Who are the best commandos in the Western Hemisphere? Throw Navy SEALs, Green Berets, Rangers, Marine Force Recon, the Marine Special Operations Command, or even Air Force Special Tactics airmen into a ring and find out. Sort of.
Which is kind of what happens during an annual competition called Fuerzas Commandos. It’s been held 13 times. In 2017, Honduras took the trophy from Colombia, an eight-time winner of the 11-day event.
So, what, exactly goes down at these commando Olympics?
First, there is an opening ceremony during which the trophy is returned to an officer of the host nation.
This year, 20 countries (Argentina, Belize, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago, United States, and Uruguay) competed, sending over 700 commandos.
Participants take part in both an Assault Team Competition and a Sniper Team Competition.
The Assault Team Competition features a number of challenges. One is a physical fitness test.
There is a “confidence course” and an obstacle course is run as well.
Close-quarters combat skills are tested and there is a rucksack march.
Don’t forget the aquatic events or the hostage rescue events.
The Sniper Team Competition features marksmanship.
A Mexican soldier looks over his ghillie suit before the beginning of a stalk-and-shoot event July 20, 2017 during Fuerzas Comando in Ñu Guazú, Paraguay. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Tonya Deardorf)
Then there is concealment.
They also have a physical fitness test and there’s a mobility event.
This year, Honduras won the title, Colombia finished second, and the USA took third place. Next year, Panama will host Fuerzes Commandos. Will Honduras defend their title, will the Colombians make it nine out of fourteen, or will there be a surprise winner?
A computer scientist has pioneered an artificial intelligence-driven method of modeling the behaviors of militant groups, and the Department of Defense is interested.
In a paper titled “Mining for Causal Relationships: A Data-Driven Study of the Islamic State,” presented at the 2015 Conference on Knowledge Discovery and Data Mining, a team led by Paulo Shakarian of Arizona State University used 2,200 individual data points on ISIS-related incidents from the Institute for the Study of War to build a descriptive model — an algorithm that models ISIS’s behavior.
Shakarian, who is a former Army officer, DARPA military fellow, and assistant professor at West Point, applied principals of computer science to turn the raw reports from ISW into a database which he could then analyze.
As the paper notes, “ISIS has displayed a high level of sophistication and discipline in its military operations.” Even so, it’s possible to glimpse patterns in their operations, and the paper found strong correlations between certain tactics.
For instance, a spike in car bombs in Baghdad was very often followed by ISIS attacks in northern Iraqi cities. Based on this relationship, the paper suggests that ISIS uses the car bombs to draw Iraqi security forces away from ISIS infantry pursuing other targets.
In the paper, Shakarain and his research partners identified two targets that ISIS seems to value especially highly: Balad and Baiji. Baiji is home to a major oil refinery and Balad is near an important government air base.
Shakarain described the paper as a “proof of concept,” telling Business Insider that “it’s not a really big data set, but it’s still significant.” Based on limited data from the only the second half of 2014, the paper focused only on modeling the past behavior of the elusive terror group.
“We came up with a description of their behavior, not any predictions,” explained Shakarian.
Shakarian said that there were people in the Department of Defense who “found the study very interesting.” And he thinks that his kind of computer science-driven research methods will become more accepted inside the Pentagon.
“It’s been revolutionary for DoD to see what you can do with this much data,” Shakarian told Business Insider. The ASU algorithm, updated with real-time data from the Pentagon, could be a powerful analytical tool.
Shakarian is excited at the prospect of applying his machine-learning methods to complex security situations around the world. “People are going to the battlefield with computers and recording data. We all forget how new this stuff is.” Shakarian noted that “It’s only been happening in the last 10-15 years where you have this much high-resolution data.”
The U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II attack aircraft is officially about to get some surround sound.
The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, on Oct. 23, 2019, awarded Terma North America Inc. a $60 million indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity (IDIQ) contract to retrofit 328 3D audio systems for the close-air support aircraft’s cockpit, according to a Defense Department announcement. The company is a subsidiary of Terma A/S, a Danish defense and aerospace company.
Pilots have multiple audio signals coming at them, making it difficult to discern certain radio calls and warnings. The 3D audio system will give pilots the ability to distinguish between signals and discern where they’re coming from.
Last year, the service said it had planned to award a sole-source contract to Terma to integrate the enhancement. The upgrade would “drastically improve the spatial, battlespace and situational awareness of the A-10C pilots,” according to a request for information (RFI) published at the time.
An A-10 Warthog prepares to take off from Al Asad Air Base to provide close air support to ground troops in Iraq.
(Photo by Master Sgt. Cecilio Ricardo)
The 3D audio technology has previously been used in the Danish F-16 Fighting Falcon Missile Warner System upgrade.
The A-10, which entered service in 1976 and has deployed to the Middle East, Europe and the Pacific, has also played an outsized role in Afghanistan and the air campaign that began in 2014 against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, helping provide close-air support for Iraqi and U.S. partner forces on the ground.
The latest news comes after the Air Force made another major investment into the aircraft, demonstrating its willingness to keep the A-10 around longer and boost its survivability in a high-threat environment.
In August 2019, officials announced that Boeing Co. was awarded a 9 million IDIQ contract to create up to 112 new A-10 wing assemblies and spare wing kits for aircraft that are slated to receive the upgrade. The program is known as the “A-10-Thunderbolt II Advanced-Wing Continuation Kit,” or “ATTACK.”
An A-10 Warthog takes off from Al Asad Air Base to provide close air support to ground troops in Iraq.
(Photo by Master Sgt. Cecilio Ricardo)
The Air Force estimates 109 A-10s still need to be re-winged following a previous id=”listicle-2641104178″.1 billion “Enhanced Wing Assembly” contract, which began in 2011 and completed this year.
The 3D audio work will be performed in the U.S. and Denmark, the Defense Department said.
The Air Force will use fiscal 2018 and 2019 funds in the amount of .3 million toward the effort; the work is scheduled to be completed by February 2024, the announcement states.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
So, when we say “2014” that means about 49 days that WATM was live, but thanks to you, our rapidly growing audience, we have had some hits. Here are the Top 10 among them (ranked using a proprietary algorithm that uses page views, video plays on two domains, and editorial intangibles):
Mylee Cardenas had a plan: stay in the Army until they begged her to leave. But her dreams of becoming a career soldier were derailed by cancer. See how she finds her second wind in life as a model and actress.
The V-22 Osprey was the first generation of “tiltrotor” aircraft, and now the manufacturer is introducing the “Valor,” a prototype that claims to take the Osprey’s unique capability to the next level. How will it work, and will the Army buy it?
Happy New Year from the WATM team, and look for many more great videos at The Mighty TV in 2015.
A new 12-page handbook released by the Navy today describes in detail when and how a sailor can complete a gender transition, down to how transgender sailors can participate in urinalysis tests and when it is appropriate to wear clothing of a preferred gender during visits to foreign ports.The guidance also contains a caution for sailors hoping to transition: they will be expected to pass the physical fitness requirements of their preferred gender immediately on transition, and are expected to take the initiative to train to those standards in advance.
As of Oct. 1, sailors were allowed to begin the process to change their official gender designation in personnel systems in accordance with a Pentagon mandate. Beginning in November, the Navy will dispatch mobile training teams to all major commands to explain the new policies and what they mean for the fleet. By July of next year, the Navy and all the other armed services will be accepting transgender applicants into ranks.
But the new guidance from the Navy makes clear that readiness will remain a top priority, even as sailors transition.
“There are no separate or distinct standards for transgender Service members,” the Navy administrative message containing the new guidances reads. “Service members and [military medical providers] must carefully consider the time required to adjust to new PRT standards as part of the medical treatment and transition planning process.”
The Navy’s physical readiness test, or PRT, has different requirements for men and women at every age group. For example, male sailors between the ages of 20 and 24 max out the PRT with 87 push-ups, a 1.5-mile run in 8 minutes, 30 seconds or less, and a 500-yard swim in six minutes, 30 seconds. Women in the same age group need to complete only 48 push-ups, a 1.5-mile run in 9 minutes, 47 seconds, and a 500-yard swim in seven minutes, 15 seconds to max out.
Meanwhile, height and weight standards also differ for male and female sailors. A male sailor who is within standards at 5′ 3″, 155 pounds and plans to transition to female must then meet standards for female sailors, which set the maximum weight for that height at 152 pounds.
Only a military medical provider can determine if a medical waiver is justified for sailors who are out of standards as they transition, the guidance states.
When and how to transition
In order to complete a gender transition while in uniform, sailors must receive an official diagnosis from a military doctor indicating that gender transition is medically necessary, according to the guidance. That diagnosis, along with a medical treatment plan, then must be reported to the appropriate unit commanding officer to for approval of the timing of medical treatment, taking into consideration when the sailor will rotate to another command, deployment and other operational schedules, and how the transition will affect career milestones. If a specific case requires immediate medical treatment, the guidance states it will be treated like any other medical emergency affecting a sailor. In these cases, the sailor may be transferred to limited duty status and “result in an unplanned loss to the command,” according to the Navadmin.
The commanding officer must respond to transition requests within 90 days, according to the new policy. The CO is allowed to take into account impact to the current mission, including “morale, welfare, and good order and discipline of the command,” when determining timeframe to respond to transition requests.
Gender transition treatment plans will differ from sailor to sailor and may include behavioral health counseling, hormone therapy, surgery, and real-life experience, the Navy’s term for for dressing and behaving in public as the preferred non-birth gender.
Sailors are allowed to begin participating in real-life experience before their gender transition is complete and their official gender has been changes in the personnel enrollment system, but must do so only in off-duty status, according to the guidance. All official unit functions, on-base or off, are considered to be on-duty status for sailors, making them off limit for real-life experience outings. And sailors deployed aboard ship face significant limitations: whether working or not, they are considered on-duty on ship at all times. While they can venture out in the clothing of their preferred gender during foreign port visits, these too are subject to restrictions and cultural sensitivities of the country in question.
“Commands need to be cognizant of host-nation laws and social norms when considering RLE in an off-duty status in foreign nations,” the guidance states. “Travel warnings, the State Department’s country-specific website, the DoD Foreign Clearance Guide, and any U.S. regional military commander directives should be reviewed and heeded.”
During transition, some missions may be off-limits for sailors. Transitioning sailors will be restricted from flying and diving ops during medical treatment and there may be limitations for sailors who have access to nuclear weapons, and chemical and biological weapons.
“The Navy’s bureau of Medicine is studying the effects of medical treatments associated with gender transition on members of the aviation and diving communities,” officials with Naval Personnel Command said in a statement.
Gender transition is only complete after a military doctor documents that the service member has completed required medical treatments and written permission from the commanding officer to change the official gender marker in the appropriate personnel administrative systems. While Defense Department guidance says no sailor may be kicked out of the service on the basis of being transgender, sailors are advised to consider the needs of the service when choosing how and when to transition. Transition should be completed during one tour of duty to avoid interrupting medical treatment and requiring additional coordination and a new transition plan, which may disrupt operational requirements at a new command. And transition during boot camp or service academy training is not advised.
“A service member is subject to separation in an entry-level status during the period of initial training … based on a medical condition that impairs the Service member’s ability to complete such training,” the guidance states.
Keeping the fleet comfortable
As a result of transgender sailors being permitted to serve openly, the entire fleet may get a little more modest.
Nudity in berthing and shower facilities is out, according to the guidance, and sailors must maintain a “minimum standard of coverage” walking through spaces, while sleeping, and while using bathrooms and washrooms, in order to show courtesy for others and maintain good order and discipline, according to the guidance.
Unit commanders are prohibited from creating exclusive berthing or bathroom facilities for transgender sailors, but are expected to use their discretion to enact appropriate policies to ensure the protection of privacy for individual sailors.
For urinalysis drug tests, which require that one sailor observe another procure the urine sample, the observer will be another of the same designated gender. But there may be adjustments to ensure the relative comfort level of the observer and the observed. These will be written into a future policy, the Navadmin states.
Though the details may be challenging, Navy officials said the service wants to make sure all qualified personnel find their place in the fleet.
“Our goal is to ensure that the mission is carried out by the most qualified and capable service members,” officials with Naval Personnel Command said in a statement. “If an individual can meet the Navy’s standards, they should be afforded the opportunity to serve.”
I’ve known for a long time that some men and women really don’t enjoy the holiday season. In recent years I’ve had encounters that really brought home to me how many people there are in this situation, and how deep is their pain.
I’ve been convicted that we – the VA – and we – the community of faith – really should find some way to address this deep, aching need that some of our brothers and sisters feel.
Planning this service brought home to me many reasons why people might suffer during the holidays.
The first one that comes to mind is grief — loss of a loved one or a friend — but it’s not the only reason.
Alienation from family or even geographic distance from them can do it.
Painful memories of events that happened in the holiday season might be a reason.
Some people are experiencing loss of a job or other economic difficulty.
Even good things might make the holidays difficult; think about retirement, empty nest, or moving to a new home.
Any big change that affects a strong part of your self-identity might cause loneliness and feelings of isolation.
Even the loss of what might have been can be so painful.
I’m supposed to say something helpful, here, but I don’t want to offer quick fixes or simple tips; What brings healing is going to be distinctive for each person. Still, there are some principles that can help many.
Chaplain Jonathan Landon.
We may suppress our painful feelings, because we don’t want to burden others, but giving ourselves freedom to acknowledge the pain may be helpful by itself. Concealing those feelings can leave us feeling lonelier, and leaves those who care about us helpless to comfort us. So if you need to cry, then cry. And if you need to be hugged, say that, and let your family members and friends reach out to you and meet your need.
I can’t be so presumptuous as to guarantee it, but if you acknowledge your pain, and people offer space to let it out, and make that giving of mutual support into a time for bonding, maybe you can let the pressure off a little bit. Maybe you can relieve the tension of those who care about you, who are trying to avoid stirring up painful feelings. Then you may just find that there’s some room for laughter, smiles, and enjoyment.
You see, what most of us really need is not the quick fix or the simple solution; it’s caring relationships. One of the key themes of the time leading up to Christmas is the prophecy that foretold the coming of Jesus, giving him the name or title of “Emmanuel”, which means, “God with us.” This Word teaches me that I am never alone in any loss or pain, no matter what my emotions may tell me.
But the message is not only about God being with us; we have the opportunity to show the presence of God to others, by living God’s love in truth and caring for them. Some people came here today because they’re struggling with the holidays. Some people came here because they care about who is struggling with the holidays. Some care because of their faith. Some of them just care because they see a human in pain and they don’t want anyone to suffer alone.
Don’t forget: in the midst of your own pain, you have opportunities to come alongside of others — to be with them, as God is with us.
In this fairly recent tradition, the Blue Christmas service usually happens on or close to the 21st of December, the night of the winter solstice, the longest and darkest night of the year.
It’s an appropriate symbol for a time when many people feel alone, lost and in pain. But that’s not the only meaning of the night of the 21st. Because what happens at sunrise on the morning of the 22nd?
The days begin to get longer. At first, it’s by tiny increments and you hardly notice it, and then it grows faster and faster and you can’t miss it. It’s inevitable. The light returns. That, too is part of the symbolism of this night and this service. The light returns. No matter how long the night will be — or has been — the light returns.
Chaplain Jonathan Landon is the chaplain at the Eugene VA Health Care Center.
The Commandant of the Marine Corps plans to reduce the configuration of Marine Rifle Squads from 13 down to 12 by increasing firepower and adding drone technology.
When are 12 Marines more lethal than 13? That math is the equation informing the recently reconfigured Marine Rifle Squad.
Said to arrive in FY 2020, the new formation will be smaller, shrinking from 13 positions to 12. Yet these newly-configured squads will add a suite of new technology, including tablets and drones, and a significant increase in firepower, including a fully automatic rifle for each of the 12 squad members — up from the three automatic rifles assigned per squad currently. The result? Increased firepower, because now all 12 Marines in the Rifle Squad will be equipped with automatic weapons.
The sum of these changes equals a squad ever “more lethal, agile, and capable” according to Marine Commandant Robert Neller in video posted to Twitter.
Currently, a Marine Infantry Rifle Squad is run by one squad leader who guides three fire teams of four members each, for a total of 13 positions. The breakdown of the current configuration is that each of these three fire teams at present is led by a fire team leader, who guides one automatic rifleman, one assistant automatic rifleman, and one rifleman.
The decision to change this standard Marine Rifle Squad configuration follows a re-evaluation sparked by two modernization initiatives, Marine Corps Vision and Strategy 2025 Marine Corps Vision and Strategy 2025 and Sea Dragon 2025, the active experiment program which, according to a Marine statement, is dedicated to “assess changes to the infantry battalion mandated by Marine Corps Force 2025.”
(US Marine Corps photo)
“To be clear,” explained Neller, “the mission of the Marine Rifle Squad remains unchanged: to locate close with and destroy the enemy by means of fire, maneuver, and close combat.”
The new arithmetic works like this: there will still be three fire teams in each rifle squad, but each of those three fire teams will lose one position, and going forward each fire team will have only have three members each, no longer four. So, what the are other positions that will bring the new Marine Rifle Squad up to 12?
The answer: changes at the top.
As noted above, instead of a squad leader directing three teams of four, we will soon see a squad leader leading three teams of three. Yet, this Rifle Squad Team Leader position will itself now get significant dedicated support from two other newly-established positions assigned to support the Squad Team Leader — and the mission — in the field: an assistant squad leader, a corporal, who, according to the Marines, assists with “increasingly complex squad operations.” The other new position is a lance corporal who serves as “squad systems operator” integrating and operating new technology, according to a statement from the Marines.
The new Marine Rifle Squad Leader, a sergeant, charged with carrying out the platoon commander’s orders, is now expected to have “five to seven years of experience” and will be given “formal training as a squad leader,” according to a statement from Marine Captain Ryan Alvis.
The lighter footprint of this new 12-position formation reflects an approach long-articulated in training materials — “the Marine Corps philosophy of war fighting is based on an approach to war called maneuver warfare.” This legendary maneuverability continues to inform the focus of Neller’s recent changes and explains why the Marine Corps is changing up the math of its long-established Marine Rifle Squad formation.
This “reorganization of the infantry will occur over the next three to five years, although some of the changes are happening now” according to Captain Alvis. This means that in addition to one fewer marine, the changes also bring newer tech. The positions are changing, but so are the assigned equipment and weaponry.
Now each member of the Rifle Squad will be assigned an M320 automatic rifle, designed and built by Heckler Koch, a German company founded in 1949. The M320s will replace the M4 carbine semi-automatic, a legacy weapon developed by the American manufacturer Colt. Heckler Koch also developed and manufactures the M320 grenade launchers that the Marines have determined will be used by each of the three dedicated grenadiers assigned to each newly configured fire team.
Other hardware to be assigned includes a MAAWS, Multi-Role Anti-Armor Anti-Personnel Weapon System, known as the Carl Gustaf. This anti-tank rifle is described by its manufacturer, the Sweden-based Saab corporation, as “light and ruggedized and its multi-purpose capability provides freedom of action. . . in all environments.” The Carl Gustaf has in the past been hailed for its accuracy and portability by tech and design outlet Gizmodo, because the weapon “looks like a Bazooka but shoots like a rifle.”
Each of the new 12-spot rifle squad formations will also get one M38 Designated Marksmanship Rifle. At a range of 600 meters, the M38, a Heckler Koch product, has, in the past, been criticized as not being comparable to the world’s best sniper rifles. Yet it should work well, according to the Marines, as a marksman rifle. The M38, a Marine statement notes, is equipped with a suppressor and also a variable 2.5-8 power optic. Although not intended for sniper use, a Marine statement explains that the “individual employing this weapon (will receive) additional training on range estimation, scope theory, and observation.”
Battles of the future will not be won by firepower alone. General Neller has long been quoted as saying that each infantry squad would one day be assigned its own small unmanned aerial device. That day is coming. A Marine statement confirmed that “each squad will have a . . . quadcopter to increase situational awareness of the squad leaders.”
Another addition to the field? The PRC-117G Radio will be lighter, more portable than the current radio equipment, and will provide more than audio. Encrypted visuals allow “warfighters to communicate beyond the lines of sight,” according to its manufacturer, the Harris Corporation, a publicly traded U.S company that specializes in communications, electronics, and space and intelligence systems.
Also in the mix: a Marine Corps Common Handheld Tablet. As General Neller explains, the mix of technology and weaponry allows the USMC “to move forward and get ready for the next fight. Wherever it is.” A Marine Corps statement notes that the infantry would remain a key focus of Marine Corps strategy because “superior infantry is a Marine Corps asymmetrical advantage.” The statement also quotes Gen. Neller as saying “The surest way to prevent war is to be prepared to dominate one.”
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
For many Americans, Memorial Day is a three-day weekend that kicks off the summer season with BBQs and parties — and it should be. Gathering with friends and loved ones is a special privilege we are fortunate enough to enjoy.
For many service members, veterans, and Gold Star Families, however, the weekend can carry some sadness. Memorial Day is, after all, a day to remember the fallen men and women who gave their lives in military service.
We all honor those we’ve lost in our own way. For U.S. Marine JP Guhns, it’s through music.
JP is no stranger to We Are The Mighty. He first landed on our radar as a finalist in our Mission: Music talent search. He also has four combat deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan under his belt, which significantly impacted his music.
“I’ve been a victim to suicide, said the Lord’s Prayer as we carried one of my Marine brothers to aid, been heartbroken by life, and prayed to pay the bills. I’ve fought the hard battles. I’ve cried through the nights of memories. Thank God I had friends and family to bring me through,” he shared on the Facebook launch of Good Friends and Whiskey (see video above).
JP isn’t the only veteran who shares military experiences through the arts — and he’s definitely not the only one who has been impacted by the loss of service members’ lives, home or overseas. This Memorial Day, as you enjoy some downtime and celebrate, maybe also take a moment to reflect on the sacrifices of the military, contribute to a veteran non-profit, or support troops like JP by checking out their art and hearing their stories.
In 2017, USAA invited five talented military musicians to Nashville to record at the legendary Ocean Way Studios. JP was one of those artists — and he really made the most of the opportunity. His latest song is both a tribute to the people who have been there for him as well as a message to anyone else out there who needs to know that they are not alone.
“To all my brothers and sisters in arms, rejoice the memories of our fallen, and let’s get back to living again.”
When you’re in the military, every bit of civilian life is broken out of you. When a veteran returns to civilian life, there are plenty of habits that get dropped like a bag of bricks. Slowly, we learn to sleep in a bit more and not get upset if someone in our new office has a bit of stubble. Some habits, however, aren’t turned off because of how much of an edge it gives us over civilians.
8. Calling people “sir” or “ma’am”
Respect is a two-way street. Start a conversation with someone with respect and they’ll look at you better for it.
Even if it hurts our soul, we’ll still use “sir” and “ma’am.” (Image via GIPHY)
7. Scheduling and being 15 minutes early
Every hour of every day is planned. Routes are checked well beforehand to see how long it’ll take to get somewhere and departure times are planned accordingly. Even with the planning, veterans still make it there before the given time, just in case.
Admittedly, it’s a pain when nobody else gets it and we have to find something to occupy our time while we wait.
Eh. We’ll find something else to do. (Image via GIPHY)
6. Preplanning every detail (with backups)
When veterans arrive, we have a game plan — with an alternate plan, and a contingency plan, and an emergency plan…
In that one-in-a-hundred time where we don’t have a plan, our “winging it” skills are on point.
The typical “Plan D” is to say, “f*ck it” and leave. (Image via GIPHY)
5. Eating fast
While we all need food to survive, it just takes too much damn time to consume it. Veterans cut the fat and use that extra fifteen minutes each meal to wait in front of wherever we’re going next.
This doesn’t stop when a veteran gets out of service. Take speed eating and eliminate the need to stay fit and you quickly get an idea why some vets get fat.
Every vet during their first week at Fort Couch. (Image via GIPHY)
4. Driving aggressively
We drive recklessly and safe at the same time. We’ll swerve in and out of traffic like it’s nothing and yet our driving records are spotless.
Some people might view this as us “driving like assholes.” We call it “I didn’t like that cardboard box / White Toyota Helix on the side of the road.”
That’s basically the reason why we always drive in the middle of the road. (Image via GIPHY)
3. Not complaining about weather
Ever hear a veteran complain that it’s too cold, too hot, too wet, or too snowy? Hell no.
Whatever the weather, at least we’re not enduring it in the field.
PCSing to nearly every base on the planet does that to you. (Image via GIPHY)
2. Using more accurate terminology
The English language is fascinating. While most civilians make up some onomatopoeia and call it a “thingy,” troops and veterans will usually default to whatever we called it in the service.
A bathroom is a “latrine” or “head” because you’re not going in there to bathe. If something is “ate-up” or a “charlie foxtrot,” we can point out how much of a clusterf*ck something is without letting everyone know someone’s a dumbsh*t.
Vet-specific terms are mostly insults though, which leads us to… (Image via GIPHY)
1. Pointing out peoples’ flaws in a polite and effective manner
In the military, troops need to be able to tell the person who outranks them by a mile that something’s wrong.
Troops can tell a General — in a polite way — that their boot is untied. Troops can also tell a Private that they’re a friggin’ idiot for showing up to PT formation only 9 minutes early.
We’re quick to point out the flaws. (Image via GIPHY)
*Bonus* Morning workout routine
Many vets still work out. The rest either embrace Fort Couch or lie about it — but we know the truth.
Retired Air Force Colonel Merryl Tengesdal was the first and only Black female U-2 pilot. For her, it’s all about finding opportunity and seizing it.
Born in the Bronx and raised by a single mother, Tengesdal was obsessed with Star Trek. “When I was 7 years old I decided I wanted to be an astronaut and be like Kirk exploring space,” she said with a smile. That show would be a pivotal moment for her life, leading her to set what she called her framework. “I knew I needed to do well in math and science, go to college and become a pilot.”
But she didn’t want to become just any kind of pilot, either. “I wanted to go high and fast with weapons, that’s just how I roll,” Tengesdal said with a smile.
While still in high school, she attended college level programs for science and electrical engineering, which is what she would major in. When Tengesdal graduated, she was only one of three women in the program. “I did ROTC in the Air Force for two years but thought it probably wasn’t the best fit for me. It’s funny how that comes back full circle,” she laughed.
Instead of the Air Force, Tengesdal started talking to a Navy recruiter. Although she was told there were no pilot slots by them, that didn’t stop her. She’d end up on a five-day bus trip to San Diego where she took the required test to become a pilot. Tengesdal was picked up for Officer Candidate School in 1994. “I got wind in ‘96 and picked up helicopters, H60 Bravos and did that for four years. Deployed to the Mediterranean and Arabyian Gulf, doing missions out there,” she explained.
Tengesdal did two more years with the fleet before becoming a T-6 instructor. When that was finished, she went back to where it all started. The Air Force.
She was actually contemplating getting out, her goals still being on getting into space. But then she heard about the U-2. “The mission was beautiful, the aircraft was tough. I wore a pressure suit going above 70,000 feet. All of that was very appealing to me,” Tendesdal shared.
The Lockheed U-2 is actually nicknamed the “dragon lady” and used to be the aircraft of choice for the Central Intelligence Agency. Pilots are required to breathe in pure oxygen for the hour prior to takeoff and wear partially pressurized space suits before they board for missions over 10 hours long. It is so challenging and difficult that it comes with a suicide needle, should the pilot opt to take it. Tengesdal was only one of ten women in around 1100 pilots in the aircrafts history. She is still the only Black woman to fly it.
“I was driven toward a goal and flying. I didn’t say I wanted to be a first because no one else had done it, I didn’t even think of it that way. I looked at the U-2 community as a brother and sisterhood that I wanted to be a part of,” Tengesdal explained. “The progression of myself as a Black American during my time on this earth has been a very good one…I saw opportunity, my mom made sure there was and then I would take advantage of it.”
Her advice is to take everything as if it’s the only shot you have and make the best of it. “I try to create those opportunities for people regardless of what they look like or who they are, based on their skillset. I think that’s how I went through life. People saw something in me, I had the skill and aptitude and it’s worked out…All you have to do is look at it and not limit yourself,” Tengesdal shared.
“When I was deployed with the Navy, I saw what poverty could really look like. It gives you that perspective of ‘we don’t want that here,'” she explained. With her time in service, she’s witnessed how bad it can be and although recognizes America is far from perfect – it’s a beacon of hope for so many for a reason. Tengesdal remains hopeful that American resiliency will shine through.
Promoted to Colonel, she eventually retired in 2017. These days she’s wearing the hats of personal trainer, motivational speaker, wife and mom. She’s also fostering to adopt, in an attempt to give a child a starting opportunity, like she had.
We can also add reality TV star to the mix now, too.
You’ll find Tengesdal on the CBS reality series, Tough As Nails. It’s a show featuring every day Americans who don’t hesitate to roll up their sleeves and get the job done; a mantra deeply familiar to her. Things like mental toughness, strength, life skills and endurance will be tested. Basically, it was a show made for Tengesdal.
For a woman who’s accomplished so much already and continues to strive for even more, she has some shockingly normal hobbies and enjoyments. “I am above level 8,000 on candy crush and I play Pokemon go,” she laughed.
Her message to women or anyone who feels underserved wondering if they should go for something because it’s going to be too hard, Tengesdal says yes. “You may struggle and even struggle really hard. Do it anyway.”
For more amazing Black veterans, check out this post.
On Dec. 19, 2017, B-52 Stratorfortress (60-0051), with the 93rd Bomb Squadron/307th BW AFRC was about to land at Barksdale AFB, Louisiana, when the crew heard something that sounded like a thud coming from the outside of the bomber. The aircraft landed safely, but once on the ground the crew discovered that the sound they heard was actually a lightning strike that tore a person-sized gash completely through the tail of the aircraft.
“Close encounters” between civil and military aircraft and lightnings occur every now and then around the globe.
In the 1980s, some F-16 Fighting Falcon jets were lost after being struck by lightinings. In one case, the lightning ignited the vapors in the empty centerline tank, which exploded causing extended damage to the aircraft’s hydraulic system.
Since lightning strikes are quite rare (1 event each year on average) these are seldom a real risk to military or civil aviation.
Furthermore, planes are shielded by a so-called Faraday Cage made by a conducting material, that blocks out external static electrical fields: charges redistribute on the conducting material and don’t affect the cage’s interior.
All commercial and mil planes have to meet several safety lightining-related requirements to get the airworthiness certifications required in the U.S. and Europe. For instance, they must be able to withstand a lightning strike without suffering significant airframe damage, without any possibility of accidental fuel ignition in the tanks and preserving the avionics and systems failures induced by the electromagnetic field created by the electrical charges of the lightning.
After assessing the damage, it was determined that the tail was damaged beyond repair and would have to be replaced: a large-scale, and uncommon, repair.
The B-52 is equipped with a lightning arrester designed to mitigate damage from lightning strikes, but this one was too strong even for the jet’s safeguards. “We see a handful of strikes every year, but out of all the maintainers we have, no one had seen lightning damage that bad,” said Lt. Col. George P. Cole, III, 307th Maintenance Squadron commander in a public release.
“I’ve been with the unit for fifteen years and this is the first time we have had to change a tail,” said Senior Master Sgt. Michael Nelson, 307th MXS flight maintenance superintendent. “We only had one other maintainer on our team that has ever changed one.”
According to the U.S. Air Force, Master Sgt. Eric Allison, 307th MXS B-52 aircraft mechanic, was the only maintainer on the eight person team with experience replacing a tail prior to the lighting strike. “It’s challenging because you have to position the tail just right and it is a two-thousand pound piece of metal,” he said. “It is like lining up the hinges when replacing a door,” said Tech. Sgt. David Emberton, 307th MXS B-52 aircraft mechanic. “You have to line it up correctly and the whole time it is twisting and flexing.”
Another possible obstacle was finding a replacement but instead of ordering it from the 309th AMARG (Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group), the maintainers from the 307th Maintenance Squadron found that one tail was available from a retired jet.
“Having that tail on hand saved us a great deal of time because ordering it from AMARG would have taken months,” Nelson said.
So, the 307th MXS completed the works and made the B-52 available for flight operations in just a couple of weeks. Sporting a different tail reclaimed from another decommissioned B-52, still able to take to air again.
By the way, the Stratofortress has already proved it can fly with damages to the tail: actually, even with a detached vertical stabilizer, as happened 54 years ago, when a B-52H involved in a test flight lost its tail at about 14,000 feet over New Mexico. Six hours later, the civilian test pilot Chuck Fisher and his three-man crew managed to perform the first and only Stratofortress’s tailless landing.
Technology helps give American troops an advantage on the battlefield, and DoD is working on new stuff all the time. Here are 11 of the coolest things they’re working on right now:
1. Drones that can fly 45 mph
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency wants drones that can race their way through enemy-held buildings or disaster areas without hitting anything, and they’re pretty successful so far. A modified drone hit 45 mph in a test and the drones can navigate obstacle courses at lower speeds.
2. Robot cockroaches
Real cockroaches can squeeze through tiny gaps and scurry quickly through hard to reach areas. A lab in Berkeley is working on the Compressible Robot with Articulated Mechanisms, a robot based on cockroaches. At Harvard, researchers are working on tiny microphones, cameras, and antennas so the robot could beam intelligence to soldiers.
3. Self-steering parachutes that don’t need GPS
Units in the field sometimes have to rely on air drops for supplies and they need the drops to be as accurate as possible. To make sure supplies arrive on target, the Army is developing the Joint Precision Airdrop Progam that uses small motors to steer a parachute. The onboard computer figures out how to navigate to the target location by scanning the ground below and comparing it to an onboard map, no GPS required.
Close air support allows troops to call in airplanes and helicopters to attack enemy ground forces. With the current tactics and resources, it generally takes 30 to 60 minutes for pilots to get to the fight and drop their bombs. Persistent Close Air Support, or PCAS, looks to drop this to six minutes by allowing ground fighters to tap a point on a digital map and have the pilot immediately receive the geo coordinates along with a flight plan and bombing solution.
6. On-demand satellite launches
Airborne Launch Assist Space Access is a convoluted name for a program, but it has a tantalizing promise: satellites in orbit within 24 hours of a request for less than $1 million. The satellites would be placed in a rocket attached to a jet. The jet would then fly to the upper atmosphere and release the rocket, and its satellite, into orbit.
7. Soldier super senses
Squad X core technology services aims to give troops better situational awareness by linking them into all the sensors on the battlefield, including new ones mounted on the troops themselves. Squad leaders would be able to see the status of their squad, video feeds from nearby drones and aircraft, and targets in the area.
8. Intuitive prosthetics
HAPTIX, Hand Proprioception and Touch Interfaces, is working to make prosthetics that not only work like biological limbs, but feel like biological limbs. This should allow amputees to do more things more quickly with their prosthetics and even allow more amputees to return to combat. (The video above shows a soldier testing a prototype arm while climbing a rock wall.)
9. Firefighting robots
The Shipboard Autonomous Firefighting Robot, or SAFFiR, is designed to work on Navy ships fighting fires and identifying hot spots before they light off. In testing last November, SAFFiR successfully fought a small fire on a decommissioned ship.
10. Drones that hunt in packs
The Collaborative Operations in Denied Environment, or CODE, is designed to reverse the human to robot ratio, taking it from multiple humans per drone to multiple drones per human.
11. Electricity as medicine
The human body is designed to heal itself, but sometimes extreme trauma can cause the electrical impulses that control healing processes to go haywire. ElectRx will allow doctors to record nerve processes in healthy bodies and then prescribe stimuli to correct the electrical storm in patients with post traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, autoimmune disorders, or even physical injury.