The VA still has thousands of jobs unfilled - We Are The Mighty
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The VA still has thousands of jobs unfilled

Despite the lifting of a federal hiring freeze, the Department of Veterans Affairs is leaving thousands of positions unfilled, citing the need for a leaner VA as it develops a longer-term plan to allow more veterans to seek medical care in the private sector.


The order by VA Secretary David Shulkin is described in an internal April 14 memorandum obtained by The Associated Press. The VA indicated it would proceed with filling open positions previously exempted under the hiring freeze. Noting that the White House had ordered all departments to be leaner and “more accountable,” the VA indicated that more than 4,000 jobs would still be left vacant unless they were specially approved “position by position” by top VA leadership as addressing an “absolute critical need.”

The VA still has thousands of jobs unfilled
VA Secretary David Shulkin. (Photo by Robert Turtil | Department of Veterans Affairs)

These positions include roughly 4,000 in the VA’s health arm and 200 in benefits, plus more than 400 information technology positions and over 100 human resource positions, according to VA data provided to the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee earlier in April. Government auditors have previously faulted the department for recent shortages in IT and HR, which it said it had hurt its ability to recruit and hire key staff department-wide.

Major veterans organizations also worry this could be a sign of future tightening at the VA, coming after the department had previously warned it would need “hiring surges” to address a rapidly growing disability backlog. The groups have cautioned against any “privatization” efforts at the VA that could expand private care for veterans while reducing investment in the VA itself.

“It seems to be a reversal of what they have been saying, and it’s disappointing,” said Garry Augustine, executive director of Disabled American Veterans’ Washington headquarters.

Carlos Fuentes, legislative director of Veterans of Foreign Wars, said his group was concerned the VA would overlook positions that didn’t directly affect health care, such as staffing of its suicide prevention hotline.

Also read: These 5 vets discuss the ups and downs of the VA

In a statement April 26, the VA said the hiring restrictions were needed to “streamline VA’s corporate structure and administrative positions.”

While President Donald Trump’s budget blueprint calls for a 6 percent increase in VA funding, the memo indicated that the government’s second largest agency with nearly 370,000 employees was no different from other departments that needed to improve “efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability” and left open the possibility of “near-term” and “long-term workforce reductions.” Shulkin is also putting together a broader proposal by fall to expand the VA’s Choice program of private-sector care.

“This memo lifts the federal hiring freeze. However, this does not mean business as usual for hiring,” stated VA chief of staff Vivieca Wright Simpson. She said VA leadership aimed to proceed in the coming months with “deliberative hiring strategies” as it seeks to build “a future VA of Choice.”

The memo comes as the Trump administration seeks to highlight accomplishment and accountability at the VA. During the 2016 campaign, Trump repeatedly criticized the VA as “the most corrupt” and pledged to expand private care.

The VA still has thousands of jobs unfilled
Palo Alto VA hospital. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Trump planned to sign an executive order April 27 to create a VA Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection, according to a White House official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to discuss the matter on the record.

Shulkin has acknowledged that the VA was hurt initially by the hiring freeze because it could not hire claims processors. Shulkin later exempted those positions, including 242 the VA earmarked for this year to specifically address an appeals backlog, a 36 percent increase. But the VA has said it would need an additional hiring “surge” of at least 1,458 full-time staff to stem a growing appeals backlog. The backlog was expected to exceed 1 million within a decade, with average wait times of 8.5 years. The current wait time is as many as five years.

Shulkin also has signaled, without naming specific locations, that underutilized VA facilities will have to close. “There are some parts of the country where facilities are sitting empty, and there is no sense in keeping them empty,” he has said.

Meanwhile, the VA is stepping up efforts to root out bad employees.

The executive order being signed by Trump would create a VA office to “discipline or terminate VA managers or employees who fail to carry out their duties in helping our veterans.”

Recent audits by the VA inspector general and a report by The Associated Press in February found a pattern of poor VA compliance involving equipment and drug inventory checks, putting patients at risk at the Washington, D.C. medical center and leading to a sharp rise in opioid thefts across the VA system since 2009.

In March, the Republican-led House approved legislation to make it easier for the VA to fire, suspend, or demote employees for poor performance or bad conduct. But the measure has been slow to move in the Senate after Democrats and unions cast it as an attack on workers’ rights.

AP writer Darlene Superville contributed to this report.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why an award for military dogs is long overdue

Military working animals are just as much troops in the formation as their bipedal handlers. They go through rigorous training, like the Joes. They get weeded out through selection, like the Joes. And they even hold rank, like the Joes. Military working animals, especially the military dogs, are trained in a wide array of specializations, from drug sniffing and explosives detection to locating survivors in wreckage and providing emotional support to our wounded service members at countless hospitals.

These dogs give just as much as everyone else in the formation — yet, unlike the Joes, they didn’t have official recognition by the United States Armed Forces for their their gallant deeds. That could change with the recently proposed “Guardians of America’s Freedom Medal.”


The VA still has thousands of jobs unfilled

Fun fact: The first organization to care for military working animals was called “Our Dumb Friends League” — which is still a less agitating way to refer to an animal than when people call their Pomeranian their “fur baby.”

(Imperial War Museum)​

Currently, the Dickin Medal is given to military working dogs of all allied nations — but this is not an American award nor is it even officially from the military. It’s from the UK’s People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals. Despite that, the current Dickin Medal means a great deal to the handler because it doesn’t just mean a printed certificate and a tiny medallion for a creature that’d much rather play with a tennis ball — the medal also comes with benefits and care for the dog.

Physical proof that a military working dog is, in fact, a very good boy gives handlers the evidence they need to back up their requests for help. Handlers currently have little support from Uncle Sam when it comes to ordering new supplies, like harnesses, training aids, etc. With recognition, which, to this point, has meant the Dickin Medal exclusively, the animal is pampered with all of the dignity and respect it earned.

The Dickin Medal also allows the animal to be buried, with full military honors, at the Ilford Animal Cemetery in London. Non-decorated working animals don’t have that right, but the Department of Defense has been taking steps in the right direction. Now, military working animals are allowed to be buried next to their handler at certain national cemeteries. Additionally, the DoD decided (finally) that it was a terrible idea to just leave working dogs on the battlefield or euthanize them when their service isn’t required anymore.

The VA still has thousands of jobs unfilled

Military working dogs have proven time and time again that they’re patriots.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Aaron S. Patterson)

The Guardians of America’s Freedom Medal would give nearly all of those same benefits — along with official recognition by the United States Government — to the animals that have bravely served their country.

This medal, which costs nothing more than a few bucks and a commander’s recommendation, will help showcase the heroism of our military working animals and give them more than just a pat on the head and an extra treat.

As of December 31st, 2013, 92 military working animals have lost their lives in support of the Global War on Terrorism. 29 of those dogs suffered gunshot wounds, and another 31 were killed by explosions. The other 32 have fallen due to illness. Another 1,350 dogs have suffered non-combat-related injuries or illnesses.

The award will probably mean little to an animal that doesn’t comprehend why everyone’s applauding, but it’s a step in the right direction — and it will give the handlers that extra push they need to get the care our military working animals deserve.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The President wants to send astronauts back to the moon

President Donald Trump is sending astronauts back to the Moon.


The president December 11 signed at the White House Space Policy Directive 1, a change in national space policy that provides for a U.S.-led, integrated program with private sector partners for a human return to the Moon, followed by missions to Mars and beyond.

The VA still has thousands of jobs unfilled
Pacific Ocean from space (image Flickr blueforce4116)

The policy calls for the NASA administrator to “lead an innovative and sustainable program of exploration with commercial and international partners to enable human expansion across the solar system and to bring back to Earth new knowledge and opportunities.” The effort will more effectively organize government, private industry, and international efforts toward returning humans on the Moon, and will lay the foundation that will eventually enable human exploration of Mars.

“The directive I am signing today will refocus America’s space program on human exploration and discovery,” said President Trump. “It marks a first step in returning American astronauts to the Moon for the first time since 1972, for long-term exploration and use. This time, we will not only plant our flag and leave our footprints — we will establish a foundation for an eventual mission to Mars, and perhaps someday, to many worlds beyond.”

Also Read: The soldier accused of ties with ISIS thinks the Moon landing was faked

The policy grew from a unanimous recommendation by the new National Space Council, chaired by Vice President Mike Pence, after its first meeting Oct. 5. In addition to the direction to plan for human return to the Moon, the policy also ends NASA’s existing effort to send humans to an asteroid. The president revived the National Space Council in July to advise and help implement his space policy with exploration as a national priority.

“Under President Trump’s leadership, America will lead in space once again on all fronts,” said Vice President Pence. “As the President has said, space is the ‘next great American frontier’ – and it is our duty – and our destiny – to settle that frontier with American leadership, courage, and values. The signing of this new directive is yet another promise kept by President Trump.”

The VA still has thousands of jobs unfilled
President Donald Trump signs the Presidential Space Directive – 1, directing NASA to return to the moon, alongside members of the Senate, Congress, NASA, and commercial space companies in the Roosevelt room of the White House in Washington, Monday, Dec. 11, 2017. Photo Credit: (NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)

Among other dignitaries on hand for the signing, were NASA astronauts Sen. Harrison “Jack” Schmitt, Buzz Aldrin, Peggy Whitson and Christina Koch. Schmitt landed on the moon 45 years to the minute that the policy directive was signed as part of NASA’s Apollo 17 mission, and is the most recent living person to have set foot on our lunar neighbor. Aldrin was the second person to walk on the Moon during the Apollo 11 mission. Whitson spoke to the president from space in April aboard the International Space Station and while flying back home after breaking the record for most time in space by a U.S. astronaut in September. Koch is a member of NASA’s astronaut class of 2013.

Work toward the new directive will be reflected in NASA’s Fiscal Year 2019 budget request next year.

“NASA looks forward to supporting the president’s directive strategically aligning our work to return humans to the Moon, travel to Mars and opening the deeper solar system beyond,” said acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot. “This work represents a national effort on many fronts, with America leading the way. We will engage the best and brightest across government and private industry and our partners across the world to reach new milestones in human achievement. Our workforce is committed to this effort, and even now we are developing a flexible deep space infrastructure to support a steady cadence of increasingly complex missions that strengthens American leadership in the boundless frontier of space. The next generation will dream even bigger and reach higher as we launch challenging new missions, and make new discoveries and technological breakthroughs on this dynamic path.”

The VA still has thousands of jobs unfilled

A piece of Moon rock was brought to the White House as a reminder of the exploration history and American successes at the Moon on which the new policy will build. Lunar Sample 70215 was retrieved from the Moon’s surface and returned by Schmitt’s Apollo 17 crew. Apollo 17 was the last Apollo mission to land astronauts on the Moon and returned with the greatest amount of rock and soil samples for investigation.

The sample is a basaltic lava rock similar to lava found in Hawaii. It crystallized 3.84 billion years ago when lava flowed from the Camelot Crater. Sliced off a parent rock that originally weighed 8,110 grams, the sample weighs 14 grams, and is very fine grained, dense and tough. During the six Apollo surface excursions from 1969 to 1972, astronauts collected 2,196 rock and soil samples weighting 842 pounds. Scientific studies help us learn about the geologic history of the Moon, as well as Earth. They help us understand the mineral and chemical resources available to support future lunar exploration.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Navy bets big on drones to counter lethal anti-carrier missiles

The US Navy awarded Boeing an $805 million contract to develop refueling drones in what the service’s top officer called a “historic” step toward making the fleet’s carriers more effective and more deadly.

The contract provides for the design, development, testing, delivery, and support of four MQ-25A unmanned aerial refueling vehicles. It includes integration into the carrier air wing with initial operational capability by 2024.


It is a fixed-price contract, meaning the Navy is not on the hook for costs beyond the 5.3 million award. Boeing will reportedly get million of the total award to start.

The Navy expects the program to yield 72 aircraft with a total cost of about billion, James Geurts, the service’s assistant secretary for research, development, and acquisition, told Defense News.

Geurts also called the MQ-25A “a hallmark acquisition program.”

“This is an historic day,” Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson said in a release.

The VA still has thousands of jobs unfilled

Boeing conducts an MQ-25 deck-handling demonstration at its facility in St. Louis, Missouri, January 29, 2018.

(US Navy / Boeing)

The Navy has been working on a drone that can operate on carriers for some time. The unmanned carrier-launched airborne surveillance and strike program was scrapped in 2016 and reoriented toward developing an unmanned tanker.

According to the Navy, the MQ-25A will bolster the carrier air wing’s performance and efficiency while extending their operating range and tanking capability.

Richardson told Defense News that the new drone will free up the Super Hornet aircraft currently dedicated to providing tanker support to other aircraft.

“We will look back on this day and recognize that this event represents a dramatic shift in the way we define warfighting requirements, work with industry, integrate unmanned and manned aircraft, and improve the lethality of the airwing — all at relevant speed,” Richardson said in the release. “But we have a lot more to do. It’s not the time to take our foot off the gas. Let’s keep charging.”

The VA still has thousands of jobs unfilled

An F/A-18E Super Hornet launches from the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ryan U. Kledzik)

Boeing has a long history of involvement in naval aviation, including manufacture of the Hornet and Super Hornet carrier aircraft, and in tanker operations.

This award is seen as a much-needed victory, however, as the company has been on the outside looking in for major aviation programs in recent years, such as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

Boeing was involved in the UCLASS program, and the design it offered for the refueling drone was influenced by that previous project. The company has already built a prototype of the MQ-25A and has said a first flight may take place not long after the contract was awarded.

“The fact that we’re already preparing for first flight is thanks to an outstanding team who understands the Navy and their need to have this important asset on carrier decks around the world,” Leanne Caret, head of Boeing’s defense, space and security division, said in a company release.

The VA still has thousands of jobs unfilled

An F/A-18E Super Hornet prepares to launch from the flight deck of the USS Nimitz.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Nathan R. McDonald)

Boeing said the Navy believes the MQ-25A will extend the range of the F/A-18 Super Hornet and the EA-18G Growler, both of which are Boeing aircraft, as well as the F-35C, which is the Navy’s variant of the Lockheed Martin-made joint strike fighter.

The crews of the Navy’s Super Hornets are currently tasked with both refueling and fighter operations, rising concerns about wear and tear and stoking interest in unmanned replacements.

The Super Hornets and the F-35Cs that make up carrier air wings also have shorter ranges than the aircraft they replaced — a particular hindrance in light of the “carrier-killer” missiles that both Russia and China have developed.

Get the latest Boeing stock price here.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Articles

The Air Force may offer a ‘fly only’ option to keep more pilots in its jets

The Air Force’s pilot shortage has leaders worried not only about filling gaps in the immediate future, but also how the military and civilian airlines may suffer without fine-tuned aviators in decades to come.


As a result, Air Mobility Command at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, if given permission, may start a small group tryout for pilots testing a new program in which aviators stay at their home-duty stations longer, thus increasing their longevity and likelihood to stay in service, the head of the command told Military.com in an exclusive interview.

“Should we go with a ‘fly-only’ track?” Gen. Carlton Everhart II said in an interview July 26.

Everhart said he envisions something like this: “You stay with me for 20 years, and I let you fly. You … could maybe [make] lieutenant colonel, but you may not make higher than that.”

The VA still has thousands of jobs unfilled
Gen. Carlton D. Everhart II, left, Air Mobility Command commander, shakes hands with Chief Master Sgt. Chris Hofrichter, 514th Maintenance Operations Squadron. USAF photo by Master Sgt. Mark C. Olsen

“Then, [we] allow you to stay at your home station for three to four years instead of two to three, so you can get some longevity,” he continued. “Then, it’s not just [flying airlift cargo or tanker planes]. You could go to [Air Education and Training Command] and help out there for three to four years to help bring on new pilots.”

“To sweeten the deal, as you come into your career, maybe in the last four years, we allow you on a ‘dream sheet’ to put your top three choices, try to get you moved to there so you can establish your family and where you want to retire,” he said.

Everhart said the ‘fly-only’ effort would still encompass wing, squadron, and group duties and deployments but — bottom line — “it’s longevity.”

The same aviator retention bonuses would also apply, he said.

The VA still has thousands of jobs unfilled
USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Jacob N. Bailey

“The idea being explored is seeking airmen volunteers for a professional ‘fly-only’ aviator track comprised of anywhere from 5 to 10 percent of the AMC flying force,” said Col. Chris Karns, spokesman for the command, in an email. “This small group of airmen would be linked to flying jobs throughout a career.”

AMC has nearly 49,000 active-duty members and civilians; 42,000 Air Reserve component military; and 35,000 Air National Guard members, according to the command.

RELATED: The Air Force is running out of pilots

The mobility Air Forces has roughly 8,500 total force pilots. Throughout the Air Force, active-duty mobility pilots total 5,125, Karns said. Active-duty pilots assigned to AMC installations total 2,866.

How airmen will be selected for the ‘fly-only’ program is still being determined, the officials said, as well as how many will be involved.

The VA still has thousands of jobs unfilled
USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Charles Rivezzo

Everhart said his teams are looking at the program to establish more fixed methodology behind the effort, but would like to “look at it in the next three to four months” to begin a trial run.

“There’s certain things we have to do to code these folks … and I’ve introduced the notion and got a tentative nod from [Air Force Chief of Staff Gen David Goldfein],” he said. “I think there’s merit there, but I’ve just got to work all the way through it, then do the small group tryout and see where we go.”

“I’m not taking anything off the table because I need them with me, I need them to fly with me,” he said.

The Issues Wearing Out Pilots

Goldfein and Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson have said the service was 1,544 pilots short by fiscal 2016, which includes 1,211 total force fighter pilots — with the deficit expected to grow.

The VA still has thousands of jobs unfilled
USAF photo by Master Sgt. Jeffrey Allen

Everhart said the Air Force stands potentially to lose 1,600 pilots who are eligible to separate from the service in the next four years.

He has been working with an AMC aviation retention task force for the past few months, trying to come up with recommendations as a result of airman feedback.

That feedback includes: Flying has become secondary to administrative duties; airmen desire more stability for themselves and their families; they lack support personnel; and they fear the impact of service politics on their career paths.

Airman feedback has resulted in one concrete move — the removal of additional duties, a common complaint.

The VA still has thousands of jobs unfilled
USAF photo by Lt. Col. Robert Couse-Baker

In August, the service began removing miscellaneous responsibilities known as “additional duties” typically assigned to airmen at the unit level. It has since cut 29 of 61 additional duties identified under Air Force Instruction 38-206, “Additional Duty Management.”

Some duties were reassigned to commander support staffs, and civilians will be hired to take on some other duties in coming months.

ALSO READ: 23 terms only fighter pilots understand

Other areas are also getting scrutiny: Officials are looking at accession and promotion rates, giving commanders more freedom to think of creative solutions, and working with US Transportation Command to look at deployment requirements, Everhart said.

“We’re working hand-in-hand with headquarters Air Force A3 … so we don’t get in crossways with each other, and can we, as solution sets, put these across the entire broad perspective of the Air Force,” he said, referring to Lt. Gen. Mark C. Nowland, head of operations, plans and requirements.

The VA still has thousands of jobs unfilled
USAF photo by Senior Airman Christopher Callaway

He’s also in communication with Lt. Gen. Gina M. Grosso, the Air Force’s chief of manpower, personnel, and services, and the Air Force Personnel Center at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, he said.

Lessons learned from these discussions and trial programs could then be applied to the fighter pilot community, Everhart said, but that’s still a ways out.

But the Air Force is not the only organization in crisis.

Working With Civilian Airlines

Boeing Co., the US’ largest aerospace company, on July 26 said it predicts that in the next 20 years, North American airline companies will need 117,000 new pilots to keep up with commercial demands, CNN reported.

The VA still has thousands of jobs unfilled
USMC photo by Sgt. Keonaona Paulo

Everhart said this incentivizes both sides to work together.

Last May, the Air Force met with representatives from civilian airline corporations such as American Airlines and United; academic institutions such as Embry Riddle University, an aeronautical university; civil reserve airfleet institutions such as FedEx; and Rand Corp., a nonprofit institution that provides research and analysis studies on public policy.

The groups established working areas, Karns said, that need critical attention, such as exploring ways to make a career in aviation more desirable; finding ways to reduce the cost of earning a civilian aviation certification — for example, a debt relief program; looking at enhanced data analysis to establish a baseline for what is actually required to meet national pilot need; exploring potential alternate pathways to becoming a pilot — possibly by accelerating timelines; and improving the effectiveness of “shared resources” of pilots who fly for both the military and commercial airlines.

“We’ve got another airline meeting coming up in September,” Everhart said, in which leaders will discuss the secondary phases for these working areas.

The VA still has thousands of jobs unfilled
USAF photo by Master Sgt. Mark C. Olsen

“We need to instill in the hearts of our American public what … aviation is all about,” he said.

Rotating Air Force Assets

AMC already employs a rotational system to keep its aircraft sustainable longer.

“In an effort to extend the life service of various mobility fleets and enhance aircraft availability, we’re looking to work with the Guard and Reserve to rotate aircraft more regularly and consistently to avoid disproportionate wear-and-tear on systems,” Karns said. “What has been known as enterprise fleet management is adjusting to what is called ‘Total Force effort to sustain and modernize the fleet.’ ”

The system rotates aircraft from the three components more often in order to “shrink … and no longer have that airlift gap,” Capt. Theresa Izell, a maintenance officer, said in March during an AMC media day at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland.

The VA still has thousands of jobs unfilled
USAF photo by Airman 1st Class Rito Smith

Could that system be applied to the pilot gap — moving pilots flying various platforms throughout, or qualifying pilots to fly more platforms?

“I think you’ve got something there,” Everhart said. “I think we already do that with cross training. We do some cross training for airframes as far as pilots flying tankers versus cargo, but I have to explore that more. I haven’t looked at it from the human dynamic prospect — and I think that’s something to pull back [on]. I love it.”

Love for Country

Everhart reiterated that time in service always comes back to the willingness to serve.

In June, the Air Force unveiled a new tiered Aviation Bonus Program, an expansion of Aviator Retention Pay that puts into place the cap authorized for the incentive under the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA.

Should they choose to stay, fighter and drone pilots, for example, are slated to receive the highest maximum bonus of $35,000 a year, while special operations combat systems officers would receive the least at $10,000. Officers have until Oct. 1 to decide whether they want to extend their service.

The VA still has thousands of jobs unfilled
USAF photo by Airman 1st Class Alystria Maurer

The number of pilots taking the aviator retention bonus for AMC has also slightly declined, Karns said. In 2015, the “take-rate” of pilots choosing the bonus and choosing to re-up into the Air Force was 56 percent; in 2016, that number dropped to 48 percent, Karns said.

While bonuses matter, Everhart reiterated it’s not always about the money.

“They stay in the military because what’s in their heart, and their service to America. They really believe [in] an American fighting force. That’s why they stay,” he said.

“The bonus? Sure, that’s sweet. But that’s not why I stayed,” Everhart said. “I stayed because it’s service to the nation. And that’s what I’m finding out across the board” from other pilots.

Articles

35 technical errors in ‘Rules of Engagement’

“Rules of Engagement” starring Samuel L. Jackson and Tommy Lee Jones showed audiences intense military courtroom drama and the unbreakable bond that develops between two Marines in combat.


But it didn’t get everything right. While WATM has picked apart everything from “The Hurt Locker” to “Top Gun,” we figured it was worth digging into the technical errors here as well. There’s plenty this film accurately depicts. These are 35 times where they got it wrong.

Also read: 9 military movie scenes where Hollywood got it totally wrong

1:47 Why does Childers have a smoke grenade right on the shoulder he fires from? You might want to put that on your non-firing side. You can actually see him struggle a bit when he tries to put his rifle into his shoulder.

The VA still has thousands of jobs unfilled

4:30 After Hodges’ platoon hears enemy fire on Childers’ position, they just stand around in the middle of a swamp. It might be a good idea to get down behind some cover or turn outward to investigate.

The VA still has thousands of jobs unfilled

(Before we hit the next ones, let’s explain proper radio procedures. When calling up another unit over the radio, the procedure is “You, this is me, here’s what I want to say, over.” Like: “Bravo 6, this is Bravo 2, what’s your position? Over.”)

4:32 Radio operator says, “Delta two, what’s your SITREP over?” Then he says “Delta One, Delta Two, SITREP, over.” In the first transmission, he’s implying he’s Delta One, and asking Delta Two for a report. Then in the next, he calls them Delta One, and he says he’s Delta Two.

4:40 He gets a response back from the other radio operator which explains that Childers’ platoon is Delta Two, and Hodges’ is Delta One: “Two, one, contact, over.” This response also deserves the Capt. Obvious award. The other platoon might want to know where the other platoon is so they can help.

4:48 What’s the deal with this NVA soldier behind no cover in the middle of a firefight, not aimed in, just sitting there? That is up until the last moment when he decides to aim at the Americans and then he gets immediately shot.

5:30 The other platoon has literally not moved from their original position. Cover and/or concealment aren’t really a concern. Then of course, 10 seconds later the NVA starts shooting.

6:22 Hodges picks up the radio, calls no one in particular, then says “Other side of the tree line. I’m in the water unable to withdraw.” There are a lot of trees out there, brah. Can you give us a better description so we can help you?

6:28 He continues: “Unable to withdraw! I’m calling in a fire mission on this position.” Who the hell is he talking to? And how is artillery going to drop when they don’t have a grid, distance, direction, or anything other than “hey I’m by this tree line and there’s water.”

6:35 “Hurry up and drop that f—king arty!” he says, to no one in particular, to whom he’s given no information on where it should be dropped. In fairness, he’s under a bit of stress.

7:11 When Childers kills the Vietnamese radio operator with his 1911 .45 caliber pistol, it makes the same sound an M1 Garand makes when it’s out of ammo. This makes no sense.

9:38 Col. Hodges apparently is like, “screw this. I’m not getting a haircut anymore.”

9:49 Hodges puts on his garrison cap like he’s a private just learning how to wear it at boot camp. Not an officer with 32 years of service.

The VA still has thousands of jobs unfilled

10:20 Hodges’ marksmanship badges are out toward the sides. They are supposed to be centered over the pocket with only 3/4-inch space between them.

The VA still has thousands of jobs unfilled

10:37 Pretty much everyone has this problem.

11:12 Col. Childers also hates Marine Corps haircuts.

The VA still has thousands of jobs unfilled

11:47 Childers retells the story of Marine Lt. Presley O’Banion, which is pretty close to Lt. Presley O’Bannon.

14:30 The 24th MEU is on the USS Wake Island. However, the USS Wake Island (CVE-65) was a World War II escort carrier commissioned in 1943 and decommissioned in 1946.

15:09 The Wake Island’s captain wears a hat that says USS Wake Island (LHA-7). LHA-7, which is the newly-commissioned USS Tripoli, didn’t exist at the time of this movie.

The VA still has thousands of jobs unfilled

15:16 Col. Childers has a subdued American flag on his shoulder. This is an Army thing. Marines don’t ever wear this (although it’s possible a MEU commander could say otherwise).

15:45 I know this would kill the rest of the movie and courtroom drama, but why is the MEU Commander, a colonel, going on a TRAP (tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel) mission? There’s a captain in charge of the mission who is more than capable.

The VA still has thousands of jobs unfilled

18:17 The two Marine CH-46 helicopters just turned into Army CH-47 helicopters.

The VA still has thousands of jobs unfilled

19:19 After hearing the command of “lock and load” in the helicopter, the Marine closest to the camera hits his magazine first on his helmet, then jams it into his weapon, thus perpetuating the myth to future troops that this move is ever acceptable or even necessary.

22:10 Col. Childers is wearing his silver rank centered on his flak jacket under his neck. This isn’t where it is placed, and officers and enlisted alike wear black-colored rank when in the field. Unless they enjoy being shot by snipers. Then by all means, keep it there.

The VA still has thousands of jobs unfilled

22:22 The Marine Security Guards on the roof are wielding Mossberg 590 Combat shotguns to defend the embassy. What?

The VA still has thousands of jobs unfilled

27:16 So he’s an ambassador and he likely doesn’t have any clue, but he ends up giving the worst salute ever. And it makes us laugh every time.

The VA still has thousands of jobs unfilled

29:00 After Capt. Lee and Col. Childers have their disagreement over whether there are weapons in the crowd, Capt. Lee finally relents and orders his men: “Engage! Engage! Open fire!”

They then proceed to all jump out from behind cover, take a knee, and spray and pray all over the place into the crowd. This is seconds after snipers were shooting at them from across the way.

29:05 That light machine-gun you think is an M249 SAW is actually a Korean-made Daewoo K3 light machine gun.

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29:42 Col. Childers displays great leadership by example by standing up exposed and yelling to his men, “There may still be snipers out there. Stay down!”

38:57 The general says “we’ve got a trial in two weeks” to Maj. Biggs, although previously, at 36:20, Gen. Perry tells Childers that the court-martial convenes in 8 days.

45:42 Hey, let’s have a meeting to discuss our legal case in a gym where a bunch of Marines are wrestling.

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1:35:50 As evening colors begins, a bunch of people are not standing at the position of attention, to include the Marines who are part of the color detail.

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1:38:42 When asked about his citation for the Navy Cross, Col. Childers just repeats back what is the typical ending of the award, which tells nothing more of why he received it: “for conspicuous gallantry in the face of great personal danger, reflecting great credit upon himself, the United States Marine Corps and the Naval Service.”

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1:58:56 Earlier in the movie, Col. Hodges asks Maj. Biggs what the life expectancy was for a second lieutenant dropped into a hot landing zone in Vietnam in 1968. Biggs guesses two weeks, then at end of the movie he says one week, to which Hodges finally reveals the answer of “sixteen minutes.” Based on Vietnam casualty data, this statistic is not even mathematically possible.

1:59:21 It’s Camp Lejeune. It has big fences around it. So why is there a huge crowd of reporters standing right outside a military courtroom?

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2:00:05 Col. Childers goes and walks right between a formation and the platoon sergeant. Thanks a lot, sir!

It gets way worse…

CHECK OUT: ‘The Marine’, which packs a record number of technical errors into the first five minutes

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why all these costly US missile defenses don’t work

The U.S. public learned on Jan. 31 that the U.S. Navy tried and failed for the second time in a year to intercept a missile with an SM-III missile from the defense contractor Raytheon.


On the same day, the Pentagon announced it would spend another $6.5 billion on 20 more missile interceptors for the ground-based, mid-course defense system (GMD), which is meant to protect the U.S. homeland from missile attacks from North Korea or Russia.

But the GMD has a bad track record. It recently had a successful test that may have calmed the fears of some in the U.S. amid nuclear tensions with North Korea, but a recent paper on the test shows it was unrealistically generous.

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A ground-based missile interceptor is lowered into its missile silo during a recent emplacement at the Missile Defense Complex at Fort Greely, Alaska. (Army photo by Sgt. Jack W. Carlson III)

Laura Grego and David Wright, leading experts in the field of ballistic missiles, writing for the Union of Concerned Scientists, found that the so-called intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) the GMD knocked down was flown on a favorable trajectory, slower than the real thing, and without any of the tricks or savvy North Korea might use in an actual attack. The paper concludes the U.S. has no reliable ballistic missile defense capability for the homeland.

That capability, or lack thereof, comes after the U.S. has spent more than $40 billion over the last decade and a half on ballistic missile defense.

During that time, Boeing, Raytehon, and Lockheed Martin, key players in the BMD scene, have all posted record profits — and they continue to get contracts with the Pentagon.

Also Read: The Pentagon is pumping millions more into missile defense

To be clear, the U.S. can defend against some, shorter-range missiles. Aegis-equipped ballistic missile destroyers at sea have a good track record of defending themselves, but they’re not meant to go after ICBMs. Patriot missiles have saved some lives from short-range missile attacks on the battlefield, though that has been historically over-hyped or just lied about.

BMD kind of works on a theoretical level, but is that worth $40B?

Missile defense plays into the complicated and highly theoretical world of nuclear deterrence. For an adversary like North Korea, maybe even the single-digit percent chance a missile would be intercepted by the U.S. would dissuade them from attacking.

But much more likely, North Korea wouldn’t attack the U.S. because of the U.S.’s ability to return the favor tenfold.

It’s entirely unclear, and no expert can demonstrate beyond reasonable doubt that BMD has ever deterred anyone, or done anything beside line pockets of defense contractors.

For the U.S. taxpayer, who has contributed billions to the cause of missile defenses while enriching the world’s biggest defense contractors, a fair question might be: Where is the capability? Why don’t these systems work?

Articles

This gunner fell 22,000 feet without a parachute and lived

Paratroopers make a big deal about jumping out of planes from 800 feet, but U.S. Army Air Force Staff Sgt. Alan Magee fell out of a plane at 22,000 feet without a parachute while the plane was on fire.


And he lived.

Magee was a ball turret gunner in a B-17 named “Snap! Crackle! Pop!” after the three mascots for Rice Krispies cereal. That plane, along with others from the 360th Squadron, was sent to bomb German torpedo stores in St. Nazaire, France on Jan. 3, 1943.

During the mission, the plane was shot by anti-aircraft guns and became a ball of flames. Magee climbed into the fuselage to get his chute and bail out, but it had been shredded by the flak. As Magee was trying to figure out a new plan, a second flak burst tore through the aircraft and then a fighter blasted it with machine gun fire.

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Magee was knocked unconscious and thrown from the aircraft. When he woke up, he was falling through the air with nothing but a prayer.

Magee told God, “I don’t wish to die because I know nothing of life,” according to reports from the 303rd Bomb Group.

Magee, struggling with a shortage of oxygen and likely in shock from the events of the past few minutes, passed out again and God seemingly answered his prayer. The young noncommissioned officer fell into the town of St. Nazaire and through the glass roof of the train station. He was later found dangling on the steel girders that supported the ceiling.

The glass had slowed his fall and he regained consciousness as German soldiers took him to medical care. Magee’s right leg and ankle were broken, he had 28 wounds from shrapnel and glass, and his right arm was cut nearly the whole way off. He had also suffered numerous internal injuries.

“I owe the German military doctor who treated me a debt of gratitude,” Magee said. “He told me, ‘we are enemies, but I am first a doctor and I will do my best to save your arm.'”

Magee was able to keep his arm and eventually made a full recovery. He spent most of the rest of the war as a POW.

In 1995, Magee was invited back to France as part of a ceremony sponsored by French citizens to thank Allied service members for their efforts in the war. Magee was able to see monuments to the crew of Snap! Crackle! Pop!, including the nose art which had been used as a Nazi trophy until after the war when a French man recovered it. It was restored in 1989.

Magee died in 2003.

(h/t War History Online)

MIGHTY TRENDING

Heroic Fort Leavenworth Soldier stops active shooter with his car

On Wednesday, an active duty U.S. Army soldier brought an active shooter situation in Kansas to an abrupt end by ramming the suspect with a vehicle after another soldier was wounded.

Police were first called to Centennial Bridge over the Missouri River, which spans across the border between Kansas and Missouri, after reports of a road rage incident at approximately 11 a.m. local time on Wednesday. By the time they arrived, the shooter had already been neutralized by a Soldier that had been waiting in traffic. According to Leavenworth Police Chief Pat Kitchens, responding officers arrived to find one Soldier nursing a gunshot wound and the suspect “trapped under the car” of another Soldier. Neither of the Soldier’s names have been released thus far.


Both the soldier who was wounded and the shooter were transported to a nearby hospital where both are now listed in “serious, but in stable condition.”

Fort Leavenworth soldier stops active shooter on bridge

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According to reports, the shooter was armed with a semi-automatic rifle and a pistol, and responding officers found bullet holes in a number of surrounding vehicles. According to witnesses on the scene, the shooter wasn’t seeming to target anyone specifically.

The Soldier, who is stationed in Ft. Leavenworth, was reportedly waiting in traffic when the shooting first began. Once he had assessed that it was an active shooter situation, he took quick action to pull his vehicle out of the line of traffic and sped directly toward the shooter. As the shooter was already firing rounds at surrounding vehicles, the decision to ram him was a risky one, and police are crediting his quick and decisive action for potentially saving a number of lives.

“What was a very, very dangerous situation, fortunately, was ended quite quickly,” Kitchens said in a press conference.

“The soldier intervened by striking the shooter with his vehicle, causing him to be critically injured, but ending the encounter with the active shooter and likely saving countless lives,” Kitchens continued.

You can watch Chief Kitchen’s full statement about the incident in the video below:

Fort Leavenworth soldier saves ‘countless lives’ by ending active shooter situation on bridge

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Thus far, the U.S. Army has not revealed the identity of the Soldier who stopped the shooting, nor have they made any official statements regarding the incident.

“It’s one thing to react under fire in a war zone — you’re in that mental state, even when you’re relaxing your mind is still kind of on edge all the time. It’s another thing to have the quick thinking and courage to do something like this stateside — shootings back home are extremely surreal,” former Army Ranger and author Luke Ryan told Sandboxx news. Ryan speaks from experience–having served in combat as a Ranger after surviving a school shooting as a student.

“They don’t feel real, and it takes your mind longer to sort out exactly what’s happening. Of course, in a violent situation like that, every second is precious and can mean another life lost. The soldier who stopped this shooter is commendable, not only for their courageous actions, but also their ability to think fast and act decisively. I don’t know what this soldier’s background is, whether they relied on years of combat experience or whether they were just a regular person reacting the best way they knew how — either way, hats off.”

An investigation into the incident, including what the motive for the shooting may have been, remains ongoing.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

Articles

The 18 greatest fighter aircraft of all time

Results are what make a weapons system great, not just technology.


In the case of fighter aircraft, it’s all about the kills, and with that as the main selection criteria, here’s WATM’s list of the 18 greatest fighters of all time:

1. Fokker Triplane

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The iconic aircraft behind the World War I success of Manfred von Richthofen’s Flying Circus was actually designed after a Sopwith Triplane crashed behind German lines in 1917. The Fokker Triplane was relatively slow and hard to see out of, but it possessed an impressive turn rate that “The Red Baron” leveraged towards his war total of 80 confirmed kills.

2. Sopwith Camel

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(Photo: The Canadian ace William Barker with his Sopwith Camel B6313.)

The Sopwith Camel had a more powerful engine and more firepower than the German fighters it went up against, and although the big engine made it hard to handle, in the hands of an experienced pilot the fighter was very lethal. The Sopwith Camel accounted for 1,294 air-to-air kills, the most of any model during World War I.

3. Mitsubishi Zero

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At the outset of World War II in the Pacific, the Zero owned the skies, including those over Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. The Zero was primarily carrier-based, highly maneuverable, and could fly long range. Because of this the Japanese enjoyed a 12-to-1 kill ratio over the allies during the first few years of the war.

4. Bf-109

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Often incorrectly called the “Me 109,” the Bf-109 remains the most produced fighter aircraft in history and was one of the Luftwaffe’s air-to-air workhorses. The Bf 109 was flown by the three top-scoring German fighter aces of World War II, who claimed 928 victories among them. Through constant design improvements and development by German engineers, the Bf 109 remained lethal in the face of allied technical advances throughout the war.

5. Focke-Wulf Fw-190

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The Fw-190 was generally considered superior to the Bf-109 because of it’s bigger engine (a BMW inline 12) and greater firepower. Some of the Luftwaffe ‘ s most successful fighter aces flew the Fw 190, including Otto Kittel with 267 victories, Walter Nowotny with 258, and Erich Rudorffer with 222.

6. P-51 Mustang

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The P-51 Mustang was a solution to the clear need for an effective bomber escort starting in 1943. General James Doolittle told the fighters in early 1944 to stop flying in formation with the bombers and instead attack the Luftwaffe wherever it could be found. The Mustang groups were sent in well before the bombers in a “fighter sweep” as a form of air supremacy action, intercepting German fighters while they were forming up. As a result, the Luftwaffe lost 17 percent of its fighter pilots in just over a week, and the Allies were able to establish air superiority. (Wikipedia)

7. P-38 Lightning

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In spite of the fact that the twin-boom design limited roll rate performance, the P-38 tallied impressive kill numbers in the Pacific and the China-Burma-India areas when piloted by America’s top aces like Richard Bong (40 victories) and Thomas McGuire (38 victories).

8. P-47 Thunderbolt

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In Europe during the critical first three months of 1944 when the German aircraft industry and Berlin were heavily attacked, the P-47 shot down more German fighters than the P-51 (570 out of 873), and shot down approximately 900 of the 1,983 claimed during the first six months of 1944. In Europe, Thunderbolts flew more sorties (423,435) than P-51s, P-38s and P-40s combined. Indeed, it was the P-47 which broke the back of the Luftwaffe on the Western Front in the critical period of January–May 1944. (Wikipedia)

9. Spitfire

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The Spitfire achieved legendary status during the Battle of Britain by racking up the highest victory-to-loss ratio among British aircraft. Spitfires were flown by British aces Johnnie Johnson (34 kills), Douglas Bader (20 kills), and Bob Tuck (27 kills). The Spitfire was produced in greater numbers than any other British aircraft and was the only British fighter to be in continuous production throughout the war. (Wikipedia)

10. F4F Wildcat

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The first of the Grumman “Cat” series, the carrier-based F4F was slower, shorter ranged, and less maneuverable than the Japanese Zero. However it’s ruggedness and the development of group tactics like the “Thatch Weave” allowed the Wildcat to ultimately prevail, tallying a nearly 7-to-1 kill ratio over the course of the war.

11. F6F Hellcat

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The F6F was designed to improve on the Wildcat’s ability to counter the Mitsubishi A6M Zero and help secure air superiority over the Pacific Theater. Hellcats were credited with 5,223 kills, more than any other Allied naval aircraft.

12. F-4U Corsair

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Know to the Japanese as “whistling death,” Corsairs claimed 2,140 air combat victories and an overall kill ratio of over 11-to-1. Legendary F4U pilots include Marines Joe Foss, Marion Carl, and Pappy Boyington.

13. MiG-15

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With the Chinese entry into the Korean War, the MiG-15 began to appear in the skies over Korea. Quickly proving superior to straight-wing American jets such as the F-80 and F-84 Thunderjet, the MiG-15 temporarily gave the Chinese the advantage in the air and ultimately forced United Nations forces to halt daylight bombing until the F-86 arrived to level the air combat playing field.

14. F-86 Sabre

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The F-86 was the U.S. answer to the MiG-15 that had dominated the skies over Korea in the early part of that conflict. Engagements in MiG Alley between the two aircraft were numerous, and that period is considered by many as the glory days of air-to-air warfare between jet aircraft. F-86s ended the war with a 10-to-1 kill ratio over the MiG-15s they faced.

15. F-4 Phantom

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The F-4 was the fighter and attack workhorse for the U.S. Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps for several decades and Phantom crews were the last to attain “ace” status in the 20th Century. The most noteworthy event happened on May 10, 1972, when Lieutenant Randy “Duke” Cunningham and Lieutenant (junior grade) William P. Driscoll shot down three MiG-17s to become the first American flying aces of the war.

16. MiG-21

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One of the most widely used fighter aircraft in history, MiG-21s tallied impressive kill numbers during the Vietnam War, the Iran-Iraq War, and the India-Pakistan and Egypt-Israeli conflicts.

17. F-14 Tomcat

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The Tomcat didn’t make this list because of it’s long service as the U.S. Navy’s front-line carrier-based fighter (in spite of the fact that “Top Gun” remains the greatest military movie of all time), but because the Iranian Air Force had more than 160 kills with it during the Iran-Iraq War.

18. F-15 Eagle

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Eagles made dogfighting history during Operation Desert Storm, primarily because of their superior weapons suite, including state-of-the-art (at the time) identification capability. F-15s had 34 confirmed kills of Iraqi aircraft during the 1991 Gulf War.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Meet Mighty Milspouse Ashley Keller

Ashley Keller was frustrated. Why was every prenatal workout she found on YouTube too slow or beyond extreme and not safe for her baby?

The triathlete Army officer was no stranger to fitness. Upon her graduation from West Point, she was offered the opportunity to train for the Olympics, but turned it down to pursue serving her country in a traditional way.


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“My husband Luke got his mid-tour leave from a year long deployment and a government paid ticket to anywhere in the world,” Keller explained. “He sacrificed that ticket on a flight to West Point, New York to support my graduation from the Academy. We got married two days later, honeymooned to Costa Rica and he flew back to Iraq and I headed to Fort Leonardwood for Engineer Officer Basic Training. The Army then gave me a choice: go be a platoon leader like I had spent the last four years at West Point preparing to do or be sponsored by the Army to train at the World Class Athlete Center in Colorado for the next triathlon Olympics. [Training in Colorado] would mean not serving our country as I hoped to do, and it would post me across the country from Fort Bragg, where my new husband was stationed. I also knew one injury in triathlon [training] could foil all Olympic prospects and didn’t want to sacrifice my marriage for it.”

Keller had forfeited her Olympic dreams in favor of service, but never sacrificed her love of sport, representing the U.S. Army in NBC’s Spartan: Ultimate Team Challenge and competing in the notoriously grueling Ironman races. When she became pregnant with her first baby, Keller longed for workouts that were challenging, yet effective.

“So I got certified and nerded out on scholarly articles about training,” Keller says. “I’d rush home over lunch breaks, change out of my Army uniform, and record ten to fifteen minute prenatal workouts with a cheap camera propped up on index cards on my countertop. I thought there might be some women out there who also wanted more challenging prenatal workouts.”

As it turns out, there were quite a few women. Keller quickly built a community of online followers and her passion for fitness and educating women online grew. After five and a half years of active duty service and a deployment to Afghanistan, she separated from the Army to pursue fitness full time and GlowBodyPT was born.

Today, Keller has an online following of more than 40,000 on social media and offers free workout videos on her Youtube channel, as well as customized plans through her website, featuring specialized workouts for prenatal and post-pregnancy.
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“A couple of months ago I launched my newest and favorite plan to date: The 10 Minute Plan,” Keller said. “It was a year in the making while my husband was deployed, raising a newborn and running GlowBodyPT.”

When asked why specifically targeting the mom community is so important, Keller smiled knowingly.

“Fitness does more than just make your body look good, it transforms how you feel about yourself,” she said. “Fitness empowers you to have patience, more energy and more drive, to pour into your marriage and your kids. Staged workout videos in white studios don’t resonate with me. When you follow my workout videos it’s like working out with a friend in your living room who says it how it is, teaches you how to train and makes the best use of every single minute of your time, because I know you don’t have time to waste.”

5 MIGHTY QUESTIONS

What piece of advice would you give to fellow military spouses?

Put yourself out there to make a couple of good friends every time you move. I tell my friends, “You are my people!” Give them your number and let them know, sincerely, you are here for them day or night no matter what they need. Follow through. Having your tribe and fueling those relationships is what makes the military community what it is.

What is your life motto?

God, use me for your purpose.

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What inspires you about the military community?

Only military families know the sacrifices we make as service members and spouses. How it feels to wonder if your spouse got back safe from a mission. Wondering if everybody is okay when there is a communications blackout. Missed holidays and birthdays. Lonely nights. Phone calls as you try to make conversation without talking about sensitive information related to your spouse’s everyday life. Consoling crying children who miss Daddy. I love the military community because there is a shared sense of respect, reverence, family and sacrifice.

What has been your toughest professional challenge?

I got my front teeth knocked out, elbow broken, wrist casted, stitches across my lips, chin and both palms during a Half Ironman bike crash a couple of years ago. The top four athletes racing all got rushed to the ER. The injuries lasted for months and I didn’t get permanent teeth for over a year. My husband was away at a military school when the crash happened and I came home the next day to two kids, one of which I was potty training and the other who put on my socks for me the next morning because it hurt to move my hands.

What’s your superpower?

I actually care about every single woman who does my plans, and her progress. Bigger companies just don’t have the capacity to pour into others at this level.

Articles

Army Chinook cargo helo to fly for 100 years

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U.S. Army soldiers wait as a CH-47 Chinook helicopter approaches them for a hook up of an M777A2 howitzer at Forward Operating Base Hadrian in Afghanistan | DoD photo by Cpl. Mark Doran, U.S. Army


The Army plans to fly its Vietnam-era workhorse CH-47 Chinook cargo helicopter for 100 years by continuously upgrading the platform through a series of ongoing technological adjustments designed to improve lift, weight, avionics and cargo handling, among other things.

The Army goal is to allow the helicopter, which was first produced in the early 1960s, to serve all the way into the 2060s – allowing the aircraft service life to span an entire century.

“Our primary goal is maintaining the CH-47F’s relevance to the warfighter,” Army officials said in a special statement to Scout Warrior.

The latest model, called the Chinook F helicopter, represents the latest iteration of technological advancement in what is a long and distinguished history for the workhorse cargo aircraft, often tasked with delivering food, troops and supplies at high altitudes in mountainous Afghan terrain.

Able to travel at speeds up to 170 knots, the Chinook has a range of 400 nautical miles and can reach altitudes greater than 18,000-feet. Its high-altitude performance capability has been a substantial enabling factor in the mountainous regions of Afghanistan.

The aircraft is 52-feet long, 18-feet high and able to take off with 50,000 pounds. The helicopter can fly with a loaded weight of 26,000 pounds. In addition, the aircraft can mount at least three machine guns; one from each window and another from the back cargo opening.

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RAF Chinook HC2 (military registration ZA682) displaying at Kemble Air Day 2008, Kemble Airport, Gloucestershire, England. | Photo by Adrian Pingstone

The Chinook F is in the process of receiving a number of enhancements to its digital cockpit called the Common Avionics Architecture System, or CAAS, such improved avionics, digital displays, Line Replacement Units, navigational technology, multi-mode radios, software and emerging systems referred to as pilot-vehicle interface. Pilot-vehicle interface involves improved computing technology where faster processor and new software are able to better organize and display information to the crew, allowing them to make informed decisions faster.

By 2018, the Army plans to have a pure fleet of 440 F-model Chinooks. By 2020, the Army plans to field a new “Block 2” upgraded Chinook F which will increase the aircraft’s ability to function in what’s called “high-hot” conditions of 6,000 feet/95-degrees Fahrenheit where lower air pressure makes it more difficult to operate and maneuver a helicopter.

The Block 2 Chinook will also be engineered to accommodate a larger take-off maximum weight of 54,000 pounds, allowing it to sling-load the Army’s new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle underneath. This provides the Army with what it calls a “mounted maneuver” capability wherein it can reposition vehicles and other key combat-relevant assets around the battlefield in a tactically-significant manner without need to drive on roads. This will be particularly helpful in places such as Afghanistan where mountainous terrain and lacking infrastructure can make combat necessary movements much more challenged.

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An Army CH-47 helicopter attached to the 159th Aviation Regiment lifts a Naval Special Warfare 11-meter rigid hull inflatable boat (RHIB) during a maritime external air transportation system training exercise. | U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Robyn Gerstenslager

The Block 2 Chinook will also receive a 20-percent more powerful Honeywell T55-715 engine, according to a report from Aviation Week.

The Chinook F is also in the process of getting new rotorblades engineered with composites and other materials designed to give the helicopter an additional 4,000 pounds of lift capability, Army officials explained.

Another key upgrade to the helicopter is a technology called Cargo-On/Off-Loading-System, or COOLS, which places rollers on the floor of the airframe designed to quickly on and off-load pallets of equipment and supplies.  This technology also has the added benefit of increasing ballistic protection on the helicopter by better protecting it from small arms fire.

“The COOLS system has been added to the current production configuration and continues to be retrofitted to the existing F fleet. We have completed approximately 50-percent of the retrofit efforts. Since its fielding we made very minor design changes to improve maintainability.

The helicopter will also get improved gun-mounts and crew chief seating, along with a new vibration control system.

“We are finalizing design efforts on an improved vibration control system that, in testing, has produced significant reduction in vibration levels in the cockpit area,” the Army statement said.

The F-model includes an automated flight system enabling the aircraft to fly and avoid obstacles in the event that a pilot is injured.

Additional adjustments include the use of a more monolithic airframe engineered to replace many of the rivets build into the aircraft, Army officials said.

“The program is looking at some significant airframe improvements like incorporating the nose and aft sections of the MH-47G (Special Operations Variant) on to the CH-47F. In addition, the program office has conducted an in depth structural analysis with the intent of setting the stage for increased growth capacity of the airframe for future upgrades,” the statement said.

The CH-47 F program is also planning to add Conditioned-Based Maintenance to the aircraft – small, portable diagnostic devices, which enable aircraft engineers to better predict maintenance needs and potential mechanical failures, service officials said.

Protecting Helicopters

The CIRCM system is an improved, lighter-weight version of Advanced Threat Infrared Countermeasures, called ATIRCM, — a high-tech laser jammer that is able to thwart guided-missile attacks on helicopters by using an infrared sensor designed to track an approaching missile. The system fires a multi-band heat laser to intercept the missile and throw it off course,

ATIRCM has been fielded now on helicopters over Iraq and Afghanistan. CIRCM, its replacement, lowers the weight of the system and therefore brings with it the opportunity to deploy this kind of laser counter-measure across a wider portion of the fleet.

Chinooks are also equipped with a combat-proven protective technology called Common Missile Warning System, or CMWS; this uses an ultraviolet sensor to locate approaching enemy fire before sending out a flare to divert the incoming fire from its course.

Finally, over the years there have been several efforts to engineer a small-arms detection system designed to locate the source of incoming enemy small-arms fire to better protect the aircraft and crew.

MIGHTY TRENDING

China warns the US against putting new missiles on its ‘doorstep’

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said Aug. 3, 2019, that he wants to put ground-based intermediate-range ballistic missiles in the Pacific to confront regional threats, a move that is antagonizing rivals China and Russia.

“We would like to deploy the capability sooner rather than later,” he said Aug. 3, 2019, just one day after the Cold War-era Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty between the US and Russia officially expired. “I would prefer months. I just don’t have the latest state of play on timelines.”

He did not identify where the missiles would be located in Asia, suggesting that the US would develop the weapons and then sort out placement later. He has said it could be “years” before these weapons are fielded in the region.


The 1987 INF Treaty prohibited the development and deployment of conventional and nuclear ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers, but the treaty has ended, giving the US new options as it confronts China’s growing might in the Asia-Pacific region.

Following the end of the treaty, Esper said in a statement Aug. 2, 2019, that the “Department of Defense will fully pursue the development of these ground-launched conventional missiles,” calling these moves a “prudent response to Russia’s actions.” But, the Defense Department is also clearly looking at China. “Eighty percent plus of their [missile] inventory is intermediate-range systems,” Esper told reporters Aug. 3, 2019. It “shouldn’t surprise [China] that we would want to have a like capability.”

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Secretary of Defense Mark Esper.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Nicole Mejia)

In his previous role as the secretary of the Army, Esper made long-range precision fires a top priority, regularly arguing that the US needs long-range, stand-off weaponry if it is to maintain its competitive advantage in a time of renewed great power competition.

Both Russia and China have expressed opposition to the possibility of US missiles in the Pacific.

“If the deployment of new US systems begins specifically in Asia, then the corresponding steps to balance these actions will be taken by us in the direction of parrying these threats,” Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov warned Aug. 5, 2019.

“If the US deploys intermediate-range missiles in Asia-Pacific, especially around China, the aim will apparently be offensive. If the US insists on doing so, the international and regional security will inevitably be severely undermined,” China Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Aug. 5, 2019.

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An M270 multiple launch rocket system maneuvers through a training area prior to conducting their live fire exercise at Rocket Valley, South Korea, Sep. 14, 2017.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Michelle U. Blesam, 210th FA Bde PAO)

“China will not just sit idly by and watch our interests being compromised. What’s more, we will not allow any country to stir up troubles at our doorstep. We will take all necessary measures to safeguard national security interests,” she added.

Her rhetoric mimicked Esper’s criticisms of China over the weekend, when he spoke of a “disturbing pattern of aggressive” behavior and warned that the US will not “stand by idly while any one nation attempts to reshape the region to its favor at the expense of others.”

While some observers are concerned US missile deployments may ignite an escalated arms race between great power rivals, Tom Karako, a missile defense expert at CSIS, argues that this is an evolution rather than a radical change in US defensive posturing in the region, an adaptation to Russian and Chinese developments.

“We want China’s leadership to wake up every morning and think this is not a good day to pick a fight with the United States or its allies,” Karako told INSIDER.

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An M270 multiple launch rocket system fires during a live fire exercise at Rocket Valley, South Korea, Sep. 15, 2017.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Michelle U. Blesam, 210th FA Bde PAO)


Mobile land-based missile systems complicate surveillance and targeting. “The point is not to consolidate and put everything in one spot so it can be targeted but to move things around and make it so that the adversary doesn’t know where these things are at any given time.”

“I would not minimize the potential advantages of this kind of posture,” Karako added.

Should the US pursue this course, China’s response is unlikely to be friendly, experts in China warn. “If the US deploys intermediate-range missiles in Asia, China will certainly carry out countermeasures and augment its own missile forces in response, so as to effectively deter the US,” Li Haidong, a professor in the Institute of International Relations at China Foreign Affairs University told the Global Times.

For now, the US has not made any moves to deploy missiles to the Pacific; however, the US is looking at testing a handful of new ground-based systems.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

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