This big ol' plane is getting a big ol' stand-down order - We Are The Mighty
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This big ol’ plane is getting a big ol’ stand-down order

Air Mobility Command has grounded the C-5 Galaxy cargo planes operating at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware after a nose landing-gear unit malfunctioned for the second time in 60 days.


The stand-down order, issued July 17, affects all 18 C-5s stationed at Dover — 12 of them are primary and six are backup aircraft, according to a release.

The Air Force has 56 C-5s in service.

“Aircrew safety is always my top priority and is taken very seriously,” Air Mobility Command’s chief, Gen. Carlton D. Everhart II, said in a release. “We are taking the appropriate measures to properly diagnose the issue and implement a solution.”

This big ol’ plane is getting a big ol’ stand-down order
USAF photo by Airman 1st Class Elizabeth Baker

An Air Mobility Command spokesman told Military.com that both malfunctions involved C-5M Super Galaxy aircraft. On May 22 and again July 15, the planes’ “nose landing gear could not extend all the way,” the spokesman said. The C-5M was introduced in 2009 and is the latest model of the C-5.

Air Force personnel will perform inspections “to ensure proper extension and retraction of the C-5 nose landing gear,” Air Mobility Command said. The halt applies only to C-5s at Dover, and Air Mobility Command said it would work to minimize the effect on worldwide operations.

Also read: Behold, the largest plane in the US Air Force

The C-5 is the Air Force’s largest airlifter. It has a 65-foot-tall tail and is 247 feet long with a 223-foot wingspan. The first version, the C-5A, entered service in 1970, and several models have joined the fleet since then.

The C-5M was given more powerful engines, allowing it to carry more cargo and take off over a shorter distance. It can haul 120,000 pounds of cargo more than 5,500 miles — the distance from Dover to Incirlik Air Base in Turkey — without refueling. Without cargo, its range is more than 8,000 miles.

This big ol’ plane is getting a big ol’ stand-down order
USAF Airmen load an M1A1 Abrams Tank into an Air Force C-5M Super Galaxy cargo aircraft. (USAF photo by Roland Balik)

In recent years, budgets cuts and sequestration compelled Air Force leadership to begin taking C-5Ms out of service.

Everhart, the Air Mobility Command chief, said in March that total C-5 inventory had fallen to 56 from 112 a few years ago.

But the Air Force has made moves to reverse that deactivation, saying it plans to move at least eight mothballed C-5Ms back into service, using newly allocated funds, over the next four years.

That return to service would partially overlap with an upgrade project for the active fleet of airlifters that is slated to wrap up in 2018.

“I need them back because there’s real-world things that we’ve got to move, and they give me that … added assurance capability,” Everhart told lawmakers at the end of March.

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That time the US Army attacked veterans because they wanted their benefits

This big ol’ plane is getting a big ol’ stand-down order


Nearly 17,000 World War I veterans and some of their families had made camp on the shore of the Anacostia River south of Capitol Hill by the summer of 1932. They were all unemployed, and many of them had been so since the start of the Great Depression in 1929. They wanted the money the government had promised them as a function of their wartime service, and they wanted it immediately.

But the benefit they were due was a little more complicated than that. In 1924 Congress overrode a veto by President Calvin Coolidge and passed the World War Adjusted Compensation Act. According to the act each veteran was to receive a dollar for each day of domestic service, up to a maximum of $500, and $1.25 for each day of overseas service, up to a maximum of $625 (about $7,899 in current dollars). Amounts of $50 or less were immediately paid. All other amounts were issued as Certificates of Service maturing in 20 years.

3,662,374 military service certificates were issued, with a face value of $3.638,000,000 ($43.7 billion today). Congress established a trust fund to receive 20 annual payments of $112 million that, with interest, would finance the 1945 disbursement of the $3.638 billion due the veterans. Meanwhile, veterans could borrow up to 22.5 percent of the certificate’s face value from the fund.

But in 1931, because of the Great Depression, Congress increased the maximum value of such loans to 50 percent of the certificate’s face value.

Although there was congressional support for the immediate redemption of the military service certificates, President Hoover and Republican congressmen opposed such action on the grounds that the government would have to increase taxes to cover the costs of the payout, and that would slow down any potential recovery.

On June 15, 1932, the House of Representatives passed the Wright Patman Bonus Bill which would have moved forward the date for World War I veterans to receive their cash bonus, but two days later the Senate defeated the bill by a vote of 62-18.

The Bonus Army, as the veteran squatters were known, decided to protest the Senate vote by marching from Anacostia to Capitol Hill. Once the march was over a number of vets decided not to return to Anacostia and instead they set up camp on Capitol Hill. They lived there for over a month waiting for lawmakers or President Hoover to do something on their behalf.

On July 28, 1932, Attorney General William D. Mitchell ordered the police to remove the Bonus Army veterans from their camp on Capitol Hill, and during that effort the vets rushed two policemen trapped on the second floor of a building. The cornered police drew their revolvers and shot at the veterans, two of which, William Hushka and Eric Carlson, later died.

When President Hoover heard about the incident he ordered the U.S. Army to evict the Bonus Army from Washington DC. The task fell to the 12th Infantry Regiment, commanded by one General Douglas MacArthur, who was supported by six tanks, under the charge of one Major George S. Patton who was attached to the 3rd Calvary Regiment.

When the vets saw the Army force they cheered, thinking they were there to support their cause. But MacArthur quickly showed them that wasn’t the case. The Army waded into the vets with tear gas and fixed bayonets. The vets retreated back to Anacostia, and President Hoover ordered the Army to stop the eviction. However General MacArthur, in a move that foretold his infamous showdown with President Truman years later during the Korean War, ignored Hoover’s order and continued his assault on the Bonus Army.

Fifty-five veterans were injured and 135 arrested. A veteran’s wife miscarried. A 12-week-old boy died in the hospital after being caught in the tear gas attack. The veteran shantytown was burned to the ground.

This big ol’ plane is getting a big ol’ stand-down order

MacArthur later explained his actions by saying that he thought that the Bonus March was an attempt to overthrow the U.S. government.

Though the Bonus Army incident did not derail the careers of the military officers involved, it proved politically disastrous for Hoover. He lost the 1932 election in a landslide to Franklin D. Roosevelt.

MGM released the movie “Gabriel Over the White House” in March 1933, the month Roosevelt was sworn in as president. Produced by William Randolph Hearst’s Cosmopolitan Pictures, it depicted a fictitious President Hammond who, in the film’s opening scenes, refuses to deploy the military against a march of the unemployed and instead creates an “Army of Construction” to work on public works projects until the economy recovers.

First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt quipped that the movie’s treatment of veterans was superior to Hoover’s.

Now: Bradley Cooper’s new movie is about how inflatable tanks fooled the Nazis

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is why old boats full of dead North Koreans keep floating to Japan

Dozens of bodies have mysteriously washed up on Japan’s shores over the past few weeks — and the evidence suggests they’re coming from North Korea.


At least 40 corpses from about 15 boats have washed up along Japan’s west coast since November, according to figures provided by Japanese authorities and calculated by Business Insider.

The most recent discovery was on Dec. 7, when authorities found two skeletons near an upturned boat near the western city of Oga, The Washington Post reported.

While Japanese authorities haven’t been able to definitively identify the origins of these “ghost ships” — vessels discovered with no living crew — multiple factors suggest they are from North Korea.

A boat found on the island of Sado in late November contained what appeared to be North Korean cigarette packets and jackets with Korean writing on them, Reuters reported.

Two bodies recovered from another boat found in Yamagata prefecture on Dec. 5 were also wearing pins showing the face of Kim Il Sung, the grandfather of North Korea’s current leader, Kim Jong Un, according to the Japanese news agency Kyodo and The Associated Press.

Most of the discoveries have been gruesome — in multiple cases, Japanese authorities have said they found skulls and decaying corpses.

Not a new phenomenon

This big ol’ plane is getting a big ol’ stand-down order
Ghost ships, presumably originating in North Korea, have been washing ashore in Japan with skeletal remains aboard. (Image Google Earth)

North Korean vessels have been showing up in Japan for years.

Eighty such ships drifted ashore in Japan in 2013, 65 in 2014, 45 in 2015, and 66 in 2016, said Satoru Miyamoto, a professor of political science and economics at Japan’s Seigakuin University, citing Japan Coast Guard statistics.

But at least 76 vessels have shown up on Japanese shores since the beginning of this year, and 28 in November alone, The New York Times reported.

These appearances usually occur more frequently toward the end of the year, when bad weather proves most dangerous to seafarers using old boats and equipment, The Times said.

So, why is this happening?

Life in North Korea is ‘grim and desperate’

This big ol’ plane is getting a big ol’ stand-down order
Citizens of North Korea face an oppressive regime in the Kim family. (Photo from Flickr user Roman Harak)

The rising number of ghost ships in Japan indicates the dire food scarcity facing North Korea, some experts say.

Jeffrey Kingston, the director of Asian studies at Temple University in Japan, told Business Insider that “the ghost ships are a barometer for the state of living conditions in North Korea — grim and desperate.”

“They signal both desperation and the limits of ‘juche,'” he added, using the word for an ideology developed by Kim Il Sung that justifies state policies despite famine and economic difficulties within the country.

To make matters worse, North Korea suffered a severe drought earlier this year that dramatically damaged the country’s food production and is likely to result in further food shortages, the United Nations said in July.

While the extent of the crop damage remains unclear, the UN said the areas accounting for two-thirds of North Korea’s cereal production had been severely affected.

Also Read: Trump slaps North Korea with new sanctions over human-rights abuses

Earlier this year, doctors treating a North Korean soldier shot while defecting to South Korea found that he had a large number of parasites in his stomach, suggesting a widespread health crisis in the North, The Washington Post reported.

Seo Yu-suk, a research manager at the North Korean Studies Institution in Seoul, told Reuters that “North Korea pushes so hard for its people to gather more fish so that they can make up their food shortages.”

Kingston added, “These rickety vessels are unsuitable for the rough seas of the Sea of Japan in autumn, and one imagines that far more are capsizing that we will never know about.”

Or are they a sign of a booming North Korean economy?

This big ol’ plane is getting a big ol’ stand-down order
An aerial view of North Korean capital Pyongyang, taken by photographer Aram Pam. (Image via Youtube)

Not all experts agree with the above assessment, however.

Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein, an editor at North Korean Economy Watch, told Business Insider that it was “unclear to what degree it’s directly related to food shortages, per se.”

“If fishers are ordered out for longer periods of time, with bigger demands on the catch they bring back — and with less gasoline with them than they need, due to the sanctions and shortages — that is certainly a connection of sorts,” he said. He added,

It is also possible that to make the same level of revenue through selling seafood domestically — which seems to be the best option, given that they cannot export their products to China through formal ways due to current sanctions on seafood imports from North Korea — they would simply need to make bigger catches.

The UN Security Council, of which China is a member, unanimously imposed sanctions on North Korean seafood and other commodities in August in response to two missile tests Pyongyang conducted the month before.

It’s unclear, however, how much the sanctions have affected North Korea’s food situation or economy.

“Though the economy overall is under pressure from sanctions, food prices have not gone up to the degree that some may have expected, which suggests that there isn’t any acute scarcity as of now,” Katzeff Silberstein said.

He added, “On the other hand, there have been anecdotal reports of food scarcity increasing, particularly in the northeastern parts of the country, near the border to China, where agriculture is not at all as widely spread as in the southern regions.”

This big ol’ plane is getting a big ol’ stand-down order
The Yalu River is a natural and political border between North Korea and China.

Miyamoto, the Seigakuin University professor, said the rise in North Korean fishing vessels found in Japan was indicative of a booming North Korean economy — because seafood is a luxury item.

“Many North Korean vessels are in the Sea of Japan because North Korea has promoted fishery policy since 2013,” he told Business Insider.

“They are fishermen [trying] to earn money,” he added. “Now North Korean economics, which adopted free-market partly, have grown and generated a wealthy class. A wealthy class demands not caloric food, but healthy food. So seafood, which are healthy, is popular in North Korea.”

He continued, “It is evidence not that the North Korean economy is deteriorating, but that the North Korean economy is growing … Hungry people demand not seafood, which are low-calorie, but cereal and meat, which are high-calorie.”

He also told CNN the “ghost ship” phenomenon increased “after Kim Jong Un decided to expand the fisheries industry as a way of increasing revenue for the military.”

“They are using old boats manned by the military, by people who have no knowledge about fishing,” Miyamoto said. “It will continue.”

Japan’s response

This big ol’ plane is getting a big ol’ stand-down order
Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, at the Prime Minister’s Official Residence the Kantei, in Tokyo, Aug. 18, 2017. (Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro)

The increased appearance of the vessels has reignited fears among some Japanese citizens who remain haunted by the spate of kidnappings carried out by North Korea that occurred along Japan’s west coast in the 1970s and ’80s.

When eight men claiming to be North Korean fishermen turned up in the coastal city of Yurihonjo two weeks ago, the local newspaper Akita Sakigake Shimpo ran the headline “Are they North Korean spies?” (They are not, local police told The Times.)

Pyongyang’s nuclear program and recent missile tests have also increased Japanese suspicion toward North Korea.

“Given recent missile and hydrogen-bomb tests, public anxieties and anger towards North Korea has increased, so sympathy for the ghost-ship crews has been limited,” Kingston said.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The COVID-19 effect: Navy ships

When the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) returned to sea in late-May following a two-month long battle against the novel coronavirus, the aircraft carrier was ground zero for a new normal for Navy ships at sea.

In the early months of the global pandemic, the Roosevelt had become itself a COVID-19 “hotspot.” The virus ultimately cost one Roosevelt crewmember his life and infected 1,150 sailors. As the ship resumed its mission with a scaled-back crew, facemasks, frequent handwashing, enhanced cleaning measures, reduced mess deck seating, one-way corridors and other protocols to mitigate COVID-19 had become the norm within the fleet.


“We can protect our force, we can deploy our Navy, and we will do both,” Vice Adm. Phillip Sawyer, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Operations, Plans and Strategy, told reporters on an April 15 call. “Face-coverings, hand-washing, ship-disinfecting are now part of our daily routine throughout the Navy.”

Michael Rubin, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, argues the pandemic has served as a wake-up call for the Navy.

“The Navy trains for all sorts of contingencies but if operating during a global pandemic was one, it was so far down the list as to be irrelevant,” Rubin said. “Politicians thought we were past this age and flag officers and civilian planners were no different.”

This big ol’ plane is getting a big ol’ stand-down order

Navy Seaman Kyle Pavek stands lookout watch aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) during a replenishment-at-sea with the fleet replenishment oiler USNS Pecos (T-AO 197). Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Julian Davis.

Less than a month after the first sailor aboard the Roosevelt tested positive for the coronavirus, the Navy issued updated guidance aimed at maintaining ongoing fleet operations and defeating “this unseen enemy.” The Navy’s “Pre-Deployment Guidance” and a “COVID-19 Recovery Framework” outline shipboard changes that will be experienced by sailors:

Pre-deployment:

  • Mandatory medical screenings for existing medical conditions that place personnel at higher risk for COVID-19 complications.
  • Daily personal screening questionnaires and temperature checks.
  • Testing and isolation of anyone with flu-like symptoms.
  • 14-to-21-day restriction of movement (ROM) period for potentially asymptomatic people to present symptoms.
  • 14-day ROM period before external crew, ship riders (contractors, technical representatives) and direct support personnel can embark during an underway.

Deployment:

  • Enforcement of personal hygiene practices and, whenever possible, physical distancing.
  • Ongoing screening for potential COVID-19 symptoms.
  • Maximum personal protective equipment (PPE) use.
  • Separate and segregate cleaning teams from critical watchstanders.
  • Restrict visitors.
  • Minimize contact with delivery personnel.

Additional guidance outlines specific steps to be taken to clean a ship or facility following a COVID-19 outbreak, using three categories of requirements depending on the degree to which the space is operationally significant and the level of access required.

“These measures allow fleet leadership the ability to monitor the health of the force in a controlled and secure environment so they are ready to accomplish assigned missions and support to the goal of preventing the spread of the COVID virus to U.S. forces, allies, partners and the community. These frameworks cover testing for personnel as well,” Cmdr. Patrick L. Evans, Public Affairs Officer for Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, said in an email response. He noted commanders have the authority to issue more specific guidance to units within their areas of responsibility.

“In addition, our ships are enforcing social distancing, minimizing group gatherings, wearing PPE and cleaning extensively,” he added. “Quarterdeck watchstanders are screening anyone who walks on board and referring sailors with symptoms to medical evaluation.”

This big ol’ plane is getting a big ol’ stand-down order

Navy Quartermaster 3rd Class Patrick Souvannaleut, left, and Quartermaster 3rd Class Elizabeth Weil, right, stand spotter lookout during a replenishment-at-sea as the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt approaches the fleet replenishment oiler USNS Pecos (T-AO 197). Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Zachary Wheeler.

Navy officials have acknowledged “day-to-day actions must assume COVID is present” because asymptomatic personnel are likely to be aboard all ships. That point was driven home in mid-May when 14 Roosevelt sailors who previously contracted the virus tested positive a second time after returning to the ship following a mandatory quarantine period and two negative COVID-19 tests.

Retired Navy Capt. Albert Shimkus, a registered nurse and certified nurse anesthetist who previously commanded the hospital ship USNS Comfort, maintains sailors must take individual responsibility for following COVID-19 prevention protocols and “recognizing you could potentially be a carrier that could affect and infect your shipmates.”

As the Navy adjusts to the operational realities the pandemic presents, Shimkus, whose views are his own and do not represent the U.S. Naval War College, U.S. Navy or Department of Defense, stresses the Navy’s core values must ring true.

“Given the nature of what this crisis is ‘Honor, Courage and Commitment’ speak volumes about how we will treat ourselves and each other and about doing the ethically and morally correct thing,” said Shimkus, Associate Professor, National Security Affairs, Naval War College. “That’s all related to a command environment that is healthy and a command environment that is willing to do what’s right for the members of their command.”

Shimkus is confident Navy leaders at sea and ashore will rise to the challenge.

“Good leadership in the context of this crisis is being transparent to their crew and members of their organizations,” he explained. “Telling the truth and being able to be understood by your crew, opening up questions and answering them to the best of your ability is part of good leadership and commitment to doing the right thing.”

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

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Here is the science that goes into MRE recipes

There is an ebb and flow with a troop’s love, hate, and pure apathy toward eating Meals, Ready to Eat.


Either you score the new Chicken Burrito Bowl or you get stuck with a veggie option so foul no amount of salt can help cover the taste. It usually goes from the “Oh cool! MREs!” feeling, to then despising the concept of eating from the same 24 brown bags for months, and finally gets beaten into a state of pure Stockholm Syndrome where you get used to and enjoy them again because it’s technically food.

Whatever your personal experience will be, the minds at Ameriqual, Sopakco, and Wornick have all crafted a very specific meal under very specific guidelines.

Whichever meal you are tossed usually contains an entree, side, cracker or bread, spread, dessert, a beverage, Flameless Ration Heater, and accessories. Every MRE also needs to have a constant 1,250-calorie count, have 13 percent protein, 36 percent fat, and 51 percent carbohydrates, and make up one third of the Military Recommended Daily Allowance of vitamins and minerals.

Finally, each box of MREs must have a shelf life of at least 18 months in above 80°F conditions, three years below. This has been the constant ever since it’s inception in 1975 and standard issue in 1986.

This big ol’ plane is getting a big ol’ stand-down order
Dr. Rahman receiving the Meritorious Civilian Service Award for developing the MRE. And yes. His last name does sound like the instant noodles. There. That is now a thing you will remember.

One of the more impressive creations in the MRE is the Flameless Ration Heater. Water activated, the pouch quickly reaches heats that can warm up an eight ounce ration within minutes. Simply put the food pouch inside the bag, lean it against a rock or something, and you’re ready to eat.

Heating or cooking your food raises the caloric value of the food you’re eating, giving you more energy.

Whatever you do, do not take two of the heaters, empty a tiny Tabasco sauce into a bottle of water, add the heaters and water to about the half way point, seal it, shake it, then toss it somewhere.

It’s a dick move and your squad will call you out for your douchebaggery. This is because the heat and fumes decompress within the bottle to the point of exploding.

There is also the First Strike Ration, a compact, eat-on-the-move ration that is designed to be half the size and a third of the weight while giving troops the nutritional intake of an entire days worth of food.

The Combat Feeding Directorate developed this after they noticed troops would “field strip” their MREs of unwanted and burdensome extra items, like boxes, accessory packs, heaters, and bags. The total calorie count of an FSR comes to 2,900 calories.

The actual menu changes year to year. 2017 changes are no different.

Thankfully, they’re removing “Rib shaped BBQ Pork Patty,” that fried rice thing, chicken pesto pasta, ‘Hooah!’ bars, and the wheat snack bread (which only the power of the Jalapeno Cheese Spread could make edible). The replacements actually sound delicious (like the previously mentioned Chicken Burrito Bowl) and are even more thought out.

This big ol’ plane is getting a big ol’ stand-down order
(Comic by Maximilian at Terminal Lance)

I can see the successor of the most coveted MRE item: caffeinated teriyaki beef sticks. Julie Smith, senior food technologist at Combat Feeding Directorate of the Natick Soldier, Research, Development and Engineering Center said of the alternative to beef jerky “Typically, when we do evaluations, we get feedback from the war fighter that they want to have more beef jerky varieties. It’s such a high sodium item, however, that we have to be careful in how to include it in the menu.”

There is also the new version of the pound cake. It’s now fortified with Omega-3 fatty acids which research shows is great for muscle recovery and resiliency — all without affecting the taste of one of the better desserts in the MRE.

Far off into the future, Jeremy Whitsitt, the Deputy Director at Combat Feeding, says that one day there will be the ability to monitor an individual’s nutritional needs and -essentially- “print out a bar or a paste specifically designed for that soldier to return them to nutritional status.” He continues: “We’re laying the groundwork now through research and development to get us to that point.”

In the meantime, we can still hold out for the Pizza MRE. No timeline on its release, but it’ll be after they can work out the bread going brown after six months in 100°F.

Combat Feeding Directorate – ARMY M.R.E Research from Votary Media on Vimeo.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Fort Benning hosts ‘Shark Tank’ style competition for changes to the base

On December 1st of 2020, Fort Benning launched a new type of platform. One where soldiers could bring their best ideas to the table and have them heard by the higher-ups. Known as the Maneuver Innovation Challenge, or MIC, the goal was to bring in great ideas that could help all involved, from soldiers, to the base as a whole, and the programs that help it run. It was put into action by Major General Patrick J. Donahoe, the commanding general of the U.S. Army Maneuver Center of Excellence and Fort Benning. 

Inspired in part by the TV show, Shark Tank, where budding entrepreneurs pitch their ideas to potential investors, the MIC created a way for small voices to be heard in a big way. Maj. Gen. Donahoe served as a judge, along with Col. Matthew Scalia, Sgt. 1st Class Kendall Willridge, Command Sgt. Maj. Joseph McAuliffe, Dr. Jay Brimstin and Capt. Joseph Barnes.

The project was announced through a series of videos and social media posts, alerting people to sign up with their idea. 

“The best ideas are not going to come from some old, staid general. They’re gonna come from some young sergeant figuring out the next great solution. So join us in the Maneuver Innovation Program, and let’s figure out the next big idea,” – Donahoe said.

The MIP works like this: between Dec. 1st and Feb. 1, 2021, soldiers and civilians could pitch their ideas to the cause. Using an online platform, folks submitted their best ideas to the powers that be. A total of 23 ideas were collected online, ranging from functional apps, to improving tank camouflaging, to programs to help divorced, dual military couples.

This big ol’ plane is getting a big ol’ stand-down order

The team narrowed the ideas to four finalists, which were pitched live to judges on Feb. 4th. Those making the cut earned prizes in their own right, including:

• A four-day pass.

• Sitting as Donahoe’s guest(s) for a luncheon at MCoE headquarters.

• Official backing for a training course of their choice at Fort Benning, if enrollment qualifications are met. 

After the competition, a video was released on Twitter with the hashtag #shootmoveinnovate, announcing that the final four ideas would be put into action by integrating with facilities through TRADOC, Army Training and Doctrine Command, and innovation program resources. 

The ideas included: streamlining policies for on-post housing, an app for maintaining digital accountability of soldiers during holiday block leave, and multiple variations for digital options for in/out-processing.

“They’re all winners, Donahoe said. “Clearly when you look at it, all good ideas.”

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Four Chaplains Day: Remembering the men of faith who willingly gave their lives during World War II

The stark vision of the Four Chaplains with linked arms praying while their ship sank 78 years ago lives on. Today, we honor their courage, devotion and ultimate sacrifice.

It was two years after the United States entered into World War II. The Four Chaplains – who would leave an extraordinary legacy – boarded the SS Dorchester, all coming from completely different backgrounds but completely united in a commitment to bring spiritual comfort to their men.

Chaplain George Fox was a veteran of World War I, having served as a medic. He was highly decorated, having received the Silver Star and Purple Heart for his service. Fox had lied about his age and was just 17 years old when he left for war. When he returned, he finished high school and went to college. He was eventually ordained a Methodist minister in 1934. When war came calling, he volunteered to become an Army Chaplain. On the day he commissioned, his son enlisted in the Marine Corps. 

Chaplain and Rabbi Alexander Goode earned his PhD from Johns Hopkins University in 1940, while finishing his studies to become a Rabbi – like his father before him. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, he applied to the Army to become a Chaplain. In 1942, he was selected for Chaplains School at Harvard. 

Chaplain Clark Poling was the son of a minister and was ordained as one for the Reformed Church in the late 1930s. After war broke out, he was called to serve. His own father had served as a Chaplain during World War I. He headed to Army Chaplains School at Harvard. 

Chaplain John Washington was ordained as a Catholic Priest in 1935, having served the church all his life in some form or another. When the war began, he received his appointment as an Army Chaplain. 

All four men from different corners of the country and varied faiths, met at Harvard in 1942 and became friends. A year later they’d be on a ship together, all ready to serve. 

On February 3, 1943, the civilian liner SS Dorchester, which had been converted for military service, was en route to Greenland with 902 military members, merchant marines and civilian workers. It was being escorted by Coast Guard Cutters Tampa, Escanaba and Comanche. It was a chilly morning as the new day began and the water temperature was hovering around 34 degrees with an air temperature of 36 degrees. 

The Coast Guard alerted the captain of the Dorchester that U-Boats had been sighted and he ordered the crew to sleep in their clothes and life jackets. Most of them ignored it though, because it was either so hot down below or they couldn’t sleep well with the life jackets on.  

At 12:55am, a German torpedo struck their ship. 

A large number of men were killed instantly from the blast and many more critically injured. It knocked their power and communications out, leaving them unable to radio the other ships for support. By some miracle, the CGC Comanche saw the flash of light from the explosion and headed their way to help. They had radioed the Escanaba for added support, while the Tampa continued its escort of the fleet. 

According to records, panic and chaos had quickly set in. Men began throwing rafts over and overcrowding soon set in, causing capsizing into the frigid waters. But four Chaplains became a light in the dark for the terrified men. They spread out throughout the ship comforting the soldiers and civilians, bringing order to the frenzy. As the life jackets were being passed out, they ran out. 

The Four Chaplains took theirs off, giving them to the men. 

Engineer Grady Clark witnessed the whole thing. Each Chaplain was of a different faith, but worked in unison to serve and save the men. 

Despite their orderly work, the ship continued to sink. They helped as many men as they could. When it was obvious the ship was going down, the Chaplains linked arms and began praying together. It was said that the crew in the waters below could hear hymns being sung. Survivors would later report hearing a mix of Hebrew and Latin prayers, melding together in a beautiful harmony as they went under, giving their lives to save the rest. 

American Legion archives painting by Dudley Summers

Of the 902 men, only 230 survived. 

Before boarding the ship and leaving to serve, Chaplain Poling asked his father to pray for him. The words were poignant and a deep insight to the character of the man he was and those he died alongside. He asked his father to pray “Not for my safe return, that wouldn’t be fair. Just pray that I shall do my duty…never be a coward…and have the strength, courage and understanding of men. Just pray that I shall be adequate.”

Although many fought for these brave men to receive the Medal of Honor for their bravery and heroism, the stringent requirements prevented it from happening. They all received the Purple Heart and Distinguished Service Cross. In 1961, Congress created the Special Medal for Heroism, The Four Chaplains Medal. It was given to them and them only, never to be awarded again.

On this Four Chaplains Day, we remember.

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Here is how aerial gunners were trained to fight their way past the Luftwaffe

The United States Army Air Force’s daylight bombing campaign in Europe involved thousands of bombers, and tens of thousands of crewmen. While there were pilots, crew chiefs, radiomen, bombardiers, and navigators on planes like the B-17, about 40 percent of the crew were aerial gunners.


This big ol’ plane is getting a big ol’ stand-down order
A U.S. Army Air Forces Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress flying through flak over a target. A hit by flak lead to the capture of Brigadier General Arthur Vanaman, placing ULTRA at risk. (USAF photo)

What did it take to get these specialists ready? In some ways, it didn’t take long – maybe a few weeks. But these gunners had to learn a lot. Maintenance of their machine guns was vitally important. But they also had to learn to hit a moving target – because the Nazi fighters trying to shoot the bombers down were not going to make things easy for them.

This big ol’ plane is getting a big ol’ stand-down order
Messerschmidt Bf 109. (Photo: Kogo CC BY-SA 2.0)

So, what did it take to teach gunners how to hit a moving target? Well, for starters, there were lessons on maintenance for both a .30-caliber machine gun (mostly used early in the war) and the M2 .50-caliber machine gun, and how fix them when they jammed. Then, they had to learn how bullets traveled downrange, and how to adjust for the drop of the bullets from the guns.

This big ol’ plane is getting a big ol’ stand-down order
A look at the ball turret of a B-17 Flying Fortress, carrying a pair of M2 .50-caliber machine guns. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

When that was done, the trainees were started on full-auto BB guns at an indoor range. Once that was mastered, they then did a lot of skeet shooting with 12-gauge shotguns.

Yep, a popular shooting sport was used to train the folks whose job involved keeping Nazi fighters from shooting down a bomber with ten airmen on board.

This big ol’ plane is getting a big ol’ stand-down order

The training went on to include live-fire of the machine guns, as well as how the turrets used on planes like the B-17 and B-24 worked. Aircraft recognition — including knowing an enemy fighter’s wingspan — was also very important.

Following that, they took to the air, and learned how to fire the guns while wearing the gear they’d need on board a bomber – including a life vest, parachute, and the helmet.

This big ol’ plane is getting a big ol’ stand-down order
B-17 gunners wearing bulky sheep-shearling flying clothing to protect against the deadly cold at the altitudes typically flown in Europe.— At 25,000 feet, the temperature could drop below -60 degrees Fahrenheit. (U.S. Air Force photo)

As you can imagine, this included a lot of learning and skills to master. You can see an introductory video for aerial gunners made during World War II below.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of June 8

So, I finally got around to binge-watching Netflix’s Space Force recently. It’s nowhere near as bad as critics are making it out to be. The writers knew enough about military culture to poke fun at our soon-to-be real sister branch while simultaneously giving it a solid storyline to keep me invested. And, uh. Yeah. That’s about it. Pretty solid and I enjoyed it. I hope it gets a second season, but I hope it can flesh out some of its side characters a bit more.

If you can’t tell, my normal schtick of riffing on military news in the opener of these memes pieces is going to be a lose/lose situation this time for fairly obvious reasons. There are many more voices out there that could probably articulate the proper words for this situation far better than I could. I don’t want to take anything away from those conversations. I curate memes and practice a stand-up routine that will probably never get me to a late-night writer gig. I think I’m funny, but I’m probably not.


But that’s why we love memes, isn’t’ it? It’s a brief distraction from the sh*tstorm of daily life and outside is currently a Cat-5 Sh*ticane. It’s the slight exhale of breath at a mildly funny meme followed by a, “Heh. That sucks. I remember doing that sh*t.” That gets us through whatever we’re doing. Memes won’t undo whatever it is that’s going on around us, but it’s a good quick break from it all.

So just sit back. Relax. And remember what Bill and Ted taught us… Just be excellent to each other. Anyways, here’s some memes.

This big ol’ plane is getting a big ol’ stand-down order
(Meme via Army as F*ck)
This big ol’ plane is getting a big ol’ stand-down order

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

This big ol’ plane is getting a big ol’ stand-down order

(Meme via US Army WTF Moments Memes)

This big ol’ plane is getting a big ol’ stand-down order

(Meme via Not CID)

This big ol’ plane is getting a big ol’ stand-down order

(Meme via I Am an American Soldier)

This big ol’ plane is getting a big ol’ stand-down order

(meme via The Enlisted Club)

This big ol’ plane is getting a big ol’ stand-down order

(Meme via The Army’s Fckups)

This big ol’ plane is getting a big ol’ stand-down order

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

This big ol’ plane is getting a big ol’ stand-down order

(Meme via Private News Network)

This big ol’ plane is getting a big ol’ stand-down order

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

This big ol’ plane is getting a big ol’ stand-down order

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

This big ol’ plane is getting a big ol’ stand-down order

(Meme via US Space Force WTF Moments)

This big ol’ plane is getting a big ol’ stand-down order

(Meme via Air Force Nation Humor)

Articles

Me as ‘vibe coordinator’ and other stories from military transition hell

This big ol’ plane is getting a big ol’ stand-down order


After a three-year absence, I returned to the big city a cliché, another down-and-out veteran with no job and nowhere to live. A local nonprofit helped me find a studio apartment, but a job proved more elusive.

I designed my résumé using whatever software was on my Mac. Thanks to the post-9/11 GI Bill, I was able to attend college after the military, so in the education section I proudly listed my bachelor’s degree and the fact that I’m currently enrolled in grad school, pursuing an MFA in creative writing. For work experience, I listed my military highlights: “Responsible for the accountability and maintenance of all assigned equipment,” Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran, and Army Commendation Medal. I even mentioned that I was honorably discharged. I left off the small detail about how the Department of Veterans Affairs has clinically diagnosed me with PTSD. Who cares?

With my résumé complete, I went on Craigslist and scrolled through the admin/office jobs, applying to every single one. Moments later, my phone rang. A lady said she liked my résumé and that her tech company was looking to hire a veteran for an open position, which she described as 30 hours per week of light office duties. The job title was “culture coordinator,” and they needed to hire someone ASAP because the incumbent was taking time off to go to art school.

Related: Watch Colby Buzzell’s most intense gunfight in this short animated video

When she asked if I knew what a culture coordinator was, I told her no. She explained it was someone in charge of getting snacks for everyone, keeping the game room and lounge up to par, and scheduling company happy hours and other “super-fun team activities.”

I bullshitted her about how I had plenty of experience with all of this in the military. In the army, I said, they had us do group activities such as close-quarters hand-to-hand combat training whereby we beat the shit out of each other; road marches that felt like prep for the Bataan Death March; and six-mile unit-formation runs at six o’clock in the fucking morning that we did while singing cadences. All of this, theoretically, helped build esprit de corps. This office job would be easy.

My friend Janie has worked in tech for years. She knew exactly what a culture coordinator was and laughed when I told her I was interested. They had several such coordinators where she worked, although they called them “vibe coordinators” or the “vibe team.” Most tech companies are fighting talent wars, with many employees staying only a year, if that, before defecting to another company. So, to save money on recruiting costs — and to minimize damage to morale — these companies staff vibe coordinators to make sure employees are happy and never want to leave.

One of Janie’s good friends is a vibe coordinator. She told me all about how there’s this one vegan girl in her office who constantly sends mean emails complaining about the lunches, snacks, treats, etc. — how they’re not providing enough vegan options for after-work snack time and how there was cheese in the salad at lunch.

“I was reminded of my kids’ daycare center while walking past bean bags, ping-pong tables, a bike shop, PlayStations, and even a drum set with guitars casually placed around it.”

I got a flashback from basic training. One time, while MREs (meals ready to eat) were being handed out, a private raised his hand and said, “Excuse me, drill sergeant? I can’t eat this. I’m a vegetarian.” And before this private asked whether he could switch to a vegetarian MRE, which do exist, the drill sergeant answered, “Well, I guess you don’t eat, then.”

God, I miss the military.

Janie told me about another time when someone emailed the vibe team to complain about being sunburned through the window in their office (which I’m not sure is even possible). Another time, some remote employees in North Carolina filed a request to “set up a webcam so we can all experience the company party.”

I tried to imagine how I would handle this.

To the vegan girl, I’d say, “Fine. You don’t like it; you don’t eat it. Problem solved.” The guy getting sunburned? Fuck him. I’d throw him a bottle of sunblock. The person wanting a webcam to view the office party? Yeah, sure, log onto www.gofuckyourself.com. The password is getthefuckouttahere.

I’d be perfect for this job.

Janie invited me to her office so I could meet their vibe team and ask whatever questions I had. It was a cavernous space with a contemporary open-floor plan. I was reminded of my kids’ daycare center while walking past bean bags, ping-pong tables, a bike shop, PlayStations, and even a drum set with guitars casually placed around it. We passed by several employees, many of whom appeared to be cleaned-up versions of bike messengers, while others resembled adult incarnations of those shy geeks you went to high school with, kids who were in the band, the academic decathlon, or the model UN (which Janie had been in). When I stumbled across a room containing nothing more than a hammock, Janie said it was one of many break rooms where she sometimes slept off a hangover.

In the office’s open kitchen, I met three members of the vibe team. All were female; all wore leggings; all were cute and around my age; and all were frantically chopping fruits and vegetables, laying out a dessert tray, and arranging plates of finger foods loaded with various local cheeses, charcuterie, and gourmet crackers. This was happening in front of a fridge fully stocked with an insane assortment of craft beer, bottles of which a couple of techies were casually drinking mid-afternoon. One member of the team told me all about how she coordinated weekly yoga classes and periodically brought in cooking teachers because people there loved anything and everything “foodie.” I took notes in my journal. My idea of fine dining is a super burrito at El Farolito.

Janie advised me not to dress like a square at my own interview, because this would give the company the wrong impression. Dress “casual,” she said. I didn’t have time to drop 100 pounds or grow a beard, and I thought wearing fake glasses was pushing it, so I wore new Vans, Levis, and a long-sleeve, collared shirt from Ben Sherman.

I arrived punctually on the day of my interview. A receptionist didn’t greet me — an iPad did. It was cemented by the front door, and after a couple of minutes violently pressing the buttons, I gave up and banged on the door. Nobody answered. I made a phone call. Minutes later, a woman ushered me into a conference room and told me to wait. On the whiteboard was a bunch of stuff that looked like hieroglyphics. Through the window I could see people at their desks in the open-floor plan, one guy sporting a tank top and surf shorts. A few minutes later, the woman returned with the office’s current culture coordinator (who had stylish hair and a fun-looking dress). After telling me about the position and how everyone got along and loved to do group activities together, the woman asked if I’d be comfortable coordinating a game of hopscotch.

Let me pause for a biographical note: I was a 240 gunner in the army. I loved to go out on combat missions wearing gratuitous amounts of 7.62 ammunition. My job in Iraq, which I was trained to do, was pull the trigger when necessary. I worked with a gun team. I had an assistant gunner assigned to me who carried binoculars and whose job was to point out targets. I had an ammo bearer who carried a tripod and extra boxes of ammunition.

I couldn’t remember the last time I played hopscotch; in fact, I couldn’t remember how to play hopscotch, but of course I told her I had no problem Googling how that particular game worked. I could lead a damn good game of hopscotch if that’s what was needed to boost morale. A mantra pounded into my skull in the army was, “You don’t have to like it. You just have to do it.”

After this I was asked a series of questions about why I was perfect for the job. Again, with a smile — which physically hurt my face, because I hardly ever smile — I told them I loved people, I loved working with people, and I loved interacting with people. Making sure other people are happy makes me happy, I said. It makes life fulfilling.

I had come prepared with a list of fun group activities, such as boxing lessons at the gym I go to on Polk Street and happy-hour events at the 21 Club. I offered to bring in my old battalion commander to give motivational speeches, and I even offered to set up a company Twitter account where I’d Tweet stuff throughout the day like, “Hey guys! Come and get it! There’s some kick-ass dim sum in the break room popping off right now!” Or “Stick around after work today because we’ve got some Girl Scouts coming in with bomb-ass cookies to peddle!” A Twitter feed would show other tech companies just how much fun we were having.

I never got around to sharing these ideas, because the woman abruptly ended the interview and said their CEO was on vacation. We’ll call to schedule a follow-up, she told me.

I left the interview in defeat, sure I’d never hear from her again, but a couple of days later she called to schedule a follow-up. They said they liked me and that they liked my answers; I couldn’t believe it.

This time, I met with the CEO. He was about my age and dressed as if he was wearing laundry left on the floor the night before. He started the interview by thanking me for my service and said he was looking to give thanks by hiring a veteran. I knew this was bullshit — he was just looking for a tax break — but I nodded and smiled.

I expressed to this guy how there was nothing in life I wanted more than this job. Which was true. This job would have been one of the best things that happened to me. I remember when I told my mental health physician at the VA how I sometimes stayed in my room alone for days staring blankly at the wall, thinking, “What’s the point?” She advised me to get out and talk to other people, say hi to the cashier at the grocery store, ask how their day was going. Or, if nothing else, I should force myself to hang out in coffee shops and participate in group activities that didn’t include dive bars and alcohol. This job would be perfect for me because I’d be forced to socialize with people all fucking day. I had to have it.

A couple of days after this interview, I received an email from HR that read, “Thank you, but we’ve decided to go in a different direction with this position.” I understood, but for a while I always wondered, what if?

Now that I work a job where an app on my phone tells me to pick up people and drive them from point A to point B, I no longer think about that job. During my drives, I’ve realized a couple of things about the city. One is that we’re all vibe coordinators. You either work in tech, talk about tech, cater to tech, or, like me, you drive tech around town. It’s about keeping the vibe right. After all, if they’re happy, you’re happy.

Right?

Colby Buzzell an Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran and the author of the books, My War: Killing Time in Iraq, Lost in America: A Dead-End Journey, and Thank You For Being Expendable Other Experiences (forthcoming from Byliner).  Check him out at http://www.colbybuzzell.com.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Coast Guard cooks its way to the top

The United States Coast Guard Culinary Team beat 19 competitors to be named 2020 Joint Culinary Training Exercise Installation of the Year.

The competition included teams from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and international teams from France, Germany and Great Britain, with the Coast Guard earning 20 medals — five gold, six silver and nine bronze, according to a Facebook post. Chief Petty Officer Edward Fuchs, team manager, says training time helped the chefs prepare.

“One of the things that gave us a leg up this year that we’ve never had before is that we had 10 days of training time leading up to it,” Fuchs said. He added that time to run through everything with a team that had never worked together before, made all the difference. He credits Master Chief Matthew Simolon and his crew for opening up the USCG Yorktown, Virginia, galley for their team as one of the reasons they won.


This big ol’ plane is getting a big ol’ stand-down order

Chief Petty Officer Scott Jeffries, the Coast Guard Team Advisor, shared that many of the other military branch teams competing there had been working on their craft together for six months or longer to prepare for the competition.

“The reaction from them when they would learn about us (USCG team) only being together for nine days prior to the start of the competition was pretty awesome. They understand how hard this thing is and how much work goes into it,” Jeffries said. “The Yorktown galley made it all possible by getting us rations or running us to the store. Without them, this wouldn’t have been successful at all.”

The road to competing in this culinary competition isn’t easy. The hours are long, often stretching into 12-plus hour days. Fuchs shared there was one stretch where he was away from his hotel room for 30 hours. But that continuous hard work and unfailing dedication paid off.

Fuchs said the Coast Guard has always had to work a little harder because all of the rules and important communications come through the Department of Defense, which led to his team being behind on this year because the group was left out of those important emails. He also shared that throughout the 14 years since the Coast Guard first competed, there were years they weren’t funded to compete.

“For a while it was just us and our personal funds keeping it alive,” he said.

One year, as an example, they were sponsored by The Coast Guard Foundation. In years past, the chefs competing were mostly those located in Washington, D.C. and the Virginia areas that were close by to the Fort Lee competition because they just couldn’t afford to bring in chefs from units throughout the country. He continued saying that “we kept it on life support, waiting for that funding stream to come through.”

This big ol’ plane is getting a big ol’ stand-down order

Jeffries echoed Fuchs statement, saying for years it really was a few of them spending thousands of dollars each to maintain a Coast Guard team.

“The coverage was still there because that was our way of being able to showcase to the right avenues, ‘hey we are out here doing awesome stuff and representing the Coast Guard in a great light’ … let’s fund this thing so we can get other people out here,” he said.

They got their wish. The Coast Guard team has been funded for the last two years and this year they were able to bring in chefs from all over the fleet; something they have never been able to do before. And this year’s team was a vibrant representation of the force’s culinary rate and it made all the difference.

“We’ve done this for 14 years and every year you think you have a chance (for culinary team of the year) and then it’s not you. … It’s indescribable, that feeling that you feel when you train a team and they win it. I can’t even put into words the pride and the joy watching them go up on stage to receive the award for culinary team of the year,” Fuchs said.

“We were celebrating the night before because of how great of a job that everyone did in their own personal competitions. The Coast Guard medaled every competition and we already knew that our Coast Guard Chef of the Year had a shot at Armed Forces Chef of the Year, something that the Coast Guard had never won. There was just already so much to celebrate,” Jeffries said.

Both Fuchs and Jeffries describe an “intense” energy in the room after Team Coast Guard was announced as the winner. And so was the respect.

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

Articles

This is why the M320 kicks the M203’s ass

The M203 grenade launcher entered service with the U.S. military in 1969 during Vietnam. It replaced the M79 “Blooper” stand-alone launcher, almost always being used as an under-barrel addition to an assault rifle.


This big ol’ plane is getting a big ol’ stand-down order
U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. William Jaggers, rifleman, Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division (2d MARDIV), loads an M203 grenade launcher during a live-fire range at the Infantry Platoon Battle Course as part of a Deployment for Training (DFT), on Fort Pickett, Va., Dec. 12, 2016. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Alexis C. Schneider, 2d MARDIV Combat Camera)

Though it has served faithfully and effectively for over 40 years now and will continue to do so for years to come, the M203 is being phased out of Army service and is being replaced by the new M320 designed and built by Heckler Koch.

For now the Marines are sticking with the 203, though many top infantry advocates in the service want the Corps to replace its current ones with M320s.

The M320 won a competitive bidding process and entered production in 2008 with over 71,000 of the weapons planned for the U.S. Army. Soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Division were the first to field the weapon operationally.

This big ol’ plane is getting a big ol’ stand-down order
Spc. Travis Williams, a grenadier with the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, looks through the the sights of his M320 grenade launcher March 24, during a training exercise at Fort Bragg, N.C. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod)

While the M203 was capable of operating independently, in practice it is rarely used in standalone configuration. In fact, the old M79 resurfaced during Operation Iraqi Freedom as a superior option for grenade launcher duties without a rifle.

The break-action blooper (or ‘thumper,’ based on who you ask) was touted as a superior tool for the job when the whole rifle/launcher combo was too heavy or unwieldy, and standalone M203 units were not up to the task or simply unavailable.

The M79 has greater range and better accuracy than the M203. While it has performed admirably since Vietnam, no one has ever claimed that the M203 provided pinpoint accuracy.

This big ol’ plane is getting a big ol’ stand-down order
The M79 was beloved by troops since Vietnam and still has a following in today’s military. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The M79, introduced in 1961, is even older than the M203. Much more importantly, it’s not capable of being used as an under-barrel launcher on an M4 or M16 rifle. While stand-alone launchers definitely have their place, the need for a grenadier who is also a rifleman is a crucial one in most cases. A new, better, under-barrel 40mm grenade launcher was needed.

The M320 filled that need. Using the same high-low propulsion system of the M79 and M203 to keep recoil low while firing a heavy 40mm projectile, the M320 has the same range as the M203 while increasing accuracy and coming with a number of improvements over the older model.

One of the most noticeable upgrades over the M203 is the M320’s side-loading mechanism. The barrel swings out for loading, rather than the M203’s forward-sliding pump-like barrel. This allows the use of additional, longer, ammunition, particularly non-lethal rounds. With the weapon’s introduction, the Army is able to move forward with the development of new, high-tech rounds that wouldn’t fit in the M203.

This big ol’ plane is getting a big ol’ stand-down order
(Photo from PEO Soldier)

Another obvious feature of the M320 is the folding foregrip. The grip is intended primarily for use when the weapon is used separate from a rifle, but it can also serve as a forward vertical grip when mounted under a barrel. When not needed, the foregrip can be easily folded back and out of the way.

The sights of the M320 are certainly more advanced than those of the M203, and they benefit from being integral to the launcher itself, being mounted on the side of the unit. The M203’s sights were attached separately and had to be re-zeroed every time.

The M320’s leaf sight simply flips up when needed, and the integrated electronic sighting system allows users to dial in the range as determined by laser and tell if they’re on target. This alone makes the M320 easier to field and more accurate in more conditions more of the time. While operating the M79 was an acquired ability and accuracy with the M203 was more art than skill, the M320’s sight helps to make every operator a capable grenadier.

The M320 has a double-action trigger compared to the M203’s single-action unit and has an ambidextrous safety. This allows the operator more control over his weapon, its firing, and better capability to handle a misfire or simple unloading.

This big ol’ plane is getting a big ol’ stand-down order
U.S. Army Pfc. Rohan Wright, center, a cavalry scout with a personal security detachment with the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, prepares to fire an M320 Grenade Launcher Module (GLM) at the weapons range at Forward Operating Base Thunder in Paktia province, Afghanistan, Oct. 18, 2013. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Justin A. Moeller/Released)

Despite the M320’s technical advantages over its predecessors, its introduction did not come without some hiccups. All new weapons systems suffer from some teething pains, particularly when introduced during a time of war, and the new grenade launcher was no exception.

While intended to be lighter than the M203, the M320 is actually slightly heavier, weighing in at 3.3 pounds compared to the M203’s 3.0 pounds. While this difference is small, combat troops are already overloaded and every ounce counts.

While the new sight provides significant advantages over the M203’s sight, some troops have complained that it’s a little fragile for hard use in the combat zone. This may be due to the fact that the troops are used to not worrying about an M203 because there was so little to break.

Another complaint is that when used stand-alone with the stock assembly, the buttstock is a little short for many operators.

Finally, the single-point sling attachment of the stand-alone M320 meant that the weapon swung around and was often bouncing in the way, with troops calling for a holster of some sort to use while carrying the launcher unmounted. The Army responded by launching an M320GL Holster Soldier Enhancement Program.

The SEP was a “try-before-you-buy” program that used holsters from three different vendors and issued them to troops for testing and feedback. The holster solution will also address some of the concerns about the fragile sights, since the weapon won’t be bouncing around or getting dragged on the ground when the operator hits the dirt.

A comment found online from a soldier claiming to carry an M320 in Afghanistan says that the launcher is a pain in the ass and swings everywhere, he “wouldn’t trade it for anything else in a firefight.” It’s hard to come up with a better endorsement of the M320 than that.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Prison inmates are training dogs for wounded warriors in record time

Prison time is hard time. Depending on where an inmate is locked up, they can spend anywhere from 21-23 hours a day in their cells, regardless of the severity of their crimes. Wherever possible, inmates who really want to get out are making the most of that time. But it turns out there is one job that is perfectly suited to someone with that much time on their hands: training service dogs for wounded veterans.


This big ol’ plane is getting a big ol’ stand-down order

America’s VetDogs employs inmates like Tyrell Sinclair, an inmate at Connecticut’s Enfield Correctional Facility, to train service dogs destined for wounded veterans – and the dogs work wonders for the inmates as well. For Sinclair, it gives him something to do, something to look forward to every day. More than that, the increased attention the inmates are able to give the trainee dogs cuts the training time down to just one year instead of two to five years.

“After committing a crime, being in here, you just sit around and think about how bad things are, how bad a person I am for being in this predicament,” said Sinclair. “Once I got the dog and got into the program, things were better. It’s like a whole different outlook.”

This big ol’ plane is getting a big ol’ stand-down order

Sinclair says he was amazed at the abilities the dogs have once they are subject to the proper training and skills.

“It amazed me,” he said.

But it’s not just the constant companionship of man’s best friend that helps inmates like Sinclair through their jail time. The inmates know the dogs will not be with them for very long if all goes according to plan. It’s knowing that the dogs they train are destined to help someone who served their country that gives the inmates the boost in confidence.

“It almost makes me feel like a proud dad.”

Mark Tyler, who oversees the Enfield program for America’s VetDogs, believes the prisoner’s inclination toward the dogs (and vice versa) is a natural one and the program is a win-win situation for everyone involved. The numbers support that belief. Around 85 percent of Enfield inmates will end up back in Enfield after their release, for the same crime or another crime. For inmates who train dogs, that number drops to 25 percent.

“They know all too well the crime they committed will likely become an extension of who they are,” Tyler said of the prisoners. “The dog doesn’t care what that person did in the past, he cares about who they are today.”