For almost two decades, drone strikes have been the hassle-free, war crime tolerant way to sever the heads of any kind of terror cells operating against the United States in the war on terror. There’s just one big problem with that: Hellfire missiles make a big boom, and when that boom is misplaced, a lot of people die – innocent people. And that just creates more terrorists. Lockheed-Martin has finally created a weapon designed to minimize civilian casualties while taking out the bad guys with pinpoint accuracy.
Actually, knife-point accuracy.
Imagine this hellfire missile, but instead of explosives, it’s filled with pop-out blades.
The Hellfire missile is a staple of drones, helicopters, and fixed-wing aircraft throughout the U.S. military arsenal. The laser-guided, tank-busting workhorse is great for use on a conventional battlefield but not so great when used for surgical strikes.
The term “surgical strike” gets a whole new meaning with the Hellfire R9X projectile, which, according to the Wall Street Journal, has no explosives, but rather it drops 100 pounds of metal blades into a target, which includes long blades that deploy from the missile’s body right before impact. The shards hit with such force that they cut through concrete and sheet metal.
A U.S. airstrike using a Hellfire RX9 to kill al-Qaeda deputy leader Abu Khayr al-Masri in Syria in 2017. Above is the result of the surgical strike.
(New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness)
Also called “The Flying Ginsu” by the people who developed the missile, they say it’s the equivalent of dropping an anvil on a terrorist’s head, minimizing the damage to people and property in the vicinity of the weapon’s detonation. Since the weapon has no explosive effect, it is also sometimes referred to as “the ninja bomb.”
So far, the weapon has only been deployed around a half-dozen times, in Libya, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Somalia. It was the weapon of choice to kill a number of al-Qaeda operatives, including Jamal al-Badawi, the bomber behind the USS Cole attack in 2000 and it was the back-up plan to kill Osama bin Laden in his Pakistan compound.
There have been many closely-fought battles that could have gone either way.
The Battle of Midway was one. The final outcome of Japan losing four carriers and a heavy cruiser compared to the United States losing a carrier and a destroyer looks like a blow out. But that doesn’t reflect the fact that the Japanese fought off five separate attacks before Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bombers fatally damaged the carriers Akagi, Kaga, and Soryu.
Other battles, though, were clearly blowouts from the beginning. As in, you wonder why the losing side even wanted to pick that fight in the first place. Three of these battles were so one-sided, they were labeled “turkey shoots.” Here’s the rundown.
1944: The Marianas Turkey Shoot
Within four days of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese captured Guam. Two and a half years later, the United States Navy brought the Army and Marines to take it back.
In the Yom Kippur War, the Syrians and Egyptians surprised the Israelis with very good ground-based air defenses. The Israelis overcame that to win, but it was a very close call. When Syria and Israel clashed over Lebanon in 1982, three years removed from the Camp David accords, it was the Syrians’ turn to get handled roughly.
In the nine years since the Yom Kippur War, Israel started adding F-15 and F-16 fighters to their arsenal, but the real game-changer for the two-day battle of June 9-10, 1982 was the E-2 Hawkeye, which was able to warn Israeli planes of over 100 Syrian MiGs.
Final score over those two days: Israel 64 Syrian jets and at least 17 missile launchers, Syria 0.
1991: Desert Storm
While the air campaign was noted for what some sources considered a perfect 38-0 record for the Coalition (recent claims that Scott Speicher was shot down by an Iraqi MiG-25 Foxbat notwithstanding), there was one other incident called a “turkey shoot.”
In early April 2016, U.S. Marine Corps veteran Charlie Linville departed the U.S. with The Heroes Project founder Tim Medvetz. Their destination was Nepal and their third attempt to reach the summit of Mount Everest, the top of the world.
Linville is an Afghanistan veteran and father of two who had his right leg amputated below the knee as a result of an IED attack. Medvetz is the founder of The Heroes Project and a former member of the Hell’s Angels motorcycle club. They arrived at the Everest base camp on April 17 and reached the summit of the mountain on May 19, making Linville the first combat wounded veteran to make it to the top.
Their first two attempts to summit the mountain failed. In 2014, they made it to Lobuche Peak just above Everest Base Camp when a serac, a huge ice tower, separated from the Khumbu Icefall. The resulting avalanche killed 18 sherpas. They opted not to proceed out of respect for the dead.
And in 2015, they were once again on the mountain when a 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit Nepal, killing thousands and devastated the region. Linville and Medvetz decided to link up with Team Rubicon’s Operation Tenzig, distributing food and first aid to villages in the Nepalese countryside that the Red Cross couldn’t access.
Linville and Medvetz climbed the mountain with videographer Kazuya Hiraide and producer Ed Wardle. The team is currently descending the mountain.
The first time the radio was used in an aircraft, the message wasn’t one about science, technology, or even the wild blue yonder. It was much more mundane – but still unexpectedly hilarious. When the crew of the Airship America decided to attempt to cross the Atlantic Ocean for the first time, they opted to take a radio system with them along with a cat that had been living in the airship’s hangar, one named Kiddo. The first message transmitted by the airmen was about Kiddo.
“Roy, come and get this goddam cat!”
It was 1910, and America’s airman Walter Wellman loaded five companions onto the airship America in an effort to cross the Atlantic Ocean by air. Though the mission would end in a kind of disaster (and not cross the Atlantic), it would still be historic, setting a number of firsts and records for traveling by air. The ship traveled more than a thousand miles and stayed in the air for a whopping 72 hours. Wellman also decided he would take a radio system and an engineer with him so he could communicate with ships below.
He also brought a stray cat, one they named Kiddo. But Kiddo wasn’t as daring as his human companions – at least not at first. And he made his wariness known to the rest of the crew.
“We can never have luck without a cat on board,” said navigator Murray Simon, a superstitious former sailor.
Kiddo was especially vocal with the radio engineer, Melvin Vaniman. Vaniman didn’t seem to like cats that much in the first place but when Kiddo began meowing loudly, crying, and running around “like a squirrel in a cage,” Vaniman decided enough was enough, and he made the first-ever ship-to-shore radio transmission to a secretary back on terra firma:
“Roy, come and get this goddam cat!”
The crew weren’t heartless. They tried to lower Kiddo into a trailing motorboat down below using a canvas bag, but the seas were much too rough to successfully do it, so they had to take him back up. Kiddo eventually got his air-legs and began to grow more accustomed to the floating dirigible. He even became a valuable member of the crew, warning them when the barometer dropped and a storm was on the horizon.
Wellman’s airship from the deck of the SS Trent.
It was the weather that would force the crew of the America to abandon ship and that particular plan to cross the Atlantic. Just a few hours into the journey, two of their engines failed. They proceeded with the remaining engine to drive them, but they soon realized it was throwing a lot of sparks into the area of a very hydrogen-filled balloon. Averting the likely fire, they ditched the airship and headed for the attached lifeboat. Kiddo came along too.
The America also sent the first radio distress signal from an aircraft when the airmen decided to abandon the ship. When the lifeboat detached from the airship, the balloon lifted off like never before – and was never seen again. The crew were rescued by a British steamer, the SS Trent. Kiddo and the crew returned to New York. Kiddo received a hero’s welcome and spent the rest of his days as an attraction at Gimbel’s department store.
Russia deployed two Su-57 advanced fighter jets to Syria in a move widely seen as a marketing ploy for the troubled plane that’s struggled to attract international investment, but they recently hinted at another purpose behind the deployment.
The Times of Israel reports that Russia gave a “covert warning” to the Jewish state by saying the Su-57 will serve as a deterrent “for aircraft from neighboring states, which periodically fly into Syrian airspace uninvited.”
The veiled warning comes after Israel and Syria had a heated air battle with Syrian air defenses downing an Israeli F-16. Israel said that it took out half of Syria’s air defenses in return.
In an opinion piece in The New York Times, Ronan Bergman reported that Israel planned a larger response to Syria’s downing of their jet, if not for a “furious phone call” between Russian President Vladimir Putin, Syria’s ally, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
But whatever the two heads of state said on the phone, it’s unlikely the Su-57 had anything to do with it. The Su-57, as it is today, doesn’t pose a threat to Western fighters despite being Russia’s newest and most advanced fighter jet. It awaits a pair of new engines and has significant problems flying and releasing bombs at supersonic speeds.
“I don’t think anyone is too worried about a kinetic threat from Su-57s over Syria in its current state,” Justin Bronk, a combat aviation expert at the Royal United Services Institute, told Business Insider.
Bronk pointed to problems with the Su-57 integrating its radar into data the pilot can actually use in the cockpit, and difficulties in getting the jet to drop bombs properly, calling it “far from combat ready.”
Though the Su-57’s advanced and “innovative” radar set up could pose a threat to US stealth aircraft like the F-22, also operating in Syria, by scoping out its radar signatures and helping inform future battle plans, it’s just not ready for a fight with Israel, the US, or even Turkey.
A commercial for a struggling Russian military export?
Another Russian official gave Russian media an additional reason for the Su-57’s presence in Syria that seemed to confirm Western analysis that the deployment is a marketing ploy and test run for the unproven jet.
The official said the jet had a “need to be tested in combat conditions, in conditions of [enemy] resistance.”
Yet another Russian official said in Russian media that “as we helped the brotherly Syrian people, we tested over 200 new types of weapons,” which have included very advanced systems like submarine-launched cruise missiles designed for high-end warfighting.
But as Bronk pointed out, “the only declared combat which the Russian air contingent in Syria is engaged in is bombing rebel and Daesh forces in support of Assad’s ground forces,” which he added was “hardly relevant for the air-superiority optimized Su-57.”
Essentially, all Russia’s air force does in Syria is bomb rebel ground targets. In years of fighting, the bombings have only demonstrated one occasion that the target had anti-air defenses. On that one occasion, the rebels downed a Russian Su-25.
As a result, Bronk said the Su-57s “will no doubt fly above 15,000 feet to avoid” those missiles, meaning the new Russian jet won’t really be flying in combat conditions, only bombing defenseless targets.
Not really in combat, not really a threat
So, why do they need a next-generation, stealth fighter built to dogfight with US F-22s and F-35s that isn’t ready for combat yet? Bronk said the bombing campaign in Syria is “absolutely not the mission set [the Su-57s] are designed for.”
Retired US Air Force Lt. Gen. David Deptula, now the Dean of the Mitchell Institute of Aerospace Power Studies, told Business Insider that it’s a chance for Russia to test out its new jet where they “don’t have to pay for training ranges,” and concurred with Bronk’s assessment that the plane is not yet able to fully fight.
While Russia may have found a frugal way to boost the profile of an airplane they’re desperate to sell by testing it out in Syria’s almost eight-year-long civil war, nobody familiar with the state of the plane would take it seriously as an air-to-air threat.
Few American veterans will ever officially earn both the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the title of Crow War Chief. Joe Medicine Crow might be the only one. His other awards include the Bronze Star and the French Légion d’Honneur. How he earned the title of War Chief of the Crow tribe is a feat unheard of for decades before World War II started.
But for all his feats, he was still a Private in the U.S. Army.
“Promote ahead of peers.”
There are four criteria to become a Crow War Chief, all of which Joe Medicine Crow accomplished during two years of service with the U.S. Army in Europe:
Touching an Enemy Without Killing Him
Taking an Enemy’s Weapon
Leading a Successful War Party
Stealing an Enemy’s Horse
The Crow did not likely think this would be so difficult in the age of machine guns and tanks, but as Joe Medicine Crow showed, it was clearly not impossible.
Also, that’s Dr. Joe Medicine Crow. Just sayin.
The Native American GI was working in a shipyard in Washington state for the first part of World War II. In 1943, he decided to join the U.S. Army. He came from an incredible nomadic warrior tradition. He was the last person to hear a first-hand account of the Battle of Little Bighorn and his grandfather served as a scout for Gen. George Armstrong Custer before the general’s last stand. Joe Medicine Crow would carry this tradition forward, as well as many others.
Before he left for the war, a medicine man provided him with a painted eagle feather he would wear under his uniform before fighting. He would also paint traditional war paint under his uniform, placing two red stripes on his arms. And then, he became a War Chief, the last Crow War Chief.
Crow lived to the ripe old age of 102.
While fighting at the Siegfried Line, the border fortification that would take the U.S. Army into Germany, the warrior was ordered to take a team – a war party, if you will – and cross a field under a hail of bullets to retrieve some dynamite from a previously destroyed American position. Joe Medicine Crow and seven fellow GIs crossed a field of devastating fire that probably should have killed all of them, grabbed the explosives and blew a huge hole in Hitler’s vaunted line. No one was killed. One down.
After penetrating the line, Joe Medicine Crow and the 103d Infantry advanced on a nearby town that turned out to be heavily defended. As a scout, Joe was ahead of most of his unit. After they were ordered to flank some German defenders, Joe was separated and decided to take a shortcut. That’s when he ran right into a Nazi defender while running at full sprint.
For anyone else, this might have been embarrassing at the least and deadly at the most, but this is Joe Medicine Crow. He sent the Nazi flying and the Nazi’s rifle across the lawn. The American was still standing as he bent over and grabbed his enemy’s weapon. Two down.
Instead of killing the German, Joe decided to drop the weapon and let his warrior skills take over. The two men fought hand-to-hand for what seemed like hours. When Joe finally got the upper hand and started to kill the Nazi soldier with his hands at the man’s throat. But the German began to whimper, and Joe let him go. Three down.
Then, there’s the task of stealing a horse.
Joe Medicine Crow was scouting a farmhouse behind enemy lines one night when he realized it was full of high-ranking SS officers. They all rode there on horses, which were corralled under guard near the house. Joe Medicine Crow snuck through the guards with only his M1911 to protect him. Having grown up learning to ride horses bareback, mounting one of them in Europe was no problem. He let out a Crow war cry and sang a song as he herded all the horses out of the corral and into U.S. Army lore.
In recent years, Japan hasn’t maintained a reputation for being an immense military power. A big reason for this is that, after World War II, the country put strong limits on military expenditures. Yet, the Japanese Self-Defense Forces is one of the most modern militaries out there, with the world’s second-largest carrier force, a secret UCAV program, and a high-tech aviation industry that has a fifth-generation fighter in the works. They even put the F-16 on steroids. That and other programs combine to create one of the best air forces in the world. Japan may now be making that air force even stronger.
The Japanese government has elected to buy 25 more F-35 Lightnings. This purchase adds to the 38 that Japan ordered to serve as frontline combat planes and an additional four as trainers. The four trainers were built in the United States, but the frontline combat planes are being assembled in Japan by Mitsubishi, who make the F-2 (the souped-up F-16) and the F-15J.
While many outlets focus on the Izumo-class carriers as likely candidates to use the F-35B, the slightly smaller Hygua-class helicopter destroyers (Japan’s first carriers since World War II) are larger than some “Harrier carriers” that have successfully operated V/STOL aircraft in the past.
Another option would be for Japan to operate the F-35B from forward bases on the Senkaku Islands. The V/STOL capabilities of the F-35B would make it possible for Japan to turn those disputed islands into an unsinkable aircraft carrier.
Keanu Reeves has not only earned respect from the operator community for his tactical dedication, he’s also managed to charm his way into the hearts of everyone who isn’t dead inside. And then, of course, there’s the fact that he’s the face of multiple fandoms from The Matrix to John Wick to Bill & Ted.
He’s such a good guy — and he’s so good at what he does — that it’s just plain fun to adore him, which made this year’s Comic-Con@Home all the more delightful. While celebrating the 15th anniversary of Constantine and the upcoming release of Bill Ted Face the Music, Reeves really brightened up the doldrums of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There’s nothing like…I mean, I can’t feel or laugh or do anything like the way that working on Bill Ted and working with Alex [makes me feel]. That doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world for me. So to partner up and work on the craft side of it and get to play, get to play these characters that Chris [Matheson] and Ed [Solomon] have created….there’s no other place where I can laugh like this,” he shared.
Everything Reeves says is incredibly genuine and is he single?
Reeves gushed on and on about his favorite moments from Constantine. “Getting to work with such extraordinary artists…” he beamed. “Production design was great. And the crew! Peter Stormare, as I’m bleeding out, and he’s leaning in to me! Philippe Rousselot was the cinematographer. Throwing down with Tilda Swinton as she’s choking me…”
Steve ‘Frosty’ Weintraub complimented Reeves for how awesome and gracious he is to the crew. He then asked Reeves how he stays grounded, and of course even Reeves’ response was, well, grounded. “That’s kind of you to say, Steve. I don’t know. I love what I do and I like going to work and I like being creative. We’re all in it together. Go play and have some fun.”
The retired U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Jim Mattis used to doubt the need for the U.S.’s massive stockpile of nuclear weapons, but he has changed his tune since joining President Donald Trump’s administration as secretary of defense.
In 2015, Mattis questioned whether the U.S. still needed ground-based intercontinental ballistic missiles, as he found the risk of accidental launches a bit troubling. When the Senate was confirming him as Trump’s secretary of defense, Mattis refused to offer his support for a program to update the U.S.’s air-launched nuclear cruise missile.
But now, Mattis has signed off on a new nuclear position that not only will modernize the ICBMs and cruise missiles but also calls for the creation of two new classes of nuclear weapons.
“We must look reality in the eye and see the world as it is, not as we wish it to be,” Mattis wrote in the review, perhaps an acknowledgment that, as secretary of defense, Mattis learned something about U.S. national security that changed his mind.
The nuclear review, rolled out this year along with new national defense and national security strategies, points to a U.S. more focused on combating major powers like Russia and China. Before joining the president, Mattis openly questioned the purpose of U.S. nukes: Do they exist only to deter attacks? Or do they have an offensive value?
In the years since 2015, when Mattis spoke of reviewing the U.S.’s 400-some hair-triggered nuclear ICBMs, the world was a different place but starting to change. China was building islands in the South China Sea, and Russia had only just swept into Crimea.
Now the U.S. has resolved to match Chinese and Russian military strength and change up the rules of engagement. The nuclear review advocates using nuclear force against nonnuclear attacks, like massive cyber campaigns targeting U.S. infrastructure.
Mattis has always offered thoughtful answers and pledged to operate on the best information he had on the topic of nuclear weapons, but he has clearly done an about-face since joining the Trump administration.
The abrupt change in Mattis’ nuclear posture prompts the question: What new information did he receive upon joining the Trump team?
The US Marine Corps started issuing the Glock 19M pistol to marines, which they call the M007, in May 2017.
“The M007 has a smaller frame and is easier to conceal, making it a natural selection to meet the Marine Corps’ conceal carry weapon requirement,” Gunnery Sgt. Brian Nelson said in a November 2017 Marines Corps Systems Command press release.
And since the Corps continually upgrades and adds new weapons to its arsenal, we reached out to the Marines Corps Systems Command, which is in charge of all acquisitions for the Corps, to find out which standard issue weapons it currently gives to Marines.
April is a great month to remember the namesake of one of our Pearl Harbor guided-missile destroyers, USS John Paul Jones, named for a founding hero of our Navy and proudly known by the crew and their families and friends as “JPJ.”
On April 19, 1775, the Battles of Lexington and Concord lit the match of Revolution against British tyranny. At the time Great Britain had more than 250 warships with nearly half having 50 or more guns – cannons. Our tiny naval force consisted of a few ragtag privateers and some humble sailing vessels. Even before our nation began, the founders commissioned 13 frigates and recruited warfighters, including immigrants like John Paul Jones.
In April 1776, Jones was aboard the large converted merchant ship Alfred, taking the fight against the British with a contingent of Continental Marines. On April 6 the colonial mariners attacked and heavily damaged the British cruiser HMS Glasgow, which had been harassing the colonies’ shipping. It was our Navy’s first sea battle.
After that victory Lt. Jones was awarded with an assignment to captain of the Providence. A year later he was assigned to the sloop Ranger. Jones bristled at the state of readiness and combat capability of his new ship. Throughout his career he demanded the best, deadliest and fastest; he trained, equipped and operated with precision and rigor.
On April 24, 1778, Jones, aboard Ranger, captured HMS Drake after thunderous fusillades of cannons and muskets and bloody close combat with cutlasses and boarding pikes.
We remember John Paul Jones for his courage and tenacity against all odds. His heroism aboard Bonhomme Richard and his bold attacks against the British homeland are well-known. He owned the fight, willingly going in harm’s way.
That legacy continues.
On April 5, 1956, the Navy commissioned USS John Paul Jones (DD-932), which made a shakedown cruise to Europe. The Forrest Sherman-class destroyer was re-designated DDG-32 and served our navy for more than 25 years.
Our current JPJ, DDG 53, was launched in October 1991, and ten years later – less than a month after 9/11 – fired the first Tomahawk missiles in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Johans Chavarro)
JPJ is the first Arleigh Burke class guided-missile destroyer to be stationed in the Pacific Fleet, and in the summer of 2014 became one of our go-to Ballistic Missile Defense System supporting ships in Hawaii, with the latest SM-3 missiles and updated, advanced Aegis capabilities.
During JPJ’s four years home ported in Pearl Harbor, the ship has participated in numerous operations and exercises, working closely with our Pacific Missile Range Facility test and training range, and cooperating with the forces of key allies like Japan and Republic of Korea. Here in Hawaii we are uniquely able to put new innovation to the test so our fleet can have proven, effective weapons systems.
(U.S. Navy photo by Leah Garton)
JPJ helps the Navy determine the accuracy of weapons systems, detect potential system anomalies and demonstrate advances in surface force lethality and defensive capabilities. At the same time, JPJ, along with our other nine gray hulls in Pearl Harbor, conducts effective community outreach.
Back in 2006, Sailors of USS John Paul Jones and USS Preble (DDG 88) participated in the 99thRose Festivalin Portland Oregon. One imagines gentlemanly Capt. John Paul Jones, who was known for writing poetry, being pleased to be part of the festival.
As with many of our Navy’s namesakes, Capt. John Paul Jones was not without his flaws. He was a complicated man with conflicting personality traits, both sensitive and tough, reflective and extremely vain, paranoid and exceptionally self-assured.
In the words of Navy veteran Sen. John McCain, writing about Jones, “I challenge you to show me someone flawless who has made a significant contribution to history. It is not perfection that characterizes greatness. It is, rather, the ability to achieve great things in spite of ourselves.”
In many ways resilient warfighting John Paul Jones serves as a namesake for our entire Navy.
One final April reference: On April 24, 1906, President Teddy Roosevelt spoke at Annapolis at a re-interment ceremony commemorating John Paul Jones:
“Every officer in our Navy should know by heart the deeds of John Paul Jones. Every officer in our Navy should feel in each fiber of his being an eager desire to emulate the energy, the professional capacity, the indomitable determination and dauntless scorn of death which marked John Paul Jones above all his fellows.”
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Martin L. Carey)
Today our men and women of JPJ, along with their shipmates everywhere, continue to emulate their namesake’s resilience and willingness to fight, with the ability to survive and return, and with the commitment to adapt and overcome. Our Sailors are able to go in harm’s way, if necessary, with indomitable determination and the will to win.
Almost seven years ago, Spc. Dakota Williams lost more than his stepbrother. He lost his hero.
His stepbrother, Spc. Dylan Johnson, had been deployed in Iraq’s Diyala Province just north of Baghdad for less than a month when a bomb detonated next to his vehicle. The explosion killed him.
Inspired by his service to the country, Williams later joined the Army to follow in his footsteps.
On May 24, 2018, he personally honored his stepbrother when he placed an American flag at his headstone in Section 60 of the Arlington National Cemetery during the annual Flags In event.
“He’s not here, but he’s here,” said Williams, 23, of Salina, Oklahoma. “He’s still such an important part of my life.”
All Soldiers, including Williams, in the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, known as “The Old Guard,” participated in some way in 2018’s Flags In. The regiment has conducted the event before every Memorial Day since 1948. It was then when the regiment was designated as the Army’s official ceremonial unit.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Lane Hiser)
Over a course of four hours, more than 234,000 small flags were laid in front of headstones across the 624-acre cemetery. Flags were also placed inside the Columbarium as well, where the cremated remains of service members reside. In all, enough flags were placed to account for the more than 400,000 interred or inurned within the cemetery. Regiment Soldiers also placed about 11,500 flags at the nearby Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Home National Cemetery.
“It’s a great commitment by these Soldiers to do this, to place them at the hundreds of thousands of graves here,” said Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper. “What it does is it pays respect and homage to those who served before them, going all the way back to the Civil War and signals the importance of their service and that they will never be forgotten for what they did. So that they know, these young Soldiers today, much as I knew when I was in uniform, that should I have to pay that ultimate price, I would not be forgotten either in America’s hearts and minds.”
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Lane Hiser)
Col. Jason Garkey, the regiment commander, said Flags In is also a time of reflection for the Soldiers who participate.
“For every one of those headstones where we put a flag at, we have the solemn honor to put that flag in for a family member who can’t be here to do it themselves,” he said. “That’s a privilege.”
Each Soldier who took part in the event had the opportunity to place hundreds of flags into the ground, about 1 foot centered in front of every headstone.
When doing so, Garkey encouraged his Soldiers to read the name engraved onto the headstone.
“I tell them that the cemetery is alive,” Garkey said. “If you pay attention, it will tell you things.”
Buried throughout the cemetery are Medal of Honor recipients, young service members who were killed in war, retirees and spouses — all with a story to share.
Garkey, who took part in his sixth Flags In, recalled one time seeing two graves next to each other with the same last name. From the dates on the headstones, he believed they belonged to a father who had served much of his adult life in the military and his son who had died in combat years before him.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Lane Hiser)
“There’s no worst thing than for a parent to bury their child,” he said. “But they ended up there for eternity.”
When his Soldiers recognize those sacrifices, he said, it helps put things into perspective while they perform their ceremonial duties.
“You realize there are many stories in the cemetery and that brings the cemetery to something more than just a place where we go to work,” the colonel said. “It makes it a living, breathing entity where we honor our fallen.”
For Sgt. Kevin Roman, who serves with Williams in the regiment’s Presidential Salute Battery that is responsible for firing blank howitzer rounds during ceremonies, Flags In gives him the chance to appreciate those who came before him.
“Memorial Day is a day to pay your respects to the [service members] who have made the ultimate sacrifice or who have served honorably,” said Roman, 23, of Bronx, New York. “For some people, it’s just a holiday and the unofficial start of summer.”
Before he participated in his fourth Flags In, he said every time he gets to place flags it is still meaningful to him.
“When you get out there and start reading tombstones, you gain that respect back that you may have lost during those hard days in the cemetery,” he said. “Everything comes flooding into you and you get that sense of proudness and that American spirit.”
Some gravesites are even more significant to other Soldiers in the regiment, whether they belong to a family member or a service member they once served with.
Garkey places a flag at the headstone of retired Lt. Col. Toby Runyon, a Vietnam War veteran and a family friend who died two years ago.
“I’ll take a photo and send it to his spouse just to say that we were thinking of Toby today,” he said.
Meanwhile, he said, the regiment’s sentinels who guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier will stop at the gravesites of former sentinels.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Lane Hiser)
“Everybody has got their specific places that they go to,” Garkey said. “There’s a healing aspect that goes into it for us. It’s more than just a task, it’s an experience.”
Esper also placed flags at gravesites in the cemetery. A former Soldier himself, he said, he knows comrades in arms who have died in service to their country.
“On a day like this, I think about also my West Point classmates,” Esper said. “I know one for sure who passed away during my war, Desert Shield/Desert Storm. I had another one who was killed when the Twin Towers were felled on 9/11. And another one killed in Afghanistan. And I think about them as well, because they are peers, and like me, I can relate more to their point in life, where they got married or had children, or maybe never had the opportunity to do either. I think about them especially.”
Over Memorial Day weekend, Esper said, he hopes that Soldiers, family members, and Americans across the country will be thinking about those who fought for and died to secure freedom for the United States.
“Hopefully they will all reflect upon the great sacrifices that America’s Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines make in defense of our country and in defense of our liberties,” Esper said. “Particularly those fallen heroes that are here in Arlington National Cemetery.”
As part of this effort, the Army recently asked the defense industry to develop “novel muzzle brake structures for extended range cannon artillery systems” that are 30 percent lighter than conventional muzzle brakes, according to a solicitation posted on www.sibr.gov, a government website for the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program.
The M109A6 Paladin.
(US Army photo)
“Given the Army’s Long Range Precision Fires priority, a need exists for novel and innovative muzzle brakes capable of supporting the new extended range cannons and sabot, direct, and indirect munitions currently under development,” the solicitation states.
“High pressure waves produced within gun barrels during projectile acceleration have negative impact upon the surrounding environment due to muzzle blast … exiting the barrel,” it adds.
Muzzle brakes are also subjected to “material degradation due to collisions with small particles exiting the gun barrel, such as solid propellant grains that did not undergo combustion,” the solicitation states.
Because of this, current muzzle brakes tend to be heavy.
The effort “seeks to develop novel muzzle brake aerodynamic designs and structures which minimize the overall mass of the artillery system without compromising performance,” according to the solicitation.
Interested companies have until Feb. 6, 2019, to respond to the Nov. 28, 2018 solicitation.
The first phase of the solicitation asks companies to model and simulate the operational performance of proposed muzzle brake designs that meet the weight-reduction requirements and simulate mechanical wear over the life cycle of the brake.
The M109A6 Paladin.
(US Army photo)
Companies will then produce at least one prototype for Phase Two, which will be tested on a large-caliber Army platform identified during the Phase One effort, according to the solicitation. Companies will document “recoil, acoustic and optical signature, and muzzle blast” and make refinements on the prototype design, it says.
Companies then will conduct a live-fire demonstration of their final prototype in an operational environment with involvement from the prime contractor for the weapon system, according to the solicitation.
Meanwhile, under the Extended Range Cannon Artillery program, or ERCA, the Army plans to fit M109A8 155 mm Paladin self-propelled howitzers with much longer, .58 caliber gun tubes, redesigned chambers and breeches that will be able to withstand the gun pressures to get out to 70 kilometers, Army officials said.
The service also is finalizing a new version of a rocket-assisted projectile (RAP) round that testers have shot out to 62 kilometers. Artillery experts plan to make improvements to the round by fiscal 2020 so Army testers can hit the 70-kilometer mark, service officials said at the 2018 Association of the United States Army annual meeting and exposition.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.