This 'tidal wave of airpower' just starting washing over Afghanistan - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

This ‘tidal wave of airpower’ just starting washing over Afghanistan

The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan vowed a new wave of helicopter strikes by the Afghan National Security Forces on Taliban insurgents after the delivery of dozens of UH-60 black hawk helicopters, in a joint Saturday appearance with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.


Gen. John Nicholson pledged that “a tidal wave of air power is on the horizon” after the delivery of the helicopters, adding defiantly “terrorists will not triumph here.” The delivery of the Black Hawk helicopters aligns with President Donald Trump’s renewed push to settle the war in Afghanistan after 16 years of combat.

Secretary of Defense James Mattis previewed the strategy before Congress Wednesday noting that U.S. rules of engagement in Afghanistan would be adjusted in the months to come that allow airstrikes on Taliban militants anywhere in the country. Former President Barack Obama restricted U.S. strikes to targeting Taliban insurgents only when they were attacking U.S. or Afghan Security Forces. This allowed militants to maintain safe havens throughout the country, knowing they were free of danger of U.S. warplanes.

This ‘tidal wave of airpower’ just starting washing over Afghanistan
SECDEF James Mattis disembarks from an E-4B while on an official overseas trip (Photo US Air Force)

Rules of engagement are only a small part of the overall change to U.S. posture in the country. Trump pledged in an Aug. 21 address to leave U.S. troops in the country until conditions on the ground justified a reduction and allowed Mattis to deploy an additional 3,000 troops to the country. Mattis deployed the additional 3,000 troops under the guise of a broader U.S. strategy he called “R4+S” which stands for “regionalize, realign, reinforce, reconcile, and sustain,” in Wednesday testimony before Congress.

The first three R’s emphasize the regional approach the administration intends to take, providing additional U.S. military advisers at lower levels of the Afghan National Security Forces, and pledging to stay in Afghanistan for the foreseeable future. Mattis deployed an additional 3,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan shortly after Trump’s address to carry out this mission.

The ultimate goal of the strategy is “reconciliation,” which entails “convincing our foes that the coalition is committed to a conditions-based outcome, we intend to drive fence-sitters and those who will see that we’re not quitting this fight to reconcile with the Afghan National Government.”

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This Warthog pilot will receive the Silver Star 14 years after saving troops in battle

During the opening days of Operation Iraqi Freedom, elements of the 3rd Infantry Division had come under fire from Iraqi forces, including T-72 tanks. That’s when the boots on the ground called for air support.


According to a report by the Air Force Times, two A-10s, one of them flown by Gregory Thornton, responded to the call. During the next 33 minutes, they made a number of close passes.

Thornton came within 1,000 yards of the enemy, using his A-10’s GAU-8 cannon in some cases. Ultimately, he and the other pilot would be credited with killing three T-72s, six other armored vehicles, and a number of other targets.

This ‘tidal wave of airpower’ just starting washing over Afghanistan
A-10 fires its GAU-8 during an exercise at Fort Polk. | US Air Force photo

Fourteen years after that battle, Thornton, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, will receive the Silver Star in a ceremony in July that will be presided over by Gen. Mike Holmes, the commander of Air Combat Command. The ceremony will take place at the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio.

“This courageous and aggressive attack, while under withering fire and in poor weather, along with Capt. Thornton’s superior flying skills and true attack pilot grit, allowed Task Force 2-69 Armor to cross the Tigris River with minimal combat losses and successfully accomplish their objective of linking up with coalition forces completing the 360-degree encirclement of Baghdad,” the citation that outlined the award reads.

This ‘tidal wave of airpower’ just starting washing over Afghanistan
The A-10 shows off its non-BRRRRRT related talents. | US Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. Bob Sommer

Thornton had been assigned to the 75th Fighter Squadron at Pope Field, near Fort Bragg, prior to his retirement. At the time of the incident, Thornton was a captain in the Air Force.

The Air Force is reportedly considering replacements for the A-10. Aircraft involved in what is being called the OA-X program are going to start testing this summer. Meanwhile, efforts are underway to get new wings to prevent the premature retirement of some A-10s.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Soldiers got to fire the Army’s new pistol — and they liked what they saw

McGregor Range, New Mexico – Eager soldiers shared looks of excitement and awe under the watch of the immense New Mexico golden mesas as they awaited their opportunity to finally fire the newly fielded M17 pistol.

Soldiers assigned to 1st Battalion, 67th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division fired the M17 pistol for the first time during a qualification range, Oct. 10, 2019. Within 1AD, 3ABCT is the first brigade to field and fire the new weapons system.

“The M17 pistol is an adaptable weapons system. It feels a lot smoother and a lot lighter than the M9,” said 2nd Lt. Michael Preston, an armor officer assigned to 1-67 AR. “I feel like the transition to the M17 will benefit us greatly in combat. Just from being out here today I was able to shoot well and notice that it felt lighter.”


This ‘tidal wave of airpower’ just starting washing over Afghanistan

2nd Lt. Michael Preston, an armor officer assigned to 1st Battalion, 67th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, fires an M17 pistol during a pistol qualification range, Oct. 10, 2019.

(US Army photo by Pvt. Matthew Marcellus)

The M17 is a 9mm semi-automatic handgun, which offers a lighter weight than the previous M9 pistol, weighing 30.8 ounces. It has an improved ergonomic design and a more modern internal striker firing mechanism, rather than an external hammer firing mechanism, to reduce trigger pull and improve accuracy and lethality.

The striker design of the M17 is less likely to snag on clothing or tactical gear when firing than an external hammer and furthermore, the M17 has a capacity of 17 rounds, two more than the M9.

The M17 pistol is the full-sized variant of the Modular Handgun System which also includes the compact M18 pistol, designed to replace the M9 and M11 pistols.

This ‘tidal wave of airpower’ just starting washing over Afghanistan

Staff Sgt. Tramel Gordon, an M1 armor crewman assigned to 1st Battalion, 67th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, fires an M17 pistol during a qualification range, Oct. 10, 2019.

(US Army photo Pvt. Matthew Marcellus)

Soldiers using the new M17 pistol will potentially have greater maneuverability and operational flexibility while in combat, due to the reduced weight and improved design compared to the M9 pistol.

“When we climb out of our tanks, less weight is good,” said 1st Lt. Shannon Martin, an armor officer assigned to 1-67 AR and native of Scituate, Massachusetts.

“Every ounce that you shave off the equipment is less weight for soldiers to carry. So for those infantrymen who are rucking miles at a time, it is good for them to have less weight that they’re carrying so that they can focus on staying fit for the fight and being ready to go.”

This ‘tidal wave of airpower’ just starting washing over Afghanistan

Staff Sgt. Tramel Gordon, an M1 armor crewman assigned to 1st Battalion, 67th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, fires an M17 pistol during a qualification range, Oct. 10, 2019.

(US Army photo by Pvt. Matthew Marcellus)

The Modular Handgun System has an ambidextrous external safety, self-illuminating tritium sights for low-light conditions, an integrated rail for attaching enablers and an Army standard suppressor conversion kit for attaching an acoustic/flash suppressor.

“Coyote brown” in color, it also has interchangeable hand grips allowing shooters to adjust the handgun to the size of their hand.

This ‘tidal wave of airpower’ just starting washing over Afghanistan

2nd Lt. Michael Preston, an armor officer assigned to 1st Battalion, 67th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, fires an M17 pistol at a target, Oct. 10, 2019.

(US Army photo by Pvt. Matthew Marcellus)

The primary service round is the M1153 9mm special purpose cartridge, which has a jacketed hollow-point projectile. It provides improved terminal performance against unprotected targets as well as reduced risk of over-penetration and collateral damage compared to the M882 9mm ball cartridge and the Mk243 9mm jacketed hollow-point cartridge.

The M1152 9mm ball cartridge has a truncated, or flat, nose full-metal-jacket projectile around a solid lead alloy core. It provides improved terminal performance compared to the M882 ball cartridge.

This ‘tidal wave of airpower’ just starting washing over Afghanistan

A soldier assigned to 1st Battalion, 67th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, checks his target for accuracy after he engaged it with an M17 pistol, Oct. 10, 2019.

(US Army photo by Pvt. Matthew Marcellus)

The fielding of the M17 pistol has generated great excitement and energy among 1AD soldiers, most of whom have never fired a handgun other than the M9 pistol.

“I think having a new weapons system has sprouted interest. We have soldiers who say ‘Cool, I’m so excited to go and shoot these,’ so it creates more interest in qualifying with a handgun,” said Martin. “During our deployment to Korea, we saw the M17 and we were all excited to get our hands on them, train with them and to see what’s different about them.”

This ‘tidal wave of airpower’ just starting washing over Afghanistan

Staff Sgt. Tramel Gordon, an M1 armor crewman assigned to 1st Battalion, 67th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, walks back to his firing position after collecting his target during a pistol qualification range, Oct. 10, 2019.

(US Army photo by Pvt. Matthew Marcellus)

The adoption and implementation of the M17 pistol reflects the Army’s continued commitment to modernization, ensuring that soldiers are best equipped to deal with any threat and to project lethal force with efficiency.

The division began fielding and distributing the M17 to its units in August and have used classroom training time with these live-fire ranges to familiarize their soldiers with the new handgun, ensuring that they are ready and proficient with the weaponry.

This ‘tidal wave of airpower’ just starting washing over Afghanistan

Soldiers assigned to 1st Battalion, 67th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, carry their equipment prior to a qualification range with their new M17 pistol, Oct. 10, 2019.

(US Army photo by Pvt. Matthew Marcellus)

Soldiers learn through innovation and iteration. As part of ongoing modernization efforts, research teams rapidly develop new prototypes and arm soldiers with new technologies, including protective gear, weaponry and communications capabilities.

“Adopting the M17 pistol is good for our readiness and lethality,” said Martin. “It forces us all to go out, shoot and be familiar and proficient with our new weaponry.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

How this soldier escaped the killing fields to join the US Army

May is Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, and Joint Base Lewis-McChord will celebrate the diversity and honor of its service members, including Sgt. Maj. El Sar, I Corps command chaplain sergeant major, a Cambodian-born American who lived through atrocities as a child in his homeland and is now proud to call America home.

More than 1 million people reportedly died as a result of the Khmer Rogue communist regime’s Cambodian genocide from 1975 to 1979, at the end of the Cambodian civil war. A 1984 British film, “The Killing Fields,” documented the experiences of two journalists who lived through the horrific murders of anyone connected with Cambodia’s prior government.


It was more than a film for Sar, who lost several family members to the horrific killings. He spent time in refugee camps and prisons before arriving in America as a 12-year-old refugee with his mother and siblings.

“I’m proud to be an Asian American,” Sar said. “I don’t forget my heritage — but I’m glad to be an American.”

As a child, Sar grew up in the jungles of Cambodia. He lived through the Vietnam War, Cambodian civil war, Khmer Rogues’ Killing Fields, the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia and Thai refugee camps and housing projects, he said.

“I was slapped, thrown in prison, hands tied behind my back, shot at, nearly drowned in a river, walked three days and nights through the thick jungles of Cambodia and evaded Vietnamese troops, the Khmer Rouge, pirates, criminals, Thai security forces and (avoided) more than 11 million landmines,” Sar wrote in a Northwest Guardian commentary published in February 2018.

This ‘tidal wave of airpower’ just starting washing over Afghanistan
Sgt. Maj. El Sar, I Corps command chaplain sergeant major.

He told of the deaths of his grandparents, father, a brother, uncles, aunts and other relatives. His remaining family members were robbed by Thai security forces.

Sar and his mother, Touch Sar, older sisters, Sopheak and Phon, and younger brothers, Ath and Ann, came to America as refugees. They arrived in Houston, Texas, June 26, 1981.

At that point, Sar had never been to school and had “zero knowledge, skills, abilities or understanding of life,” he said; however, “Coming to America was like arriving in Heaven.”

He learned English by watching television.

“I watched a lot of commercials, like for Jack in the Box and (Burger King) ‘Where’s the beef?'” he said, with a laugh.

In 1989, Sar graduated from Westbury High School in Houston and earned a criminal justice degree from the University of Houston in 1994. Next, he graduated from the Houston Police Academy in 1995.

Although Sar had long wanted to become a police officer, he realized a stronger passion and joined the Army in August 1996.

“I followed my dream to serve my country,” he said.

After basic training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, Sar began a 21-year military career that included multiple deployments and duty stations. He has been at JBLM since June 2017.

“I like travel; I like deployment, and I love serving my country,” he said.

Sar initially wanted to be in the Infantry, but he was told he is color blind, to which he adamantly disagrees. Testing revealed he’d make a good chaplain’s assistant, he said.

Sar became a Christian while watching a film about Jesus while in a refugee camp in Houston.

“I learned about Jesus and how he sacrificed and died for me,” Sar said.

Being a military chaplain is the perfect fit for Sar, he said.

“I can go in the field shooting and spend time helping people,” he said. “I love taking care of America’s sons and daughters.”

Sar and his wife, Lyna, have three children ranging from 9 years old to 11 months.

The couple met through his aunt in Cambodia, who lived in the same village as Lyna.

“One year later, I asked God and he gave me the go ahead,” Sar said. “We’ve been married 15 years. She is a wonderful woman.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @usarmy on Twitter.

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How this Navy jet ended up 3,000 feet under the Atlantic

The US Coast Guard rescued a Navy pilot whose jet crashed in the Atlantic Ocean off the Florida Keys.


Lt. Russ Chilcoat said in a news release the pilot ejected and was rescued in early August with no apparent injuries. The crash happened some 20 miles (32 kilometers) southeast of Key West. The pilot, whose name wasn’t released, was the only person on board.

This ‘tidal wave of airpower’ just starting washing over Afghanistan
A US Navy Northrop F-5N Tiger II  assigned to Fighter Squadron Composite 111 “Sun Downers” launches from Boca Chica Field of Naval Air Station Key West, Florida. (US Navy photo)

Chilcoat says parts of the F-5N were recovered but the rest is under about 3,000 feet (900 meters) of water. He says the Navy has no immediate plans to recover the aircraft.

The pilot is attached to Fighter Composite Squadron 111, the “Sun Downers,” based at Naval Air Station Key West. Officials say the jet was conducting training operations and the cause of the crash wasn’t immediately known.

MIGHTY HISTORY

There was a special word for Confederates who joined the US Army

Being a POW was not a great way to spend your enlistment in the Civil War, no matter which side you fought on. Depending on which POW camp you ended up locked into, your chances of survival were only slightly better. And if you did die, you probably died of some terrible disease.

So it makes a little sense why some Confederate troops had no problem turning around and joining the U.S. Army. They were called “Galvanized Yankees.”


By 1863, Union lines were becoming stricken by desertions. Coupled with the death rate and the number of wounded and missing men, the U.S. Army in 1863 needed a solution for this coming manpower shortage in a hurry. But with draft riots already happening and enlistments drying up, where could the Union Army find a source of able-bodied men who could fight but were just sitting around, waiting? In the POW camps. And it wasn’t just the Army fighting the Civil War who needed the help. Troops fighting Indian bands in the West needed augmentees as well.

So the Union formed the 1st Volunteer Infantry Regiment; former Confederate soldiers who had been captured, taken the oath of loyalty to the United States, and enlisted in the U.S. Army. It sure beat dying of dysentery or exposure at Camp Douglas.

This ‘tidal wave of airpower’ just starting washing over Afghanistan

Camp Douglas, Ill. where 17 percent of inmates never returned.

Starting in 1863, the former Confederates stared down the Sioux tribe in Missouri while the war back home raged on. But they weren’t the only ones who were needed. Ultimately four regiments of Confederate volunteers were formed for the Union. When the Confederates heard of this, they dubbed the POWs who took the deal “Galvanized Yankees,” covering themselves and their deeds in the blue of the Union, the way a metal object is galvanized with a coating of zinc.

For most Southern troops, the choice wasn’t all that hard – and it wasn’t just about the conditions in POW camps. Many average Southern men weren’t too keen on the strict Confederate class distinctions in the South, where poor whites were little more regarded than slaves. Add on the desire for the war to end, and the terrible conditions for Confederate troops, and the choice becomes more and more clear.

This ‘tidal wave of airpower’ just starting washing over Afghanistan

Gen. Benjamin Butler raised two regiments of Confederate POWs to invade Bermuda, but it never came to be.

The Galvanized Yankees were sent to the American Plains, the Dakotas, Minnesota, and Missouri. The winters were not kind to the Southerners, who suffered from frostbite, scurvy, and other forms of malnutrition. To make matters worse, on top of enduring temperatures as cold a minus 29 degrees, the Lakota suddenly attacked on Nov. 27, 1863. The natives killed and wounded the new Army members throughout the winter and into the Spring of 1864. They would be able to hold out until the war’s end, however.

In 1865, the men had held their soldiers’ discipline, followed orders, and remained true to their oaths. Even after constant Indian attacks, brutal winters, and poor food, the Galvanized Yankees stayed at their posts. After two years, however, they were at their wits’ end. The war was over, and so was their enlistment. They demanded to be mustered out. Two years after arriving in the Missouri region, they finally were.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Osama bin Laden went to Afghanistan to avenge his father’s death

Relatives of Osama bin Laden, the Al-Qaeda leader behind the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, spoke out in an interview with The Guardian published Aug. 3, 2018, about their family’s dark legacy — and they suggested that the family’s involvement with terrorism hadn’t ended with bin Laden’s 2011 death.

Living sheltered lives as a prominent but controversial family in their native Saudi Arabia, several of the family members opened up about bin Laden’s childhood and his eventual transformation into one of the most notorious figures in recent history.


But while bin Laden’s career as a terrorist and head of Al Qaeda came to an end at the hands of US Navy SEALs in a midnight raid on his hideout in Pakistan, his militancy seems to have taken root in his youngest child.

Bin Laden’s family believes his youngest son, Hamza, has followed in his father’s footsteps by traveling to Afghanistan, where the US, Afghanistan’s national army, and NATO have been locked in a brutal war with Islamic militants since shortly after the Twin Towers were destroyed.

This ‘tidal wave of airpower’ just starting washing over Afghanistan

The scene just after United Airlines Flight 175 hit the South Tower on Sept. 11, 2001.

Hamza, officially designated a terrorist by the US, apparently took his family by surprise with an endorsement of militant Islam.

“We thought everyone was over this,” Hassan bin Laden, an uncle of Hamza, told The Guardian.

“Then the next thing I knew, Hamza was saying, ‘I am going to avenge my father.’ I don’t want to go through that again. If Hamza was in front of me now, I would tell him: ‘God guide you. Think twice about what you are doing. Don’t retake the steps of your father. You are entering horrible parts of your soul.'”

After the September 11 attacks, some members of bin Laden’s family remained in touch while others led a quiet life under the supervision of the Saudi government and international intelligence agencies.

Many of the bin Ladens have sought to put their history behind them by avoiding media and politics, but Hamza’s apparent support of his father’s ideas suggests Osama bin Laden’s embracing of terrorism may have come back to haunt them.

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

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Air Force Identifies special operators Killed in U-28 Crash

The U.S. Air Force on Thursday identified three special operations airmen who died when their U-28 single-engine turboprop aircraft crashed during a training flight in New Mexico.


Capt. Andrew Becker, Capt. Kenneth Dalga and 1st Lieutenant Frederick Dellecker were all assigned to the 318th Special Operations Squadron, according to a news release.

The squadron is an operational flying squadron and part the 27th Special Operations Wing at Cannon Air Force Base in New Mexico.

Also read: The United States is sending B-52s and Lightnings to Korea

Becker, a 33-year-old native of Novi, Michigan, was a pilot for the squadron. He is survived by his spouse, mother and father, the release said.

Dellecker, 26, was a co-pilot from Daytona Beach, Florida. He is survived by his mother and father.

Dalga, 29, was a combat systems officer from Goldsboro, North Carolina. He is survived by his spouse, son and mother.

This ‘tidal wave of airpower’ just starting washing over Afghanistan
The 318th Special Operations Squadron welcomed the arrival of a U-28A aircraft Aug. 30, 2013 at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M. | U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Xavier Lockley

The crash occurred a quarter-mile east of Clovis Municipal Airport at 6:50 p.m. on Tuesday, according to a release from the base. The cause of the accident is under investigation.

Kyle Berkshire, director of the airport, told local NBC affiliate KOB4 News on Wednesday the plane was observed performing “touch and goes” on the runway during a training sortie.

“We are deeply saddened by this loss within our Air Commando family,” Col. Ben Maitre, the base commander, said in a release on Wednesday. “Our sympathies are with the loved ones and friends affected by this tragedy, and our team is focused on supporting them during this difficult time,” he said.

The 318th was activated in 2008 under Air Force Special Operations Command to provide “battlefield mobility for our special operations forces,” according to then-Col. Timothy Leahy, the former wing commander.

The unit is tasked with flying a variety of light and medium aircraft known as non-standard aviation, according to a service release. The squadron operates PC-12 aircraft — designated as the U-28A in the Air Force — for intra-theater airlift missions, the release said.

The U-28A is operated by the 319th, 34th and 318th Special Operations squadrons, according to the Air Force. Training is conducted by the 5th and 19th Special Operations squadron. The units are located at Cannon and Hurlburt Field, Florida.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The new Cold War has nothing to do with Russia – it’s all China

The Cold War was the ultimate worldwide, geopolitical game, pitting two disparate ideologies against one another. The battle lines were drawn — and they were clear. In one corner, you had the global Communist bloc and its allies, some perfidious, willing to pit the two superpowers against each other for their own gain. In the other was the West and its allies, defenders of capitalism and democracy (or… at least… they were just not Communists).

For nearly 50 years, this game dominated the world order. It became so ingrained in our brains that, today, it’s still difficult to think of Russia as anything but the Soviet Union, a democracy in name only, just waiting to turn back the clock and surprise us. So we must always be on guard.

This ‘tidal wave of airpower’ just starting washing over Afghanistan
Of course the Simpsons predicted it first.


This ‘tidal wave of airpower’ just starting washing over Afghanistan

Pictured: Chinese foreign policy.

The problem with American foreign policy makers is that they don’t really know if Russia is truly their main adversary these days. Recently, a top CIA Asia expert told the Aspen Security Forum that China was definitely enemy number one, but does not want a direct conflict. China is much more insidious than that. Where the Soviets Russians prefer to openly troll Americans and blatantly defy American objectives, China is subtly undermining American power in strategic locations all over the world. And it has nothing to do with trade disputes.

FBI Director Christopher Wray says China poses the most significant threat to U.S. national security.

“The volume of it. The pervasiveness of it. The significance of it is something that I think this country cannot underestimate,” Wray said. It was a sentiment echoed by many security experts in Aspen — China is ready to replace Russia as a global U.S. competitor and to supplant the U.S. as the economic powerhouse.

This ‘tidal wave of airpower’ just starting washing over Afghanistan

“The future is now, old man.”

Related: The FBI says Chinese spies in the US are the biggest threat right now

China has the second-largest defense budget in the world, the largest standing army in terms of ground forces, the third-largest air force, and a navy of 300 ships and more than 60 submarines — all in the process of modernizing and upgrading. The Chinese are also far ahead of the United States in developing hypersonic weapons.

They’re ready for the United States in a way that Russia hasn’t been prepared for in a long, long time.

This ‘tidal wave of airpower’ just starting washing over Afghanistan

“I’m sorry Xi, I misheard you. The future is what?”

And this isn’t exactly a new development. While the United States (and now Russia) were engaged in costly wars and interventions all over the world, China has slowly been expanding its worldwide economic footprint and partnerships. Russia has been harassing its neighbors since 2008 in Georgia, Crimea, Ukraine, and elsewhere. Meanwhile, China began its Belt and Road Initiative, investing billions in infrastructure to link China with markets from Central Asia to Europe.

While no one was watching, Chinese investment dollars have filled coffers all over the world, bringing once-forgotten economic backwaters into the Chinese sphere of influence at the cost of American prestige. Chinese raw materials will build these developing marketplaces and the Yuan may soon even be the currency of choice. If the Belt and Road Forum takes off, it could even cut Chinese reliance on American markets.

Russia seems more threatening because that’s exactly what the Russians are good at. Vladimir Putin is no fan of the West or NATO and it seems like he takes real delight in NATO’s failures, especially in Ukraine. While hypersonic weapons, an increased nuclear weapons capacity, and a deeper relationship with Bashar al-Assad’s Syria seem like a significant threat (and may well be), the reality is those hypersonic weapons aren’t quite perfect and Syria isn’t going as well as planned.

Meanwhile, China is quietly preparing for the future.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Pacific Steel helps troops get more lethal with larger weapons

The 9th Mission Support Command is conducting its first-ever Operation Pacific Steel involving Soldiers from around the Pacific at Schofield Barracks from Oct. 3 through Dec. 5. The purpose of this exercise is for Soldiers to train on crew-served weapons and pass down their knowledge to their units as well as serving as a prerequisite to attend Operation Cold Steel.

The overall planner of this operation, Staff Sgt. Wes Liberty, who works with planning and exercises at the 9th MSC said, “Pacific Steel is ground mount (training) for heavy weapons, i.e., M240 (machine gun), Mk 19 (grenade launcher) and M2 .50 cal. (heavy machine gun).


This ‘tidal wave of airpower’ just starting washing over Afghanistan

Gunner, Staff Sgt. Gerald Orosco, 322nd Civil Affairs Brigade, engages targets with his protective mask while assistant gunner, Staff Sgt. Collin Miyamoto, 322nd Civil Affairs Brigade, provides assistance at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, during Operation Pacific Steel on Nov. 10, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Edwin T. Basa)

“This is an operation that is actually trickled down from USARC (U.S. Army Reserve Command), he added. They conduct Operation Cold Steel where Soldiers who have qualified on ground-mounted weapons can be trained to operate on vehicle-mounted weapons,” said Liberty.

Soldiers go through an eight-day training period. During that time, they attend various courses to ensure confidence on the weapon systems they are training on. Among these courses include virtual battlespace 3, gunnery skills training, preliminary marksmanship instructions and engagement skills trainer.

The Virtual Battlespace 3 course utilizes a first-person, three-dimensional, tactical mounted machine gun training software program which allows Soldiers to operate in a virtual reality environment using virtual mounted weapons. This in turn, prepares them when they operate real weapons during a live-fire training environment.

The gunnery skill test evaluates the crew member’s ability to perform gunnery-related skills.

The Preliminary marksmanship instructions introduces Soldiers to the weapons they are training on and teaches them how to maintain, operate and corrects malfunctions.

Engagement skills trainer simulates weapons training for Soldiers and prepares them for live-fire qualifications for individual or crew-served weapons.

The weapons the Soldiers train on depends on when they in-process during Pacific Steel. From the beginning to the end of training, all Soldiers are paired up to operate weapons as a team. The first portion of Pacific Steel trains Soldiers on the M240 machine gun. The middle and final portion focus on the M2 .50 caliber heavy machine gun and MK 19 grenade launcher, respectively.

Liberty said Operation Pacific Steel required a lot of planning and preparation.

“This is the first time I’m doing this of this magnitude, so I had some help. I had a lot of help from Schofield, getting the barracks, getting the range, weapons,” said Liberty.

“We’re not doing too bad. Soldiers are coming, they’re getting qualified, they’re getting fed, they’re getting rooms,” he added.

Some Soldiers have already operated these weapons before coming to Pacific Steel, so this has been more like a review course for them.

This ‘tidal wave of airpower’ just starting washing over Afghanistan

Sgt. Kenny Tabula, 411th Engineer Battalion, fires his MK 19 grenade launcher while safety officers, Sgt. Angelyn Cayton and Sgt. Valentino Sigrah provide guidance at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, during Operation Pacific Steel, Nov. 17, 2017.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Edwin T. Basa)

Staff Sgt. Collin Miyamoto, 322nd Civil Affairs Brigade, came to Pacific Steel to train on the M2 .50 cal. heavy machine gun even though he had trained on it before. However, he stressed how in-depth the classes were on how to properly operate the M2 as a team.

“We learned PMI, disassemble, assemble, and how to do a functions check, but safety is always first,” Miyamoto said.

His M2 partner, Staff Sgt. Gerald Orosco, 322nd Civil Affairs Brigade, who also trained on the M2 previously, emphasized that Soldiers not only should know how to operated a weapon, but also how to handle a weapon should it ever malfunction.

“Especially the malfunction part. Most people know how to shoot, but do you really know the weapon?”

Moreover, to reemphasize what his partner stated earlier,” Safety is number one,” Orosco said.

For Soldiers like Spc. Alika Jacang-Buchanan of Bravo Company, 100th Battalion, 442nd Infantry Regiment, it’s his first time operating these types of weapons.

He came to Pacific Steel and was fortunate to get hands-on training on multiple weapons. He especially likes engaging targets with the MK 19.

“I like the MK 19 because there’s a boom at the end,” said Jacang-Buchanan.

Soldiers felt that participating in Pacific Steel is a good program and hopes that it will continue in the future. This exercise provides proper training and preparation for Soldiers to employ weapons that they would otherwise not have been likely to use.

Spc. Abraham Salevao of Bravo Company, 100th Battalion, 442nd Infantry Regiment, said, “It’s a learning experience for not only combat MOSs, it’s for everyone to learn. It’s exciting, being behind that weapon, getting that rush. It’s always good to learn, especially these weapons.”

“I’d recommend everyone out there to try Pacific Steel,” he added.

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This vet nonprofit is mustering in Motown and looking for volunteers

This ‘tidal wave of airpower’ just starting washing over Afghanistan
(Photo: missioncontinues.org)


National veterans nonprofit The Mission Continues is launching a new program that positions veterans to be catalysts for long-term change and positive impact in communities facing daunting challenges. The inaugural Mass Deployment program will send hundreds of veterans and volunteers to participate in a week-long service engagement that will jump-start a long-lasting transformation in a city or community identified with a particularly high level of need.

For the first-ever event of its kind – dubbed Operation Motown Muster – The Mission Continues will bring more than 75 military veterans to Detroit to partner with more than 200 local veterans and community volunteers. Following Operation Motown Muster, The Mission Continues will maintain a sustained veteran volunteer presence in Detroit over the next several years to continuously support local nonprofits invested in revitalizing local neighborhoods.

“With the skills, leadership and experience they cultivated in the military, veterans are uniquely positioned to help accelerate Detroit’s comeback,” said Spencer Kympton, U.S. Army veteran and president of The Mission Continues. “We’re looking forward to an impactful week of service that will make a difference for the people who continue to call Detroit home and that will inspire others to take action and make a long-term positive impact in the community.”

Home to nearly 700,000 residents — many of whom are already hard at work shaping the future of their city — Detroit was a prime location for The Mission Continues’ inaugural Mass Deployment. During Operation Motown Muster, The Mission Continues veterans and local volunteers will add much-needed capacity to local organizations that are carrying on Detroit’s revitalization efforts. Projects planned for Operation Motown Muster include:

  • Refurbishing facilities at Central High School and Priest Elementary School to foster a safe and inviting environment for students to learn and the community to congregate.
  • Beautifying parks and future green spaces in the Osborn neighborhood, creating much-needed safe play spaces in a community that is home to one of Detroit’s highest concentrations of young people.
  • Converting vacant lots and portions of the Chene Ferry Market into clean, vibrant spaces for community events and an urban farm to help restore the once-thriving working-class neighborhood.

The Mission Continues has operations across the country that engage veteran volunteers every day to have a deep impact on critical challenges facing underserved communities. Veterans participate in operations by serving with The Mission Continues either as a member of a Service Platoon, undertaking regular service missions that leverage veterans’ skills and leadership to make a positive impact, or as an individual The Mission Continues Fellow, embedding as a skilled volunteer with one of the operation’s nonprofit partners for a period of six months.

Operation Motown Muster is happening from June 25-29. To learn more about The Mission Continues’ programs and opportunities to get involved, visit www.missioncontinues.org.

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MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army researchers are experimenting with pearl-like armor

Researchers at the University of Buffalo, working on research grants from the Army Research Office, have discovered a way of layering plastics that results in a material 14 times stronger than steel and eight times lighter. The layering technique is inspired by the way clams make pearls, and the final result is strong, light, but still slightly flexible armor.


This ‘tidal wave of airpower’ just starting washing over Afghanistan

A new lightweight plastic that is 14 times stronger and eight times lighter than steel may lead to next-generation military armor.

(Courtesy University of Buffalo)

The outer coatings of pearl are nacre, a structure of calcium carbonate that resembles interlocking bricks when viewed under a microscope. The researchers took ultrahigh molecular weight polyethylene, a souped-up plastic used in orthopedic devices, and layered it in a way similar to nacre.

The results are outstanding. Current body armor can contain up to 28 pounds of small arms protective inserts. The Kevlar plates used are about 80 percent of the weight of a steel plate of similar size. A UHMWPE plate of the same size would be about 12-13 percent the weight of a steel plate. That would put the plates needed for a large set of UHMWPE body armor at about 4 pounds instead of the 28 pounds for ceramic Kevlar armor.

Anyone who has worn 30 pounds of body armor and 50 pounds of additional gear while carrying an 8-pound weapon can tell you that shaving 24 pounds off the total load makes a huge difference. (Even though, in mortar sections, they’ll probably just make troops carry more ammo to make up the difference.)

And the inner layers of the armor deform to absorb the impact suffered by the outer layers, better protecting the target from the impact of the enemy’s shot.

This ‘tidal wave of airpower’ just starting washing over Afghanistan

82nd Airborne Division paratroopers work their way up a short slope while patrolling in Southern Afghanistan in 2012.

(U.S. Army)

The total protection provided by the UHMWPE is so great that the researchers are considering its use in applications beyond body armor.

“The material is stiff, strong and tough,” said Dr. Shenqiang Ren, a professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, a member of University at Buffalo’s RENEW Institute. “It could be applicable to vests, helmets and other types of body armor, as well as protective armor for ships, helicopters, and other vehicles.”

The wide range of potential applications is partially thanks to the strength to weight ratio. But it’s also more flexible than other materials. This makes it easier to form the material into a variety of shapes for different uses.

“Professor Ren’s work designing UHMWPE to dramatically improve impact strength may lead to new generations of lightweight armor that provide both protection and mobility for Soldiers,” said Dr. Evan Runnerstrom of the ARO. “In contrast to steel or ceramic armor, UHMWPE could also be easier to cast or mold into complex shapes, providing versatile protection for Soldiers, vehicles, and other Army assets.”

And, with the addition of boron nitride, the material becomes a little stronger and much better at shedding heat. This would allow it to more rapidly cool off after being hit by enemy fire, giving it better protection against a second or third hit.

So it’s much lighter, stronger, and more adaptable than any armor you’re currently wearing.

But before you throw your SAPI plates off the roof in celebration, be aware that it will take time to create suitable manufacturing methods and products. The researchers used a 10-step process to create the small samples for their experiments and testing. It will be years before you and your vehicle are rocking this super-light armor.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Pink Floyd alum Roger Waters talks to WATM about his concert for (and by) wounded vets

We Are The Mighty sat down with Pink Floyd co-founder Roger Waters and Rage Against The Machine’s Tom Morello to chat about the ‘Music Heals’ concert that was held last week in DC to create awareness about MusiCorps — a program that uses the healing power of music to assist wounded vets with their rehabilitation.


And here’s the setlist from the amazing show held at DAV Constitution Hall on October 16:

This ‘tidal wave of airpower’ just starting washing over Afghanistan

And check out this video from the show of the band playing the Pink Floyd classic, “Comfortably Numb,” featuring wounded warrior and former Army captain Greg Galeazzi on lead guitar:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7urjTOyaZpo

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