Recent North Korean missile launches, including four into the Sea of Japan earlier this month, have prompted a major deployment of U.S. forces, including B-52 Stratofortress bombers, also known as BUFFs (for Big Ugly Fat F*ckers), and F-35B Lightning II fighters to the Korean peninsula.
According to a report by The Sun, the deployments come as part of the Foal Eagle exercises, which are held by American and South Korean forces. Other assets being deployed in support of the exercises include the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) and its strike group, as well as B-1B Lancer heavy bombers.
The B-52s can carry a wide variety of ordnance.
Some of the things that they can deliver a lot of to the North Koreas, if Kim Jong Un continues on his present course, include dumb bombs (usually the Mk 82 500-pound bomb or the M117 750-pound bomb, but Mk 84 2,000 pound bombs are an option as well), AGM-86 cruise missiles in both conventional or nuclear versions, AGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles, CBU-87 cluster bombs, CBU-97 cluster bombs, GBU-31 Joint Direct Attack Munitions (2,000 pound GPS guided bombs), the AGM-142 HAVE NAP missile, the AGM-158 JASSM, and the AGM-154 Joint Stand-Off Weapon.
The F-35s that will participate are Marine Corps F-35B variants that are based in Japan. The F-35Bs are fifth-generation multi-role strike fighters, capable to engaging targets in the air or on the ground. The planes carry AIM-120 AMRAAMs, AIM-9 Sidewinders, JDAMs, JSOWs, and cluster bombs.
Two F-35B Lightning II aircraft with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121, prepare to land at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, Jan. 18, 2017. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)
The planned exercises will involve 315,000 troops, most of them South Korean. North Korea has routinely claimed that the Foal Eagle exercises are rehearsals for an invasion. Earlier this month, a battery of Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense missiles were deployed to South Korea, a decision criticized by China, which vowed to make South Korea “feel the pain” for allowing the deployment.
Someone needs to tell Kim, “You’re making Chaos angry. You will not like it when Chaos gets angry.”
The following is an obituary article released on the behalf of Alan Bean’s family:
Alan Bean, Apollo Moonwalker and Artist, Dies at 86
Apollo and Skylab astronaut Alan Bean, the fourth human to walk on the moon and an accomplished artist, has died.
Bean, 86, died on Saturday, May 26, 2018, at Houston Methodist Hospital in Houston, Texas. His death followed his suddenly falling ill while on travel in Fort Wayne, Indiana two weeks before.
“Alan was the strongest and kindest man I ever knew. He was the love of my life and I miss him dearly,” said Leslie Bean, Alan Bean’s wife of 40 years. “A native Texan, Alan died peacefully in Houston surrounded by those who loved him.”
A test pilot in the U.S. Navy, Bean was one of 14 trainees selected by NASA for its third group of astronauts in October 1963. He flew twice into space, first as the lunar module pilot on Apollo 12, the second moon landing mission, in November 1969, and then as commander of the second crewed flight to the United States’ first space station, Skylab, in July 1973.
“Alan and I have been best friends for 55 years — ever since the day we became astronauts,” said Walt Cunningham, who flew on Apollo 7. “When I became head of the Skylab Branch of the Astronaut Office, we worked together and Alan eventually commanded the second Skylab mission.”
“We have never lived more than a couple of miles apart, even after we left NASA. And for years, Alan and I never missed a month where we did not have a cheeseburger together at Miller’s Café in Houston. We are accustomed to losing friends in our business but this is a tough one,” said Cunningham.
On Nov. 19, 1969, Bean, together with Apollo 12 commander Charles “Pete” Conrad, landed on the Ocean of Storms and became the fourth human to walk on the moon. During two moonwalks Bean helped deploy several surface experiments and installed the first nuclear-powered generator station on the moon to provide the power source. He and Conrad inspected a robotic Surveyor spacecraft and collected 75 pounds (34 kilograms) of rocks and lunar soil for study back on Earth.
“Alan and Pete were extremely engaged in the planning for their exploration of the Surveyor III landing site in the Ocean of Storms and, particularly, in the enhanced field training activity that came with the success of Apollo 11. This commitment paid off with Alan’s and Pete’s collection of a fantastic suite of lunar samples, a scientific gift that keeps on giving today and in the future,” said Harrison Schmitt, Apollo 17 lunar module pilot and the only geologist to walk on the moon. “Their description of bright green concentrations of olivine (peridot) as ‘ginger ale bottle glass,’ however, gave geologists in Mission Control all a big laugh, as we knew exactly what they had discovered.”
“When Alan’s third career as the artist of Apollo moved forward, he would call me to ask about some detail about lunar soil, color or equipment he wanted to have represented exactly in a painting. Other times, he wanted to discuss items in the description he was writing to go with a painting. His enthusiasm about space and art never waned. Alan Bean is one of the great renaissance men of his generation — engineer, fighter pilot, astronaut and artist,” said Schmitt.
Four years after Apollo 12, Bean commanded the second crew to live and work on board the Skylab orbital workshop. During the then-record-setting 59-day, 24.4 million-mile flight, Bean and his two crewmates generated 18 miles of computer tape during surveys of Earth’s resources and 76,000 photographs of the Sun to help scientists better understand its effects on the solar system.
In total, Bean logged 69 days, 15 hours and 45 minutes in space, including 31 hours and 31 minutes on the moon’s surface.
Bean retired from the Navy in 1975 and NASA in 1981. In the four decades since, he devoted his time to creating an artistic record of humanity’s first exploration of another world. His Apollo-themed paintings featured canvases textured with lunar boot prints and were made using acrylics embedded with small pieces of his moon dust-stained mission patches.
“Alan Bean was the most extraordinary person I ever met,” said astronaut Mike Massimino, who flew on two space shuttle missions to service the Hubble Space Telescope. “He was a one of a kind combination of technical achievement as an astronaut and artistic achievement as a painter.”
“But what was truly extraordinary was his deep caring for others and his willingness to inspire and teach by sharing his personal journey so openly. Anyone who had the opportunity to know Alan was a better person for it, and we were better astronauts by following his example. I am so grateful he was my mentor and friend, and I will miss him terribly. He was a great man and this is a great loss,” Massimino said.
Born March 15, 1932, in Wheeler, Texas, Bean received a Bachelor of Science degree in aeronautical engineering from the University of Texas in 1955. He attended the Navy Test Pilot School and accumulated more than 5,500 hours of flying time in 27 different types of aircraft.
He is survived by his wife Leslie, a sister Paula Stott, and two children from a prior marriage, a daughter Amy Sue and son Clay.
This article originally appeared on NASA. Follow @NASA on Twitter.
Two US Air Force bombers have conducted a rare live-fire drill in South Korea and flown close to the heavily militarized border with North Korea — a show of force following North Korea’s test-launch of a nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile.
South Korea’s military said in a statement that the exercise was meant to “sternly respond to the series of North Korea’s ballistic-missile launches.”
The statement said the long-range B-1B bombers, accompanied by South Korean jet fighters, simulated an attack on enemy ballistic-missile batteries and precision air strikes against underground enemy command posts.
It said each US bomber dropped a 900-kilogram laser-guided smart bomb that was designed to destroy a fortified bunker.
The bombs were dropped on targets at a firing range about 80 kilometers south of the land border with North Korea. The planes then flew close to the border before turning back to Anderson Air Base in Guam from where they were deployed.
“Through this drill, the South Korean and US air forces demonstrated strong determination to thoroughly punish the enemy for its provocative acts, and showed off their capability to pulverize enemy command posts,” the South Korean statement said.
The US Air Force said two of its B-1B bombers flew over the disputed South China Sea late on July 6 in a move that asserts the right to treat the area as international territory, despite China’s territorial claims in the busy waterway.
Those flights were conducted after the US bombers participated in a joint training exercise with Japanese jet fighters over the neighboring East China Sea — just to the south of the Korean Peninsula.
Washington wants China to do more to pressure North Korea to stop its research into long-range missiles and nuclear weapons.
Also in response to North Korea’s July 4 test, which demonstrated that North Korea’s arsenal is capable of striking parts of Alaska with an ICBM, US and South Korean forces on July 5 fired ballistic missiles in a drill simulating an attack on North Korea’s leadership.
South Korea said that test was meant “as a strong message of warning.”
The US Missile Defense Agency said on July 7 that it would soon test an anti-ballistic-missile system in Alaska.
Securing a port can be the type of job that hits the three Ds: dull, dirty, and dangerous.
Often, those charged with that security operate using rigid-hull inflatable boats or other small craft – often in proximity to huge vessels like Nimitz-class carriers or large amphibious assault ships.
One wrong move, and Sailors or Coast Guardsmen can end up injured – or worse.
However, the Navy may be able to reduce the risk to life and limb, thanks to a project by the Office of Naval Research called Control Architecture for Robotic Agent Command and Sensing, or “CARACaS.”
With CARACaS, a number of RHIBs or small craft can be monitored remotely, thus removing the need to put personnel at risk.
According to a U.S. Navy release, these “unmanned swarming boats” or USBs, recently carried out a demonstration in the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland, where they were able to collaborate to determine which one would approach a vessel, classify it, and then track or trail the vessel.
The USBs also provided status updates to personnel who monitored their activity.
“This technology allows unmanned Navy ships to overwhelm an adversary,” Cdr. Luis Molina of the Office of Naval Research said. “Its sensors and software enable swarming capability, giving naval warfighters a decisive edge.”
A 2014 demonstration primarily focused on escorting high-value ships in and out of a harbor, but this year, Molina noted that this year, the focus was on defending the approach to a harbor.
The biggest advantage of CARACaS? You don’t need to build new craft – it is a kit that can be installed on existing RHIBs and small boats.
The word “Dependa” has often been a derogatory label put on military spouses. The word itself insinuates that they sit on the couch all day collecting the benefits while their service member works hard and risks their lives for this country’s freedoms. There’s an even uglier way of saying that word but that term doesn’t deserve a discussion.
Guess what? The married military member themselves are just as much a “Dependa” as their spouse is. You read that right – turns out in a marriage, it’s supposed to be that way.
The role of a soldier, guardsman, Marine, sailor, airman, or coastie is simple: mission first. The needs of the military will always come before their spouse, children, and really – anything important in their life. This is something that the military family is well aware of and accepts as a part of the military life.
Often the spouse will hear things like, “well, you knew what you signed up for.” Yes, the military spouse is well aware of the sacrifice that comes along with marrying their uniformed service member. But are you?
While the military member is off following orders and doing Uncle Sam’s bidding – the spouse is left with the full weight of managing the home, finances, and carrying the roles of being both parents to the children left behind, waiting. Both depend on each other to make it work – and that’s how it should be. Here are 5 reasons why servicemembers depend on their spouses:
When a married service member deploys, they typically leave behind not only a spouse but children as well. While the service member is off focusing on their mission, for many months on end, life at home doesn’t stop just because they are gone. It’s just taken care of by the spouse. Without the home front being handled by the spouse, the service member cannot remain mission-ready or deploy.
Even when they are home, they aren’t really home
Just because a service member isn’t currently deployed doesn’t mean they are completely present for the family. Between training exercises, TDY’s, and the needs of the service, they are never really guaranteed to be home and of help to the military spouse. Military spouses face a 24% unemployment rate due to a number of factors like frequent moves but also lack of childcare. Did you know 72% of military spouses cannot find reliable childcare for their children?
The PCS struggle is real
The military family will move every 2-3 years, that’s a given. While the military member is busy doing check-outs and ins – the spouse is typically handling all of the things that come along with moving.
Organizing for the PCS
Researching the new duty station area for best places to live, work (if they can even find employment), and good schools for the children
Gathering copies of all the medical records
Finding new providers for the family
Unpacking and starting a whole new life, again
Blanchella Casey, supervisory librarian, reads the book, “Big Smelly Bear” to preschool children at the library as part of Robins Air Force Base’ summer programming.
U.S. Air Force
Many of the support programs for the military are run off the backs of volunteers – the military spouses, to be exact. The Family Readiness Group (Army and Navy), Key Spouse (Air Force) program, or the Ombudsman (Coast Guard) programs are all dependent on the unpaid time of the military spouse. These programs all serve the same purpose – to serve the unit and support families.
More than 2.5 million United States service members have been deployed overseas since 9/11. Service to this country comes with a lot of personal sacrifice for the military member. Half of them are married, many with children. They leave a lot behind all in the name of freedom. It comes at a heavy price. That service to the country affects every aspect of their lives – including their mental health. Their spouse becomes their secret keeper, counselor, and advocate. 33% of military members and veterans depend on their spouse to be their caregiver.
The military spouse serves their family, community, and are the backbone of support for their military member to have the ability to focus on being mission ready. They are both a “Dependa” to each other and cannot be truly successful without the other’s support – and that’s okay.
On Friday, Vice President Mike Pence announced that members of America’s newest military branch, the Space Force, will be called Guardians. Pence made the announcement during an event celebrating the first anniversary of the branch’s establishment.
“It is my honor, on behalf of the President of the United States, to announce that, henceforth, the men and women of the United States Space Force will be known as ‘Guardians,’” Pence said during the ceremonies.
While the vast majority of the new Space Force is comprised of Air Force personnel, the branch has been transferring volunteers from other services into the new Space Force throughout the past year. To date, the branch now boasts roughly 4,0000 members. Now, with the announcement that these new members of the Space Force are called Guardians, America’s space-based branch is finally reaching some level of cultural parity with its sister branches.
Other service branch monikers include Soldiers (U.S. Army), Marines (Marine Corps), Sailors (U.S. Navy) and Airmen (Air Force).
Despite the popular sentiment about Space Force troops fighting a future conflict in orbit, the branch’s most essential work is done from right here on Earth. With hundreds of thousands of pieces of space junk and satellites to keep tabs on, the Space Force is tasked with keeping America’s orbital assets safe and functional, and when necessary, ensuring the rapid replacement of compromised platforms.
The United States has been accused of militarizing space with the establishment of this new branch by some of its foreign competitors, but the establishment of this new branch is actually a step toward military parity with China and Russia. Both of those nations established space-specific military branches in 2015.
Many researchers are working to create the next revolution in drones for both war and peace. At the University of Pennsylvania, teams of researchers headed by Dr. Vijay Kumar are making progress on autonomous UAVs. Since they’re autonomous, they don’t need human operators, just the command to begin a task.
The robots created at Kumar Labs are designed for disaster relief and agricultural work, but could change the way the infantry operates, assaulting contested buildings and objectives alongside troops and performing a variety of services.
The first step to moving drones from overwatch in the skies to clearing buildings with squads is getting them into the buildings. The autonomous UAVs created by researchers weigh between 20 grams and 2 kilograms, feature a quad-rotor design that allows hovering, and are nimble, allowing them to fly through small windows or openings.
Of course, if multiple drones are needed on a mission, the drones have to be able to enter the building and move around without interfering with each other or the human squad. UPENN researchers have created different ways for the drones to behave around each other. The copters can simply avoid one another while working independently or on a shared task, follow a designated group leader, or operate in a coordinated swarm as shown below.
Once inside of a building or a village, the drones would get to work. They could move ahead of the squad and create 3D maps of buildings the squad or platoon expects to hit soon.
The little UAVs are capable of lifting objects on order individually or as part of a team. Fire teams that are decisively engaged could quickly request more ammo be brought to their position and see it arrive slung underneath the autonomous drones. Medics could designate a casualty collection point and begin combat casualty care as more supplies are ferried to them. Drones could even be used as suicide bombers, moving explosives to a point on the battlefield and detonating their cargo.
The drones can also construct obstacles. While currently limited to cubic structures made from modular parts, the drones build according to preset designs without the need for human oversight. Platoon leaders could designate priorities and locations of simple construction and the drones would begin completing their assignments. Metal frames could be placed inside windows and other openings to prevent enemy drones from accessing structures. Mines or flares could be placed by drones on the approaches to the objective, slowing an enemy counterattack and warning friendly forces.
Of course, the copters are also capable of completing the traditional drone mission: Surveillance. While not as fast as the larger drones already in use, they could extend the eyes of the drone fleet into buildings. Also, since they can follow preset waypoints, the drones could continuously patrol an assigned area on their own, only requiring a human’s interaction when they spot something suspicious. The drone can even perch on an outcropping or velcro itself to a landing spot, allowing it to turn off its motors and become silent.
Dr. Kumar discussed the robots, the science behind them, and where he hopes to take them during a 2012 TED Talk.
The Army’s new body armor designs — slated for fielding in 2019 — include a new protector for soldiers’ most sensitive parts. The harness system protects the femoral arteries, pelvis, and lower abdomen.
The Blast Pelvic Protector will replace the Protective Outer Garment and Protective Under Garment, a two-piece system known as the “combat diaper” that was infamous for the chafing it caused in sensitive areas.
The POG and PUG have other issues besides causing chafing.
“The protection that existed before was letting debris in because it wasn’t fitted close enough to the body,” Cara Tuttle, an Army clothing designer and design lead for the harness said in a press release. “Soldiers weren’t wearing it often enough, and it didn’t come down inside of the leg to protect the femoral artery.”
Surgeons then had to attempt to remove as many small particles from wounded soldiers as they could, increasing the chances of an infection or other complications from surgery.
The new Blast Pelvic Protector covers troops from the waist, down the inner thighs, and around the back to the buttocks. This allows it to guard most of the vulnerable soft tissue in the thighs and provides much more protection for the arteries. Overlapping layers make the fabric protection very effective.
“A layer overlaps in one direction, then the next layer overlaps in the opposite direction, and it keeps alternating,” Tuttle said. “This creates a better barrier for small [debris fragments], which would have to zig-zag through all these layers to get through.”
And the BPP was designed for combat operations.
A series of buckles along the outside of the thighs and a waist strap hold the device in place while providing freedom of movement. Hopefully, the system will also do away with the discomfort of the combat diaper.
The vast, global networks of the Defense Department are under constant attack, with the sophistication of the cyber assaults increasing, the director of Defense Information Systems Agency said Jan. 11.
Army Lt. Gen. Alan R. Lynn, who is also the commander of the Joint Force Headquarters, Department of Defense Information Networks, described some of the surprises of being in his post, which he has held since 2015.
Lynn spoke at a luncheon of the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association’s Washington Chapter. He said,
We do an excellent job of defending the [Department of Defense Information Networks], but the level of attacks that we’ve seen actually was really truly surprising and it still continues to surprise me just how robust the attacks have become.
‘Terabyte of Death’ Attack: A Matter of When, Not If
A few years ago, getting a 1-gigabyte or 2-gigabyte attack at the internet access point was a big deal, he said. “Now, we get 600-gig attacks on the internet access points and unique, different ways of attacking that we hadn’t thought of before,” he added.
The Defense Department is fortified against even larger attacks, he said.
“There’s now, we would call it the ‘terabyte of death’ — there is a terabyte of death that is looming outside the door,” he said. “We’re prepared for it, so we know it’s coming.”
He noted, “It’s just a matter of time before it hits us.”
Scale of DoD Networks ‘Massive’
Lynn, who retires next month, said the size of the DoD network is something else that surprised him. He described it as a “massive,” 3.2 million-person network that he has to defend or help support in some way.
“There’s something happening every second of every minute globally that you can’t take your eye off of,” he said.
The department needs agile systems for the warfighter to stay ahead of an adversary that is evolving and moving, he pointed out.
There are challenges to finding solutions that scale to the DoD Information Networks, he said. A commercial solution that works for a smaller operation might not translate into something that is effective for the worldwide DoD networks, he explained.
DISA, he pointed out, is a combat support agency responsible for a multitude of networks. He cited as examples the networks between the drones and the drone pilots, or the F-35 “flying mega-computer” that needs a lot of data and intelligence, or the “big pipes” that connect various entities to missile defense.
He explained how commercial mobile platforms have been modified for warfighters to accommodate secret or top secret communications.
“Anywhere they are, globally, if they’ve got to make a serious decision right now and it means seconds, that’s there and available to them,” he said, adding that mobile platforms are becoming “more and more capable as we go.”
Warfighting, which now includes streaming drone video feeds, is happening on mobile devices, he said. “It’s pretty cool to watch,” he remarked.
While acknowledging DISA does do “a lot of cool IT stuff,” Lynn said all of the efforts support a singular focus. “At the end of the day, it’s about lethality,” he said.
Russian special forces is often seen as a bit backward compared to NATO allies and the U.S. — with dated equipment, low budgets and ships that can’t sail.
But one force Moscow has clearly placed a lot of emphasis on are its special operations units. Like the U.S., the Russian military clearly sees how a small number of these specially-trained and-equipped troops can have an outsized influence on the battlefield — particularly against poorly organized, commanded and equipped terrorist forces like ISIS.
On May 10, 2017, the Russian military bestowed high honors on 13 members of a special forces unit that reportedly killed 300 ISIS fighters in Syria — that’s an average of 23 EKIA per man.
And by the looks of this video from the Russian Special Operations Forces, Moscow’s commandos have taken a few pages out of Washington’s playbook. From their thumb-over-bore rifle handling, to their Multicam uniforms to their OpsCore helmets and red-dot optics, the Russian special operators have clearly learned the lessons of America’s anti-terrorism experience and applied it to their best trained troops.
“We had a good advantage in terms of armament and equipment, including thermal imaging sights,” one Russian commander said of his troops’ experience in Syria. “All this added to our success.”
Not only do the Russians have the latest weapons technology and gear, they’re also using top-end electronic systems for targeting and surveillance, the video shows. And they’ve clearly come a long way from their ham-fisted anti-terrorist operations in the Chechnya of the 1990s, with high-speed direct action and snipers taking the place of tank shells and dumb bombs.
“Training is constantly being improved, and the current special operations forces are touted as highly professional and elite troops,” independent Russian security expert Igor Nikolaychuk told Sputnik News.
And by the looks of this video from the Russian Special Operations Forces, he’s not far off.
Congress sent President Donald Trump legislation to provide the biggest expansion of college aid for military veterans in a decade.
The Senate cleared the bill by voice vote on August 2, passing the second piece of legislation aimed at addressing urgent problems at the beleaguered Department of Veterans Affairs in as many days. The House passed the bipartisan college aid legislation last week.
The measure is a broad effort to better prepare veterans for life after active-duty service amid a rapidly changing job market.
Building on major legislation passed in 2008 that guaranteed a full-ride scholarship to any in-state public university — or a similar cash amount for private college students — the bill removes a 15-year time limit to tap into GI benefits and increases money for thousands in the National Guard and Reserve.
Veterans would get additional payments if they complete science, technology, and engineering courses. The bill also would restore benefits if a college closed in the middle of the semester, a protection added when thousands of veterans were hurt by the collapse of for-profit college giant ITT Technical Institute and Corinthian Colleges. Purple Heart recipients, meanwhile, would be fully eligible for benefits, regardless of length of time in service.
“This bill invests in the proven success of our veterans,” said Sen. Johnny Isakson, R- Ga., chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee. “When our veterans return home, they should have every opportunity available to them to pursue their desired profession and career.”
The panel’s top Democrat, Jon Tester of Montana, says the bill “also does right by Guardsmen and Reservists by getting them the education, housing, and health care that they have earned. I look forward to working with President Trump to quickly sign our bill into law.”
Tester is one of the more vulnerable Democrats up for re-election next year, seeking another term in a state Trump won last year.
Sens. Johnny Isakson, R- Ga., (left) and Jon Tester, D-Mont (right)
The Senate, on August 2, backed a measure that authorizes $3.9 billion in emergency spending to avert imminent bankruptcy in the VA’s Veterans Choice Program of private-sector care. About $1.8 million of that money would bolster core VA programs, including 28 leases for new VA medical facilities.
The education benefits would take effect for enlistees who begin using their GI Bill money next year.
For a student attending a private university, the additional benefits to members of the Guard and Reserve could mean $2,300 a year more in tuition than they are receiving now, plus a bigger housing allowance.
A wide range of veterans’ groups had supported the expanded GI Bill benefits. The American Legion, the nation’s largest veterans group, hailed the proposal as launching a “new era” for those who served in uniform.
According to Student Veterans of America, only about half of the 200,000 service members who leave the military each year go on to enroll in a college, while surveys indicate that veterans often outperform peers in the classroom.
Veterans of Foreign Wars estimates that hundreds of thousands of veterans stand to gain from the new benefits.
The expanded educational benefits would be paid for by bringing living stipend payments under the GI Bill down to a similar level as that received by an active-duty member, whose payments were reduced in 2014 by 1 percent a year for five years. Total government spending on the GI Bill is expected to be more than $100 billion over 10 years.
The 334th Training Squadron incorporated the first virtual reality training for airfield management students in the Air Force at Keesler Air Force Base, June 28, 2019, so they can get more of a “hands-on” learning experience.
Chief Master Sgt. Paul Portugal, Airfield Management career field manager, the Pentagon, Arlington, Virgina, relates this new technology to the mission of Air Education and Training Command.
“Innovation and the continuum of learning has always been a priority of AETC to make our airmen more effective and efficient,” Portugal said.
Master Sgt. Joshua Stillwagon, 334th TRS instructor, believes this new technology can teach the airmen more efficiently than the previous, lecture-based class because of the hands-on experience.
An Airman from the 334th Training Squadron tries out new virtual reality technology of the 334th TRS at Cody Hall, on Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, June 28, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Seth Haddix)
“This system gives instructors the capability to not just tell airmen, but instantly show them a concept,” Stillwagon said.
The simulation includes the setting of an airfield and allows students to practice their job as if they were operational.
“The VR technology gives our students a visual representation of airfield hazards that can be unsafe,” Portugal said. “They don’t need to imagine it, they can visualize cranes, trees or other things that can affect flight safety.”
Portugal believes this training will not only help the future of airfield management training, but improve the overall training of airmen.
U.S. Air Force Col. Leo Lawson Jr., previous 81st Training Group commander, speaks about the new virtual reality technology of the 334th Training Squadron at Cody Hall, on Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, June 28, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Seth Haddix)
“The technological jump that we are making in how we create a more efficient and effective airmen is the biggest part of this,” Portugal said.
Col. Leo Lawson Jr., previous 81st Training Group commander, was impressed with the quality of the new VR experience.
“The VR training simulations blew me away,” Lawson said. “Not only was it able to deliver the training our airmen need to understand the concept of the job, but it did so with great quality.”
A half century after serving in Vietnam, hundreds of veterans have a new reason to believe they may be dying from a silent bullet — test results show some men may have been infected by a slow-killing parasite while fighting in the jungles of Southeast Asia.
The Department of Veterans Affairs this spring commissioned a small pilot study to look into the link between liver flukes ingested through raw or undercooked fish and a rare bile duct cancer. It can take decades for symptoms to appear. By then, patients are often in tremendous pain, with just a few months to live.
Of the 50 blood samples submitted, more than 20 percent came back positive or bordering positive for liver fluke antibodies, said Sung-Tae Hong, the tropical medicine specialist who carried out the tests at Seoul National University in South Korea.
“It was surprising,” he said, stressing the preliminary results could include false positives and that the research is ongoing.
Northport VA Medical Center spokesman Christopher Goodman confirmed the New York facility collected the samples and sent them to the lab. He would not comment on the findings, but said everyone who tested positive was notified.
Gerry Wiggins, who served in Vietnam from 1968 to 1969, has already lost friends to the disease. He was among those who got the call.
“I was in a state of shock,” he said. “I didn’t think it would be me.”
The 69-year-old, who lives in Port Jefferson Station, New York, didn’t have any symptoms when he agreed to take part in the study, but hoped his participation could help save lives. He immediately scheduled further tests, discovering he had two cysts on his bile duct, which had the potential to develop into the cancer, known as cholangiocarcinoma. They have since been removed and — for now — he’s doing well.
Though rarely found in Americans, the parasites infect an estimated 25 million people worldwide, mostly in Asia.
Endemic in the rivers of Vietnam, the worms can easily be wiped out with a handful of pills early on, but left untreated, they can live for decades without making their hosts sick. Over time, swelling and inflammation of the bile duct can lead to cancer. Jaundice, itchy skin, weight loss, and other symptoms appear only when the disease is in its final stages.
The VA study, along with a call by Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer of New York for broader research into liver flukes and cancer-stricken veterans, began after The Associated Press raised the issue in a story last year. The reporting found that about 700 veterans with cholangiocarcinoma have been seen by the VA in the past 15 years. Less than half of them submitted claims for service-related benefits, mostly because they were not aware of a possible connection to Vietnam. The VA rejected 80 percent of the requests, but decisions often appeared to be haphazard or contradictory, depending on what desks they landed on, the AP found.
The number of claims submitted reached 60 in 2017, up from 41 last year. Nearly three out of four of those cases were also denied, even though the government posted a warning on its website this year saying veterans who ate raw or under-cooked freshwater fish while in Vietnam might be at risk. It stopped short of urging them to get ultrasounds or other tests, saying there was currently no evidence the vets had higher infection rates than the general population.
“We are taking this seriously,” said Curt Cashour, a spokesman with the Department of Veterans Affairs. “But until further research, a recommendation cannot be made either way.”
Veteran Mike Baughman, 65, who was featured in the previous AP article, said his claim was granted early this year after being denied three times. He said the approval came right after his doctor wrote a letter saying his bile duct cancer was “more likely than not” caused by liver flukes from the uncooked fish he and his unit in Vietnam ate when they ran out of rations in the jungle. He now gets about $3,100 a month and says he’s relieved to know his wife will continue to receive benefits after he dies. But he remains angry that other veterans’ last days are consumed by fighting the same government they went to war for as young men.
“In the best of all worlds, if you came down with cholangiocarcinoma, just like Agent Orange, you automatically were in,” he said, referring to benefits granted to veterans exposed to the toxic defoliant sprayed in Vietnam. “You didn’t have to go fighting.”
Baughman, who is thin and weak, recently plucked out “Country Roads” on a bass during a jam session at his cabin in West Virginia. He wishes the VA would do more to raise awareness about liver flukes and to encourage Vietnam veterans to get an ultrasound that can detect inflammation.
“Personally, I got what I needed, but if you look at the bigger picture with all these other veterans, they don’t know what necessarily to do,” he said. “None of them have even heard of it before. A lot of them give me that blank stare like, ‘You’ve got what?'”