The Marine Corps makes history today as three enlisted female Marines with infantry jobs join an infantry battalion that was closed to them at this time last year.
The milestone comes more than four years after the Corps began to study the effects of opening infantry units to women and just over a year after Defense Secretary Ashton Carter issued a mandate in December 2015 requiring all services to open previously closed jobs to women.
The three Marines are all bound for 1st Battalion, 8th Marines, out of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, 2nd Marine Division spokesman 1st Lt. John McCombs told Military.com. While McCombs would not identify the women or reveal their ranks, citing privacy concerns as they acclimate to the fleet, he said they have the military occupational specialties [MOS] of rifleman, mortarman and machine gunner.
Marine Corps Times, which first wrote about the arrival of the Marines, reported that all three graduated from the School of Infantry at Camp Lejeune as part of the Corps’ multi-year effort to study the gender integration of the ground combat ranks.
U.S. Marines from Delta Company, Infantry Training Battalion (ITB), School of Infantry-East (SOI-E) take a break after completing their 10k hike before navigating their way through the obstacle course aboard, Camp Geiger, N.C., Oct. 04, 2013. | U.S. Marine Corps photo by Chief Warrant Officer 2 Paul S. Mancuso, Combat Camera
During this test period, some 240 female Marines graduated from Lejeune’s Infantry Training Battalion course. While at the time this accomplishment did not make them eligible to hold an infantry MOS or serve in an infantry unit, the Marine Corps announced last January that these infantry graduates were now eligible to request a lateral move to serve in a grunt unit.
In keeping with the Corps’ plan to help female infantrymen adapt to the new environment, 1st Battalion, 8th Marines, has incorporated a small “leadership cadre” of more senior female Marines in support specialties, placed within the unit ahead of time, McCombs said.
“That leadership consists of a logistics officer, motor transportation officer, and a wire chief,” he said. “They will have been in place for at least 90 days prior to the first female infantry Marines arriving to the unit. This process ensures the Marine Corps will adhere to its standards and will continue its emphasis on combat readiness.”
McCombs said he could not speak to why that battalion had been chosen to receive the first female infantry transfers, and did not immediately know when the unit is next slated to deploy.
The Corps reaches the milestone of adding female infantrymen to its ranks despite previous misgivings at the most senior levels. In September 2015, the service released the summary results of a study showing that in a year-long test of gender-integrated infantry units, teams with both male and female Marines had shot less accurately and performed more slowly than all-male teams.
Ultimately, then-commandant Gen. Joseph Dunford, now the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, requested to exempt women from certain infantry units, a request that was denied by Carter. The nominee for secretary of defense, retired Marine Gen. James Mattis, has also voiced concerns about whether women are suited to the “intimate killing” of close ground combat.
Asked about women serving in infantry units at a Washington, D.C., event in December, Commandant Gen. Robert Neller noted that women have been serving in combat while deployed for years, and said the Marine Corps is implementing its current guidance.
Neller declined to speculate about whether the question of women in ground combat roles would resurface during the administration of President-elect Donald Trump, but said service leadership would address the issue if called upon.
“If we’re asked what our best military advice is, we’ll make that known at that time,” he said.
The AC-130 gunship is a devastating display of force and firepower. Through the years, the aircraft has been equipped with an array of side-fired canons, howitzers, mini-guns, wing-mounted missiles and bombs, and laser guided-missiles launched from the rear cargo door, earning it the moniker the “Angel of Death.”
The primary missions of the gunship are close air support, air interdiction, and armed reconnaissance.
The heavily armed aircraft is outfitted with sophisticated sensor, navigation, and fire control systems, allowing it to track and target multiple targets using multiple munitions with surgical precision.
Another strength of the gunship is the ability to loiter in the air for extended periods of time, providing aerial protection at night and during adverse weather.
The AC-130 relies heavily on visual targeting at low altitudes and punishes enemy targets while performing pylon turns around a fixed point on the ground during attack.
The Air Force is the only operator of the AC-130 and the gunship has been providing close air support for special operators for the last 50 years.
Development and Design
During the Vietnam War, the C-130 Hercules airframe was selected to replace the original gunship, the Douglas AC-47 Spooky (Project Gunship I). The Hercules cargo airframe was converted into AC-130A (Project Gunship II) because it could fly faster, longer, higher, and with increased munitions load capabilities.
The gunship’s AC identifier stands for attack-cargo.
The aircraft is powered by four turboprop engines and has a flight speed of 300 mph and a flight range of 1,300 miles, depending on weight.
The AC-130A was equipped with down facing Gatling guns affixed to the left side of the aircraft with an analog fire control system. In 1969, the AC-130 received the Surprise Package, which included 20mm rotary autocannons and a 40mm Bofors cannon configuration.
The gunships have been modified with multiple configurations through the years with each update providing stronger avionics systems, radars and more powerful armament.
Currently, Air Force special operations groups operate the AC-130U Spooky II and the AC-130W Stinger II.
The Spooky II became operational in 1994, revitalizing the special operations gunship fleet as a replacement for the AC-130A aircraft, and to supplement the workhorse AC-130H Spectre, which was retired in 2015.
The Spooky II is armed with a 25mm GAU-12/U Gatling gun (1800 rpm), a 40mm L60 Bofors cannon (120 rpm), and a 10mm M102 howitzer (6-10 rpm). The AC-130Us have a pressurized cabin, allowing them to operate 5,000 feet higher than the H models, which results in greater range.
The AC-130W was converted from the MC-130W Dragon Spear, a special operations mobility aircraft and are armed with precision strike packages to relieve the high operational demands on AC-130U gunships until new AC-130Js enter combat-ready status.
Over the past four decades, AC-130s have deployed constantly to hotspots throughout the world in support of special operations and conventional forces. In South America, Africa, Europe and throughout the Middle East, gunships have significantly contributed to mission success.
As of Sept. 19, 2017, the AC-130J Ghostrider, the Air Force’s next-generation gunship, achieved Initial Operating Capability and will be tested and prepared for combat deployment in the next few years. The AC-130J is the fourth generation gunship replacing the aging fleet of AC-130U/W gunships.
The Ghostrider is outfitted with a Precision Strike Package, which includes 30mm and 105 mm cannons and precision guided munitions of GBU-39 Small Diameter Bombs and AGM-176 Griffin missiles. The 105mm M102 howitzer system is a devastating weapon that can fire off 10 50lbs shells per minute with precision accuracy.
There are 10 Ghostrider gunships in the current fleet and the Air Force plans on purchasing 27 more by fiscal year 2021.
– The original and unofficial nickname for the AC-130 gunship was “Puff the Magic Dragon” or “Puff.”
– The AC-130H Spectre was introduced in 1969 and was used for 46 years in service; the longest service time of any AC gunship.
– Air Force Special Operations Command plans to install combat lasers on AC-130 gunships within a year.
AC-130U Spooky Fact Sheet:
Primary function: Close air support, air interdiction and force protection
Builder: Lockheed/Boeing Corp.
Power plant: Four Allison T56-A-15 turboprop engines
Thrust: 4,300 shaft horsepower each engine
Wingspan: 132 feet, 7 inches (40.4 meters)
Length: 97 feet, 9 inches (29.8 meters)
Height: 38 feet, 6 inches (11.7 meters)
Speed: 300 mph (Mach .4) at sea level
Range: Approximately 1,300 nautical miles; limited by crew duty day with air refueling
Ceiling: 25,000 feet (7,576 meters)
Maximum takeoff weight: 155,000 pounds (69,750 kilograms)
Armament: 40mm, 105mm cannons and 25mm Gatling gun
Crew: AC-130U – pilot, co-pilot, navigator, fire control officer, electronic warfare officer (five officers) and flight engineer, TV operator, infrared detection set operator, loadmaster, and four aerial gunners (eight enlisted)
Deployment date: 1995
Unit cost: $210 million
Inventory: Active duty, 17; reserve, 0; Air National Guard, 0
The Air Force’s special operations candidates are encouraged to complete a tailored fitness program before they report for selection.
This 26-week guide is designed to get them physically ready for the challenges of the grueling training pipeline that features 1-3 workouts per day split into cardio, physical training, and swim workouts.
Old military favorites like pushups and planks are included along with creative stuff such as dragon flags, sliding leg curls, and handstand pushups.
Dragon flags are basically leg raises, except you keep raising your legs until all your weight is on your shoulder blades:
Sliding leg curls hit the glutes, hamstrings, and core:
Handstand pushups are exactly what they sound like, and they work the shoulders and triceps:
Those interested in trying out the Air Force’s 26-week fitness program can download the guide as a PDF here. But be advised: It starts tough and gets tougher as it goes on.
Unlike the Marine Corps’ fitness app, the Air Force guide does not include instructions for individual exercises. Take some time to research proper form before attempting any unfamiliar exercises. (And WATM’s Max Your Body series can help.)
On Dec. 19, 2017, B-52 Stratorfortress (60-0051), with the 93rd Bomb Squadron/307th BW AFRC was about to land at Barksdale AFB, Louisiana, when the crew heard something that sounded like a thud coming from the outside of the bomber. The aircraft landed safely, but once on the ground the crew discovered that the sound they heard was actually a lightning strike that tore a person-sized gash completely through the tail of the aircraft.
“Close encounters” between civil and military aircraft and lightnings occur every now and then around the globe.
In the 1980s, some F-16 Fighting Falcon jets were lost after being struck by lightinings. In one case, the lightning ignited the vapors in the empty centerline tank, which exploded causing extended damage to the aircraft’s hydraulic system.
Since lightning strikes are quite rare (1 event each year on average) these are seldom a real risk to military or civil aviation.
Furthermore, planes are shielded by a so-called Faraday Cage made by a conducting material, that blocks out external static electrical fields: charges redistribute on the conducting material and don’t affect the cage’s interior.
All commercial and mil planes have to meet several safety lightining-related requirements to get the airworthiness certifications required in the U.S. and Europe. For instance, they must be able to withstand a lightning strike without suffering significant airframe damage, without any possibility of accidental fuel ignition in the tanks and preserving the avionics and systems failures induced by the electromagnetic field created by the electrical charges of the lightning.
After assessing the damage, it was determined that the tail was damaged beyond repair and would have to be replaced: a large-scale, and uncommon, repair.
The B-52 is equipped with a lightning arrester designed to mitigate damage from lightning strikes, but this one was too strong even for the jet’s safeguards. “We see a handful of strikes every year, but out of all the maintainers we have, no one had seen lightning damage that bad,” said Lt. Col. George P. Cole, III, 307th Maintenance Squadron commander in a public release.
“I’ve been with the unit for fifteen years and this is the first time we have had to change a tail,” said Senior Master Sgt. Michael Nelson, 307th MXS flight maintenance superintendent. “We only had one other maintainer on our team that has ever changed one.”
According to the U.S. Air Force, Master Sgt. Eric Allison, 307th MXS B-52 aircraft mechanic, was the only maintainer on the eight person team with experience replacing a tail prior to the lighting strike. “It’s challenging because you have to position the tail just right and it is a two-thousand pound piece of metal,” he said. “It is like lining up the hinges when replacing a door,” said Tech. Sgt. David Emberton, 307th MXS B-52 aircraft mechanic. “You have to line it up correctly and the whole time it is twisting and flexing.”
Another possible obstacle was finding a replacement but instead of ordering it from the 309th AMARG (Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group), the maintainers from the 307th Maintenance Squadron found that one tail was available from a retired jet.
“Having that tail on hand saved us a great deal of time because ordering it from AMARG would have taken months,” Nelson said.
So, the 307th MXS completed the works and made the B-52 available for flight operations in just a couple of weeks. Sporting a different tail reclaimed from another decommissioned B-52, still able to take to air again.
By the way, the Stratofortress has already proved it can fly with damages to the tail: actually, even with a detached vertical stabilizer, as happened 54 years ago, when a B-52H involved in a test flight lost its tail at about 14,000 feet over New Mexico. Six hours later, the civilian test pilot Chuck Fisher and his three-man crew managed to perform the first and only Stratofortress’s tailless landing.
A relatively new weapon to combat the enemy is being used in Afghanistan and Southwest Asia. It’s been around a little more than a decade and fits into the counterinsurgency warfare necessity of being able to identify who the enemy is by person versus just identifying an enemy organization.
The Afghanistan Captured Material Exploitation Laboratory is aiding combat commanders in their need to know who is building and setting off the enemy’s choice weapon — Improvised Explosive Devices. With this positive identification of enemy personnel, coalition units working within NATO’s Resolute Support mission can then hunt down the enemy for detention or destroy if need be.
“The commanders are starting to understand it more and seeing the capability and asset it provides,” said Kim Perusse, incoming ACME lab manager at BAF.
Perusse said commanders are embracing it and wanting more forensics exploitation.
Personnel from ACME deploy from the Forensic Exploitation Directorate which is part of the Defense Forensics Science Center located at the Gillem Enclave, Forest Park, Ga. DFSC also contains the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Laboratory, and the Office of Quality Initiatives and Training.
Shown is an RFT2 device which consists of a CWC-11 A/0 receiver module with a custom switching circuit. The RFT2 functions as a receiver and switch of IED’s initiators.
(Photo by Jon Micheal Connor, Army Public Affairs)
The DFSC’s mission is to provide full-service forensic support — traditional, expeditionary, and reachback — to Army and Department of Defense entities worldwide; to provide specialized forensic training and research capabilities; serve as executive agent for DOD Convicted Offender DNA Databasing Program; and to provide forensic support to other federal departments and agencies when appropriate, its website stated.
ACME provides forensic/technical intelligence, analysis, and exploitation of captured enemy material. The findings are then provided to coalition forces and the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces to counter the IED threat, attack the counterinsurgent networks, advise the Afghanistan government’s exploitation labs, and provide prosecutorial support to the Afghan justice system, an ACME slide presentation stated.
ACME capabilities include latent print examination; explosive/drug chemistry; electronic engineering; explosive triage; DNA; firearm/toolmark analysis; weapons technical intelligence analysis; and, provide assistance to the Afghan Ministry of Interior, National Directorate of Security, and Afghan National Security Forces.
Triage, the first stop for all evidence, tests an unknown substance on the HazMatID for any hazards.
(Photo by Jon Micheal Connor, Army Public Affairs)
As part of employment with DFSC, FXD, personnel must deploy every 18 months to a deployed lab for six months, as there are currently two, one here and one in Kuwait.
The Forensic Exploitation Laboratory — CENTCOM in Kuwait supports military operations in Iraq and Syria, and is located at Camp Arifjan.
ACME’s primary mission “is to allow the commanders on the ground to understand who’s within the battlespace,” said Lateisha Tiller, outgoing ACME lab manager.
Whether this is people coming onto the coalition locations as part of employment or those building the IEDS, forensics exploitation results in positive identification of such individuals.
“Our mission is to identify nefarious actors that are in the CJOA [Combined/Joint Operations Area] right now,” Tiller said.
“We don’t want them putting IEDs in the road, and blowing up the road, blowing up the bridge. We want that type of activity to stop,” Tiller said. ” ‘How do you stop it?’ You identify who’s doing it; identify the network of people who’s doing it. Eliminate them from the battlespace” as evidence collected is then shared with military intelligence, she said.
X-rays are taken of all evidence in Triage to ensure no hazards such as Trojan horses are observed. This x-ray shows a pressure plate containing a hazard.
(Photo by Jon Micheal Connor, Army Public Affairs)
“It’s never just one person; identify the network,” she said. By taking people out, the network “eventually is going to dismantle itself.”
“The secondary mission is the Rule of Law,” Perusse said. “Helping get the information out to the Afghans to potentially prosecute those nefarious actors that we may identify” through biometrics, chemistry, firearms, and toolmarks.
The conclusive findings and evidence — criminal activity analysis reports — is then shared with the Afghan laboratories as they work to build a case against alleged personnel who could be tried in an Afghan court.
The reports are also shared with military intelligence — U.S. and NATO — and also sent to the Justice Center in Parwan to assist in the prosecution of the enemy. The JCIP is located in the Parwan Province where BAF is located too in east-central Afghanistan.
The justice center was a joint U.S.-Afghan project to establish Afghanistan’s first national security court. Established in June 2010, the JCIP exists to ensure fair and impartial justice for those defendants alleged of committing national security crimes in the Afghan criminal justice system. Coalition forces provide technical assistance and operate in an advisory capacity.
The reports are accepted in the Afghans courts because the Afghans understand and trust the findings of ACME. “Building that alliance is absolutely part of the mission,” Tiller said. “The lines of communication are definitely open.”
The evidence room is the hub of the lab that distributes and stores the evidence while located at ACME.
(Photo by Jon Micheal Connor, Army Public Affairs)
Because of this fairly new application of forensics to counterinsurgency warfare, the Afghans initially didn’t understand it, the lab managers said.
“They didn’t understand forensics. They didn’t trust it,” Perusse said. “Especially DNA, it was like magic to them.”
But as she explained, the U.S. also took a long time to accept DNA as factual and evidential versus something like latent prints. Latent prints are impressions produced by the ridged skin, known as friction ridges, on human fingers, palms, and soles of the feet. Examiners analyze and compare latent prints to known prints of individuals in an effort to make identifications or exclusions, internet sources stated.
“Latent prints you can visualize, DNA you can’t,” she said.
The application of forensics exploitation as part of the battle plan started in the latter years Operation Iraqi Freedom, the lab managers said. OIF began in March 2003 and lasted until December 2011.
This type of warfare — counterinsurgency — required a determination of who — by person — was the enemy in an effort to combat their terrorist acts.
A latent print examiner develops a latent print on the neck of a plastic bottle with Superglue Fuming and Rhodamine 6G processing, then visualized with a forensic laser.
(Photo by Jon Micheal Connor, Army Public Affairs)
“I think there was a point where the DOD realized that they weren’t utilizing forensics to help with the fight,” Tiller said.
The operations in Iraq and Afghanistan were not big units fighting other big units, with mass casualties, but much smaller units engaging each other with an enemy using more terrorist-like tactics of killing.
Forensics told you “who you were fighting. You kind of knew the person in a more intimate way,” Tiller said, adding, it put a face on the enemy.
Forensics exploitation goes hand-in-hand with counterinsurgency warfare, Perusse said. “They’re (Taliban/ISIS) not organized like a foreign military were in the past” but instead have individuals and groups fighting back in a shared ideology, she said.
Because of the eventual drawdown in NATO troop strength in Afghanistan, the ACME labs at Kandahar Airfield, Kandahar Province, and Camp Leatherneck, Helmand Province, were closed and some assets were relocated to BAF’s ACME in 2013.
A DNA analyst prepares DNA samples for analysis on the Lifetech 3500XL Genetic Analyzer.
(Photo by Jon Micheal Connor, Army Public Affairs)
The evidence is collected at the sites of detonation by conventional forces — explosive ordnance personnel, route clearance personnel — through personnel working in the Ministry of Interior’s National Directorate of Security, and other Afghan partners, Perusse said.
From January 2018 to December 2018, the ACME lab was responsible for:
1,145 cases processed based on 36,667 individual exhibits
3,402 latent prints uploaded; 69 associations made from unknown to known
3,090 DNA profiles uploaded; 59 unique identifications made from unknown to known
Adding credibility to ACME was that it became accredited by the International Organization of Standard in 2015. Both lab managers said they believe that ACME is probably the only deployed Defense Department lab accredited — besides the FXL-C in Kuwait — in the forensics field.
Forensic chemist conducts a single-step extraction to prepare the samples for analysis by Gas Chromatography Mass Spectrometry.
(Photo by Jon Micheal Connor, Army Public Affairs)
The International Organization for Standardization is an international standard-setting body composed of representatives from various national standards organizations comprised of members from 168 countries. It is the world’s largest developer of voluntary international standards and facilitates world trade by providing common standards between nations. It was founded in 1947.
Tiller and Perusse said this accreditation is quite meaningful, personally and professionally.
Interestingly, both lab managers offer extensive deployment experience to the ACME lab.
Tiller has deployed four times for FXD — three times to Afghanistan and once to Kuwait — for a total of 26 months. Likewise, Perusse has 28 months of deployment experience too with FXD, with now four deployments in Afghanistan and one to Kuwait. And, because of mission requirements, no rest and relaxation periods — vacations — are allowed during their deployments. The reason is because most positions are one-person deep and the mission cannot continue without all sections working collectively, they said.
Currently, there are 17 people working at the BAF ACME lab.
FXD’s mandatory deployment policy can be viewed as positive and negative depending on a person’s particular situation.
An electronic exploitation examiner uses the Advanced Aggregate Data Extractor test equipment to perform testing on an RFT2 device. The AADE produces the following tests: Filter Analyzer, Emissions Analyzer, Peak Harmonic Distortion and Bit Error Rate.
(Photo by Jon Micheal Connor, Army Public Affairs)
As Perusse points out, there are plenty of other places to work that do not require mandatory deployments which require forensic skills such as the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Department of Homeland Security to name several.
So those who do work at ACME do so because they want to be.
“There is nowhere else in the world where you’re going to get a [final] forensic result of the quality that you’re going to get from the ACME as quickly as you do,” Tiller said, which often brings immediate gratification to one’s work.
Whether it’s producing a DNA profile or finding a latent print on some material, finding this evidence within two days is a big reason why people at ACME find their work rewarding.
“It happens nowhere else,” Tiller said, describing it as the “ultimate satisfaction,” knowing the evidence produced will ultimately save lives.
Shown are incoming ACME lab manager Kim Perusse (left) and outgoing ACME lab manager Lateisha Tiller. Tiller has deployed four times for FXD for a total of 26 months. Perusse has 28 months of deployment experience with FXD, with four deployments in Afghanistan and one to Kuwait.
(Photo by Jon Micheal Connor, Army Public Affairs)
As Perusse put it, there is no place like ACME’s lab in Afghanistan.
“We are in war zone. We are around everything, we get IDFed,” she said, referencing the periodic indirect fire of mortar attacks at BAF. She said it is much different type of deployment than at the Kuwait lab where examiners can “have more freedom to include going into the city and shop at the mall.”
“There’s a reason why we’re doing this,” Perusse said, of identifying the enemy, which leads to saving lives and helping the NATO coalition.
“It’s very powerful to be able to see that and be with the people who are going out the field and risking their lives,” she said of those who look for and submit items for evidence.
As Tiller redeploys back to her normal duty station in Georgia, she knows ACME will continue in experienced hands with Perusse who will now take over as lab manager for a third time.
When you think of joining the military, a ton of images shoot through your mind. You think of that badass grunt running toward some unnamed, burning city, rifle in hand as aircraft rip through the skies above. When you actually start your service, you’ll quickly realize that reality is a far cry from your fantasy. In fact, grunts don’t even spend all of their time fighting wars.
Some things might surprise you, but then there are a ton of things you never saw coming.
It’s not even that your recruiter lied to you, it’s just that much of life in the military isn’t as advertised on posters or in TV ads. Some of thee surprises are cool, many of them suck, but at the end of the day, they’re what keeps the machine running.
You probably didn’t expect the following when you signed on the dotted line:
It’s hard to lie about getting hit when you have paint splattered on you.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Leon M. Branchaud)
If you’re a prospective Marine, then you’ve probably seen Jarhead (maybe one too many times). You know that one part where they train with paintball rounds? Most of us thought it was Hollywood bullsh*t — until we got to do the same. Granted, it doesn’t hurt as bad as they make it seem in the movie, but it’s actually a lot of fun. Hell, it’s probably some of the best training you can get.
You see what the aircraft does with the ammo, though.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Stephenie Wade)
Loading ammo onto an aircraft
We’ve all seen videos of jets flying overhead and raining pain onto the ground below. In those moments, with our jaws dropped, we’re thinking, “whoa… that’s so cool.” That is, of course, before you’re the one loading the ammo.
Remember, there are a lot of people behind every dropped bomb.
Some may use their anger more than others.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Aaron Bolser)
Feeling emotional extremes of every type
Troops are tough bad*sses — but we’re definitely not emotionless. In fact, what makes veterans so stoic is that they’ve already felt every emotion in its most extreme form. You’ll never be more happy than when you get to sleep in an actual bed after months of sleeping in dirt, you’ll never be as angry as you were in a firefight, and you’ll never be more sad than when you lose a dear friend.
You might even earn their accolades.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Alexander Mitchell)
Hanging with another country’s troops
You might expect to go to another country and train with their military, but you can’t really foresee the time you’ll spend hanging out with the Germans, Aussies, Koreans — you name it. You’ll quickly realize that you have a lot in common; you share a lot of the same, bullsh*t experiences.
And you all have that one a**hole in your chain of command.
If you’ve got time and you’ll be using that model for a while, why not go all out?
Building a terrain model
Did you ever think that a squad leader would tell you to go out and buy a pack of plastic army men? Probably not.
You also probably didn’t expect to build a terrain model to plan a mission and yet here you are. If you don’t mind spending a little extra time, you can actually have fun with this one.
Despite suffering economic sanctions and the falling price of oil, Vladimir Putin is pushing forward with an estimated 20 trillion ruble ($351 billion) program to modernize the Russian military by 2020.
But the Russian defense sector is struggling to meet its goals.
“The objective reasons for the failure to meet state defense procurement orders include restrictions on the supply of imported parts and materials in connection with sanctions, discontinuation of production and the loss of an array of technologies, insufficient production facilities,” Deputy Defense Minister Yuri Borisov said in videoconference with Putin on Thursday, according to The Moscow Times.
Borisov said that navy guard ships, 200 amphibious aircraft, antitank missiles, radio equipment for surface-to-air missiles, and launchers for Tupolev-160 bombers are behind schedule.
Putin was not happy.
“I will especially emphasize that those who are delaying production and supplies of military technologies, who are letting down related industries, must within a short term … correct the situation,” Putin reportedly said.
“And if that does not happen, the appropriate conclusions need to be made, including, if necessary, technological, organizational, and personnel [changes],” Putin added.
The extravagant plans for military spending were drawn up before the ruble crashed and oil prices bottomed out, back when the government was expecting 6% GDP growth annually.
Nevertheless, Russia has continued with their hike in military spending, which is estimated to reach $29.5 billion in 2015, with around $4.4 billion to $4.7 billion going towards research and development alone.
The Moscow Times notes that Putin is looking to defense spending to bolster employment, investment, and technological development.
As he said on his call-in show in March, “without a doubt, this program will be fulfilled,” adding that, “Our goal is to make sure that by that time, by 2020, the amount of new weapons and military technologies in our armed forces reached no less than 70%.”
Given that Russia’s troubles will likely continue — sanctions will likely remain in place as fighting in eastern Ukraine continues and oil may drop as Iranian oil hits the market — Putin’s big push may meet a harsh reality sooner than later.
“Russia has already spent more than half of its total military budget for 2015,” Russian economist and former rector of the New Economic School in Moscow Sergei Guriev wrote in May. “At this rate, its reserve fund will be emptied before the end of the year.”
On Thursday, Deputy Defense Minister Borisov said that 38% of Moscow’s defense purchases planned for this year have been completed.
Godzilla may be king of the monsters, but during the Cold War, he’d find the Caspian Sea a little crowded.
Now, Russia is building a new Caspian Sea Monster.
According to a tweet by the Russian embassy in South Africa, the Chaika A-050 is slated to enter service by 2020. The A-050 is what is known as an “ekranoplan,” or ground-effect vehicle. The Soviet Union pushed these airplane hybrids during the Cold War, largely because they offered a unique mix of the capabilities of ships and aircraft.
According to militaryfactory.com, the Lun-class ekranoplan is one such example. It had a top speed of 342 miles per hour — slightly slower than the B-29 Superfortress — which could go 358 miles per hour. However, the Lun carried six SS-N-22 Sunburn anti-ship missiles, which are limited for use on surface combatants like the Sovremenny-class destroyer and Tarantul-class missile boat. The Lun could climb to as high as 24,000 feet.
According to a 2015 report by Valuewalk.com, the Chaika A-050 will travel at speeds of up to 300 miles per hour, with a range of 3,000 miles. It will be able to carry at least nine tons of cargo or 100 passengers. However, a Sputnik News report indicated that the Russians could install the BrahMos missile on the new ekranoplan.
The BrahMos is a version of the SS-N-26 Oniks surface-to-surface missile that has been installed on a number of Indian Navy vessels. According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the BrahMos has a top speed of Mach 2.8 and a range of 500 kilometers. The missile carries a 300-kilogram warhead, and can hit surface ships or land targets. The missile can be used by submarines and surface ships.
Navy veteran and creative writing gold medalist Patrick Ward is excited to share his work at this year’s Vet Gala at the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival (NVCAF). His featured story can be found among the 15 short stories and poems displayed in Writers’ Row at the festival’s Artist and Writer Exhibition.
“Writing has helped bring me back to the person that I want to be,” Ward said. “I’m truly grateful for the opportunity to be here and to share my story with others. We all have stories to tell. My hope in telling mine is that it inspires someone while I’m here.”
Inspiration and healing
Gary Beckwith, creator of the annual Veterans Literacy Jam at Battle Creek VA Medical Center and one of this year’s NVCAF writing event organizers, says he hopes veterans realize their potential and leave feeling healed.
Navy Veteran and creative writer, Patrick Ward (right), listens during a discussion at the writing workshop at the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival. Ward’s story is among the 15 short stories and poems displayed in Writers’ Row at the festival’s Artist and Writer Exhibition.
“I believe that writing can be a cathartic experience,” said Beckwith. “The writing workshops and Vet Gala were designed to, not only highlight the talents of our writers, but were organized with the hopes that veterans leave here feeling inspired.”
During the festival, writers take the opportunity to speak about their writing and how it has affected their health, emotional well-being and recovery.
Army veteran Otto Espenschied has used writing to help him overcome Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and cope during a nine-year battle with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Recently receiving a gold medal for his short story titled, “I Don’t Have PTSD,” he explains that writing and participating in this year’s festival has helped him understand that he is stronger than he ever knew.
“It’s hard to dream when you’re barely holding on,” he said. “Writing has helped get me through some tough times, but I’m alive. I can hug my daughters and my wife each day. What more can I ask for?”
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
Russia is not in talks with the United States about its potential role at an expanded Group of Seven (G7) summit later this year, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on July 4.
“We have not had negotiations of this kind and are not having any,” Ryabkov told TASS.
Ryabkov’s comments countered those of John Sullivan, U.S. ambassador to Russia, who told RBC TV on July 3 that Washington was “engaged with the Russian Foreign Ministry and with the other G7 governments about whether there is an appropriate role for Russia at the G7.”
U.S. President Donald Trump raised the prospect of Russia’s return to the group of leading economic powers in May when he announced plans to postpone the meeting until September because of the coronavirus pandemic. At the same time he said he would expand the list of invitees to include Australia, Russia, South Korea, and India.
Russia was formerly in the group but was expelled in the wake of its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.
Trump said it was “common sense” to invite President Vladimir Putin to rejoin the group, but other G7 countries, including Canada and France, have objected to the idea.
Ryabkov also said an expanded G7 meeting should include China.
“The idea of the so-called expanded G7 summit is flawed, because it is unclear to us how the authors of that initiative plan to consider the Chinese factor. Without China, it is just impossible to discuss certain issues in the modern world,” he said, according to TASS.
Ryabkov also noted that Russia has proposed holding a summit of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.
“This is a completely different format. We believe that work in that format, including on the most pressing current issues, is optimal,” Ryabkov said.
Ryabkov said Moscow has continued diplomatic efforts to draw up the agenda of a summit.
“We have submitted appropriate proposals to other partners in the P5 (permanent members of the Security Council), and we are waiting for their reaction,” he said.
President Donald Trump has confirmed that Mike Pompeo, the CIA director who is awaiting confirmation as secretary of state, met with Kim Jong Un in North Korea early April 2018.
Trump said the two men interacted “very smoothly” and formed a “good relationship.”
The talks are the highest-level meetings between US and North Korean officials since Madeleine Albright, then secretary of state, met Kim Jong Il in 2000.
“Mike Pompeo met with Kim Jong Un in North Korea last week,” Trump tweeted April 18, 2018. “Meeting went very smoothly and a good relationship was formed. Details of Summit are being worked out now. Denuclearization will be a great thing for World, but also for North Korea!”
The meeting was remarkable given that only one year ago North Korean propaganda accused the CIA of plotting to kill Kim.
Pompeo’s trip, which reports out April 17, 2018, said happened over the Easter weekend, an apparent conflict with Trump’s announcement, had been kept quiet as the US and North Korea deliberate on how best to coordinate a planned summer meeting between Trump and Kim.
(Photo vy Michael Vadon)
The news of Pompeo’s secret trip comes after South Korea confirmed that its officials were in talks to end the 68-year war on the Korean Peninsula with a peace deal, something to which Trump has given his blessing.
Any peace deal, however, would require Chinese and UN approval as well, since both are signatories to the 1953 armistice that paused, rather than ended, the war between North Korea and South Korea.
Other reports indicate that Trump has a plan to disarm North Korea of nuclear weapons by 2020. Experts, however remain deeply skeptical of Kim’s intentions.
Kim turns over a new leaf?
Though North Korea has touted its missile program as being able to hit the US with nuclear payloads, a capability experts believe the country has or is close to obtaining, Kim has recently opened himself up diplomatically like never before, starting with North Korea’s participation in 2018’s Winter Olympics in South Korea.
In recent weeks, Kim left North Korea for the first time since he took power in 2011 to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing. He has also opened up his country to South Korean pop bands, which he is thought to love. Kim actually attended a K-pop concert where he was reportedly in good humor and made jokes.
North Korea strictly controls the media in its country, and citizens caught enjoying South Korean media have been put to death or taken to labor camps.
Do Jong-hwan of South Korea’s Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism told foreign media that K-pop songs being performed in North Korea “could have considerable influence” on the country’s culture, according to NK News.
Experts have told Business Insider that Kim opening his country to the outside media could easily lead to his death, as his government holds power without input from its people and has kept them in meager conditions while South Korea has thrived.
Or is Kim waging a diplomatic offensive?
North Korea has moved toward talks with the US several times before, only to back out — though never under its current leader. Also, no other North Korean leader has met with a sitting US president, as Kim and Trump plan to summer 2018, though that has largely been because US presidents have rejected such meetings or imposed conditions that have not been met.
Thae Yong-ho, the highest-ranked North Korean defector, reportedly warned a meeting of the Mulmangcho Foundation organization that Kim was unlikely to deliver in the talks.
According to the South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo, he said: “Kim will act during his summits with Seoul and Washington as if he were determined to dismantle nuclear weapons in stages — first declaring dismantlement followed by incapacitating nuclear weapons and denuclearization.”
In Thae’s view, Kim will extract concessions from the US but never truly rid his country of nuclear weapons, given that Kim wrote possession of such weapons into the country’s constitution in 2011.
Despite the moves toward peace and reconciliation on both sides of the Korean Peninsula, the US and its allies have resolved to maintain what the Trump administration calls a “maximum pressure” strategy against Pyongyang, which calls for harsh sanctions and a buildup of military forces in the region.
ABOARD THE COAST GUARD CUTTER STRATTON, in the eastern Pacific Ocean — The drone is loaded onto a catapult on the flight deck. From a control room, a technician revs the motor until the go-ahead is given to press the red button. Then the ScanEagle lifts off with a whoosh and, true to its lofty name, soars majestically over the wide blue sea.
The U.S. Coast Guard cutter Stratton is steaming more than 500 miles south of the Guatemala-El Salvador border, along the biggest narcotics smuggling corridor in the world.
Its mission: intercept vessels hauling cocaine bound for America’s cities.
It is a monumental task that has grown even larger in the past few years because of a boom in coca production in Colombia. But the Coast Guard is bringing more intelligence and technology to bear.
Deep within the 418-foot Stratton, which is based in Alameda, California, specialists crunch data from radar, infrared video, helicopter sorties and now the Boeing-made ScanEagle, which was deployed aboard the Coast Guard cutter for the first time during this three-month mission.
“In the earlier days, when you wouldn’t see or catch anything, we used to pat ourselves on our back and say we must’ve deterred them,” said Adm. Paul Zukunft, commandant of the Coast Guard, with more than four decades at sea. “Now rarely 72 hours go by when you don’t have an event or we send a ship down there that doesn’t come back with multiple interdictions.”
The Associated Press spent two weeks in February and March aboard the Stratton, the most advanced ship in the Coast Guard fleet, as 100-plus crew members patrolled the eastern Pacific, through which about 70 percent of the cocaine consumed in the U.S. passes.
With three to five Coast Guard cutters covering 6 million square miles — from the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico to the eastern Pacific Ocean — it’s like having a few police cars watch over the entire lower 48 states.
Just after lunch on the second day of deployment, the Stratton’s PA system starts piping out acronyms. A TOI, or target of interest, has been detected by the ScanEagle with the support of aircraft radar, and a go-fast boat slides down a rear ramp into the blue waters to begin the chase.
In just a few minutes it catches up with a fishing boat, called a panga, with two outboard motors.
Sometimes smugglers frantically dump their cargo over the side or try to make a run for it, forcing their pursuers to fire warning shots or shoot out their engines. But this time, the boat’s crewmen, some of them barefoot, offer no resistance.
The four suspected smugglers sit handcuffed as a Coast Guardsman takes out some vials to conduct a chemical test. The results come back positive for cocaine, and the two Colombians and two Ecuadoreans are put aboard the cutter.
Hidden in the bales of cocaine is a GPS tracking device in a condom, a sure sign the drug bosses behind the shipment knew right away it didn’t reach its destination.
At sunset, the Stratton’s crew proudly poses for a picture with the haul while a black plume rises above the sea where the boat was set ablaze by the Coast Guard. A few hours later, the Stratton fires its cannon and sinks the vessel.
The next morning the ever-rising Narcometer in the on-board newsletter reflects the size of the bust: 700 kilograms (over 1,500 pounds) of pure cocaine with a wholesale value of $21 million. On the streets in the U.S., it could be worth more than five times that.
The Stratton’s biggest bust — a Coast Guard record — came in 2015, when it found more than 16,000 pounds of cocaine worth $225 million before the smuggling craft, a hard-to-detect semi-submersible vessel, sank with some of its cargo still aboard.
As good as the Coast Guard gets, its victories seem doomed to be short-lived. That’s because hundreds of miles to the south, in the jungles of Colombia, there’s a bumper harvest taking place. And Colombia is virtually the only source of cocaine smuggled by sea in small vessels.
That, along with better technology, may help explain why the Coast Guard has been coming back with ever-larger hauls. It set a record in 2016, seizing more than 240 tons of cocaine with a wholesale value of $5.9 billion and arresting 585 smugglers.
Last year, the amount of land devoted to coca cultivation in Colombia climbed 18 percent to an estimated 188,000 hectares (465,000 acres), according to a White House report. That is more coca production than at any time since the U.S. in 1999 began investing billions in an anti-narcotics strategy known as Plan Colombia.
“What we know here out at sea is that the business has been really good in the last couple of years,” said Capt. Nathan Moore, the Stratton’s skipper.
The surge is being driven in part by Colombia’s decision in 2015 to suspend aerial spraying of crop-destroying herbicides because of health concerns.
At the same time, there was a rush among peasant farmers to start growing coca so they could take advantage of generous payments to switch to legal crops being offered as part of a peace deal between the government and Colombia’s rebels.
Thus far, 55,000 families have signed pledges to rip up 48,000 hectares of coca in exchange for as much as $12,000 over two years. The government is also expanding manual eradication of coca, a slower and far more dangerous task, with the goal of destroying 50,000 hectares this year alone.
But many experts are skeptical that poor farmers will renounce coca growing, especially as criminal gangs fill the void left by the retreating rebels. Also, a successful drug run can net each smuggler a small fortune that makes it well worth the risk of a long prison sentence for many.
Such dynamics help explain why, despite the Coast Guard’s technological superiority, four drug-running boats are thought to get through for every one caught, Zukunft said.
Those taken into custody for smuggling are put in white hazmat suits, given health exams and then led into a converted helicopter hangar aboard the Stratton, where they are shackled to the floor and issued a wool blanket, toiletries and a cot or a foam mat. Eventually they are flown to the U.S. and prosecuted at American expense.
The alternative would be to seek prosecution in Central American countries such as Honduras, where the vast majority of crimes go unpunished.
More than a dozen nations in Central and South America have essentially outsourced their drug-interdiction efforts to the U.S.
“Imagine you’re out at Ocean City, Maryland, and then out of nowhere comes this foreign helicopter and it starts peppering a U.S. recreational boat with automatic machine gun fire and sniper fire. We would say it’s an act of war,” Zukunft said.
“But that’s the faith and confidence these countries have in the U.S. and our Coast Guard.”
Believe it or not, folks, gun debates raged long before there was an Internet. Though in some cases, it was rather important to “diss” some guns. Like in World War II.
The Nazis had some pretty respectable designs. The MP40, a submachine gun chambered for the 9mm Luger cartridge, with a 32-round magazine was pretty close to their standard submachine gun.
Compare that to the American M1928 Thompson submachine gun, which fired the .45 ACP round and could fire a 30-round magazine or drum holding 50 or 100 rounds, or the M3 “Grease Gun,” also firing the .45 ACP round and with a 30-round magazine.
Two of the major Nazi machine guns were the MG34 and the MG42. Both fired the 7.92x57mm round. They could fire very quickly – as much as 1,500 rounds per minute in the case of the MG42. The major machine guns the Americans used were the M1917 and M1919. Both fired the .30-06 round and could shoot about 500 rounds a minute.
That said, the primary Nazi rifle, the Mauser Karabiner 98k, was outclassed by the American M1 Garand. The Germans also didn’t have a weapon to match the M1 Carbine, a semi-auto rifle that had a 15 or 30-round magazine.
And the Walther P38 and Luger didn’t even come close to the M1911 when it came to sidearms. That much is indisputable.
But it isn’t all about the rate of fire in full-auto – although it probably is good for devout spray-and-pray shooters. It’s about how many rounds are on target – and which put the bad guys down. The German guns may not have been all that when it came to actually hitting their targets, at least according to the United States Army training film below.