On Sept. 10, 2019, US Air Force F-15 Strike Eagles and F-35 Lightning II aircraft dropped 80,000 pounds of ordnance on 37 targets on Qanus Island in Iraq’s Tigris River. Approximately 25 Islamic State (ISIS) fighters were killed in the operation, according to Sabah Al-Numaan, a spokesperson for the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service (CTS).
Al-Numaan told Insider that US aircraft hit 37 targets, “trenches and caves,” on the island ISIS fighters were using as a stopoff on the way into Iraq from Syria. The island, which has thick vegetation, was “like a hotel for Daesh,” Lt. Gen. Abdul Wahab Al-Saadi, commander of the Iraqi CTS told Insider, using the Arabic acronym for ISIS.
Lt. Gen. Al-Saadi’s team made a sweep of the island after it was partially destroyed by US strikes. He told Insider that his team found rocket-propelled grenade launchers (RPGs), several rockets, and improvised explosive devices (IEDs). A spokesperson for Operation Inherent Resolve confirmed on Sept. 10, 2019, that a weapons cache was found on the island after the air strike.
Lt. Gen. Al-Saadi said that US drones had provided surveillance data for the secret operation, and that there were no civilians on the island.
One of the reasons the island was an ideal hideout for ISIS militants on the move was the absence of Iraqi troops nearby, Lt. Gen. Al-Saadi said. According to a Pentagon Inspector General report on Operation Inherent Resolve, the US operation in Iraq, Iraqi security forces on the whole don’t have the infrastructure to consistently counter ISIS.
Part of Qanus Island was destroyed in the airstrike, Al-Numaan, the CTS spokesperson told Insider. “The important [thing is] that Daesh lose this area and they cannot use [it].”
ISIS has ramped up its presence in Iraq and Syria since the US drew down troop presence in Syria and decreased its diplomatic presence in Iraq. Although President Donald Trump proclaimed that ISIS’s caliphate was completely defeated at a July cabinet meeting, there are still an estimated 14,000 to 18,000 ISIS fighters. Combatants in Iraq and Syria continue to carry out suicide bombings, crop burnings, and assassinations.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
On Nov. 15th, Mark Esper was confirmed as Secretary of the Army by a seven vote margin in the U.S. Senate. He was President Trump’s third pick for the position after Vincent Viola, founder of Virtu Financial, and Sen. Mark Green were forced to drop out of the confirmation process before hearings began.
Esper rounds out the final Trump service secretary to be approved by the Senate. Heather Wilson was confirmed as Air Force secretary in May while Richard Spencer was confirmed as Navy secretary in August.
Secretary of Defense James Mattis’ go-to man for the U.S. Army has a long Army history that includes active and reserve duty as well as time in the National Guard.
The ‘Left Hook’ of the First Gulf War
Esper’s military career began after he graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1986. He made the West Point Dean’s List and received the MacArthur Award for Leadership. From there, he became an infantry officer in the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault).
In 1990, he deployed in support of the first Gulf War, where his battalion, the 3-187th Infantry Battalion, played a vital role in General Norman Schwarzkopf’s “Left Hook.” The idea was to avoid the heavily fortified Iraq-Kuwait border by coming in through Saudi Arabia to cut off the Iraqi Army and Republican Guard divisions still stationed in Kuwait. For his actions in Iraq, Esper received the Bronze Star and his Combat Infantryman Badge, among other awards.
Esper then commanded an airborne unit in Europe before becoming an Army Fellow at the Pentagon. In 1995, he graduated from Harvard with a Master’s degree in Public Administration.
Time in Washington
Esper was promoted to lieutenant colonel before retiring through service in the National Guard and Army Reserve. After two years as the Chief of Staff at The Heritage Foundation, Esper became a senior staffer for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee.
Between 2002 and 2004, Esper was the Bush Administration’s deputy assistant Secretary of Defense for negotiations policy, nonproliferation, and international agreements, where he was awarded the Department of Defense Distinguished Public Service Medal for his work. From 2004 and 2006, he was the Director for National Security Affairs for the U.S. Senate.
He left the military side of Washington to be the executive vice-president of the non-profit trade group Aerospace Industries Association in 2006, but left to be Senator Fred Thompson’s national policy director during his short 2008 presidential campaign.
Time at Raytheon
Esper went on to become the next vice-president of government relations at Raytheon. Raytheon is the world’s largest manufacturer of guided missiles and currently stands as the third largest defense contractor by defense revenue, earning $22.3 billion — with 93 percent coming from government contracts.
As a lobbyist for Raytheon, he was one of The Hill’s top corporate lobbyists for his “influence on major legislation such as the annual defense policy bill” in both 2015 and 2016.
In 2016, he earned $1.52 million at Raytheon, which includes his salary and bonuses, but does not include his stock options and deferred compensation at the company, worth anywhere from $1.5 million to as much as $6 million.
Esper agreed before his confirmation that he would “recuse himself from matters related to Raytheon that may come before him” but the “deferred compensation” after five years mentioned above from Raytheon may still be a conflict of interest.
According to Breaking Defense, he will most likely become “a soft-spoken wingman to the Army Chief of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley.” Esper’s entire career has been defined by quiet and low-key performance so it would make sense that he would continue to serve as a diligent mediator between Defense Secretary Mattis and General Milley.
In his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Commitee on Nov. 2, Esper reiterated Milley’s readiness first policy. “My first priority will be readiness — ensuring the total Army is prepared to fight across the full spectrum of conflict. With the Army engaged in over 140 countries around the world, to include combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, training rotations to Europe to deter Russia, and forward deployed units in the Pacific defending against a bellicose North Korea, readiness must be our top priority.”
Brooks last year on his 110th birthday holding a photo of himself from 1943 (National World War II Museum)
During WWII, African-American soldiers were segregated into black units under the command of white officers. One of these soldiers was Lawrence Brooks, who served with the 91st Engineer Battalion in the Pacific Theater. As an engineer, he and his comrades built vital airstrips, roads, and bridges in places like New Guinea and the Philippines. On September 12, 2020, Brooks, the oldest known living WWII veteran, turned an incredible 111 years old.
Brooks lowers his mask and raises a drink to his guests (National World War II Museum)
For the past six years, the New Orleans native has celebrated his birthday at the National World War II Museum. The tradition was the result of a chance meeting between Brooks and Lee Crean, the father of the museum’s vice president for education and access at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church. “I thought, ‘Gee whiz, if he’s a World War II vet who’s that old, we need to do something,'” Crean said.
Because of the coronavirus, Brooks was unable to celebrate his birthday at the museum this year. Instead, the museum arranged for the celebration to be brought to him. The museum’s vice president, Peter Crean, put out a public request for people to mail in birthday cards for Brooks. Though letters were still arriving, museum staff arrived at Brooks’ house on his birthday with a carload of mail. Crean personally hauled another two bins of mail addressed to the WWII vet. As of Brooks’ birthday, a total of 9,768 cards, letters, and packages have arrived from all 50 states, plus Guam, the Virgin Islands, and five other countries.
The festivities also included entertainment. The Victory Belles, a trio of 1940s-themed singers, performed “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B” and “Lift Every Voice and Sing” on the sidewalk in front of Brooks’ home as he danced and sang along on his front porch. Up above, a squadron of four WWII-era aircraft piloted by the Aeroshell Aerobatic Team flew low and in tight formation over Brooks’ home. Brooks’ grandchildren and great-grandchildren also handed out gift bags for guests who drove by the home in the socially-distanced car parade.
Brooks, the Victory Belles, and guests look on as the aerobatic team conducts their flyover (National World War II Museum)
From his front porch, Brooks smiled through his face mask and waved at the guests. “God bless all of you. Every one of you,” he said. Brooks is the father of five children, 13 grandchildren, and 22 great-grandchildren. When asked by National Geographic, Brooks said that his key to a good life is, “Serve God, and be nice to people.”
Being a West Point cadet isn’t for everyone, and that’s not a bad thing if you’re a poet or an LSD pioneer.
Not everyone can make it through the famed U.S. Military Academy that has been training Army leaders for more than 200 years. The academy has had its fair share of famous graduates, of course, but we looked back at a few who didn’t make it all the way through.
Edgar Allen Poe
Edgar Allen Poe, the poet best known for “The Raven,” served as a non-commissioned officer in the U.S. Army 1827-1829. He was a member of West Point’s Class of 1834 and excelled in language studies, but he was ultimately expelled for conduct reasons. (Wikipedia)
Before he played in the NFL, Chris Cagle was part of West Point’s Class of 1930. He played for the Black Knights during the 1926–1929 seasons. Right before his commissioning, he was forced to resign in May 1930 after it was discovered he had married — a breach of the rules for cadets — in August 1928. (Wikipedia; Photo: Amazon.com)
Timothy Leary, counterculture icon and LSD proponent, was part of West Point’s Class of 1943 before dropping out to “drop out, tune in, and turn on” – his motto during the ’60s.
Richard Hatch was part of West Point’s Class of 1986 before he dropped out to eventually become the original reality show bad boy and winner of the first season of Survivor. (Photo: People.com)
Maynard James Keenan
Maynard James Keenan is well known in rock music circles as the front man of art metal bands Tool and A Perfect Circle. Keenan would have been part of the Class of 1988 but instead of accepting his appointment to West Point in 1984 (while he was attending United States Military Academy Preparatory School) he decided to skip cadet life and instead complete his term of active duty enlistment. (Photo: Karen Mason Blair/Corbis)
Adam Vinatieri is well-known to NFL fans as a placekicker for the New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts. His stint as a cadet didn’t last very long. He left the Academy after two weeks of plebe life. (Photo: Colts.com)
Dan Hinote dropped out of West Point in 1996 – his plebe year – when he was picked up by the Colorado Avalanche, which made him the first NHL player ever drafted from a service academy. He is currently an assistant coach for the Columbus Blue Jackets. (Photo: NHL.com)
According to reports released through Chinese media, a modified version of their Chengdu J-20 stealth fighter, dubbed the J-20B, has just entered mass production. This new variant of their first fifth-generation fighter will continue to run dated Russian-built engines, but will utilize thrust vectoring control nozzles to grant the aircraft a significant boost in maneuverability.
“Mass production of the J-20B started on Wednesday. It has finally become a complete stealth fighter jet, with its agility meeting the original criteria,” the South China Morning Post credited to an unnamed source within the Government.
Chengdu J-20 (WikiMedia Commons)
“The most significant change to the fighter jet is that it is now equipped with thrust vector control.”
Thrust vectoring nozzle for a Eurojet EJ200 turbofan (WikiMedia Commons)
Thrust Vector Control
Thrust vector control, sometimes abbreviated to TVC, is a means of controlling a jet or rocket engine’s outward thrust. Thrust vectoring nozzles are used to literally move the outflow of exhaust in different directions to give an aircraft the ability to conduct acrobatics that a straight-forward nozzled jet simply couldn’t do.
When paired with an aircraft like Lockheed Martin’s F-22 Raptor, thrust vectoring control allows an aircraft to make sharper changes in direction, or even to continue traveling in one direction while pointing the nose, and weapons systems of the aircraft, down toward an enemy. Put simply, thrust vectoring nozzles let you point the engine one way, while the aircraft itself is pointed in another (to a certain extent).
In a jet like the F-22 (and soon in China’s J-20 stealth fighter), this technology gives fighter pilots a distinct advantage over non-thrust vectoring jets in a dogfight. You can see the thrust vector control surfaces on the F-22’s engine, which can direct the outflow of exhaust up to 20 degrees up or down, in this video clip:
Russia also employs thrust vector control technology in some of their more capable fighters, like the Sukhoi Su-35, which is widely considered to be among the most capable fourth generation fighters in service anywhere on the planet. While stealth and sensor fusion capabilities would give an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter the long range advantage against the non-stealth Su-35, the Russian jet would technically be capable of flying circles around America’s premier stealth fighter if stealth weren’t in the picture (luckily, however, it is).
Of course, that’s not what the F-35 was built for, and in a real conflict, an F-35 would likely shoot down a Su-35 before the Russian pilot was even aware of an American presence in his airspace. China’s J-20 stealth fighter, however, would very likely be extremely difficult to detect on radar or by infrared signature as it closed with an opponent from head on, and the J-20B’s thrust vector control abilities combined with that inherent sneakiness could make this new J-20 a serious adversary for the F-35, and even a worthy opponent for the F-22.
The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter versus China’s J-20 Stealth Fighter
While the F-35 tends to garner the lion’s share of attention, it truly was not built to serve in an air superiority role against near-peer or peer level adversaries. The F-35’s strengths don’t come from its speed or maneuverability, but rather from the extremely effective one-two punch it can deliver via stealth technologies, sensor fusion, and communications.
Many F-35 pilots, including Sandboxx News’ own Justin “Hasard” Lee, will tell you that the F-35’s role in many dogfights isn’t that of an up-close dog fighter, but rather more like a quarterback in the sky, accumulating and processing data into an easy-to-manage interface, and relaying that information to aircraft and other weapons systems in the battle space.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Christopher Okula)
When it is up to the F-35 to take down an airborne opponent, the F-35’s speed and maneuverability limitations are usually not a significant concern, as the jet is designed to engage enemy aircraft more like a sniper than a boxer. The F-35’s data fusion capabilities make it easy for the pilot to identify enemy aircraft in their heads up display, and the fighter can even engage multiple targets from distances too far to see with the naked eye.
J-20 (WikiMedia Commons)
However, the J-20 may be difficult to see for even the mighty F-35, which, when combined with the J-20B’s higher top end and superior mobility thanks to thrust vectoring nozzles, it could be a real threat to America’s top tier stealth fighter. The front canards on the J-20, however, are believed by some to compromise the aircraft’s stealth when approaching from angles other than head-on. Debate continues on this front, but it could give the F-35 the advantage it needs.
Of course, that is if the J-20B performs as China claims it will.
USAF F-22 Raptor (U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Samuel Eckholm)
The F-22 Raptor vs China’s J-20 Stealth Fighter
This match up is a bit more appropriate, as the F-35 was built to be a jack of all stealthy trades and the F-22 was built specifically to dominate a sky full of enemy fighters. Unlike the F-35, which is largely limited to subsonic speeds in both the Navy and Marine Corps’ iterations, the F-22 is fast, mean, and acrobatic in addition to its stealth capabilities.
China’s stealth fighter, the J-20, was designed using stolen plans for Lockheed Martin’s F-22 Raptor, giving it a similar profile and potentially similar combat capabilities. However, it seems unlikely that China has managed to replicate the complex process of mass producing stealth aircraft to the same extent the United States has, as America’s stealth work dates back to the 1970s and the development of the “Hopeless Diamond” that would eventually become the F-117 Nighthawk.
As previously mentioned, the J-20’s front canards could potentially limit the aircraft’s stealth capabilities as well, making the plane difficult to detect from head on, but potentially easier from other angles.
Some content that these canards compromise some degree of the J-20’s stealth capabilities. (Chinese internet)
Although China has announced that their J-20B will come equipped with thrust vector controls, just how effective their system will be remains to be seen, meaning that, like China’s stealth capabilities, their execution may potentially fall behind their bluster.
Assuming, however, that the J-20B performs exactly as China says it will, the aircraft could likely be a worthy opponent for the F-22 in some circumstances, especially when flying in greater numbers than America’s top intercept fighter, which just may be a serious issue in the near future, as America simply can’t build any more F-22s.
Chinese J-20s flying in formation (Chinese internet)
While it remains to be seen if China’s J-20 stealth fighter and upgraded J-20B will be a real match for America’s F-35 or F-22 in a one-on-one fight, the truth is, very few fights actually shake out that way. Pilots spend tons of time planning their combat operations to limit their exposure to high risk situations and to maximize the effectiveness of their stealth profile.
Thus far, it’s believed that China has built fewer than 50 J-20s, though production may pick up as China now seems comfortable using dated Russian power plants in their new fighters, rather than waiting on their long troubled WS-15 engine that was designed specifically for this application. Using these engine platforms may limit the overall performance of the jet, but it will also allow for more rapid production–which may create China’s only actual advantage in an air-to-air conflict.
Lockheed Martin produced only 186 total F-22 Raptors before the program was shut down, and today, far fewer are actually operational. In other words, America may have the world’s most capable air intercept fighter in the F-22, but it also has an extremely limited supply of them. The supply chain established for F-22 production has been largely cannibalized for the F-35, so there’s no hope in building any more either.
USAF F-22 Raptor (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Westin Warburton)
China’s J-20 stealth fighter, on the other hand, is still under production, and while Russian-sourced engines may make their fighter’s less capable than America’s stealth fighters, China may more than offset that disadvantage through sheer volume. Even if a J-20 doesn’t stand a chance in a scrap with an F-22, adding four or five more J-20s into the mix places the odds squarely in China’s favor.
Today, the United States maintains the largest fleet of stealth aircraft in service to any nation, but over time, that advantage could be eroded thanks to China’s massive industrial capabilities.
Two F-22 Raptors and a T-38 Talon from Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, fly together during a 43rd Fighter Squadron Basic Course training mission Oct. 7, 2013 over Florida. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. J. Wilcox)
America’s massive experience advantage in the skies
China’s J-20 stealth fighter may potentially end up a near competitor for America’s top stealth jets, and they may eventually overcome any advantage America’s fighters do have through volume, but there’s one integral place Chinese aviators still lag far behind American pilots: experience. America’s experience advantage manifests in two specific ways.
The first experiential advantage American pilots have on their side is practical flying time aboard their specific platforms. While the total number of required flight hours for pilots varies a bit from branch to branch, on average, a U.S. fighter pilot spends around 20 hours per month at the stick of their respective jets. That shakes out to around 240 flight hours per year devoted strictly to training for combat operations.
(U.S. Air Force, Tech. Sgt. Ryan Crane)
Chinese fighter pilots, on the other hand, average less than half of that per year, with most pilots logging between 100 and 120 hours flying their particular airframes. With more than double the annual flying experience to pull from, American fighter pilots across the board will be better prepared for the rigors of combat.
The second facet of America’s experience-advantage is in real combat operations. The United States has been embroiled in the Global War on Terror for nearly two straight decades, and while most of the flying American fighter pilots have done throughout has been for the purposes of ground attack or close air support missions, there’s no denying that American aviators have more experience flying in a combat zone than their Chinese competition.
A formation of F-35A Lightning IIs (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee)
Although there have been very few dog fights in recent years, it’s worth noting that one of the world’s more recent fighter-to-fighter shoot-downs took place over Syria and involved a U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet engaging a Syrian military Su-22 Fitter. American pilots, and just as importantly, America’s military leadership, are no strangers to war, and that offers a unique insight into future conflicts.
China’s massive military has undergone a significant overhaul in recent years that still continues to this day, but their relative inexperience and likely inferior stealth technology keeps China at a disadvantage in a notional conflict with the United States, especially in the air.
Chengdu J-20 (Chinese internet)
So do the J-20B’s upgrades even matter?
While China may still have a ways to go before they can claim the sort of stealth dominance the United States enjoys, the upgraded systems placed in China’s J-20B certainly do matter. As former Defense Secretary and famed Marine General James Mattis once said, America has no pre-ordained right to victory on the battlefield.
It’s absolutely essential that we take an objective look at China’s growing military threat and remember that they don’t need to match America’s broad capabilities to gain an advantage–they need only to counter them. Working to devise creative solutions that offset tactical advantages has been an integral part of warfare ever since humans first started sharpening sticks, and it remains essential today.
The J-20B doesn’t need to be a match for the F-22 Raptor if its leveraged properly and in sufficient numbers, and that alone warrants consideration.
Off the East Coast this month, the Navy’s newest aircraft carrier, the first-in-class USS Gerald R. Ford, reached several major milestones in a matter of hours, marking the advancement of the carrier’s crew and its systems.
The Ford completed flight deck certification and carrier air-traffic control center certification on March 20, after it achieved Precision Approach Landing Systems certification and conducted two days of flight operations.
F/A-18E and F/A-18F Super Hornets from four squadrons assigned to Carrier Air Wing 8 conducted 123 daytime launches and landings and 42 nighttime launches and landings aboard the Ford over a two-day period, exceeding the minimum requirements for each by three and two, respectively.
“Our sailors performed at a level that was on par with a forward deployed aircraft carrier, and this was a direct result of the hardcore training and deployment-ready mentality we have pushed every day for the past year,” Capt. J. J. Cummings, the Ford’s commanding officer, said in a release. “Our team put their game faces on, stepped into the batter’s box and smashed line drives out of the park. It was fun to watch.”
The certifications, photos of which you can see below, are major achievements not only for the carrier but also for the Navy, as the Ford is now the only only carrier qualification asset — meaning it can conduct carrier qualifications for pilots and other support operations — that will be regularly available on the East Coast this year.
Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 1st Class Jawann Murray, assigned to USS Gerald R. Ford’s air department, signals an F/A-18E Super Hornet on Ford’s flight deck during flight operations in the Atlantic, March 21, 2020.
Before flight deck and carrier air-traffic control certification, the Ford did Precision Approach Landing Systems certification. PALS is a requirement for flight operations. along with air-traffic controllers, it aids pilots in night or bad-weather landings and guides them to a good starting position for approaches.
The Ford is doing an 18-month post-delivery test and trials period, now in its fifth month.
The carrier finished aircraft compatibility testing at the end of January, successfully launching and landing five kinds of aircraft a total of 211 times.
After that 18-month period, it will likely return to the shipyard for any remaining work that couldn’t be done at sea.
Chief Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) Derrick Williams, USS Gerald R. Ford’s flight deck leading chief petty officer, goes over flight deck operations inside Ford’s flight deck control, prior to flight operations in the Atlantic, March 23, 2020.
The Ford’s carrier air-traffic control center team assisted the flight-deck certification and had to complete its own certification in concert with it. CATCC certification was the culmination of a process that started at the Naval Air Technical Training Center in Florida last year.
Since that process began in October 2019, instructors from the training center have been working with Ford sailors during every phase — testing the sailors’ practical knowledge, reviewing their checklists, and observing their recovery operations.
That training was vital to the Ford sailors’ success this month. “We had no rust to knock off,” said Chief Air Traffic Controller Lavese McCray. “We’ve tested and trained for so many operations that it made the [certification] scenarios look easy.”
Inspectors from Naval Air Forces Atlantic praised the carrier air-traffic control center sailors in their certification letter, according to the release.
“It was very apparent the entire CATCC team put forth a great deal of effort preparing for their CATCC certification,” the letter said. “All CATCC functional areas were outstanding. Additionally, the leadership and expertise exhibited by the Air Operations Officer and his staff were extremely evident throughout the course of the entire week.”
The certification process is meant to test pilots and crews on operations they’ll face when deployed. In one recovery scenario, aircraft were stacked behind the Ford in 2-mile increments, waiting to land every minute, which deployment-ready aircraft carriers are required to be able to do. The Ford landed aircraft 55 seconds apart.
“The human element critical to [flight deck certification] is the relationship between ship’s company and the air wing in the ‘black top ballet’ of flight deck operations,” the release said. “During hours-long evolutions, the teams work together to communicate pilots’ status, their requirements, and provide them services.”
The March 20 certifications came a day after the Ford’s 1,000 recovery of a fixed-wing aircraft using its Advanced Arresting Gear on March 19 at 5:13 p.m. Moments later, the ship had its 1,000 launch with its Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System.
The Ford’s first fixed-wing recovery and launch using AAG and EMALS were on July 28, 2017.
AAG and EMALS have been two of the most nettlesome of the Ford’s many new technologies, exceeded in their growing pains perhaps only by the Advanced Weapons Elevators, which are still not finished.
The Ford has the first new carrier design since the 1960s, which added to the difficulty of its construction. AAG and EMALS are both meant to support the greater energy requirements of future air wings and operate more safely than similar gear on older Nimitz-class carriers.
The Ford’s accomplishments come as the Navy grapples with a fleet-wide challenge in the coronavirus. The service’s first case came on March 13, when a sailor on the USS Boxer, in port in San Diego, tested positive. The first underway case came on Tuesday on the carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt.
Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly said Tuesday that three cases were detected on the Theodore Roosevelt. He said those were the first cases on a deployed ship and that the affected personnel were awaiting transfer off the carrier.
The “Big Stick,” which carries some 5,000 crew, visited Vietnam earlier this month. The Navy’s top uniformed officer said Tuesday that it wasn’t clear if the cases stemmed from that visit.
“Whenever we have a positive on any ship … we’re doing the forensics on each one of those cases to try and understand what kind of best practices, or the do’s and the don’ts, that we can quickly promulgate fleet-wide,” Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday said at the Pentagon.
Asked about specific policy changes, Gilday said, “we’re on it” but “no specifics yet.”
Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) Airman Christopher Nardelli, assigned to USS Gerald R. Ford’s air department, arranges the “ouija board” in Ford’s flight deck control, during flight operations in the Atlantic, March 22, 2020.
There are no reported cases on the Ford, which Gilday said Tuesday was also carrying “a couple of hundred shipyard workers” who were “working on many of her systems to continue to keep her at pace and on schedule” for deployment.
“We’re very proud of the fact that they are out there at sea with us and that they’re so committed to the Navy,” Gilday said of the shipyard workers.
But the Navy secretary said Tuesday that the service was in touch with industry partners to let them know it was aware of the challenge posed by the coronavirus.
“We rely particularly on our shipyards and our depots … We need them to continue to operate because you can’t lose those skills. We have to keep them maintained. So we’ve been very clear and very consistent in talking to our commercial partners,” Modly said.
“We are also concerned about the health of their people. We don’t want them putting them at risk either,” Modly added. “But we just need to be aware of what they’re doing in that regard, so that we can adjust our expectations about what they can deliver and when they can deliver.”
Nadja Y. West became the Army’s first black surgeon general in 2016, and she was later promoted to lieutenant general, the first female U.S. Military Academy graduate as well as the first African-American woman to hold that rank.
West was also the first Army officer to hold a leadership role at the National Naval Medical Center, a top-tier center in Bethesda, Maryland where she served as a deputy commander.
“I was once an orphan with an uncertain future,” West said of her promotion in a piece from theGrio. “And I am incredibly honored and humbled to lead such a distinguished team of dedicated professionals who are entrusted with the care of our nation’s sons and daughters, veterans, and family members.”
According to her biography, West deployed to Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Later, she was part of a medical mission with the 5th Special Forces Group. She has held command at two Army medical centers as well as Europe Regional Medical Command. Most recently, she was the Joint Staff Surgeon at the Pentagon.
As the Army’s surgeon general, West will advise the Secretary of the Army and the Army Chief of Staff on all Army health care matters, according to a press release from the Office of the Surgeon General. West will also oversee Medical Command and its 48 hospitals which serve 4 million active duty service members, retirees, and their family members.
West graduated from West Point with a degree in engineering. She later earned a Doctorate of Medicine from the George Washington University School of Medicine.
Facebook is using artificial intelligence software and thousands of employees to weed out terrorism-related content, according to the company’s head of global counterterrorism policy.
In an interview with West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center published Thursday, Brian Fishman said that Facebook had 4,500 employees in community operations working to get rid of terrorism-related and other offensive content, with plans to expand that team by 3,000.
The company is also using artificial intelligence to flag offending content, which humans can then review.
“We still think human beings are critical because computers are not very good yet at understanding nuanced context when it comes to terrorism,” Fishman said. “For example, there are instances in which people are putting up a piece of ISIS propaganda, but they’re condemning ISIS. You’ve seen this in CVE [countering violent extremism] types of context. We want to allow that counter speech.”
Facebook is also using photo and video-matching technology, which can, for example, find propaganda from ISIS and place it in a database, which allows the company to quickly recognize those images if a user on the platform posts it.
“There are all sorts of complications to implementing this, but overall the technique is effective,” Fishman said. “Facebook is not a good repository for that kind of material for these guys anymore, and they know it.”
Body armor for your average infantry troop has come a long way. Today’s soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines are issued amazing technology designed to stop the most common threat they will likely face in combat: the rifle round. But the tech that will stop a lethal bullet isn’t just one miracle material that they can wear all over their bodies. There is a combination of forces at work, working to stop another combination of forces.
Soldiers don the Interceptor Armor before going on patrol in Iraq.
Kevlar itself is a plastic material five times stronger than steel. Everything about the material, from how it’s woven, right down to its molecular structure just screams strength. Its tensile strength is eight times that of steel. It doesn’t melt, it doesn’t get brittle with cold, and is unaffected by moisture. Kevlar is an awesome antiballistic material because it takes incredible amounts of kinetic energy to pass through it. Its molecular structure is like that of rebar through solid concrete, and forces a bullet to fight its way through at every level.
When layered, the material can sort of “soak up” a lot of the kinetic energy from a projectile. For most low-velocity handguns and even some of the more powerful handguns, a few layers of Kevlar is enough protection. But for high-velocity rifles, it needs some help. That’s where ceramic plates come in.
The standard AK-47 fires with a muzzle velocity of 716 meters per second. For Kevlar alone to protect a soldier from that kind of kinetic energy, the Kevlar would have to have more layers than a troop could carry while retaining the mobility necessary to perform his or her job functions. Kevlar is lightweight, but it’s not weightless, after all. The standard-issue Interceptor body armor was not tested to stop rounds at that velocity, which is classified as Level III protection. The Interceptor Armor does have pockets on the outside of the vests, so ceramic plates can be inserted to upgrade the armor to Level-IIIA.
Just like the Kevlar, the ceramic plates redistribute the kinetic energy of an incoming rifle round, slowing it down enough that it would not be able to penetrate the Kevlar, if it passed through the ceramic at all. It also prevents blunt force trauma from other rounds that may not penetrate the Kevlar, but still cause indentations in the material. The impact from bullets that don’t penetrate the Kevlar can still cause internal injuries. Ceramic inserts are rated to stop whatever projectiles are listed on the plate, and can take up to three hits before failing.
The ESAPI plate saved Sgt. Joseph Morrissey when he was hit in the chest with a 7.62mm round from about 30 meters while deployed to Afghanistan.
While ceramic may seem like an odd choice for stopping bullets, this isn’t the ceramic material used to make vases or coffee mugs. A lot of materials are actually ceramic, including titanium diboride, aluminum oxide, and silicon carbide, one of the world’s top ten strongest materials – the material used in the U.S. military’s Enhanced Small Arms Protective Inserts, or ESAPI plates. These enhanced plates, combined with the Kevlar are capable of stopping a Springfield 30.06 round with a tungsten penetrator.
That’s why the U.S. military uses ceramic plates and Kevlar body armor. It not only protects troops but allows them enough mobility to do their jobs in a hostile environment. And body armor tech is only getting better. Materials like spider silk and nanotubes are being tested that are even lighter and don’t take on as much heat as Kevlar. Maybe one day, we all won’t be drenched in our own sweat when we take off our armor.
There’s probably a part of us that is worried about our drill sergeant, drill instructor, training instructor, and RDCs are going to lose their cool and just pummel us into basic trainee mush. If you’ve ever seen their faces close enough to smell what they had for breakfast, they were probably really ripping into you, and that’s enough to make anyone wonder: Am I in danger?
In reality, that’s probably the least of your worries.
Quick! Give him a nickname! I’m going with “The Drew Carey Show.”
Give you a nickname for the rest of your life.
There’s a good chance you’re going to tech school, AIT, or whatever your branch of service calls career training with some of the guys or gals from your basic training unit. While many of us can safely walk away from basic training saying to ourselves, “Well, at least no one saw that,” gaining a funny nickname from your training instructors is the kind of thing that could follow you your whole career – and it’s not cool unless it’s a call sign.
Nothing would be worse than retiring after 20 years and everyone calling you Chief “Chunkin.'”
The opposite of water discipline.
Make you chug your entire canteen.
It’s not easy to chug that much water in one breath, especially without getting it all over yourself, but sometimes, when a grown man is yelling at you, demanding you do it that way, that’s what you have to do. This is the most military punishment since push-ups were created, except this one is dumb. Watching a recruit open their throat and try to take a whole canteen like it’s a beer shotgun is the like watching someone stand to be waterboarded. It did not look fun.
Then, of course, 15 minutes later, you have to ask that same drill sergeant to use the latrine.
But with a mattress.
Force you to use your mattress as a scrub brush.
The first thing training instructors are is funny. Then, when the bizarre punishments happen to you, those same people become awful and absurd. There are few greater absurd punishments than watching a platoon scrub a floor with a wet mattress on a Sunday.
God help you if that’s your mattress.
Smoke you all day.
PT, literally all day. The only time you get to stop is to eat. Until those times, you will run in circles around your platoon or flight as it marches, you will do push-ups until you have to roll your body over and can only get up with assistance, and you will do so many mountain climbers, it creates a defensive fire position for every single person in your unit, so they don’t have to dig.
And you’ll still do PT the next day.
If you read the previous four entries on this list, imagine having a few more weeks of opportunity to experience them all again. For the civilians of the world out there, recycling means moving a basic trainee into a previous week of training, forcing the recruit to go back and re-do the weeks of training he or she already did, and extending basic training by that long.
No one wants to be in basic training for longer than necessary. It’s summer camp for the power bottom crowd.
But even now, 18 months after his retirement, there are things that happen in our daily lives that make me smile because I am certain they’re completely foreign to my friends who are married to “civilians.” These are 6 such things:
6. You’ve ever had to say, “don’t you knife hand me!”
I might say this at least once a week. Okay, once a day. That knife hand is fierce and even my 5-year-old will employ it from time to time. Oorah.
And even then, my husband is stressed out. After all, if you are on time, you’re late. I’m not mad at this one (most days). My teenager has also learned this life skill and will do just about anything not to be “on time.”
Even though he’s no longer active duty, we still have duffle bags, green socks that I swear multiply if they get wet after midnight, paracords, backpacks, and those little black, clicky pens. Everywhere. And don’t even think about trying to get rid of those green t-shirts. Just don’t do it.
3. Your spouse, before bedtime, says, “I’m gonna go check the perimeter.”
Firearm strapped to his hip, my husband will go check the perimeter just to make sure we are all safe. I love this, but I don’t think any of my non-military spouse friends get this level of security each night. I’ll take it.
2. When you can’t watch military films or TV shows…
We’ll settle in for a great movie or TV show that has something to do with the military. Then, like clockwork, he pauses the DVR. “First of all… that ribbon is in the wrong place. And look at those stripes! No way does an E-5 have that many years of service. Who is advising this film?!”
You know the one I am talking about. When a movie, TV show, or really great military-related commercial comes on and it touches your veteran. You look over and he/she is biting that bottom lip just slightly, eyes are welling a bit, but they are trying hard not to cry.
You realize it has reminded them of someone who didn’t come home or an experience they may never feel ready to share and you’re reminded of just how incredible your spouse is for signing on that line and agreeing to pay the ultimate price for our country.
And then you say a little prayer of thanks that your spouse is one of the lucky ones.
With things starting to look up on the peninsula, it’s hard to believe that, in 2014, we were sitting around waiting to see what, exactly, was going to be the straw to break the Korean camel’s back reignite the (technically still-ongoing) Korean War. Thankfully, the North was wise enough to know not to f*ck with a Marine Corps infantry battalion. Regardless, we kept training for the worst.
We don’t have to tell you it’s cold on the Korean peninsula; you can read about that elsewhere. No, what you’re here for is to know what it was like for a Marine to be sitting three miles from the Korean Demilitarized Zone for a month and a half.
Scary at first…
Yeah, it was. At the time, of course, we continuously called NK’s bluff because they did bark a lot for decades following the Armistice, but they’re enough of a loose cannon that some of us didn’t want to get complacent. It was better to assume that they were going to do something and we would be the first on the scene.
Of course, we didn’t realize how close we were to the DMZ until North Korea launched a few missiles. My company had been out on a range, police calling in the middle of the night when we noticed a couple of shooting stars streak across the sky. It was a beautiful site. That is, until we went back to base and saw that they were definitely missiles…
It didn’t help that the base didn’t have any ammunition for the first couple of weeks. We were basically sitting ducks, and if North Korea had known any better, it could have been huntin’ season.
…then it was boring…
After the edge wore off, we became super bored. It didn’t help that we were on a base that was small enough for you to be able to throw a rock from one end and hit some POG working on a Humvee on the other. The training itself wasn’t bad. It was all easy stuff. But it was the heavy amount of downtime that really threw us for a loop.
External hard drives containing anything from games to movies to adult entertainment were passed around the platoon. Cigarettes, smoked all the way to the butt, were deposited into the butt can at least five times per day (more when the temperature was above 50 degrees). In fact, we probably broke the record for how many times you can watch Friends from beginning to end in a single week.
…until the ROK Marines showed up.
It was a major snoozefest up until the Republic of Korea Marine Corps showed up. Then it quickly turned into a dog-and-pony show on top of the snooze fest. Then, training became much more frequent, so it quelled our boredom. We ended up forgetting that North Korea existed during that time, you know, except when our Battalion Commander reminded us during every formation.
All in all, training next to North Korea was hyped up beyond what it actually was. There was a lot of anxious excitement at first and then it was just, “what show are we watching today?” For a first deployment, I definitely expected a lot more, but, thankfully, it wasn’t any more exciting than it was because, you know, fighting in the cold would suck.
So, that’s what it’s like to train next to North Korea.