Thousands of soldiers in training head home for the holidays - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Thousands of soldiers in training head home for the holidays

Thousands of Soldiers and their families are traveling home for the holidays, including about 44,000 trainees and cadre from initial-entry training centers.


The Soldiers are participating in a two-week Holiday Block Leave beginning Dec. 18, said Michael Brown, a training analyst at the U.S. Army Center for Initial Military Training’s Initial Entry Division.

These Soldiers are in various training sites across the U.S., going through Basic Combat Training, One Station Unit Training, Advanced Individual Training, the Basic Officer Leadership Course, and Warrant Officer Basic Course, he said.

Normally, about 3 to 5 percent of these Soldiers choose to remain at their installation and not travel home, he added. For those who stay behind, units coordinate several Morale, Welfare, and Recreation activities for them, including attending professional sporting events.

Maj. Gen. Pete Johnson, commander, U.S. Army Training Center and Fort Jackson, South Carolina, was at Charlotte Douglas International Airport in North Carolina Dec. 18, granting media interviews about the holiday travel. Around him were thousands of Soldiers trainees awaiting flights.

Thousands of soldiers in training head home for the holidays

Holiday Block Leave gives Soldiers a chance to reconnect with their families, he said. About 7,000 Soldier trainees were traveling out of Fort Jackson on Dec. 18, “by trains, planes, and automobiles” and by buses, too, he added.

Planning for this mass exodus is like planning for the D-Day landings, he added, describing the logistical challenges of packing all the Soldiers out, giving them their safety and Army Values briefings, and getting them to their preferred modes of transportation.

Most of those Soldiers will be telling the Army story back home, he said, and some will even have “embellished war stories.”

Most of them are young, as young as 17, he noted, but sprinkled among them are “elder statesmen,” some as old as 39. They are from every state in the Union.

Johnson praised the volunteers at the airport’s USO lounge, who are particularly busy this time of year giving Soldiers a place to relax while awaiting their flights.

Also Read: Watch Stephen Colbert’s Hilarious Stint In Army Basic Training

Pvt. Seth Akavickas was at the airport in Charlotte Dec. 18, waiting for a flight to take him home to Wausau, Wisconsin.

Soldiers in training at Fort Jackson were given personalized assistance getting home by ticket vendors, Akavickas said. His ticket vendor got him discounted round-trip tickets for $480, which was a good deal, he noted.

Feb. 28 is when Akavickas began his Basic Combat Training, so he’s experienced life in the Army for some time now. Currently, he is in Advanced Individual Training and will graduate Feb. 1.

Akavickas said he has mixed feelings about Holiday Block Leave. On the one hand, he’ll be able to spend time with his family over the holidays. But on the other hand, he said he’d kind of like to stay and finish training.

However, he added, the vast majority of Soldiers in training whom he’s spoken with are delighted for the break.

After AIT, Akavickas will return to Wisconsin to work as a human resource specialist in the National Guard. He said he plans to attend college through the ROTC program and then try to get commissioned in four years. He wants to make a career in the Army.

Pfc. Madeline Sallee was also at the Charlotte airport Dec. 18. She was heading home to Minnesota, on leave from Basic Combat Training and very happy to see her friends and family.

Thousands of soldiers in training head home for the holidays
New U.S. Army soldiers in basic combat training wait for further in-processing after receiving their initial haircuts January 16, 2008, at Fort Jackson, S.C. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Micky M. Bazaldua)

Sallee said the rest over break will be very good, particularly after some arduous training that included a 15-kilometer rucksack march and a lot of other physical activity.

The hardest part of training, she said, was spending the night outside when the temperature got down to 16F. “We were all shivering,” she added, despite being used to cold in her home state.

Sallee will graduate Feb. 1 and will become a logistical specialist. She said one of the benefits about basic was making a lot of new friends.

Staff Sgt. Domenic Buscemi, a drill sergeant from Fort Jackson, was also at the airport in Charlotte Dec. 18. He said drill sergeants accompany their Soldiers to help facilitate movement through the airport and to ensure standards of discipline are adhered to at all times.

Soldiers in training are required to travel in uniform, which means they are still representing the Army even while they are away, he said.

Buscemi also relayed some of the benefits of Holiday Block Leave. It serves to boost morale and motivation and gives Soldiers a chance to recharge.

It also gives them time to reflect on their experiences and spread their short-but-memorable Army story back in their communities, he said.

When the Soldiers return, Jan. 3, they will have retained about 70 percent of their basic military knowledge, so there will be some re-learning, he said, along with re-establishing their military discipline.

Thousands of soldiers in training head home for the holidays
(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Pfc. Andrew Valenza)

Soldiers don’t get to travel home in the middle of their training cycle during the rest of the year, he noted. On Thanksgiving, they’re given one day off, but that’s not time enough to travel home for most.

Fifteen years ago, Buscemi was a Soldier in training at Fort Benning, Georgia. It was summer and it was hot, he said, much tougher than winter training weather-wise.

Buscemi said he’ll return to Fort Jackson today, take a day of rest, then pile into the car with his wife and drive to her family’s home in Oklahoma where they will spend the holidays.

Brown admitted that the break in the training cycle is tough on drill sergeants, who have to re-teach numerous tasks, including discipline and customs and courtesies, when the Soldiers return from leave.

However, he said “the break is also good for trainees who come back with a little more pride about training to be a Soldier.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

How the US maintains strategic advantage in the Arctic

In 1935, Billy Mitchell, former U.S. Army brigadier general and airpower advocate, testified before Congress that Alaska was the most strategic place in the world. From there, he said, U.S. Army aircraft could reach any capital in the northern hemisphere within nine hours.

Much of that flight time was over unoccupied polar ice, as only the most intrepid of explorers ventured high above the Arctic Circle.

As technology improved, the coming decades led to increased civilian and military activity over, under and on the Arctic ice sheet.

Today, however, it is environmental changes that are leading to increased activity above the Arctic Circle.


Citing a National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Arctic Report Card, a Department of Defense report to Congress in June, 2019, stated, “The Arctic’s environment continues to change, including diminished sea ice coverage, declining snow cover and melting ice sheets. Temperatures across the Arctic region are increasing more than twice as fast as the global average…”

The result has been the opening of sea lanes year-round, increasing both Russian and Chinese civilian and military presence near U.S. borders and the borders of its allies.

As an Arctic presence enables global reach for whomever has this strategic access, Russia has been reopening, fortifying and building new military bases in the region.

While Russia’s presence in the region has been increasing, melting permafrost beneath some of the U.S. Air Force’s most remote satellite tracking and communications facilities threatens its capability to observe and respond to threats.

The accompanying video explores how the Air Force is addressing the challenge of maintaining a strategic advantage in the Arctic, as this northernmost arena for the great power competition becomes more and more accessible.

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

Articles

Here’s how Hollywood legend Dale Dye earned the Bronze Star for heroism in Vietnam

Dale Dye is a veteran of the Vietnam war, accomplished actor, author, and entrepreneur, but most of the filmmaking world knows him as Hollywood’s drill sergeant.


After serving in Vietnam as an infantryman and a combat correspondent, Dye served for a number of years before he retired from the Marine Corps and moved to Los Angeles with the idea of bringing more realism to Hollywood films. Despite the door being shut in his face plenty of times, his persistence paid off when Oliver Stone took him on as a military technical advisor for “Platoon.”

That film jumpstarted Dye’s Hollywood career. But before he became the legendary technical advisor who helped shape everything from “Born on the Fourth of July” to “Saving Private Ryan,” Dye, 70, served three tours as a Marine on the ground in Vietnam; a three-time recipient of the Purple Heart and recipient of the Bronze Star (with combat “V”) award for heroism, in fact.

I tried to Google my way to how he earned the Bronze Star award with little results. As far as I know, the story is not known to the general public. So I decided to ask him in an interview at his home, north of Hollywood. This is what he told me.

“I had made it through Hue, in Tet of ’68, and I’d been hit in the hand. Just about blew my thumb off here and I got a piece of shrapnel up under my chin, and I was in the rear. And a unit that I had been traveling with — 2nd Battalion 3rd Marines — they called it rent-a-battalion because it was constantly OPCON/ADCON to various things, and they were really hot, hot grunts. I mean these were good guys. And so I heard that they were going on this operation, and I knew all the guys, you know the 3rd Platoon of Echo Co. was my home. And so, I said I well I’m going. They said ‘ah you’re not ready for field yet.’ I said ‘yeah, yeah, yeah. I’m going.’

Thousands of soldiers in training head home for the holidays

So I packed my shit and off I went. And I joined up with Echo Co. 2/3 … and we were involved in a thing called Operation Ford and it was either March, I guess March, of ’68 and the idea was that there had been a bunch of [North Vietnamese Army] that had escaped south of Hue, or been cut off when they were trying to reinforce Hue. They had moved south of Hue along this long spit of sand — I think it was battalion-strength — and they had dug in there according to reconnaissance guys who had been in the area, and they were waiting for ships or boats to come down from North Vietnam and pick them up and evacuate them and get them out of there.

So the idea was that 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines was going to be sent in and we were going to sweep, I think north to south along the perimeter along that peninsula. And then there were guys who were gonna block in the south — another battalion, I think. And so we started walking — spread out as you usually are — and hadn’t really run into much. We were running through a few [villages] and sweeping them and taking a look, and then we started hitting boobytraps. And these were pretty bad because they were standard frag in a can — fragmentation hand grenade inside a C-ration can tied to a tree, pin-pulled, fishing line attached across the trail — you hit the fishing line, it pulls the frag out, spoon pops and the frag goes. Or we were hitting 105mm Howitzer rounds that were buried. So we got a few guys chewed up pretty bad.

Thousands of soldiers in training head home for the holidays

And there was this one guy named Wilson who was walking maybe two or three ahead of me, and he should have known better than to go through this hedgerow. But I guess squad leaders were pushing us on or something like that, [and] Wilson went through the hedgerow and he hit a frag. Frag dropped right below his feet and blew up. So everybody was down and I could see what happened, so I ran up to see if I could help Wilson out. He had multiple frag all over him. It blew his crotch out, blew his chest out, and he had holes all over his face where the shrapnel had come up this way so I got a Corpsman up and we went to work on trying to save him. You had to play him like a flute. We tried to close his chest — and in those days we didn’t have all the medical gear, the QuikClot and all that sort of thing — we just did it with an old radio battery [and] piece of cellophane we got off it and closed his chest.

And we tried to breathe into him, but you had to play him like a piccolo, because the sinuses had shrapnel holes and you had to stick your fingers in there to make sure he didn’t leak air. Anyway, we kept him alive until they got a helicopter to come in and we got him out. He died on the way back to Danang. But they had noticed me go up and see what I could do for this guy.

So we continued to march and then we got hit really, really hard in the flank. And for some reason, I was out on the flank that got hit. And I was walking around by a machine gunner, name of Beebe, Darryl Beebe, Lance Corporal, and he had the M-60. And so they hit us really hard.

The third platoon commander, Lt. “Wild” Bill Tehan, ordered the platoon to pull back to this line of sand dunes where we had some cover from the fire. Beebe and I couldn’t get back. We were just trapped out there. And they started hitting us with grenades and 60mm mortars, and we couldn’t move. We couldn’t get back and we couldn’t go forward. And Beebe’s [assistant] gunner got killed, and he had ammo, maybe 20 meters up to the side. And I crawled over and got all his ammo and then crawled back to Beebe and started loading the gun. Off we went, and we just ripped them up. We tore into these bunkers that were taking us under fire. And Hell, I even pulled out my pistol and went to work. I mean we fired everything we had, threw every grenade we had.

Thousands of soldiers in training head home for the holidays

We must have hurt them. I know we hurt them because I killed two or three that I saw get up and go and I shot at them and down they went. So I guess we suppressed enough fire where we could pull back and we pulled back. And at that point, I think it was mortars or 81s or the 105 battery that was supporting us, I don’t remember what. Anyway, they hit the bunker complex. And Tehan went up and he looked and we killed a bunch of them. The machine gun, the single machine gun had just killed a bunch of them. And so I guess they marked me down as number two guy, having done two good things.

And then we got hit again, I think it was the next day. We had moved on, and we got hit again, and a corpsman and a couple of other people got hit. And I went up and pulled them out of the line of fire, and treated the corpsman. It was a very embarrassing thing because the corpsman was a guy by the name of Doc Fred Geise and I knew him real well. But he’d taken one in through the chest and I saw him go down, so I dropped my pack and went running up to him and they were firing all over me and one NVA that I didn’t even see, dumped a frag that hit right behind me. And boom it went off, and the next thing I knew, I was airborne. And I could feel stuff running down my legs. And I said, ‘ah, shit, I’m hurt.’ But I didn’t feel anything in particular, just dazed, you know the bell rung. And it was my canteen. That frag had blown out the bottom of both of my canteens, so I had water all over me.

Anyway, so I got up to Fred, and he had one through and through. And so, he was working on a guy who had taken one in the upper arm, broke the bone and I fixed him up the best I could then I got to Geise but there wasn’t much I could do. I stuffed the gauze in the entry wound, and wrapped it up the best I could — I was just winging it — what I could remember from first aid.

And he carried morphine syrettes. They look like those little tubes of toothpaste you get in a travel kit. And they have a plastic — they look like a little tube of Colgate — cover on the needle. And the needle has a loop in it, so you bite or pull the plastic off and break the seal with that little loop, throw that away, then you hit them in a muscle and inject that amount of morphine. I knew that.

Thousands of soldiers in training head home for the holidays

But there was fire coming at me. I was working literally on my belly because the crap was just cutting right through us. And rounds were hitting so close they were just blowing dirt all over us. Mud and water and all that sort of thing. But I tried to stay focused and get Doc Geise injected with morphine.

Well I pulled the plastic off the morphine syrette and I hit him three or four times in the thigh, you know trying to

Thousands of soldiers in training head home for the holidays
squeeze this morphine in. It wouldn’t go. And I couldn’t figure out — you know the poor guy’s thigh is worse than the gunshot wound — like a pin cushion. And I finally figured it out, ‘oh shit, I forgot to break the seal,’ so I break the seal and finally get morphine in him. But oh, God.

He was saying, ‘Dye, you asshole, you idiot,’ you know. And I’m just, ‘sorry, Doc.’

So anyway, we had a bad night that night because they had moved out of their fortified positions and they were trying to break through us. And we had a pretty serious fight that night.

I think that was the first and only time I burned through every round of ammunition I had and then also borrowed a bunch of ammunition. And in fact, we had a bunch of medevacs that had been taken out on amtracs, and the company gunny had kept their weapons. And so we were over there scavenging all night, getting loaded magazines. We only had the 20-round magazines at that point for the M-16, and a lot of 16s were going down. You know, they were not the best piece of gear we ever had.

So anyway, then we went on ahead and we had another three or four days with four or five sharp fights but nothing as spectacular. And we got to the rear, and I said well okay, I’ve got to go here. I’m going to go somewhere where I can go through my notebooks, and I had a little story about the corpsman, and I had a little story about this guy, and a little story about Beebe and the machine gun, and so on and I realized, a lot of that involved me, which I wasn’t real happy about, you know, mentioning my part in it.

Thousands of soldiers in training head home for the holidays

But Lt. Tehan and the company commander really decided that I had done something spectacular, or out of the ordinary, let me put it that way.

And so they got Simmons and Beebe and Lt. Tehan and three or four other guys to write a statement that said this is what Sgt. Dye did. And the next thing I knew, my captain called me in and said ‘I hope you got a clean uniform and some boots that aren’t completely white,’ and I said, ‘oh no sir, I don’t.’ He said ‘well we’re getting you some because the general is going to pin a Bronze Star on you and that’s the first thing I ever heard about it. First time I ever heard that, you know. But that’s the story.”

Thousands of soldiers in training head home for the holidays

Here is the full citation for the award, which Dye received on Sep. 9, 1968:

For heroic achievement in connection with operations against insurgent communist (Viet Cong) forces in the Republic of Vietnam while serving as a Combat Correspondent with the Informational Services Office, First Marine Division. On 14 March 1968, during Operation Ford, Sergeant Dye was attached to Company E, Second Battalion, Third Marines when an enemy explosive device was detonated, seriously wounding a Marine. Reacting instantly, he moved forward through the hazardous area and skillfully administered mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to the injured man. A short time later, the unit came under intense hostile fire which wounded two Marines. Disregarding his own safety, Sergeant Dye fearlessly ran across the fire-swept terrain and rendered first aid to the injured men while assisting them to covered positions. On 18 March 1968, Sergeant Dye again boldly exposed himself to intense enemy fire as he maneuvered forward to replace an assistant machine-gunner who had been wounded. Undaunted by the hostile fire impacting around him, he skillfully assisted in delivering a heavy volume of effective fire upon the enemy emplacements. Ignoring his painful injury, he steadfastly refused medical treatment, continuing to assist the machine gunner throughout the night.
His heroic and timely actions were an inspiration to all who observed him and contributed significantly to the accomplishment of his unit’s mission. Sergeant Dye’s courage, sincere concern for the welfare of his comrades and steadfast devotion to duty in the face of great personal danger were in keeping with the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and of the United States Naval Service.
Sergeant Dye is authorized to wear the Combat “V”.
For The President,
H.W. Buse, Jr.
Lieutenant General, U.S. Marine Corps
Commanding General, Fleet Marine Force, Pacific

NOW: 11 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About ‘Saving Private Ryan’

MIGHTY TRENDING

US warships ignore China, sail through Taiwan Strait

Two US Navy warships sailed through the Taiwan Strait on Feb. 25, 2019, sending a message to Beijing, which has warned the US to “tread lightly” in the closely watched waterway.

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem and the supply ship USNS Cesar Chavez navigated a “routine” Taiwan Strait transit Feb. 25, 2019, the US Pacific Fleet told Business Insider in an emailed statement.

“The ships’ transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the US commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific. The US Navy will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows,” the Pacific Fleet said.


The two US Navy vessels that passed through the Taiwan Strait were apparently shadowed by People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) warships.

The passage is the fourth since October 2018 and the fifth since the US Navy restarted the practice of sending surface combatants through the strait July 2018.

Thousands of soldiers in training head home for the holidays

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Marcus D. Mince)

The Taiwan Strait is a roughly 80-mile international waterway that separates the democratic island from the communist mainland, and China regularly bristles when US Navy vessels sail through. When a US destroyer and a fleet oiler transited the strait in January 2019, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs called the passage “provocative behavior,” accusing the US of “threatening the safety” of those nearby.

Beijing considers Taiwan, a self-ruled territory, to be a renegade province, and it firmly opposes US military support for the island, be that arms sales, protection assurances, or even just the US military operating in the area. China fears that US actions will embolden pro-independence forces in Taiwan that want to declare it a sovereign state separate from China.

China has repeatedly urged the US to keep its distance from Taiwan, but the US Navy has continued its “routine” trips through the strait. “We see the Taiwan Strait as another (stretch of) international waters, so that’s why we do the transits,” Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson said in January 2019.

The rhetoric used by the Navy to characterize the Taiwan Strait transits is almost identical to that used to describe US freedom-of-navigation operations (FONOPs) in the South China Sea.

The Navy has already conducted two FONOPs this year, angering Beijing both times.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Congress continues to weigh in on transgender military ban

Military experts and LGBTQ leaders [spoke] Feb. 27, 2019, at a hearing of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel about the service of transgender people in the military.

President Donald Trump announced a ban on transgender military personnel in 2017, and in January 2019 the U.S. Supreme Court allowed that ban to go into effect while the matter is litigated. According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, 15,000 transgender people currently serve in the military, and there are 134,000 transgender veterans.


Lt. Cmdr. Blake Dremann, a transgender woman and Navy supply chain officer, said the military should not reject the talents of many highly decorated people.

“Good leaders take a team and make it work. Great leaders mold their teams to exceed expectations,” she said, “because it doesn’t matter if you’re female or LGBT. What matters is if each member is capable and focused on the mission.”

Thousands of soldiers in training head home for the holidays

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Blake Dremann.

(Defense Department video)

The administration has claimed that allowing transgender people to serve decreases military readiness and increases health-care costs. However, studies have shown that readiness is unaffected and that the military spends much more money on Viagra than it does on gender-reassignment surgery.

More than three years ago, the Obama administration declared that transgender people could serve openly in the military. Former Defense Secretary James Mattis made an exception to the ban for those who already were serving openly or were willing to serve under their biological sex at birth.

Capt. Alivia Stehlik, a U.S. Army physical therapist and a transgender woman, said she found the vast majority of men and women in her brigade to be open and accepting.

“During my deployment to Afghanistan, as a trans woman, soldiers opened up to me, and I asked them why,” she said. “And consistently, they answered that they valued my authenticity and my courage in being myself.”

The litigation on the transgender ban is expected to take several years to resolve, and eventually could end up back before the U.S. Supreme Court.

This article originally appeared on Public News Service. Follow @PNS_News on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Give the gift of remembrance

Wreaths Across America (WAA) is a national non-profit organization best known for remembering fallen veterans with wreaths placed each December at Arlington National Cemetery. However, the organization and its mission to Remember, Honor, Teach, is much more.

In the beginning, founder, Morrill Worcester, a 12-year-old paper boy in Maine won a trip to Washington D.C., where Arlington National Cemetery became an inspirational location. His pilgrimage served as a consistent reminder, through career and life, that opportunities stemmed from the values and freedom afforded to us by our nation’s veterans.

After years of hard work, Morrill founded Worcester Wreath Company in Harrington, Maine. In 1992, Worcester Wreath had a surplus. Morrill saw this as his opportunity to honor our veterans with hopes of returning to Arlington. With the aid of Maine Senator Olympia Snowe (ret.), the first 5,000 wreaths were placed that year at Arlington National Cemetery. As plans were underway, other individuals and organizations shared Morrill’s spirit and working together built an annual mission that went unnoticed for many years.

In 2005, a photo surfaced of Arlington covered in snow, adorned with wreaths. This picture became a viral internet sensation! After, thousands of requests poured in, from people wanting to help emulate the Arlington success on the local level, prompting the official formation of Wreaths Across America the national nonprofit in 2007.

The newly formed 501c3 began its national effort by sending seven ceremonial wreaths to every state (one for each branch of the military, and for POW/MIAs). The ceremonies took place in nearly all of the 50 states and Washington, D.C., with a focus on family during the holidays. As the organization grew from volunteer support, a network of local groups and cemetery locations began to emerge.

Presently a small, but dedicated staff and more than 7,000 core volunteers across the country, work tirelessly on year-long programs that help accomplish this ongoing mission to Remember, Honor and Teach. That number grows to more than 2 million, a third of whom are children, who participate in the annual wreath laying events nationwide!

What does it mean to sponsor a wreath? It means you’ll honor an American hero at one of more than 2,500 locations nationwide this year on Wreaths Across America Day… a day that’s been set aside to pay tribute to their sacrifices.

This year, National Wreaths Across America Day is Saturday, Dec. 19, 2020.

We can only do this with YOUR support. Your sponsorship will ensure that a wreath is hand- crafted of all-American balsam and hand-tied with a red velvet bow will be sent to one of our participating locations, where a volunteer will place it on the marker of a fallen hero. That volunteer will then “say their name” to ensure that the legacy of duty, service and sacrifice of that veteran is never forgotten.

Give the gift of remembrance this holiday season and join a grateful nation in saying “thank you” to our veterans. Visit www.wreathsacrossamerica.org to sponsor a wreath for a participating location near you!

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Satellite snaps rare photo appearing to show Chinese submarine using secretive underwater cave at South China Sea base

A Planet Labs commercial satellite managed to capture a rare photo this week of a Chinese submarine at what observers believe is the entrance of a secretive undersea cave at a strategically important naval base.

The photo, first posted online by Radio Free Asia, appears to show a Chinese Type 093 Shang-class nuclear-powered fast-attack submarine at Yulin Naval Base on Hainan Island in the South China Sea, The War Zone reported.

The important base sits at a strategic gateway to not only the contested South China Sea but also Taiwan and the Western Pacific.


Thousands of soldiers in training head home for the holidays

Chinese submarine at the entrance of Yulin Naval Base. Planet Labs Inc.

China likes to hide some of its strategic assets underground. For instance, the “Underground Great Wall of China” is the name given to the network of tunnels China is believed to use to store intercontinental ballistic missiles.

While the vast, hardened underground tunnel system offers a potential second-strike capability in the event of nuclear war, Dean Cheng, an Asian studies expert at the Heritage Foundation, told Insider that “it is also a way of deceiving your adversary to make sure that they have no idea how many of anything you have.”

In the case of Yulin Naval Base, submarines are most vulnerable at dock, so hiding them in underground tunnels, as has been done in the past, offers a certain degree of protection from potential adversaries, such as US Navy forces patrolling nearby.

“The benefit of underground berthing is it prevents overhead sensors like visual or electronic intelligence satellites from tracking submarine deployments to cue other surveillance and tracking assets like US submarines, patrol aircraft, and surface combatants,” Bryan Clark, a former US Navy officer and defense expert at the Hudson Institute, told Insider.

“These kinds of cues are important for US and allied intelligence gathering against adversary submarines, since they can be hard to find once they get to sea and submerge,” he added, explaining that Yulin’s location at the southern end of Hainan allows PLAN submarines to access deeper waters more quickly than other bases might permit.

“One thing to keep in mind is that the Chinese view information as a resource,” Cheng explained.

“They work very hard to make sure that all information is tightly controlled,” he said. “To their mind, it is always in their strategic interest to keep you guessing about where are my boats, how many boats do I have, and for you to be left wondering.”

“Imagine you’re playing football and all of a sudden, the other side puts 14 additional people out on the field,” he said. “Your entire playbook just went out the window.

“That’s how the Chinese view information more broadly,” Cheng said. “If I can hide things from you, when I suddenly reveal new capabilities, new numbers, you’re going to have to chuck your entire playbook that you’ve been training to, that you’ve been resourcing to, that you’ve been typically oriented toward, out the window.”

The tunnels at Yulin also make it difficult for an adversary to observe Chinese military preparations and intentions, Carl Schuster, former director of operations at US Pacific Command’s Joint Intelligence Center, told CNN.

“You have no evidence of (the submarine’s) combat readiness, operational response times and availability,” he said. “Tunnels blind potential opponents to the submarines’ operating status and patterns, denying them the ability to determine the state of China’s military preparations, knowledge critical to assessing China’s intentions and plans.”

Yulin Naval Base has been operational for decades and houses nuclear-powered fast attack and ballistic-missile submarines, among other assets.

The most recent Department of Defense assessment of China’s military strength states that the “modernization of China’s submarine force remains a high priority for the PLAN.”

The Pentagon expects the submarine force to continue to grow, and China watchers say Chinese subs are becoming increasingly capable as the country modernizes its force, making it more of a threat to rivals.

The photo from Planet Labs appears to show a Shang-class submarine, one of China’s newer nuclear submarines. While the boats are considered “substantially noisier” than US Los Angeles and Virginia-class submarines, “the Shangs have vertical-launch tubes for YJ-18 anti-ship cruise missiles and could be a threat to US naval forces or logistics ships operating in the open ocean,” Clark said.

China is believed to have six of these submarines, some of which are based at Yulin.

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


MIGHTY CULTURE

How the Army keeps one of its most lethal enemies from striking again

Soldiers must be ready and capable to conduct the full range of military operations to defeat all enemies regardless of the threats they pose. But bad sanitation can keep them from the mission.

According to a 2010 public health report from the U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institute of Health, “Influenza and pneumonia killed more American soldiers and sailors during the war [World War I] than did enemy weapons.” The pandemic traveled with military personnel from camp to camp and across the Atlantic in 1918, infecting up to 40 percent of soldiers and sailors. In this instance, the enemy came in the form of a communicable disease.


Preventative measures and risk mitigation work to impede history from repeating itself, keeping the Army both ready and resilient. One such preventative measure implemented in Jordan was a week-long Field Sanitation Team (FST) Certification Course last month at Joint Training Center-Jordan.

Thousands of soldiers in training head home for the holidays

U.S. Army Spc. Shelby Vermeulen, with 1st Squadron, 303rd Cavalry Regiment, 96th Troop Command, Washington Army National Guard, works through the steps of water purification during a Field Sanitation Team Certification Course.

(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Shaiyla Hakeem)

U.S. Army Sgt. Matthew A. Kolenski, with 898th Medical Detachment Preventative Medicine, 3rd Medical Command (Deployment Support) “Desert Medics,” has been an Army preventative medicine specialist (68S) for more than seven years. He said 68Ss and FSTs help mitigate unnecessary illnesses, allowing soldiers to focus on their mission.

Thousands of soldiers in training head home for the holidays

U.S. Army Spc. Shelby Vermeulen, with 1st Squadron, 303rd Cavalry Regiment, 96th Troop Command, Washington Army National Guard, drops a chlorine tablet into water during a Field Sanitation Team Certification Course.

(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Shaiyla Hakeem)

Army regulations require certain units to be equipped with an FST, preferably a combat medic (68W), but any military occupational specialty can fill this position. The 40-hour certification covered areas such as improvised sanitary devices, testing water quality, identifying appropriate food storage areas, placement of restrooms, controlling communicable diseases, proper waste disposal, dealing with toxic industrial materials and combating insect-borne diseases.

Thousands of soldiers in training head home for the holidays

U.S. Army Spc. Shelby Vermeulen (center), with 1st Squadron, 303rd Cavalry Regiment, 96th Troop Command, Washington Army National Guard, tests a water sample for chlorine residuals during a Field Sanitation Team Certification Course.

(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Shaiyla Hakeem)

The goal of the course was to “enable soldiers to maintain combat readiness and effectiveness by implementing controls to mitigate DNBI [disease non-battle injury],” said Kolenski.

He said environmental testing and figuring out how to mitigate problems before they start can drastically decrease DNBIs. These injuries can include heat stroke, frostbite, trench foot, malnutrition, diarrheal disease — anything that can take a service member out of the fight. Sometimes reducing risk can be as simple as washing hands or taking out the trash.

“If you reduce the trash, you’ll mitigate the flies, which reduces the chance that you’ll get a gastrointestinal issue,” explained Kolenski, “Because you can’t fight if you’re in the latrine [restroom].”

Thousands of soldiers in training head home for the holidays

A week-long Field Sanitation Team Certification Course, spearheaded by U.S. Army Sgt. Matthew A. Kolenski (far right), with 898th Medical Detachment Preventative Medicine, 3rd Medical Command (Deployment Support) “Desert Medics,” was held from Dec. 9 – 13, 2019 at Joint Training Center-Jordan.

(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Shaiyla Hakeem)

Hazards are identified by sampling air, water, bacteria, pH levels, chlorine residue in water and bugs in the area.

“It was interesting to learn about the different standards for food facilities and rules on the preparation of the food,” said U.S. Army Spc. Shelby Vermeulen, with 1st Squadron, 303rd Cavalry Regiment, 96th Troop Command, Washington Army National Guard, who serves as a combat medic at JTC-J.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is how North Korea’s new missile can strike the US

Early the morning of Nov. 29th, North Korea test-launched an intercontinental ballistic missile to a record-breaking speed and altitude for the isolated nation.


North Korea’s new show of force follows an ICBM test launch in July and a powerful thermonuclear test blast in September.

Officials in the U.S., Japan, and South Korea confirmed that North Korea launched the new missile, called Hwasong-15, from Sain Ni, North Korea. Its payload soared about 2,800 miles into space before falling back to Earth, ultimately landing in the Sea of Japan some 53 minutes later and about 620 miles away from the launch pad.

Thousands of soldiers in training head home for the holidays
The ballistic missile, launched from Sain Ni, near Pyongsong, North Korea, was launched at an angle so as to arch sharply and fall into the Sea of Japan, avoiding crossing over enemy countries. (Image Google Earth and We Are the Mighty)

Launching a missile nearly straight up and so high may seem strange, if not unbelievable. For reference, the International Space Station orbits Earth from about 250 miles above the planet’s surface.

But David Wright, a physicist and missile expert at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said this arc avoids flying over Japan and other nearby nations — limiting political fallout — and represents a “very impressive” feat.

This is because the new missile, if tilted toward the U.S. during launch, could achieve a top speed of more than 17,000 mph — and a target radius of roughly 8,100 miles.

“This missile could reach all of the United States,” Wright told Business Insider, adding a critical caveat: “But it doesn’t mean much without considering the payload.”

ICBM nuclear threat

The intended payload for North Korea’s ICBM program is a nuclear  warhead (although chemical weapons like VX nerve agent, which the nation allegedly possesses and has used, are another option).

Wright said ICBMs burn rocket fuel for about three to five minutes before deploying a warhead on top. The warhead continues coasting through space for another 30 minutes or so, falling toward Earth under the force of gravity until it reenters the atmosphere, reaches its target, and detonates.

This alarms North Korea’s adversaries because the nation recently detonated a thermonuclear device that yielded the energy of perhaps 300 kilotons of TNT — about 20 times as much as the bomb the U.S. detonated over Hiroshima in 1945.

See Also: This is what would happen if North Korea popped off an H-bomb in the Pacific

But Wright doubts such a weapon, also known as a hydrogen bomb, will be miniaturized into a missile-ready warhead by North Korea anytime soon. Rather, he thinks the first type of warhead North Korea may be capable of launching is a less powerful, Hiroshima-style atomic weapon.

Being able to deliver such firepower “is still a big deal,” he said, but is by no means a proven capability.

“There’s a big debate going on in the technical community that works on these things, and it’s exactly about how heavy the warhead would be that North Korea could build, and what capabilities they can get out of their rocket engines,” he said.

‘This is not a fluke’

For now, experts such as Wright assume North Korea’s recent ICBM launched with a very lightweight dummy payload to give the missile alarming show of range. An actual warhead built by North Korea might weigh “several hundred kilograms,” or more than 600 pounds.

“That’s going to significantly reduce the distance,” Wright said, likely enough to keep an armed missile payload from striking American cities.

What’s more, the current estimated accuracy of North Korea’s weapons may be as poor as six to 12 miles. (U.S. and Russian missiles can hit a target within a couple of hundred feet.) If North Korea targeted San Francisco, for example, there’s a chance the bomb could miss the city entirely and detonate over the Pacific Ocean.

Thousands of soldiers in training head home for the holidays
Map showing the ranges some North Korean ballistic missiles can reach. (Graphic from Wikimedia Commons)

“It’s kind of like throwing a baseball,” Wright said. “The farther away your target is, the harder it is to hit. If the speed or aim is off by a tiny amount, those small errors add up to big distances over intercontinental ranges.”

Wright said the Nov. 28 test launch is an incremental step for North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, but emphasized that it’s important not to dismiss.

“It shows this is not a fluke, that they’re continuing this progress toward something more and more capable,” Wright said. “If things continue along they way they’re going, I think there’s little doubt North Korea will eventually have the capability to hit targets in the U.S. with nuclear weapons.”

Articles

A terrorist blew himself up in Afghanistan over this piece of paper

A Taliban suicide bomber blew himself up outside of a US military base in Afghanistan on Sept. 6 in retaliation for the US dropping leaflets that were offensive to Islam the day before, according to the Los Angeles Times.


Three US soldiers were wounded and an Afghan interpreter was killed, the Washington Examiner reported Sept. 7, in the blast that occurred at an enemy-control point outside of Bagram Air Force base, the LA Times and Reuters reported.

Three Afghan troops were also wounded, the Examiner reported.

Taliban spokesman Zabihulla Mujahid tweeted Sept. 6 that the bombing was to “avenge” the insulting leaflets.

 

The leaflets the US dropped from a plane on Sept. 5 in Parwan province pictured a lion, symbolizing the US-led coalition, chasing a dog, which symbolized the Taliban.

Dogs are considered an unclean and dangerous animal by many Afghans, according to The Washington Post, and the one depicted on the leaflet had part of the Taliban flag superimposed on it along with a common Islamic creed.

“There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet,” the creed, known as the Shahada, reads.

“Get your freedom from these terrorist dogs” was also written on the leaflet above the two animals, the LA Times said. “Help the coalition forces find these terrorists and eliminate them.”

Thousands of soldiers in training head home for the holidays
The offensive leaflet dropped by the US on Sept. 5. Photo from Twitter user Dan Murphy.

The Taliban also released a statement on Sept. 6 that the leaflets showed the US’s “utter animosity with Islam,” The Post reported.

Maj. Gen. James Linder released a statement on Sept. 6 saying that the “design of the leaflets mistakenly contained an image highly offensive to both Muslims and the religion of Islam. I sincerely apologize.”

“We have the deepest respect for Islam and our Muslim partners worldwide. There is no excuse for this mistake,” he said. “I am reviewing our procedures to determine the cause of this incident and to hold the responsible party accountable. Furthermore, I will make appropriate changes so this never happens again.”

Many Afghan civilians were also irate with the leaflets.

Thousands of soldiers in training head home for the holidays
US Army Maj. Gen. James B. Linder. Photo by Staff Sgt. Ken Scar.

“It is a very serious violation. The people are very angry. It is a major abuse against Islam,” the Parwan province police chief, Mohammad Zaman Mamozai, told The Post.

“Why they do not understand or know our culture, our religion, and history?”

“The foreign forces don’t have any idea of what are the values of the Afghan people,” Ahmad Shaheer, an analyst living in Kabul, told the LA Times. “They’ve hired some interpreters and advisors who only know how to speak English, make money, and gain trust, but really are strangers to the real values of the local people.”

The US has been at war in Afghanistan for almost 16 years, and President Donald Trump recently announced he would be deploying more American forces — about 4,000 by most estimates — to the war-torn country.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Army wants huge 40mm cannons on Bradleys and Strykers

BAE Systems showed off its new 40mm cannon at Fort Benning in Georgia late March 2018, as the US Army looks to add more fire power to its Strykers, Bradleys, and perhaps other combat vehicles, according to Defense News.

“Everything went perfectly,” Rory Chamberlain, a business development manager at BAE Systems, told reporters after the cannon was fired, Defense News reported. BAE Systems is one of the largest defense companies in the world.


CTA International, a joint venture between BAE Systems and Nexter, began developing the weapon in 1994, and the gun was recently chosen by the UK and France for their new Ajax and EBRC Jaguar armored vehicles, according to The War Zone.

The cannon has six kinds of cased telescoped ammunition (meaning the projectile is in the cartridge with the charge), including aerial airbust rounds, airbust rounds, armor piercing rounds, point detonating rounds, and two more designated for training.

Thousands of soldiers in training head home for the holidays
(Photo by BAE Systems)

The 40mm rounds are up to four times stronger than 30mm rounds, according to BAE Systems.

Depending on which round is used, the cannon can take out a variety of armored vehicles and even older tanks, like the Russian T-55, The War Zone reported.

One of the most benefitial features of the gun is that it can fire at a high angle, making urban fighting easier, according to Defense News.

Chamberlain told Defense News that “Stryker lethality is open, as much as they got the Dragoon, that is a fat turret and it’s doing its job and it’s what they wanted,” adding that the lethality and requirements for the upgrade are still to be decided.

He said the same is possible for the Bradley, but Maj. Gen. David Bassett told Defense News in late 2017 that the Army is looking to replace its 25mm Bushmaster with a 30mm cannon.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Here’s what the US could have made instead of F-35

Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, who took over after President Donald Trump accepted the resignation of Jim Mattis, reportedly hates the most expensive weapons system of all time, the F-35.

Shanahan worked for 31 years at Boeing, the F-35 maker Lockheed Martin’s main industry rival, and has reportedly said his old firm would have done a better job on the new stealth fighter.


A former senior Defense Department official told Politico that Shanahan described the F-35 stealth fighter as “f—ed up” and said its maker, Lockheed Martin, “doesn’t know how to run a program.”

While some may suspect Shanahan may be committing an ethical breach by speaking in favor of his former employer, others have also raised concerns with the F-35 program, which will cost taxpayers id=”listicle-2625730090″ trillion over the life of the program.

But instead of simply handing over the construction of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, meant as a single stealth fighter/bomber with 3 variants for ground launch, carrier launch, and short or vertical takeoff, others have proposed a radically different approach.

Thousands of soldiers in training head home for the holidays

US Naval aircraft and aircraft from the Chilean Air Force participate in a fly-by adjacent to aircraft carrier USS George Washington.

(US Navy Lt. j.g. David Babka)

What the US could have built instead

Former US Navy commander and aviator Chris Harmer gave Business Insider an idea of another such approach in 2016.

“The F-35 is very capable in a very specific way,” Harmer said. “The only thing it does that legacy can’t do is stealth.”

The US’s F/A-18, F-15, and F-16 families of fighter aircraft, all Boeing products, bear the name of “legacy” aircraft, as they were designed during the Cold War before in a simpler time for aerial combat.

The F-35’s low observability and integrated stealth design are central to the plane’s mission and tactics. Throughout its development, the F-35 notoriously lost to older legacy fighters in up-close dogfights.

Defense officials never planned for the F-35 to revolutionize dogfighting, however; they instead wanted to change aerial combat as a whole. The F-35, nearly impossible for enemy aircraft to spot, is designed to shoot down foes from long distance before they’re ever close enough to really dogfight.

But Harmer suggested that instead of building the F-35, the US simply should have updated existing aircraft, like the F-15, the F-16, and the F/A-18.

“For a fraction of the cost for F-35 development, we could have updated legacy aircraft and gotten a significant portion of the F-35 capabilities,” Harmer said. The F/A-18 carrier-based fighter, for example, has already undergone extensive reworkings, and the F/A-18 Super Hornet, which is 25% larger than the original F/A-18, has a smaller radar cross-section than its predecessor and is one of the US’s cheaper planes to buy and operate.

F-35 pilots and military experts have told Business Insider that the F-35’s advantages include its advanced array of sensors and ability to network with other platforms. Combined with its stealth design, an F-35 can theoretically achieve a synergy as a sensor/fighter/bomber that operates deep within enemy territory in ways that legacy aircraft never could.

Thousands of soldiers in training head home for the holidays

Fully armed Aircraft from the 18th Wing during the no-notice exercise.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman John Linzmeier)

But Harmer, and other F-35 detractors including legendary test pilot Chuck Yeager, still think the F-35 was a waste of money. According to Harmer, proven legacy fighters could be retrofit with the advanced avionics and helmet for targeting that fighters out of Russia have long used.

An F-15, the Air Force’s air-superiority fighter, with fifth-generation avionics and targeting capability, still lacks the integrated stealth design of an F-35. Stealth must be worked into the geometry of the plane and simply won’t do as an afterthought. In today’s contested battle spaces, a legacy fighter, no matter how you update it, still lights up brightly and clearly on enemy radar and is therefore less survivable to the pilots — something US military planners have refused to accept.

“The only advantage of the F-35 is to go into highly contested airspace,” Harmer said, adding that the US had “literally never done that.”

Plus, the US already has another fifth-generation aircraft with even better stealth in its inventory: the F-22. In fact, when the US does discuss operations in the world’s most contested airspaces, it’s the F-22 it talks about sending.

Thousands of soldiers in training head home for the holidays

(US Air Force photo)

The Pentagon believes in stealth and wants you to too

“There are other, less expensive ways to address highly contested airspace — cruise missiles, standoff weapons, radar jamming,” Harmer said. The F-35 does radar jamming, or electronic warfare, but the same electronic attacks could theoretically be delivered by a cruise missile.

Even Trump publicly weighed abandoning the F-35C, the carrier variant of the jet, for the F/A-18, the US’s current naval fighter/bomber. Ultimately, Trump seems to have landed in favor of the stealth jet, which he now routinely claims is invisible.

Harmer’s view of an alternate path to the F-35 represents a different military philosophy than what the Pentagon has accepted since 2001, when it launched the F-35 program.

But today the F-35’s problems are mostly behind it, and operators of the next-generation aircraft have told Business Insider they’re supremely confident in the plane’s ability to fight and win wars in the toughest airspaces on earth.

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

Articles

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

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


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

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

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

Thousands of soldiers in training head home for the holidays
Gen. Carlton D. Everhart II, left, Air Mobility Command commander, shakes hands with Chief Master Sgt. Chris Hofrichter, 514th Maintenance Operations Squadron. USAF photo by Master Sgt. Mark C. Olsen

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

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

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

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

Thousands of soldiers in training head home for the holidays
USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Jacob N. Bailey

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

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

RELATED: The Air Force is running out of pilots

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

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

Thousands of soldiers in training head home for the holidays
USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Charles Rivezzo

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

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

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

The Issues Wearing Out Pilots

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

Thousands of soldiers in training head home for the holidays
USAF photo by Master Sgt. Jeffrey Allen

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

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

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

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

Thousands of soldiers in training head home for the holidays
USAF photo by Lt. Col. Robert Couse-Baker

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

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

ALSO READ: 23 terms only fighter pilots understand

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

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

Thousands of soldiers in training head home for the holidays
USAF photo by Senior Airman Christopher Callaway

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

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

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

Working With Civilian Airlines

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

Thousands of soldiers in training head home for the holidays
USMC photo by Sgt. Keonaona Paulo

Everhart said this incentivizes both sides to work together.

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

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

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

Thousands of soldiers in training head home for the holidays
USAF photo by Master Sgt. Mark C. Olsen

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

Rotating Air Force Assets

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

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

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

Thousands of soldiers in training head home for the holidays
USAF photo by Airman 1st Class Rito Smith

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

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

Love for Country

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

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

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

Thousands of soldiers in training head home for the holidays
USAF photo by Airman 1st Class Alystria Maurer

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

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

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

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