail of more than 60 candidate locations on the Red Planet was scrutinized and debated by the mission team and the planetary science community.

The rover mission is scheduled to launch in July 2020 as NASA’s next step in exploration of the Red Planet. It will not only seek signs of ancient habitable conditions — and past microbial life — but the rover also will collect rock and soil samples and store them in a cache on the planet’s surface. NASA and ESA (European Space Agency) are studying future mission concepts to retrieve the samples and return them to Earth, so this landing site sets the stage for the next decade of Mars exploration.


“The landing site in Jezero Crater offers geologically rich terrain, with landforms reaching as far back as 3.6 billion years old, that could potentially answer important questions in planetary evolution and astrobiology,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. “Getting samples from this unique area will revolutionize how we think about Mars and its ability to harbor life.”

Jezero Crater is located on the western edge of Isidis Planitia, a giant impact basin just north of the Martian equator. Western Isidis presents some of the oldest and most scientifically interesting landscapes Mars has to offer. Mission scientists believe the 28-mile-wide (45-kilometer) crater, once home to an ancient river delta, could have collected and preserved ancient organic molecules and other potential signs of microbial life from the water and sediments that flowed into the crater billions of years ago.

The Pentagon has changed how it will lay off civilian workers

On ancient Mars, water carved channels and transported sediments to form fans and deltas within lake basins. Examination of spectral data acquired from orbit show that some of these sediments have minerals that indicate chemical alteration by water. Here in Jezero Crater delta, sediments contain clays and carbonates. The image combines information from two instruments on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars and the Context Camera.

(NASA photo)

Jezero Crater’s ancient lake-delta system offers many promising sampling targets of at least five different kinds of rock, including clays and carbonates that have high potential to preserve signatures of past life. In addition, the material carried into the delta from a large watershed may contain a wide variety of minerals from inside and outside the crater.

The geologic diversity that makes Jezero so appealing to Mars 2020 scientists also makes it a challenge for the team’s entry, descent and landing (EDL) engineers. Along with the massive nearby river delta and small crater impacts, the site contains numerous boulders and rocks to the east, cliffs to the west, and depressions filled with aeolian bedforms (wind-derived ripples in sand that could trap a rover) in several locations.

“The Mars community has long coveted the scientific value of sites such as Jezero Crater, and a previous mission contemplated going there, but the challenges with safely landing were considered prohibitive,” said Ken Farley, project scientist for Mars 2020 at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “But what was once out of reach is now conceivable, thanks to the 2020 engineering team and advances in Mars entry, descent and landing technologies.”

When the landing site search began, mission engineers already had refined the landing system such that they were able to reduce the Mars 2020 landing zone to an area 50 percent smaller than that for the landing of NASA’s Curiosity rover at Gale Crater in 2012. This allowed the science community to consider more challenging landing sites. The sites of greatest scientific interest led NASA to add a new capability called Terrain Relative Navigation (TRN). TRN will enable the “sky crane” descent stage, the rocket-powered system that carries the rover down to the surface, to avoid hazardous areas.

The site selection is dependent upon extensive analyses and verification testing of the TRN capability. A final report will be presented to an independent review board and NASA Headquarters in the fall of 2019.

The Pentagon has changed how it will lay off civilian workers

A self-portrait of NASA’s Curiosity rover taken on Sol 2082 (June 15, 2018). A Martian dust storm has reduced sunlight and visibility at the rover’s location in Gale Crater.

(NASA photo)

“Nothing has been more difficult in robotic planetary exploration than landing on Mars,” said Zurbuchen. “The Mars 2020 engineering team has done a tremendous amount of work to prepare us for this decision. The team will continue their work to truly understand the TRN system and the risks involved, and we will review the findings independently to reassure we have maximized our chances for success.”

Selecting a landing site this early allows the rover drivers and science operations team to optimize their plans for exploring Jezero Crater once the rover is safely on the ground. Using data from NASA’s fleet of Mars orbiters, they will map the terrain in greater detail and identify regions of interest — places with the most interesting geological features, for example — where Mars 2020 could collect the best science samples.

The Mars 2020 Project at JPL manages rover development for SMD. NASA’s Launch Services Program, based at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, is responsible for launch management. Mars 2020 will launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

For more information on Mars 2020, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov/mars2020

More information about NASA’s exploration of Mars is available online at:

https://www.nasa.gov/mars

This article originally appeared on NASA. Follow @NASA on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Marines will get a new rifle and a bunch of other gear

More than a year after announcing it was experimenting with a rifle for infantrymen, the Marine Corps has said it will distribute the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle to more Marines, including those outside of the infantry squad.


The M27 is currently carried by just one member of the fire team, the automatic rifleman. But Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller told Military.com in December that the service plans to field the rifle more widely.

Each member of the rifle squad will receive the $3,000 rifle, as will others outside the squad, though the exact number has not been finalized.

“I don’t think mortars and javelin guys need the M27,” Neller told Military.com, but artillery forward observers, fire-support team members, and engineers might get them. “I’m going to wait and see,” Neller said. “It’s not that much [money].”

The Pentagon has changed how it will lay off civilian workers
U.S. Marines with 3rd Battalion 8th Marine Regiment fire the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle during a live-fire weapons exercise at range F-18 on Camp Lejeune, N.C., Dec. 8, 2017. The M27 has been introduced to different units throughout the Marine Corps within the last six months. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Michaela R. Gregory)

The M27 was introduced in 2010, initially meant to replace the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon. The 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines carried out pre-deployment exercises with the M27 in late 2016 to evaluate it for wider use in infantry units.

Neller — who has said he thinks a “big-ass fight” is on the horizon — suggested in April he was considering providing all riflemen with M27s, which have a slightly longer effective range than the M4 used by other members of the squad.

M27s also have a free-floating barrel, which reduces the effects of rifle movement during firing on accuracy, as well as a proprietary gas-piston system that makes it more reliable and reduces wear. The rifle’s cost and the possibility its higher rate of fire could lead to more ammunition use were two potential drawbacks Marine Corps officials examined in late 2016.

A request for information issued by the Marines in February asked for 11,000 M27s, which would be sufficient to equip every squad. A pre-solicitation issued in August requested up to 50,800 of the rifle — a move by the Marines to make sure that gunmaker Heckler Koch was able to supply an order that big, according to Military.com.

‘I’m ready to say yes’

Chief Warrant Officer 5 Christian Wade, the weapons officer for 2nd Marine Division, told Military.com that competition and larger orders had helped bring down the price the service would pay for new M27s, making it comparable to what the Corps paid for M4s.

Also Read: The Marine Corps is looking for suppressed weapons, flexible body armor and all these other goodies

Marines may be getting a plethora of new gear in the near future. A 13-man infantry squad that Wade called the “Über Squad” was outfitted this summer with a range of equipment for an 18- to 20-month experiment, with plans for the squad to take their new kit on a full training and deployment cycle in Europe.

Squad members were given an M27 with a suppressor and Ops-Core helmets with built-in hearing protection systems to muffle loud noises while enhancing other sounds a Marine may need to hear in combat. The squad was also outfitted with 60-round Magpul polymer drum magazines as well as light body armor used by Marine Special Operations Command and advanced night-vision goggles.

Late last year, Marines were spotted doing live-fire drills with the M38 Squad Designated Marksman Rifle, which carried a more advanced scope than the M27 as well as a suppressor. The Corps plans to designate one infantry squad member as “marksman” and equip them with the M38, allowing them to engage targets at 300 to 600 meters.

The Marines have tested new ammo for the M27, looking to switch from M855 5.56 mm rounds to the M855A1 Enhanced Performance Round used by the Army.

Marine officials have said the M855A1 round causes reliability and durability issues with the M27, but lawmakers have complained that maintaining two types of rifle round leads to waste.

The Marine Corps has also been looking at outfitting entire infantry battalions — from M4s to .50-caliber machine guns — with suppressors.

The Pentagon has changed how it will lay off civilian workers
U.S. Marines with 3rd Battalion 8th Marine Regiment fire the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle during a live-fire weapons exercise at range F-18 on Camp Lejeune, N.C., Dec. 8, 2017. The M27 has been introduced to different units throughout the Marine Corps within the last six months. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Michaela R. Gregory)

Wade said in late 2016 that three companies were using suppressors on all their rifles, including their M27s. Bravo company of 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines was the first of those units to deploy, arriving in Norway in May 2017. That unit’s members heralded the new ease of communications allowed by the suppressors.

The Corps is also considering testing a new kind of optic. Wade told Military.com he hopes to test different scopes with different infantry squads to build a case for more powerful gear. The Marines are planning to outfit infantry squads with new rifle-mounted laser range-finders, allowing squad leaders to call in airstrikes and artillery.

All the gear being tested may not end up with Marine units, and more equipment may be rolled out in the future. And Neller downplayed the expense, indicating he could sign off on new gear soon.

“The money to buy all that other stuff, the suppressors, the ear protection enhancement, the different helmets, it’s not a lot of money in the aggregate,” he told Military.com. “So I’m just waiting for them to come back, and I’m ready to say yes.”

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Watch the Army test its upgraded Stryker vehicles armed to destroy Russia’s best tanks

Army personnel recently traveled from Germany to the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland for testing and training on new variants of the Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicle.


The soldiers tested out Strykers armed with a 30mm cannon as well as with a common remote-operated weapons station that allows soldiers inside the vehicle to fire Javelin antitank guided missiles.

Twelve of the Stryker variants — six with 30 mm cannons and six with Javelin missiles — will head to Germany in January for more evaluation by US troops before the Army hopes to deploy them to a forward position in Europe next summer.

Troops from the 2nd Cavalry Regiment, who took part in the testing in Maryland, spoke highly of the new features on the vehicle, which has been nicknamed “Dragoon” after the regiment.

(Army News Service (ARNEWS) | YouTube)”It’s doing a lot more damage and you’re getting better effects,” Staff Sgt. Randall Engler said.

Previous variants of the Stryker have been armed with either an M2 .50-caliber machine gun or an MK19 grenade launcher. The request for more firepower came in response to recent military operations by Russia.

“This capability coming to [2nd Cavalry] is directly attributable to Russian aggression and we are actively working with our foreign partners in how to help shape our formation,” said Lt. Col. Troy Meissel, the regiment’s deputy commanding officer, according to the Army.

The new armaments don’t make the Stryker a fighting vehicle, but Meissel said the search for heaftier weapons stems from the reduction in manpower in Europe from 300,000 during the Cold War to about 30,000 now.

“How do we, as an Army, make 30,000 soldiers feel like 300,000?” Meissel said. “This new ICV-D is one of the ways that can help us do that.”

The Pentagon has changed how it will lay off civilian workers
A Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicle-Dragoon fires 30 mm rounds during a live-fire demonstration at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, Aug. 16, 2017. Army photo by Sean Kimmons

Advancements in Russian armor have been cause for concern among military planners in the West. Moscow’s new Armata tank will reportedly be outfitted with an active-protection system, which uses radar and projectiles to detect and counter antitank and anti-armor weapons.

The US Army is also looking at APS for the Stryker and its Abrams tank, though the latest variant of the RPG is rumored to have an APS countermeasure.

Relations between Russia and US allies in Eastern Europe have grown more contentious in recent months, particularly in the run up to Russia-Belarus military exercises in September that will reportedly see 60,000 to 100,000 Russian troops deployed to Belarus and western Russia.

The Pentagon has changed how it will lay off civilian workers
Russian T-14 Armata. Wikimedia Commons photo by Vitaly V. Kuzmin.

Countries in the Baltics have warned of more ambitious Russian espionage efforts, and NATO aircraft have tangled with their Russian counterparts numerous times in over the last year.

The US has done several military exercises with partners in the region this year and increased deployments, including of Patriot missile air-defense systems, to NATO member-states in Eastern Europe.

Military.com has more footage of the new Stryker variants in action.

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AARP Guide to 10 military museums and historic locations across the US

There’s no better place to learn about and remember the service of fellow soldiers and Veterans than at one of the many memorials, military museums and other historic locations found across the United States. AARP has developed comprehensive guides to 10 key sites from Pearl Harbor to Boston.

These sites offer visitors thoughtful, moving portrayals of the sacrifices Veterans made throughout American history. Be sure to take a look before you plan your next trip to one of these great destinations.

  1. The National World War II Museum in New Orleans: From the Pearl Harbor attack to victories in Europe and Japan, learn about the triumphs and tragedies of WWII at this expansive (and expanding) Big Easy museum.
The Pentagon has changed how it will lay off civilian workers
Artillery and a “Higgins Boat” on display in the museum lobby (Wikimedia Commons)
  1. Hawaii’s Pearl Harbor National Memorial: See the site of the history-changing Dec. 7, 1941, attack that killed 1,177 sailors and Marines and spurred the U.S. to enter the Second World War.
  1. The National WWI Museum and Memorial in Kansas City: Reflect on the triumphs and many tragedies of the Great War at this moving, must-visit, Midwest museum.
  1. Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum in Charleston: Climb aboard the enormous aircraft carrier USS Yorktown, a participant in more than 40 World War II battles, in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, across the harbor from Charleston.
The Pentagon has changed how it will lay off civilian workers
 the USS Yorktown (CVS-10) as she sits at Patriots Point in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina (USA) in March 2011. (Wikimedia Commons)
  1. Civil War Heroes on Boston’s Black Heritage Trail: The bronze Robert Gould Shaw and Massachusetts 54th Regiment Civil War Memorial honoring African American soldiers is a stirring stop in a history-packed city.
  1. Vicksburg National Military Park: Take a long, deep dive into the Civil War at this massive Mississippi site where key battles helped change the course of America’s deadliest fight.
  1. Gettysburg National Military Park: Follow AARP’s guide to Pennsylvania’s famous battlefields, where a major Union triumph changed the course of the Civil War.
The Pentagon has changed how it will lay off civilian workers
(Wikimedia Commons)
  1. Philadelphia’s Museum of the American Revolution: Learn how the colonists reached a breaking point, fought for independence and won the battle at one of Philly’s top destinations.
  1. The San Diego Air & Space Museum Is a bucket-list stop for aviation buffs: See how American warplanes progressed from motorized kites to supercharged bombers with Rolls Royce engines at this Smithsonian-affiliated gem in beautiful Balboa Park in California.

10. Explore Revolutionary War History in charming Castine, Maine: Explore the historical sites tucked away in this charming New England village that dates back to pre-Revolutionary America and the Civil War.

For the latest news and information impacting older Veterans, bookmark the Veterans, Military and Their Families page on AARP.org.

Articles

These ‘Q-ships’ used to fool subs and take torpedoes in both world wars

Appearances, as the saying goes, can be very deceiving.


This happened to be the exact concept behind Q-ships, heavily armed decoy vessels used by Allied navies during the First World War to harass and destroy German submarines, also known as U-boats.

The Germany Navy’s U-boat fleet quickly proved to be a scourge in the Atlantic, hunting down and sinking Allied merchant and combat ships with impunity. Able to sneak up to convoys and warships virtually undetected, U-boats began racking up kills in incredible numbers, quickly becoming a threat that needed to be dealt with immediately.

Allied ships, often loaded with troops, supplies, and materiel to aid the war effort in Europe were being lost at astonishing rates. As sonar was still an emerging technology, submarine detection was often difficult if not downright impossible. However, a solution began to form in the minds of Allied naval commanders.

The Pentagon has changed how it will lay off civilian workers
An American Q-ship of the Second World War (Photo from U.S. Navy)

U-boats could only remain submerged for short periods of time, and they were often deployed to sea with a limited supply of torpedoes. As such, most U-boat commanders preferred to run their vessels on the surface, utilizing deck guns for the majority of their attacks on enemy vessels.

The British Navy came up with a solution in the form of a thoroughly disguised merchant vessel carrying a crew of sailors dressed like fishers or merchant mariners. With fake boxes of cargo on the decks of the ship, German U-boats would likely assume that what they see in their periscope’s crosshairs was really just a supply ship, transporting munitions and weaponry for Allied soldiers on the front lines.

A juicy and defenseless target, ripe for the taking.

However, these ships were anything but defenseless. Armed with a variety of deck guns in different calibers, and even depth charges in some cases, the crew could open fire after luring the German submarines close enough, sinking, or at least thoroughly disabling, their enemy’s watercraft.

One less U-boat in the fight.

The British Admiralty decided that these decoy ships would be homeported at Queenstown, Ireland, where they would have easy access to the North Atlantic, and a safe harbor to return to. They would soon be nicknamed Q-ships, thanks to their port of origin.

Deployed in growing numbers, Q-ships began hunting down and attacking German submarines using deception and surprise to their advantage. As soon as U-boats closed in, panels were dropped, the Royal Navy’s ensign was raised and deck guns boomed while sending German sailors scrambling for cover.

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HMS Polyanthus, a WWI-era Q-ship with camouflage designed to break up the lines of the ship (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

However, the plan turned out to be a major dud.

By the war’s end, it was found that throughout 150 reported engagements between Q-ships and U-boats, only 14 submarines were destroyed, while the rest were either damaged or had escaped. The Q-ship program had an even lower success rate than mines, which, given the associated numbers and statistics, was highly embarrassing.

The program, once a closely-kept secret, was shuttered and remained fairly dormant in the years between World Wars, though other navies began exploring similar vessels of their own.

Q-ships would make a reappearance during the Second World War, serving with the German, British, American, and Japanese navies. Oddly enough, German Q-ships wound up racking up higher kill numbers than their Allied counterparts.

In the years since, anti-submarine warfare (ASW for short) has advanced considerably, making sub-hunting something of an art form. Thankfully, the Q-ship concept has been relegated to the history books once and for all, having experienced its trial by fire during the two World Wars, and coming up short.

MIGHTY TRENDING

These photos from an F-22 ‘Elephant Walk’ are pretty cool

Some really cool photographs of two dozen F-22s from the 3rd Wing and 477th Fighter Group taxiing in close formation with an E-3 Sentry and a C-17 Globemaster III during a Polar Force exercise at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, were posted online on Mar. 26, 2019. Both types are based at JBER.

The aircraft staged what is known as an “Elephant Walk”, a kind of drills during which combat planes (including tankers) taxi in close formation in the same way they would do in case of a minimum interval takeoff, then, depending on the purpose of the training event, they can either take off or return back to their parking slots.


What is particularly interesting in the photos of the exercise at JBER, is the fact that, along with the Raptors, also a Sentry took part in the “walk”.

The Pentagon has changed how it will lay off civilian workers

F-22 Raptors from the 3rd Wing and 477th Fighter Group participate in a close formation taxi, known as an Elephant Walk, March 26, 2019, during a Polar Force exercise at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Justin Connaher)

3rd Wing’s F-22s and E-3s often team up during QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) launches triggered by Russian long-range bombers flying in the vicinity of the Alaskan ADIZ (Air Defense Identification Zone). This is what we wrote in 2017 about such “combined scrambles”:

Launching the AEW along with the fighters is a “tactics” that allows the Air Defense to extend the radar coverage and to better investigate the eventual presence of additional bombers or escorting fighters flying “embedded” with the “zombies” (as the unknown aircraft are usually dubbed in the QRA jargon). At the same time, the presence of an E-3 allows the Raptors to improve their situational awareness while reducing the radar usage and maximizing as much as possible their stealth capability (even though it must be remembered that F-22s in QRA usually carry fuel tanks that make them less “invisible” to radars).

A long range sortie is not easy to plan. Even more so a strike sortie: the bomber are not only required to fly inbound the target (TGT) and reach a convient position to simulate the attack and weapons delivery, they also need to take in consideration many other factors. First of all “what is your goal?” Do you want to train for a realistic strike? Or do you want to “spy” or show your presence or posture?

Other factors are distance from own country, opponent’s defense capability, minimum risk routing according to the threats, presence of DCA (Defensive Counter Air), supporting assets, etc.

Usually, during a strike sortie, bombers are considered the HVA (High Value Asset), the one that must be protected. For this reason during the planning phase they are always escorted by fighter and protected by the Ground to Air threats by means of SEAD/DEAD (Suppression/Destruction of Enemy Air Defenses), EW (Electronic Warfare) and everything is needed to let them able to hit their targeted.
The Pentagon has changed how it will lay off civilian workers

An F-22 Raptor takes off after Raptors from the 3rd Wing and 477th Fighter Group participated in a close formation taxi, known as an Elephant Walk, March 26, 2019, during a Polar Force exercise at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Justin Connaher)

However, escorting a strategic bomber is not always possible (nor convenient): considered their limited range, the presence of the fighters would heavily affect the long range planning, requiring support from multiple tankers along the route.

For this reason, although the Russians visit the West Coast quite often, they usually are not escorted by any fighter jet (as happens, for instance, in the Baltic region, where Tu-22s are often accompanied by Su-27 Flankers).

However, it’s better to be prepared and trained for the worst case scenario and this is probably the reason why NORAD included an E-3 AEW in the QRA team: to have a look at the Tu-95s and make sure there was no “sweep” fighters or subsequent “package”.

The configuration of the F-22 aircraft involved in the Elephant Walk at JBER is also interesting as the stealth jets carry underwing tanks: that is the standard external loadout both in case of QRA launch and for ferry flights and forward deployments.

After taking the shots, the aircraft cleared the runway, taxied back to the threshold of RWY24 and took off in sequence.

As already reported a recent “Elephant Walk”, also involving about two dozen F-22s, took place at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, on Feb. 28, 2019.

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

7 ways to mentor a military girlfriend and renew confidence in yourself at the same time

There are so many resources for military spouses and service members, but the military girlfriends and boyfriends are often forgotten. In military dating life, the best resources possible are the men and women who have been there, done that.


After mentoring a young military girlfriend, I realized after the fact that the experience may have done me just as much good as it did her. It gave me the opportunity to reflect on my own journey as a milspouse/girlfriend and see the many obstacles I’ve overcome in the process.

My husband and I dated for nearly five years before we got married, which included living together for three and a half years. To be honest, this felt like forever, especially since we moved from the East Coast to Alaska during that time. We never experienced the carefree dating experience that some do, as I was a single mom already when we met. I moved to be closer to him within months of the start of our relationship and knew no one in town. I had a minor emergency one day and called him in a panic. He couldn’t physically help me at the moment, but he remembered that one of his coworkers happened to live in my neighborhood, so he connected me with the spouse of said service member. Long story short, she saved my day!

I will never forget my first encounter (as a military girlfriend) with a military spouse. She dropped what she was doing to help out a stranger in need. She told me afterward if I ever needed anything to never hesitate to reach out, and she meant it. She sprinkled snippets of wisdom over me during the next two years whenever our paths crossed. She was brutally honest about the things that frustrated her about military life, but she always did it with a laugh and a follow-up of something she loved about that same life. Fifteen years and many cross-country duty stations later, she is still there on the other end of the line (or Facebook messenger) whenever I need her. Both of us are more “seasoned” now than we were all those years ago, but the truth is we still have value to bring to each other’s lives and military journey. I will be forever grateful for her influence in my life, and I truly feel it set the pace for how I’ve approached every military spouse or girlfriend ever since.

Here are seven ways to mentor a military girlfriend:

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Remember that girlfriends matter too.

We’ve all been there; just some spent much longer unwed than others. Give them hope. Share your pride in your journey. All these new trials are temporary. Some will resurface again from time to time in your military journey (hello PCS), but let her know that with each experience, she will grow and be better prepared to handle it next time. Whatever she’s stressing about, it’s likely you’ve been there. You’ll find yourself after this counseling session with a renewed appreciation for your own experiences.

Pay it forward. 

Someone at some point in your journey held your hand and gave you strength or advice when you needed it most. There’s no one better than a seasoned military spouse to do this as long as you’re mindful and empathetic, not condescending. Sometimes a military girlfriend needs to be reminded that ALL military spouses have been the outsider at some point…no one gets married before spending some amount of time first dating that lucky hero. A good deed like mentoring will always leave you feeling full of gratitude for all who mentored you along the way.

Know that you’re both worth it. 

Simply by giving your time, you are rescuing another from loneliness in some form or another. YOUR soul will benefit from that quality time with her as well. Valuable life lessons you’ve experienced are worth talking about. You never know when your story may help someone down the road. We often have no clue what battles others are facing or when they will arise, so when you take the time to share your personal challenges and victories, you are offering value whether you realize it or not.

The Pentagon has changed how it will lay off civilian workers

Good vibes.

Teach her to focus on the positive while still being aware of the potential negative. Don’t allow stress to cloud all judgement. Release the weight of what you can’t control, and not only will your life outlook change, but so will your LIFE. Hello? We all need this reminder!

Share your strength.

Unpredictability may be totally new to her. Help her see the perks and seize the opportunities that come her way. No better excuse to “just do it” than knowing that the chance to do so may not last long. Military life offers the perfect time to see just how brave you can be, and in the end, it’s totally empowering!

The Pentagon has changed how it will lay off civilian workers

Give her resources.

You’ll find yourself digging through your internal toolkit and will be amazed at what you pull out of there for her! Links, groups, and ideas will all be helpful, and you’ll likely run across a few you forgot existed but quickly realize how handy they will be in your own life again now that they’ve resurfaced.

Show her love.

Teach her about military spouse bonds and how vital it is to build relationships within the community. It’s okay that she isn’t yet married, many of the issues she’s facing don’t discriminate between married/unmarried couples. Show her that she’s never alone and remind yourself of the same while you’re at it. Sometimes we allow ourselves to forget that one, and it’s one of the most important lessons of all.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Borne the Battle: Jesse Iwuji — Navy to NASCAR

Sometimes, all it takes is a whiteboard and a marker to jump-start a dream into reality. This week’s Borne the Battle features guest Jesse Iwuji, whose creative and hardworking mindset led him to overcome great challenges and become a NASCAR driver.

Growing up, Iwuji excelled at both track and football. His high school accomplishments led him to the Naval Academy’s football team where he played safety. He graduated from the academy in 2010. After seven years active duty, Jesse transitioned to the Navy Reserve.


After his football career ended, Iwuji found competitiveness in racing. However, he was at a disadvantage compared to his peers who started racing at a very early age: Iwuji started in his mid 20s. He lacked sponsorship and he wasn’t born into a racing family. Despite this, his determination and led him to a variety of open doors. He funded the first part of his NASCAR KN racing career through a variety of ways to include starting his own business. Currently he is racing in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series.

Today, Iwuji represents sponsors from several different organizations, which many help veterans. He uses racing as a platform to advocate for veterans’ rights and he shares his passion in Veteran communities and schools. To Jesse, nothing is impossible if you have vision and hard work behind it.

Faces of the Fleet: Jesse Iwuji teaser #1

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Child with cancer gets wish granted by NASCAR driver & US Navy LT Jesse Iwuji

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This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY SPORTS

Sprint Football — Army West Point at Navy (9/21/18 – 7:00PM EST)

Navy leads the all-time sprint series with Army West Point in sprint football, 42-35-1 (.545), including a 19-14 (.576) mark in Annapolis. Two of the most dominant teams in sprint football history, Army West Point and Navy have won or shared the sprint football title 71 times, including 29 outright by the Mids and 27 by the Black Knights. The league was split into divisions last season with Army West Point winning the North before defeating Penn in the first CSFL Championship game.


Today, starting at 7:00PM EST, the two archrivals clash once again in Annapolis. Navy’s out to continue their dominant streak while Army West Point is bringing their best to try and even the score. Both Army and Navy are coming into the game with a lot of momentum, fresh off of 45-7 victories over Chestnut Hill and Franklin Pierce, respectively.

Watch the game live below.

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