The AK-12 assault rifle has passed military field tests and meets all of the Russian armed forces’ design and operational standards, gunmaker Kalashnikov Concern says, according to Jane’s 360.
The AK-12’s success in military trials sets it up to become the standard weapon for soldiers in Russia’s Ratnik — or ‘Warrior’ — future weapon system.
Work on the AK-12 began in 2011 with the AK-200 as a base model. Kalashnikov Concern presented prototypes in early 2012, and the first generation of the weapon was also successful in military tests.
However, according to Jane’s, the Russian military requested design alterations and wanted the new weapon to be cheaper to make. The company then produced the second-generation version of the weapon, using a 5.45 mm round with the AK-400 as its base model. The second-generation model also addressed issues regarding full-automatic fire.
The 5.45 mm AK-12 is being developed with the 7.62 mm AK-15 — both of which are to be teamed with the 5.45 mm RPK-16 light support weapon. The Russian military has also been testing A545 and A762 assault rifles — 5.45 mm and 7.62 mm, respectively — made by Kovrov Mechanical Works.
Both the AK-12 and the AK-15 keep some traditional Kalashnikov features and are compatible with magazines used by earlier versions of the AK-74 and the AKM rifles, according to Modern Firearms. The new weapons are designed to offer better accuracy in all conditions, can be fitted with add-ons like sighting equipment and bayonets, and can carry a 40 mm grenade launcher under the barrel.
A right-side view of the final production model of the AK-12, which is based on the AK-400 prototype. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.
Arms experts have said the AK-12 is not a grand departure from the AK-74, which is the current standard weapon for the Russian military.
“There are improvements but very modest on the background of excessive expectations triggered by a media campaign,” Mikhail Degtyarev, editor-in-chief of Kalashnikov magazine, told Army Recognition in May, making specific mention of ergonomic improvements.
Nor do observers see the wholesale replacement of the AK-74 on the horizon, as that weapon is “a very successful design but … needs modernization,” military expert Viktor Murakhovsky told Army Recognition. “It is necessary to considerably improve combat engagement convenience, including ergonomics, and provide a possibility to mount additional devices.”
Alongside the AK-12/AK-15 package, Kalashnikov Concern has been working on an AK-74 upgrade that includes a folding and telescoping stock, rails for add-ons, and a more ergonomic fire selector and handgrip.
The Russian military’s AK-74M in the field. Photo from Russian Defense Ministry.
The Russian military has been designing and testing a variety of futuristic gear for the Ratnik program over the past year.
That includes modernized body armor, bulletproof shields, tactical computers, and a helmet equipped with night vision and thermal-imaging devices.
According to Russian state-owned outlet RT, the country’s military has also debuted a combat suit with a “powered exoskeleton” that purportedly gives the wearer more strength and endurance, as well as high-tech body armor and a helmet and visor covering the entire face.
The suit, however, remains a few years from production, and it’s “unclear whether these type of suits will eventually make it to the battlefield,” Stratfor analyst Sim Tack told Business Insider in June.
A little more than 12 months after training pipelines for previously closed elite special operator jobs opened to women, the U.S. military has yet to see its first female Navy SEAL or Green Beret.
The component commanders for each of the service special operations commands say they’re ready to integrate female operators into their units, but it’s not yet clear when they’ll have the opportunity to do so.
The Navy is closely monitoring the interest of female applicants. In fact, Naval Special Warfare Command is eyeing one Reserve Officer Training Corps member who’s interested in the SEALs, and another woman who has yet to enter the service but has expressed interest in becoming a special warfare combatant craft crewman, a community even smaller than the SEALs with a training pipeline nearly as rigorous.
But it will likely be years until the Navy has a woman in one of these elite units.
Rear Adm. Tim Szymanski, head of Naval Special Warfare Command, which includes the elite SEALs and other Navy special operations units, noted that the enlisted training pipeline for SEALs is two-and-a-half years from start to end, meaning a female applicant who began the process now wouldn’t join a team until nearly 2020.
And that assumes that she makes it through the infamously grueling Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training.
“Just last week, we secured Hell Week … [we started with] 165 folks. We finished with 29. It’s a tough pipeline and that is not uncommon,” Szymanski told an audience at the National Defense Industrial Association’s Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict conference near Washington, D.C., on Tuesday. “Five classes a year, and that’s what you have, demographically.”
While the Army Rangers famously had three female officers earn their tabs in 2015 in a special program ahead of the December 2015 Defense Department mandate that actually gave women the right to serve in the Rangers, the elite regiment remains male-only, at least for now.
To date, one female officer in a support military occupational specialty has completed the training process and will likely join the unit by the end of March, said Lt. Gen. Kenneth Tovo, commander of Army Special Operations Command.
In other previously closed Army special operations elements, he said, two enlisted women have attempted special operations assessment and selection but haven’t made it through. One, who was dropped due to injury and not to failure to meet standards, is likely to reattempt the process, Tovo said.
Two female officers are also expected to begin assessment and selection in the “near future,” he said.
“So we’re going slow,” Tovo said. “The day we got the word that SF and rangers were available to women, our recruiting battalion that actually works for recruit command sent an email to every eligible woman, notifying them of the opportunity and soliciting their volunteerism. We are working things across the force through special ops recruiting battalion to talk to women and get them interested.”
Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command was the first service to report publicly that it had women in its training pipeline. But in a year, MARSOC has had just three applicants, and none who made it through the first phase of assessment and selection, commander Maj. Gen. Carl Mundy III said at the conference. Currently, he added, there are no women in training, and none on deck to enter the pipeline.
The Air Force, which opened its combat control, pararescue and tactical air control party jobs to women last year, has had several applicants, but all have been dropped from training due to injury or failure to meet standards, said Lt. Gen. Marshall Webb, commander of Air Force Special Operations Command.
“I think this is a slow build … and we’ll keep after it,” Webb said, noting that that the service observed similar trends when it opened other jobs up to women decades ago. “AFSOC is looking for the highest caliber candidates, and when a person meets that standard, she will be joining our ranks.”
For some of the services, the challenge is twofold.
Tovo said Army Special Forces recruits primarily from the infantry, which opened to women at the same time SF did. And women are moving quickly into these previously closed jobs; the first 10 women graduated from the Army’s infantry officer course in October, and 140 women are reportedly on deck to enter infantry training in 2017, while more have already been reclassified. But it’s still a small field.
MARSOC also recruits heavily from Marine Corps ground combat MOSs. To date, just three female Marines assigned to one of these jobs have entered the fleet.
“This is a process; it’s going to take time,” Tovo said. “We are focused on it, we’re ready for it and I have no doubt when we get the opportunity to put women through our qualification courses, it going to be done to a professional standard and we will be proud of the results of the female operators who come out the other end.”
Szymanski suggested that social barriers to women serving in units such as the SEALs may no longer be the impediment they once were, as younger, more tolerant sailors enter the force.
“The students coming through, it’s no big deal to them,” he said. “This generation’s much more tolerant of society than our generation — a multi-diverse, gender-neutral society. Some of the integration [challenges] will be with our older cohorts.”
It’s possible, however, that the services will have to rethink recruitment in light of a widened field of potential applicants. Szymanski said his contracted SEAL scout teams visit high schools to recruit talent, but tend to target events with high male participation.
“Typically in the past, that’s been things like wrestling matches and those types of things,” he said. “So I now have to be sure that they’re thinking about, how do they incentivize or attract younger females at some of those events. Maybe swimming meets; swimmers typically will fend well in the pipeline if they’re good in the water.”
“Squad”is a super-realistic modern shooter that pits large teams of players, up to 50 on each side, in combat using modern weapons, vehicles, and battlefields. Most importantly, the game features such realism that modern tactics are necessary to win.
Players in the game are broken down by squad and can opt to fill roles from squad leader to medic to rifleman.
These squads move forward under the command of their leader in what quickly becomes a tense, suspense-filled match. Every player can die from just a round or two hitting them center mass, making it super important that players spot their enemy first.
This makes the long movements over the sprawling maps stressful in the best way. The point man needs to stay super alert while the squad moves in a wedge behind him. Crossing linear danger areas like roads and rivers in a tactical manner can save the team from detection and destruction.
In short, If you learned it in basic training, it’s probably important in “Squad.”
All this realism makes every decision feel important and heavy. Selfish glory hogs are quickly outed in the game as leaving a blocking position or moving away from overwatch can doom the rest of the team, no matter how many kills the hero gets.
This makes it easy to tell a veteran from a newb despite how simple the controls are. Veterans carefully position themselves in areas of cover or concealment and assault through dead space to hide their approach while new or unskilled players quickly die because they’re trying to defend a point on the map from an exposed position.
Vets make sure to work as a team, frequently talking to each other in the in-game voice chat that actually works similar to a radio network. There are separate channels for speaking within the squad or within the platoon as a whole. Hot keys allow players to quickly choose whether they’re speaking on the squad or platoon net.
The game is still in Alpha mode, so there are a lot of tweaks and new features being added. But, it’s already a fun and tense experience that players can buy on Steam today.
Obviously, having to eject from a multi-million dollar aircraft of any kind is the last thing on a pilot’s bucket list (and is dangerous enough to actually be the last thing on the pilot’s bucket list). The truth is that, as in any military job function, things don’t always go as planned, even for the men and women fighting at a few thousand feet above the Earth.
The technology surrounding the ejection of any pilot is really incredible. After more than a century in the making, ejections can be made at supersonic speeds and at altitudes where there is little oxygen in the air. The canopy blows open, the air rushes in, and in one-tenth of a second, the pilot(s) are on their way to safety. The tech has come a long way since and the chances of a successful ejection are up from 50% in the 1940s. A lot happened in the meantime. Here are 11 things you may not have known before.
1. The first successful ejection was in 1910 and was initiated by bungee cord.
In 1916, one of the inventors of a type of parachute also invented an ejection seat powered by compressed air.
2. The German Luftwaffe perfected the ejection seat during WWII. The first combat ejection was in 1942.
The Focke-Wulf FW190 Würger testing ejection seat
Two German companies, Heinkel and SAAB (of the automobile fame) were working on their own types of ejection seats. The pilot of the first ejection bailed out because his control surfaces iced over.
3. Some aircraft, like the supersonic F-111, used pods to eject the crews. The B-58 Hustler tested its ejection system by ejecting bears.
Because parachutes need time to open, early zero-zero (zero altitude, zero airspeed) ejection seats used a kind of cannon to shoot the pilot out once they cleared the canopy. This put incredible forces on the pilot.
5. Before zero-zero seats, safe ejections required minimum altitudes and airspeeds.
Modern zero-zero technology uses small rockets to propel the seat upward and a small explosive to open the parachute canopy, cutting the time needed for the chute to open and saving the forces on the pilot.
6. The most common reason ejections fail is aviators wait too long to eject.
A recent study found the survival rate for ejection was as high as 92%, but the remaining 8% is usually because the pilot waited until the last second to eject.
7. Seats in planes like the B-1 Bomber eject at different angles so they don’t collide.
A two-ship of B-1B Lancers assigned to the 28th Bomb Squadron, Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, release chaff and flares while maneuvering over New Mexico during a training mission Feb. 24, 2010. Dyess celebrates the 25th anniversary of the first B-1B bomber arriving at the base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Kevin J. Gruenwald)
The B-1B Lancer has a crew of four and their seats are designed so that the seats are positioned at different angles and different intervals to avoid mid-air collisions. The B-1A used a capsule for the crew.
8. Depending on altitude and airspeed, the seats accelerate upward between 12 and 20 Gs.
That’s just the upward thrust. Pilots have ejected in speeds exceeding 800 miles per hour (the speed of sound is 767.2 mph) and from altitudes as high as 57,000 feet.
9. Ejection seat manufacturer Martin-Baker gives a certificate, tie, and patch to aviators who join the “Martin-Baker Fan Club” by successfully ejecting.
The first pilot was a Royal Air Force airman who ejected over what was then Rhodesia in January 1957. Since then, over 5800 registered members have joined.
10. The interval between ejections in a two-seat plane like the F-14 Tomcat is about half a second.
The RIO (Radar Intercept Officer) goes first, then the pilot (Goose then Maverick, but in real life, Goose would probably survive.)
11. Ejection seats have saved more than 7,000 people.
Not Goose, of course. (Should have followed F-14 NATOPS boldface procedures. RIP, shipmate . . .)
The Navy also posted promising reviews of the drone’s performance in land-based tests at Naval Base Ventura County, Point Mugu, California. The Fire Scout C-model demonstrated a range of over 150 nautical miles and the ability to remain in flight for approximately 12 hours.
“The C model will greatly impact how we monitor, understand and control the sea and air space around small surface combatants,” Navy Capt. Jeffrey Dodge, the program manager for Fire Scout, said in a 2015 press release.
The MQ-8B, the predecessor model to the MQ-8C, has flown over 16,000 hours and has participated in flights with manned helicopters at sea without serious incident.
In thinking about who to select as the Navy’s next generation of senior leadership, the Nation should be fully engaged, particularly with the increasing potential of war at sea against a peer competitor. The Chief of Naval Operations (CNO), Admiral John M. Richardson, who wrote an article for Proceedings Magazine in June 2016 entitled, “Read, Write, Fight,” understands this. So too does Admiral Scott H. Swift, former Commander, Pacific Fleet, who suggested a way to better prepare for a fight in his March 2018 Proceedings piece, “Fleet Problems Offer Opportunities.” Given the possibility of high-end warfare facing the nation now for the first time since the end of the Cold War, picking the right leaders will be key. The question is: Is the right leadership being picked today? Is there a different, better way to consider who will lead the Navy in war?
Since 1974, every Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) has come to the office with the following credentials: command of a carrier strike group (CSG); command of a fleet, and; an operational, four-star command, either Pacific Fleet (PACFLT), Atlantic Fleet/U.S. Fleet Forces Command (LANTFLT/FFC) or Naval Forces, Europe (NAVEUR). The one exception to this formula is that submariners do not command CSGs: Instead, they command submarine groups at the one-star level.
In the last 44 years, there have been only three anomalies: Admiral Jeremy M. Boorda, the 25th CNO never commanded a fleet. Then, in 1996, Admiral Jay L. Johnson, the Vice Chief of Naval Operations (VCNO) who had been scheduled to command Naval Forces, Europe, instead became the 26th CNO when Admiral Boorda took his own life. The current CNO, Admiral Richardson, is the third anomaly in that he has neither commanded a fleet nor had an operational four-star command.
Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Richardson.
Not surprisingly, there are considered reasons in this successive, operational flag, command rule: First, the Navy exists to support the operational element of the fleet – the so-called, “pointy end of the stick.” It is believed that the leader of an organization whose mission is to “conduct prompt and sustained combat operations at sea,” should be a person who is closely acquainted with firing shots in anger, from ensign to four stars. Second, perhaps of even greater import, the CNO sits in the “tank,” with the other Joint Chiefs. It is imperative that he or she knows the score out in the various combatant commands, and this requires genuine joint expertise attained at a high level. This sort of experience comes in places such as the forward fleets, and especially to those who command PACFLT, NAVEUR, or FFC.
This is not to say that the formula works perfectly. By the turn of the century, Surface Warfare Officers dominated a majority of significant leadership positions in the Navy, and held the office of the CNO, without pause, between 2000 and 2011. It was also this generation of leaders which presided over the diminution of the entire surface community. Still, this may all say more about either the struggle against increasing budget restrictions or a misplaced spirit of selflessness on the part of these CNOs than it does about a faulty selection approach. Nor is this to say that those who were anomalous did not perform admirably as CNO. That is for others to decide, in time.
Either way, the questions are these: How does an officer arrive at the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations in the first place? What are the implications which arise when there are sustained and dramatic perturbations at the flag-level? And finally, what does (or should) the future hold in preparing the Navy to face a new era of potential conflict at sea?
A process defined
Sustained superior performance is essential, but beyond that, a careful choreography occurs in every community beginning at first command if not before. Selection to flag is seldom, if ever, accidental or unanticipated. This management becomes even more meticulous once flag officers are selected. At that point, there is a determination made as to who will be groomed for the three and four-star levels, and who will serve in other, still important flag positions. To effectively regulate this complex daisy-chain, a detailed, long-term, name-to-job interaction occurs between all of the warfare communities and the Navy’s (and ultimately government’s) top leadership.
There are really only a few, key, operational flag positions available, and they are earmarked for those bound for the top. This is important as the timing and positioning associated with getting the right officers through those wickets is not a matter of chance. Here is one example: In the surface community, presume that eight officers make flag each year. Of these eight, only four will go on to command a CSG. Of those four, only two will deploy. These deployers are those who have been selected for upward movement, and this is easily observed in a historical review of those who rose higher. Likewise, while there are any number of important three-star commands, they are in not all equal regarding carrying an officer to the office of the CNO.
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Roosevelt (DDG 80) left,the guided missile destroyer USS Arleigh Burke (DDG 51) and the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea (CG 58) transit the Atlantic Ocean.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Scott Barnes)
Moreover, it is necessary to mention the one outlier in this job pecking order; Chief of Naval Personnel (CNP). A remarkable number of four-star admirals, some of whom achieved senior operational command, have passed through the CNP’s office, including Admirals Leon A. Edney, Ronald J. Zlatoper, John C. Harvey, Mark E. Ferguson III, and former CNOs Jeremy Boorda and James D. Watkins. Evidently, excelling in this position imparts a unique cachet, though it is neither joint nor operational.
The point here is that delicate timing and positioning are required to marshal those deemed to be most deserving to the top. Though off and on-ramps may be built into the process to allow for surprises and opportunities, the whole process is quite fragile. In recent years, this fragility has been demonstrated through two events; The “Fat Leonard” scandal, and the aftermath of the two warship collisions in Seventh Fleet.
Gutting the operational side in the Pacific
As every sailor knows, there are two sides to any chain-of-command – operational and administrative. The administrative side of the equation is responsible for the manning, training and equipping of units provided to the operational side of the chain. The operational side employs these “all-up rounds” in carrying out the nation’s business at sea.
Following the collisions in Seventh Fleet in the summer of 2017, justice was meted out on behalf of the Navy, through the agency of a Consolidated Disposition Authority (CDA), Admiral James F. Caldwell Jr, Chief of Naval Reactors, appointed by the CNO, Admiral Richardson. Ultimately in this effort, the entire operational chain-of-command in the Pacific, from the ships’ officers of the deck, to CIC watch officers, to the command master chiefs, to the executive officers, to the commanding officers, and then up through their destroyer squadron commander, task force commander, fleet commander and all the way to the Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet, was implicated and then either actually or effectively fired. It was a scorched earth approach never before seen in the Navy, and it appeared to be aimed at not only justice but at sending a message to the American people.
Though the punishment handed out to Commander, Naval Surface Forces (CNSF), Vice Admiral Thomas Rowden may seem to have been appropriate, particularly in view of the fact that he was the responsible administrative agent charged to provide fully ready ships to the operational commanders, the fact is that he was only a small part of the responsible administrative chain-of-command. Actually, CNSF relied on a universe of other administrative commands to carry out its mission effectively. For example, the Chief of Naval Personnel (CNP) was responsible for providing schools and personnel (both of which were in demonstrated to be in short supply), and the Office of the CNO was responsible for the provision of funding. U.S. Fleet Forces Command was the “parent” command of CNSF, just as Pacific Fleet was the parent of Seventh Fleet. So, while it may have been desirable, for whatever reason, to create a firewall between the operational commands and those administrative commands responsible for providing the necessary wherewithal to the fleet, it also meant that significant responsibility was evaded by nearly half the chain-of-command, top-to-bottom.
The long reach of Fat Leonard
A crisis was created when Admiral Scott H. Swift, then Commander, Pacific Fleet, was implicated in the Seventh Fleet collisions. Admiral Swift had long been expected to become the next Commander, Indo-Pacific Command, and his removal from the field meant that the Navy was in danger of losing control of its most historic and treasured combatant command to the Air Force. The solution hit upon was to send Admiral Phil Davidson, Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces, to command the U.S. Pacific Command. Not only was Admiral Davidson one of the few viable candidates with sufficient credential and seniority, but he was arriving fresh from completion of the Comprehensive Review (CR) of the collisions, and was unsullied by that disaster. Though that may have been good news regarding saving Pacific Command for the Navy, Admiral Davidson’s last and only tour in the Pacific was a single one as a commander, serving as a staff officer at Pacific Fleet headquarters. Whether a conscious part of the decision or not, his lack of Pacific-experience meant that he was beyond the potential taint of Fat Leonard.
Admiral Phil Davidson.
Numerically speaking, only a few flag officers have been caught in the Fat Leonard scandal. Nevertheless, there have been many more who were frozen in place while the investigation continued. This “freezing” caused some of these officers to miss their planned wickets, resulting in an extraordinary upset in the carefully mapped-out flag progression. As for the collision aftermath, it is impossible to know the exact impacts of those events on the “daisy-chain.” Certainly, the loss of ADM Swift and the shifting of ADM Davidson are significant.
Regardless, all of this begs the question of who may be the next CNO? Watchers had long considered Admiral Davidson to be a leading candidate for the position, and his shift to INDO/PACOM has stirred debate regarding who might be a viable relief for Admiral Richardson.
Based on the historical template, the next CNO likely will be one of the following:
Commander, U.S Pacific Fleet: Admiral John G. Aquilino
Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces: Admiral Christopher W. Grady
Commander, U.S Naval Forces, Europe: Admiral James G. Foggo III
Vice Chief of Naval Operations: Admiral William F. Moran
Each of these officers has all of the historical credentials of operational command and joint experience at the highest level, with the exception of Admiral Moran. However, Admiral Moran merits inclusion in that he would not be the first former Chief of Naval Personnel to become the CNO, though he has not had either fleet nor four-star operational command. Moreover, the current CNO, Admiral Richardson likewise arrived at the job with credentials other than the classic operational command/joint ones which have been common. In other words, a new template may have been set.
Reset the grid for war
If the Nation is moving from a “Profound Peace” into a period of “Great-Power Competition,” then every effort must be bent to ensure that America is fully preparing to meet what may well be an existential challenge. If, as suggested by Captain Dale Rielage, in his May, 2018, USNI General Prize-winning essay, “How We Lost the Great Pacific War,” the United States were to be defeated in a conflict with China – a conflict which would most certainly be primarily a fight at sea – the United States would, for the first time since World War II lose primary control of the sea lines of communication, in the vital Pacific. China would assume dominance of at least Asia and become a prime hegemon all the way to the Arabian Gulf.
In thinking about who the Nation selects for our Navy’s senior leader, it is understood that he or she must be fully and unselfishly engaged in preparing the Fleet for war at sea against peer competitors. What are the characteristics and experiences of peace-time Navy leaders (beyond the aforementioned operational positions)? Are these characteristics the same as those which might be sought leading into a major conflict? History suggests that they are different. One needs only consider the last, great war-at-sea. Many of the Navy’s leaders at the start of World War II were cast aside in favor of those who could bring fire to the enemy. For many of those officers, including Admirals Earnest King, Chester Nimitz, and William Halsey, it is fair to say that they might never have arrived at flag rank based were they measured against today’s standards. To win that war no one cared who was charming or polished or politically astute or properly connected. The question had nothing to do with who had attained a “zero-defects” record. It had everything to do with who could and would defeat the enemy.
More recently, there have been other “reaches” undertaken to identify the right person for the job. In 1955, President Dwight D. Eisenhower reached deep to select Admiral Arleigh Burke as the 15th CNO. At the time of his appointment, Burke was still a rear admiral (two-star). He was promoted two grades and over the heads of many flags of far greater seniority. In 1970, President Richard M. Nixon selected Admiral Elmo Zumwalt as the 19th CNO for very specific reasons and aims, despite his lack of “traditional” credentials.
Today, more than ever, modern war is a “come-as-you-are” affair. There will be no slow, years-long buildup allowed. Economies and modern weapon systems suggest that a real fight will ramp up to criticality almost immediately and that wide-spread, cannot-be-quickly-replaced/repaired damage will be done to the fleets in a matter of months, if not weeks. In other words, what the Navy has, regarding leadership and wherewithal, on day one, is the best that it may have throughout the conflict. The point is this: The right leadership needs to be found and selected, now.
Prove your readiness
Cast a wide net, and seek leaders who are determined to resist the self-interested pressures of outside agencies, prioritizing lethality in the Navy above whatever else may be prized. Who in today’s ranks is best equipped to lead the Navy in waging a high-end war?
An answer may lie in Admiral Swift’s March 2018 piece, “Fleet Problems Offer Opportunities.” Deeper opportunities may be offered to the Navy in this Fleet Problem concept. If, as he suggests in his piece, the new Fleet Problem is designed to do more than check a box, before the deployment of carrier strike groups…if Pacific Fleet is determined to truly test leadership in simulations which approach the real world…if officers will be challenged to do more than just go through the motions…if failure is an option, is this not a chance to really put officers, at a variety of levels, to the real test?
Ships from Carrier Strike Group 8 in the Atlantic Ocean.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Julia A. Casper)
And this test need not only apply to strike group commanders, and their respective warfare commanders. A variety of officers, all at different places in their careers, can be tested in this crucible. Is there any reason that an upward-bound submariner could not take command of the Maritime Operations Center (MOC) for the duration of the game? Stand up an exercise Joint Forces Maritime Component Commander (JFMCC). Stand up an exercise Joint Forces Command. Is there any reason for an officer under consideration for fleet command could not play fleet commander during the game?
Admiral Swift offers a key point in all of this: “We have to guard against the natural byproduct of this training reality, which is an aversion to the risk of failure that is associated with learning at the leading edge of knowledge. We had to convey to the operational leaders that failure during the Fleet Problem was not just tolerated but expected. Without pushing our operational art to the point of failure, learning would be subdued and subtle, not stark and compelling. High-velocity learning happens at the leading edge of knowledge, not at its core, and certainly not at its trailing edge.”
Learning yes, but also testing. Officers at every level can be regularly assigned to the game, and throughout their careers, to test whether they possess skills beyond administrative? The Navy needs lions for leadership in war. The Navy also needs able administrators. Certainly, there are officers in the ranks who are both.
The Navy regularly pulls officers out of their employment to serve in a wide variety of boards. Is there any reason to think that this proposal would not be infinitely more valuable to the service, both in developing the entire officer corps for real, war-time thinking at the operational and strategic level? Let officers merit their promotion beyond unit-level by demonstrating the skill necessary to fully grasp that which is imperative in fighting a war…and that which is chaff.
The next CNO has, in all likelihood already been selected. The process of selection and vetting in long and complex and it is unrealistic to think that ADM Richardson approaches the end of his tenure without a relief already having been selected. The question is, and should be, this: Is the next CNO equipped to lead in war-time?
“China respects and upholds the freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea, which countries enjoy under international law, but firmly opposes any country’s attempt to undermine China’s sovereignty and security in the name of the freedom of navigation and overflight,” said Geng Shuang, a spokesman China’s Foreign Ministry, according to CNN.
Indeed, China’s military doctrine even goes as far as permitting a first strike against threats to China’s sovereignty, but the USS Carl Vinson has been operating in the South China Sea for decades.
But the move to promote freedom of navigation in the South China Sea comes as China has all but nailed down the region as firmly within its control. China owns a series of artificial islands, which satellite images show it has militarized with missile launchers and radar outposts.
The US takes no side in the dispute between China and six other nations over who owns what in the region but has repeatedly expressed interest in preserving freedom of navigation in an area with vast oil reserves and about $5 trillion in annual shipping.
At an Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit on Sunday, leaders from the region tried to develop a framework for a code of conduct in the heavily contested South China Sea, but found the process “has become virtually moot and academic,” former Philippines National Security Adviser Roilo Golez told ABS-CBN news
“I expect China to still resist the finalization and approval (of a code of conduct) so that China can further militarize the artificial islands with the placement of offensive medium-range and long-range missiles,” said Golez.
Valentine’s Day has quickly become one of the most commercialized holidays. It doesn’t help that we are inundated with red and pink chintzy gifts in stores as soon as the clock strikes 12:01 am on December 26th of each year. All that aside, there is something to be said for taking a day to recognize and celebrate your significant other.
When you add in the complicated military lifestyle to your love affair, how you express that love is also complicated. In fact, it’s immediately elevated from chocolates and flowers (although nice!) to ‘I need a gift that is actually going to help me out here.’
So what are the Valentine’s Day gifts that can easily impress your military spouse? We’ve got 14 for you!
1. The ability to plan an actual vacation without hesitation
Can you imagine a life where you decide you want to take a vacation, and you just…book it? It seems far fetched, but it could actually happen! And even if you aren’t close to transitioning out of the military, perhaps you can dream about it together over dinner.
2. Orders to the place they really want to be stationed
This may be at the top of every military spouse’s list. There are many variables to living this lifestyle, but actually getting stationed at your dream duty station? That’s THE Ultimate Valentine’s Gift, for sure.
When you do get the luxury of taking leave, many military families often feel torn between going to a bucket-list destination or going home to visit. We won’t even get started on the associated guilt that happens when you do choose to travel instead of visiting family. But guess what can help alleviate some of that guilt? Yep, by having family visit you for once. Planes, trains, and automobiles work both ways!
4. Retire the whole ‘dependa’ thing
Can we just not? While I’m happy to see the recent movement to make the word something more positive, it is still cringeworthy. We’ve been at war for 18 years. No one has time for online bullying— or at least we shouldn’t.
5. A smooth PCS move
Does it exist? Who knows! But, can you imagine being able to buy nice furniture with reckless abandon? Or a home that’s actually ready when you need it to be. Other necessities like childcare, and schools, doctors, and dentists and— well, you get what we’re saying. If it were easy for once.
6. A deployment where nothing breaks- no appliances, cars, etc
What if Cupid could call his friend Murphy Law and tell him to steer clear of your home during a deployment? We’d take that for Valentine’s Day. Or any day, honestly.
7. A wellness day – spa, range, whatever your spouse actually likes
No matter if you’re a spouse that stays home, works remotely, or outside of the home— it’s all difficult. So we’re always up for taking a ‘mental health day’ and just enjoying the things that relax you and make you happy. It could be a spa day or a day at the gun range. As long as it floats your boat, it’s a wellness day.
8. A friend reunion – gather up all their friends in one space
If you’ve been in the military community for any length of time, you know there is always someone that you miss. Whether it’s family, a friend from your last duty station, or your college roommate. Ever wonder what it would be like to have all the people you love in one room? Perhaps this isn’t limited to military spouses. Still, we’re willing to bet milspouses have a wide array of people around the world that they miss immensely.
9. Just some peace and quiet
For real. We’ll take a few hours of quiet; however we can get it. Have a weekend at your favorite hotel? Cool. Have someone take the kids out for half a day while you sit on your couch and listen to nothingness? Completely get it.
10. Some help
Or all of it. Cooking. Cleaning. Planning. Adjusting. We’ll take any help that you offer. Please, and thank you.
You know what would be really pleasant? A job. One where we’re not discriminated against as soon as the employer takes note of our military affiliation. Milspouses are chronically underemployed and unemployed, simply because there’s a possibility a military family will move. While that may be true, civilians move on and leave jobs, too. However, military spouses are also one of the most educated demographics. A great military spouse employee for three years can better position your organization than three years of just a “meh” employee who’ll never leave.
12. Stop it with the stereotypes
We don’t know a milspouse who could do without ever hearing, “but you knew what you signed up for,” and other unoriginal— yet oft-repeated —stereotypes.
13. Our own battle buddy
Making friends as an adult is hard. Add military life to the equation, and it gets harder to create a friendship that goes beyond just the surface. Honestly, that’s what we need, though. Someone who is there, boots on the ground, and can listen, step in to help. And of course, you get to be that person for them, as well.
14. Chocolates and flowers are okay, I guess
Last but not least— the chocolates and flowers aren’t the worst Valentine’s gifts, especially if they’re your thing. There’s a particular type of appreciation for someone to take a moment to express their love and gratitude for you. If chocolates and flowers can do that for you, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
What is your idea of the perfect Valentine’s Day present? Here’s to your Valentine’s Day being exactly what you need it to be, whether that’s flowers or a new housecleaner.
Electrician’s Mate Fireman Samuel Guidroz was more than 4,500 miles away from home when he was awakened by a sharp pain in his abdomen on the morning of Nov. 27, 2018.
The 20-year-old Sailor, assigned to the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS Somerset (LPD 25), tried to treat the day like any other day spent underway in the Pacific Ocean. But the discomfort in his stomach soon drove him to the ship’s medical bay.
“I had a nauseating feeling in my lower abdomen,” said Guidroz, from his bed in the ship’s recovery ward. “They ran some x-rays and a few additional tests.”
“Fireman Guidroz came to us, and we were able to determine he had acute appendicitis,” said Cmdr. Jeffery Chao, the surgeon for Littoral Combat Group One (LCG-1).
Two landing craft air cushions (LCAC) assigned to Assault Craft Unit (ACU) 5 fly behind the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS Somerset (LPD 25), Nov. 23, 2018
(U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kyle Carlstrom)
Chao said it was fortunate that the fleet surgical team happened to be there on the Somerset to augment the ship’s capabilities. The fleet surgical team is attached to Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 3, which is currently embarked on USS Somerset as part of LCG-1. If they had not been there, surgery aboard USS Somerset would not have been an option.
But not everything was working in Guidroz’s favor.
“The sea state at the time was a bit rough, so it made me nervous,” Guidroz said. “The doctors eased my mind though, assuring me it was the right thing to do.”
The LCG-1 fleet surgical team and the Sailors aboard USS Somerset acted immediately. The officer of the deck turned the ship to the steadiest course available. The maneuver significantly lessened the ship’s motion in the water, allowing the medical personnel to do their work with precision. Then they prepared for surgery.
When Guidroz awoke, he felt groggy but relieved.
“Everything went great. Just like it would have if I had been back at a regular hospital,” Guidroz said.
Chao says he expects Guidroz to make a full recovery in the next few days.
“This was a great learning experience to know the medical capabilities out here are far greater than my initial expectations,” Guidroz said. “It feels good knowing and having that assurance that something like this can be taken care of out here at sea. I can’t thank the medical team enough for what they did.”
Since the surgery, Guidroz has been in contact with his family at their home in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
“They were happy this was able to be done here on the ship, and even a bit surprised,” Guidroz said. “Being away from them was different at first, but I’ve made some new friends out here. And it’s important, I think, having people close to you when you’re away from home.”
USS Somerset is a San Antonio-class amphibious transport docking ship, based out of San Diego. LCG-1 is deployed to the U.S. 4th Fleet area of operations in support of the Enduring Promise Initiative to reaffirm U.S. Southern Command’s longstanding commitment to the nations of the Western Hemisphere.
Search and rescue efforts are underway for the pilot of a United States Marine Corps F/A-18C Hornet who was forced to eject from his aircraft 120 miles southeast of Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni.
According to a Marine Corps news release, the Hornet was assigned to the 1st Marine Air Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force and was on what the Marines described as a regular training mission when it went down.
An investigation into why the pilot was forced to eject is underway.
This latest mishap marks the fourth crashed or badly damaged Marine Corps Hornet so far this fiscal year, which began Oct. 1.
In October, an F/A-18C crashed on approach at Twentynine Palms, California, and in November, two Hornets collided in mid-air, losing one plane and badly damaging another.
So far the Marine Corps has suffered five major flight mishaps this year, while the service suffered eight in all of fiscal 2016.
The Marine Corps has had serious problems with its Hornet fleet specifically, including the need to pull nearly two dozen from the “boneyard” at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base this past summer. It was unclear whether this one was of the “boneyard” birds, a Navy hand-me-down or a plane in the Corps’ regular inventory.
Marine Hornets had a rough summer, with a number of crashes prompting a 24-hour stand-down.
However, the August timeout seems to have had little effect, as FoxNews.com reported that there have been four incidents since October, including a mid-air collision between two Hornets in November.
The baseline F/A-18 Hornet has been out of production since Fiscal Year 1997, and the line now only produces the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and the EA-18G Growler electronic warfare plane.
The Marines plan to replace both their F/A-18 Hornets and AV-8B+ Harriers with the F-35B Lightning II. The F-35B has seen some delays, but was introduced in July, 2015. Marine Corps Lightnings are expected to operate off HMS Queen Elizabeth in 2021 due to a shortage of airframes in the Fleet Air Arm.
“We need to do that to make sure that those who use VA are protected, that they are cared for,” he said. “We will get over this and we will make sure everything is done to protect those who have done so much for our country.”
Suicide prevention, benefits
Wilkie also talked about the President’s Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End a National Tragedy of Suicide, or PREVENTS, executive order. The goal of PREVENTS is to bring together stakeholders across all levels of government and in the private sector to work side by side to provide Veterans with the mental health and suicide prevention services they need. The secretary said VA is weeks away from the PREVENTS initiative task force report. The report will supply a roadmap for greater cooperation at the state, local and tribal level.
The secretary also offered high praise for Veteran Service Organizations like the American Legion. He said through continued engagement and the MISSION Act, Vietnam Veterans are about to receive additional benefits.
“We have finally published the regulations that give financial and material support to the families of our Vietnam warriors who take care of those warriors at home, and it is long past time,” the secretary said.
Wilkie said he has a personal interest in caring for Vietnam Veterans. His father received injuries in Cambodia during the Vietnam War. Wilkie said the nation should never turn its back “on those men and women who provide us the very freedoms that we breathe and live every day.”
The secretary also discussed another group of Vietnam Veterans. He said VA started accepting Blue Water Navy compensation claims in January. Wilkie added that VA expects 70,000 to apply for the benefits “that are long overdue.”
Five years ago, Marine Corps Veteran Frederick Nardei returned to service, but not the military. He became a certified peer support specialist, dedicated to helping fellow Veterans whose futures were as uncertain as his had once been.
Nardei served as a peer specialist for a recent study at the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System, helping Veterans enrolled in U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development-VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) manage their mental health and substance misuse challenges. The study was also conducted at the Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Veterans Hospital in Bedford, Mass., where it was led by Dr. Marsha Ellison.
Actively and significantly engaged in their own recovery from mental health issues, VA peer specialists serve as success stories for their fellow Veterans. Their experience using mental health services, combined with their VA training and certification, have made them valuable additions to VA’s mental health offerings.
“My own experiences with homelessness, drug abuse and mental illness had prepared my heart to serve in ways that the Veterans could easily relate to… When I share my recovery story, they say that they are inspired and empowered because they can see that I am the evidence that recovery is possible and achievable,” said Nardei.
The study, led by Pittsburgh VA’s Dr. Matthew Chinman, found that formerly homeless Veteranswho worked extensively with peer specialists had greater improvements in their symptoms than those who did not work with a peer specialist. When asked about their work with a peer specialist, both the Veterans and the other HUD-VASHstaff expressed great satisfaction. Veterans reported being less isolated, more integrated into their community, and more involved in recovery activities as a result of their work with a peer specialist.
Who better to help other Veterans on their recovery journey than someone who has been in their shoes?
“The Veterans who struggled with the shame and stigma of being homelesswere able to overcome those barriers… because I was able to share with them my own experience with being homeless for seven months after my wife left, because of my heroin addiction,” said Nardei, one of an estimated 1,100 Veterans serving as VA peer specialists.
Recover, heal, grow
The peer support program inspires and empowers participants to recover, heal and grow. Nardei believes that there is nothing more powerful than seeing someone accomplish the things that once seemed impossible.
He’s the proof he inspires in others.
To become a VA-trained peer specialist, visit the VA Careers webpage for details.
To learn more about peer specialists and their how they improve Veterans’ lives, download the Peer Support Toolkit.