US Marines practice hitting the beach with the Philippines and Japan - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

US Marines practice hitting the beach with the Philippines and Japan

Katungkulan Beach, Marine Barracks Gregorio Lim, Philippines — The Armed Forces of the Philippines, Japan Self-Defense Force, and US Armed Forces united to conduct an amphibious landing exercise at Katungkulan Beach, Marine Barracks Gregorio Lim during Exercise KAMANDAG 3 on Oct. 12, 2019.

The ship-to-shore maneuver, which was the culminating event of two weeks of combined training focused on assault amphibious vehicle interoperability, marked the first time the AFP conducted a multilateral amphibious landing with its own AAVs.

The drill’s success validated the multinational forces’ ability to conduct complex, synchronized amphibious operations, and it reaffirmed the partnerships between the Philippines, Japan and the United States.


US Marines practice hitting the beach with the Philippines and Japan

US Marine amphibious assault vehicles in an amphibious exercise during KAMANDAG 3 at Katungkulan Beach, Marine Barracks Gregorio Lim, Philippines, Oct. 12, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Matthew J. Bragg)

“It’s a major challenge taking three different elements with different backgrounds and bringing them together to execute one goal,” said Philippine Marine Sgt. Roderick Moreno, an assistant team leader with 61st Marine Company, Force Reconnaissance Group.

“It was definitely a learning experience, but every year we participate in KAMANDAG, we get more in tune with our allies.”

US Marines practice hitting the beach with the Philippines and Japan

US Marine amphibious assault vehicles participate in an amphibious exercise during KAMANDAG 3 at Katungkulan Beach, Marine Barracks Gregorio Lim, Philippines, Oct. 12, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Matthew J. Bragg)

US Marines practice hitting the beach with the Philippines and Japan

US Marine amphibious assault vehicles approach shore during an amphibious exercise as part of KAMANDAG 3 at Katungkulan Beach, Marine Barracks Gregorio Lim, Philippines, October 12, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Harrison Rakhshani)

“Today was about effectively coordinating with our allies from the Philippines and Japan,” said US Marine 1st Lt. Malcolm Dunlop, an AAV platoon commander with 4th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division.

“AAVs representing each country maneuvered simultaneously to conduct a movement up the beach. It’s crucial that we know how to do things side by side, so that in the face of serious military or humanitarian crises, we can work together to overcome the challenges that face us.”

US Marines practice hitting the beach with the Philippines and Japan

US Marines, Philippine marines, and Japan Ground Self-Defense Force members and amphibious assault vehicles ashore after an amphibious exercise as part of KAMANDAG 3 at Katungkulan Beach, Marine Barracks Gregorio Lim, Philippines, Oct. 12, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Harrison Rakhshani)

US forces have been partnering with the Philippines and Japan for many years, working together in many areas to uphold our shared goals of peace, stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region.

Training efforts between the AFP, JSDF, and US Armed Forces ensure that the combined militaries remain ready to rapidly respond to crises across the full range of military operations, from conflict to natural disasters.

US Marines practice hitting the beach with the Philippines and Japan

US Marine Lance Cpl. Stephen Weldon scans his surroundings during an amphibious exercise as part of exercise KAMANDAG 3 at Katungkulan Beach, Marine Barracks Gregorio Lim, Philippines, Oct. 12, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Harrison Rakhshani)

“Although the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force normally participates in KAMANDAG, this was my team’s first time working with the Filipinos and the Americans together, and it went well,” said Japanese Soldier Sgt. 1st Class Itaru Hirao, an AAV crewman with the Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade, ARD Training Unit.

KAMANDAG 3 is a Philippine-led, bilateral exercise with participation from Japan. KAMANDAG is an acronym for the Filipino phrase “Kaagapay Ng Mga Manirigma Ng Dagat,” which translates to “Cooperation of the Warriors of the Sea,” highlighting the partnership between the US and Philippine militaries.

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

Articles

Iranian speedboats just harassed a U.S. Navy destroyer in the Gulf of Hormuz

US Marines practice hitting the beach with the Philippines and Japan
The Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Roosevelt (DDG 80) and a small boat participate in a simulated small boat attack exercise (SWARMEX) in 2004. (Photo: U.S. Navy)


Four speedboats from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps harassed the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Nitze (DDG 94) during a transit of the Strait of Hormuz earlier this week. The incident comes a month after Iranian officials talked tough about closing the maritime chokepoint if Iran was attacked.

Also read: The USS Squall fired shots after an ‘incident’ with Iranian navy ships

According to a report from FoxNews.com, at least two of the speedboats came within 300 yards of the destroyer. The Nitze reportedly tried to communicate with the Iranian vessels a dozen times but received no response before the close pass. The destroyer fired warning flares and sounded its whistle five times in an effort to warn off the Iranian vessels, which approached with uncovered weapons. The speedboats in question appeared to have heavy machine guns mounted forward, and had them turned towards the destroyer.

“The Iranian high rate of closure on a United States ship operating in accordance with international law while transiting in international waters along with the disregard of multiple warning attempts created a dangerous, harassing situation that could have led to further escalation including additional defensive measures by Nitze,” an unidentified defense official told USNI’s blog.

The guided missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87), a sister ship of the Nitze, was also making a transit of the Strait of Hormuz during the incident. The two 9,200-ton vessels are Flight IIA Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, with a single five-inch gun, a 32-cell Mk 41 VLS, a 64-cell VLS, a Mk 15 Close-In Weapon System, and two triple 324mm torpedo tube mounts.

The IRGC has been involved in past incidents, including the 2015 seizure of a Marshall Islands-flagged merchant vessel and the temporary detention of U.S. Navy sailors who strayed into Iranian waters this past January. That force also was involved in incidents in December 2007 and January 2008 where U.S. Navy ships were harassed in a similar manner during a transit of the Strait of Hormuz.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This airman gave his life to rescue soldiers from a massive firefight

This article is sponsored by The Last Full Measure, now playing in theatres! Get your tickets here.

The Air Force Pararescue community lives according to the motto, “These Things We Do, That Others May Live.” There may be none who lived that motto more fully than Airman 1st Class William Pitsenbarger who was killed in action in March, 1966, after intentionally placing himself in harm’s way to rescue infantryman pinned down by snipers, mortars, and machine gun fire.

For his valor, he became the first enlisted airman to receive the Medal of Honor.


US Marines practice hitting the beach with the Philippines and Japan

A1C William Pitsenbarger

Pitsenbarger, or “Pits,” as he was known, first tried to join the military as a Green Beret when he was 17, but his parents prevailed upon him to wait until after high school. In 1962, he became a graduate and answered the call — this time, with the Air Force instead of the Army. As a pararescuemen, he would be responsible for grabbing downed airmen and others from contested and enemy-held areas around the world. Becoming a PJ was no easy feat, and it wasn’t a job for the timid.

After completing SCUBA training with the Navy, paratrooper training with the Army, and survival and medical training with the Air Force, he was ready to go to work. Before his deployment to Vietnam, he was called upon to help rescue two hunters stuck in the California wilderness. After rappelling down a sheer cliff face to reach them, he and another pararescueman encountered an angry bear. Pits charged the bear, yelling and screaming, chasing it off. It was immediately clear that he was cut out for this kind of work.

Pitsenbarger finally got orders overseas — to Okinawa, Japan. Wanting to go where his help was needed most, he requested to go to Vietnam instead, and his request was approved. Before shipping out, his parents later said that they were sure they would never see him alive again. Sadly, they were right.

In Vietnam, Pits proved himself an exceptionally capable medical and rescue professional. He helped treat lepers at a colony in Vietnam, escorted singer Mary Martin during a USO tour, and inserted into a burning minefield to rescue a South Vietnamese soldier who had lost a foot trying to stomp out a grass fire. For the minefield rescue, Pitsenbarger was awarded the Airman’s Medal.

US Marines practice hitting the beach with the Philippines and Japan

A1C Pitsenbarger receiving the Airman’s Medal in Vietnam.

But Pitsenbarger’s most consequential moments came in 1966. On April 11, three companies of the Big Red One, the Army’s 1st Infantry Division, were engaged in a risky sweep across two provinces in search of Viet Cong units. Charlie Company was on one end of the formation and realized too late that it had drifted from the others — and was exposed to sniper fire.

Company leadership realized they were in danger and set up a defensive perimeter, but they were already outnumbered and surrounded. The North Vietnamese triggered their attack, sending mortar and sniper fire ripping through the American formation. The other companies attempted to come to their aid, but mounting casualties quickly made it clear that Charlie Company needed a rescue.

The Air Force sent two rescue helicopters to begin getting the wounded out. The first flight was challenging but, for a jungle firefight in Vietnam, fairly uneventful. Both helicopters took the first flight of wounded to a nearby hospital and doubled back for more. Once back in the field, it became clear to Pits that the Army soldiers no longer had the manpower necessary to hold back the attacks, treat the wounded, and put them on litters for extraction. He volunteered to insert into the jungle and help out.

The pilot reluctantly agreed to the risky request, and Pits began sending men up to the two helicopters despite bursts of fierce mortar and machine gun fire. Pitsenbarger was responsible for getting nine wounded men out in three flights, refusing his own extraction each time, before ground fire nearly downed one of the helicopters and forced them to leave.

US Marines practice hitting the beach with the Philippines and Japan

Poster art for ‘The Last Full Measure’ depicting Pitsenbarger’s rescue in Vietnam.

On the ground, Pits continuously exposed himself to enemy fire to recover rifles and ammunition from the dead to redistribute to the living. He was wounded at least twice before he reached his final position. He had given away his pistol to a soldier too wounded to use any other weapon, and so Pits used one of the recovered rifles to resist a North Vietnamese advance until he was hit again — this time fatally.

The Army fought on through the night, relying on danger close artillery and airstrikes to survive the night. When the Air Force was able to get rescue helicopters back in the next morning, an Army captain told the next pararescueman on the ground what had happened to Pits.

Charlie Company had 134 men when the battle started. 106 of them were wounded or killed in the fighting, but Pits had gotten an extra nine of them out and kept others alive overnight.

Five months later, on Sept. 22, 1966, the Air Force presented the Air Force Cross to Pitsenbarger’s parents. It was the first awarding of the Air Force Cross to an enlisted airman for service in Vietnam. After decades of campaigning from the men he saved from what seemed like certain demise, Pitsenbarger’s citation was finally upgraded to the Medal of Honor. Pitsenbarger is the first enlisted airman to receive such an award.

Now, Pits’ story is headed to the big screen. The Last Full Measure is scheduled to release on Jan. 24, 2020. Be sure to watch the trailer below and secure your tickets to honor this true American hero.

THE LAST FULL MEASURE Official Trailer (2020) Samuel L. Jackson, Sebastian Stan Movie HD

www.youtube.com

This article is sponsored by The Last Full Measure, now playing in theatres! Get your tickets here.

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This cemetery is the final resting place for the Army’s ‘dishonorable dead’

In a small area of Northern France, in a town called Seringes-et-Nesles, is a cemetery filled with soldiers who died fighting to keep France from falling to the Kaiser’s Germany during WWI.


The cemetery, Oise-Aisne American Cemetery, holds the remains of 6,012 soldiers in plots A-D, some unidentified, as well as a memorial to the almost 300 who went missing and were never found. There are many interesting side stories about this cemetery. Famous poet Joyce Kilmer is buried here. The tombs of the unknown are marked with the same epitaph as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery.

The most infamous stories, however, lie in plot E.

US Marines practice hitting the beach with the Philippines and Japan
Oise-Aisne photo by Victor Grigas

Officially Plot E does not exist. The 100-by-54 foot oval does not appear on maps, pamphlets, or on any websites. Ninety-six white markers the size of index cards, carrying only a small ID number litter the ground in Plot E, overlooked by a single granite cross. No U.S. flag is allowed to fly over it. The bodies are interred with their backs to the four plots across the street.

Plot E now contains the remains of 94 bodies. Across the street, unmarked, surrounded by thick shrubs and undergrowth, and accessible only through the supervisor’s office, the infamous fifth plot inters the “Dishonorable Dead,” Americans dishonorably discharged by the U.S. Army before being executed for crimes like rape and murder during or shortly after WWII.

US Marines practice hitting the beach with the Philippines and Japan
Plot E

 

With the exception of the infamous deserter Eddie Slovik (who was buried here after becoming the first soldier since the Civil War to be tried and executed for desertion – his remains have since been repatriated), each criminal faced the firing squad or the hangman’s rope for the murder of 26 fellow American soldiers and 71 British, French, German, Italian, Polish and Algerian civilians (both male and female) who were raped or murdered.

British murder victim Elizabeth Green (age 15) was raped and strangled by Corporal Ernest Lee Clarke (Grave 68) and Private Augustine M. Guerra (Grave 44). Louis Till (Grave 73), the father of American Civil Rights Icon Emmett Till, was hanged for his part in the murder of an Italian woman in 1944. Sir Eric Teichman was shot in the head by George E. Smith (Grave 52) in December 1944 after Smith was found poaching on his estate. Smith was hanged on V-E Day.

The Army executed a total of 98 servicemen for these kinds of crimes during WWII. While they were originally buried near the site of their execution, in 1949 they were all reinterred to where they are today.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Marvel stars respond to Spider-Man leaving the MCU

Spider-Man has officially been booted out of the MCU, and the Marvel stars are just as upset as we are. Earlier this week, it was announced that Sony and Disney were unable to reach a new deal on the new films, so Tom Holland’s Spider-Man would no longer be a part of the Marvel Universe. Fans are heartbroken over the news, and it looks like MCU actors Jeremy Renner and Ryan Reynolds are equally torn up.

Jeremy Renner, who plays Hawkeye in the Avengers franchise, called Sony out in an Instagram post last night. “Hey @sonypictures we want Spider-Man back to @therealstanlee and @marvel please, thank you. #congrats #spidermanrocks#? #please,” the actor wrote alongside a photo of himself as Hawkeye.


Even if Disney is technically to blame for the decision (they wanted a 50/50 co-financing agreement), fans were quick to cheer Renner on. “YES!!! Thank you for speaking up Renner!! #savespidermanfromsony” one user commented.

Deadpool star Ryan Reynolds also chimed in to support Spidey after a fan tweeted at him and Tom Holland: “Can we get a Spiderman Deadpool movie now?” Reynolds responded: “You can. But you can only see it in my heart.”

This was clearly too soon for heartbroken fans, as the replies are full of crying gifs and teary emojis. Some fans are even begging Reynolds to somehow step in and reverse the decision. “RYAN U HAVE MORE POWER THAN ANY OF US PLEASE DO SOMETHING” one Twitter user replied.

It’s likely that even Reynolds’ clout won’t change Spidey’s fate at this point, but as Spider-Man taught us: with great power comes great responsibility.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A new petition could help veterans with service animals

Last year the news was full of headlines about veterans and their service dogs being turned away from public places such as restaurants, airports, and, in the case of an Ohio substitute teacher, work. It’s a complicated problem; businesses don’t want to turn people away, but without knowing the difference between a service dog and a pet, their hands are tied when other customers complain.


Why would someone complain about a service dog? Unfortunately, there’s been a good deal of abuse of national service dog laws lately. Anyone can buy a red or yellow vest online, claim their pet is a support animal, and take it places pets aren’t typically allowed. If the animal isn’t well behaved, it gives actual service dogs a bad rep. Also, keep in mind some people are allergic to dogs or afraid of them, and some people just don’t like dogs.

For these folks, seeing a dog in a restaurant or sitting next to them (or their children) in an airport can provoke a strong reaction that leads to confrontation. It’s frustrating and embarrassing for the veteran, confusing for business owners, and upsetting for the community.

US Marines practice hitting the beach with the Philippines and Japan
Service dogs receive extensive training that allows them to help their handlers in public. (Photo Credit: American Humane)

Veterans who have a service dog say their companion has allowed them to return to “normal” life. Service dogs can help veterans cope with depression, anxiety, and PTSD by recognizing signs of panic attacks, awakening handlers from nightmares, and signaling them to engage in coping mechanisms that break cycles of anger and paranoia. Service dogs can even be taught to block strangers from approaching their handlers with a passive maneuver. Of course, service dogs can also help disabled veterans who have mobility issues.

Also read: Airman returns from humanitarian mission with new dog

This is one problem that is potentially easy to solve. Veterans need their service dogs, and businesses and the community at large want to support veterans in whatever way they can. Service dogs are unobtrusive in public; they do not approach people who aren’t their handlers and, trained correctly, they will quietly do their jobs without causing any disruption in public settings.

US Marines practice hitting the beach with the Philippines and Japan
Veterans say their service dogs allow them to return to normal life. (Photo Credit: Annie Watt Agency for American Humane)

Most people are surprised to learn there are national laws regarding where service dogs can and can’t go, but no national standard for what qualifies as a service dog. Ending the confusion about what is a service dog and what is a pet is as simple as creating one national standard.

A variety of “service dog” bills have been presented in the House and Senate, but The American Humane and the National Association of Veteran-Serving Organizations (NAVSO) are the first to create a national credentialing standard for service dogs. This measure would allow veterans to keep their service dogs with them in public places without fear of confrontation. This week they are asking everyone to support this standard by signing a Change.org petition that will go to the House and Senate Committees for Veterans’ Affairs.

US Marines practice hitting the beach with the Philippines and Japan
Service dogs are true partners for their companions. (Photo Credit: American Humane)

If you’d like to help veterans keep their service dogs with them without fear of confrontation, sign the petition, and let lawmakers know you support this common sense solution. The petition can be signed and shared right here.

MIGHTY TRENDING

That Russian nerve agent is an old Cold War weapon

Novichok, the powerful nerve agent that British Prime Minister Theresa May says was used in the attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, means “newcomer” in Russian. But the military-grade chemical is anything but.


Developed in the Soviet Union in the 1970s and 1980s, novichoks are a group of advanced nerve agents designed to circumvent chemical weapons treaties and penetrate protective gear used by NATO forces.

Also read: All about the chemical agent VX that allegedly killed Kim Jong Nam

They are made of two nontoxic components that become lethal only when mixed together, making them difficult to detect and relatively safe and easy to transport and store. Once mixed, however, they are believed to be five to eight times more potent than the notorious nerve agent VX.

Dan Kaszeta, a London-based expert in chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear defense (CBRN), said on Twitter that novichoks were “specifically developed to evade the West/NATO’s detection capabilities and foil intelligence collection efforts.”

US Marines practice hitting the beach with the Philippines and Japan
An example of a Novichok nerve agent.

Russia has vehemently denied any connection to the attack, which has left the 66-year-old Skripal and his 33-year-old daughter in a “critical but stable condition” at a Salisbury hospital after being exposed to the chemical on March 4, 2018.

‘Enough to kill tens of millions’

Novichoks gained notoriety in the early 1990s when Soviet scientist Vil Mirzayanov revealed that the country had secretly developed the powerful binary nerve gas that is believed to take effect rapidly by penetrating through the skin and respiratory system.

Mirzayanov, a chemist, told The New York Times in 1994 that the Russian stockpile of chemical weapons, some 60,000 tons, “would be enough to kill tens of millions.”

More: Chances are the hot model that added you to her social feed is a Russian spy

Colonel Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, the former head of Britain’s Chemical, Biological, Radiation, and Nuclear regiment, told the Daily Express that novichoks are “designed to be undetectable for any standard chemical security testing.”

“Skripal would only have needed to touch it, as he opened a parcel, for it to be absorbed into his bloodstream,” he said.

US Marines practice hitting the beach with the Philippines and Japan
CCTV image showing Skripal buying groceries and scratch cards near his Salisbury home five days before he collapsed. (Photo by ITV News)

Despite the fact that novichoks were not developed in large quantities, de Bretton-Gordon said the Russians may have enough of them to kill several hundred thousand people.

Related: Ex-CIA agent and ‘Red Sparrow’ writer on Russian threats

He also warned that there could be hidden costs as well for those who come into contact with it such as “mutations in the next generation or future generations.”

The effects of novichoks are similar to other nerve agents.

It is believed that they attack muscles, especially around the heart and lungs, causing the collapse of body functions, including respiratory and cardiac arrest.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

6 military technology breakthroughs to look for in 2019

2018 was a pretty good year for military innovation, but 2019 is shaping up to be even better. The Pentagon and DARPA are experimenting with virtual and augmented reality, developing new aircraft and vehicles, and expanding their robotics and hypersonic offerings.

Get the skinny on what will likely break next year in the six entries below:


US Marines practice hitting the beach with the Philippines and Japan

Gen. Robert B. Neller, commandant of the Marine Corps, uses a HoloLens to manipulate virtual objects April 4 at the Marine Corps Installations Pacific Innovation Lab aboard Camp Foster, Okinawa, Japan.

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Tayler Schwamb)

Augmented reality headsets

The Army signed a contract for 100,000 HoloLens headsets from Microsoft for 9 million in late 2018 and they should start reaching combat units within the next year or so, once the Army figures out exactly how to use them. The idea is to give infantrymen and other troops true heads-up displays. Tankers could even see through their armor to better track enemy vehicles.

The Army and other branches have researched augmented reality before, so there’s plenty of groundwork already done. Once the HoloLens is incorporated, infantry could just glance around and see where their fire support is, how far it is to their objective, and where their squad support robot is. Speaking of which…

US Marines practice hitting the beach with the Philippines and Japan

DARPA’s Squad X competition aims to better incorporate robots into infantry squads.

(DARPA)

Robots joining human squads

Yeah, one of the other additions to infantry squads and other maneuver units could be robots to carry gear, sensors, and electronic warfare modules. It’s all part of DARPA Squad X Experimentation Program. The idea is to nest robots into Army and Marine units, especially infantry squads.

Test runs have begun, and Lockheed Martin and CACI are each providing capabilities. The system brings in capabilities from all sorts of robots and drones already on the market. The Marines were able to use the robots to detect enemies and plan their assault before the simulated enemy even knew the Marines were there.

US Marines practice hitting the beach with the Philippines and Japan

DARPA wants new materials to make hypersonic missiles more stable and reliable.

(DARPA graphic)

U.S. hypersonic missiles get faster, more operable 

Hypersonic missiles are the ultimate first-strike weapon. They fly at five times the speed of sound or faster, making it nearly impossible for ballistic missile interceptors to catch them. And reporting in the open seems to indicate that Russia and China are further along than the U.S.

But DARPA is working to change that with a call for new materials that can withstand the forces at Mach 5, especially the extreme heat from friction with the air. That would be a huge breakthrough for the U.S., and it might allow America to leapfrog its rivals.

US Marines practice hitting the beach with the Philippines and Japan

The S-97 Raider is the basis of Sikorsky’s SB-1 Defiant, the company’s proposed aircraft for the Army’s Future Vertical Lift helicopter.

(Lockheed Martin-Sikorsky)

The SB-1 Defiant and V-280 Valor will show their stripes

The Army wants a whole new family of vertical-lift aircraft, starting with a bird to replace Black Hawks. The two top prototypes are going through trials now, and each has some exciting milestones scheduled for 2019. The biggest and earliest is the imminent first flight of the SB-1 Defiant, a compound helicopter that is thought capable of almost 290 mph in flight.

Bell Helicopters, meanwhile, is promising that their tilt-rotor offering, the V-280 Valor, still has a lot more skills to show off, and it’s already hit over 120 mph in forward flight and shown off its agility in hover mode. If Bell Helicopters wins the competition, the Army’s first order will likely be the largest tilt-rotor sale in military history.

US Marines practice hitting the beach with the Philippines and Japan

One of the leading contenders for the Army’s new light tank is the AJAX armoured fighting vehicle from Britain, but with a beefed up gun to destroy enemy gun emplacements. The resulting vehicle would be known as the Griffin.

(British Ministry of Defence)

Light tank prototypes will be unveiled

Over the next 14 months, BAE and General Dynamics will produce 12 examples of their light tanks, a modified Griffin and an updated version of the M8 Buford. Once the final prototypes roll off the line, the Army will test them side-by-side in exercises and trials, and then choose one design to purchase.

It’ll be sweet to see the first prototypes in 2019, but it’ll be even greater at the end of 2019 or start of 2020 when the Army starts actually putting them through their paces. No matter which design is chosen, it’ll be a big capability upgrade for the infantry.

US Army Pilot Tests ALIAS’ Autonomy Capabilities in Demonstration Flight

www.youtube.com

More autonomous aircraft, especially Army helicopters

It seems like the civilian market rolls out a new drone every weeks, and drone designs come around every few months. But the Army is trying to get a kit made that would actually change military aviation: a software and hardware suite that could make every Black Hawk — and other helicopters — into an optionally piloted drone.

The ALIAS program is currently limited to a Sikorsky demonstrator, but if it reaches full production, any and all Army helicopters could be controlled via some commands typed into a tablet. They can even pick their own landing zones and fly at near ground lever, usually better than human pilots.

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The 6 craziest military myths

While the military keeps trying to debunk Jade Helm 15 rumors, there are plenty of other military myths that have gotten ridiculous. WATM has covered Army and Marine Corps specific myths before. Here are 6 more urban legends from around the Department of Defense.


1. The Army has more aircraft than the Air Force and more boats than the Navy.

 

US Marines practice hitting the beach with the Philippines and Japan
Photo: US Army Chief Warrant Officer 4 Daniel McClinton

This is something that gets passed around Army circles with pride and is occasionally mentioned by other services with embarrassment. Well, buck up little sailors and airmen, the top rankings actually do go to their respective services.

The Army has 5,117 aircraft which is surprisingly high, but the Air Force still wins with 5,199 according to the 2015 Aviation Plan from the Department of Defense. Sometimes, the myth says the Navy has the most aircraft, but even when counting the Marine Corps helicopters and planes, the Department of the Navy comes in third with 3,847.

As for watercraft, the Army had the largest seagoing fleet in World War II, but now has only 118 watercraft in total. While the Navy certainly has more vessels than this, some semantic bastards will insist that most Navy vessels are “ships,” and so the Army could still have more “boats.” Well, the Naval Expeditionary Combat Command has 354 craft (page 6). The smallest are its Zodiac inflatable boats and the largest are its 85′ MK VI patrol boats. Also, there are the 700 craft of Naval Special Warfare, mostly 81-foot boats and smaller. So, yeah, the Navy seems to have this in the bag.

See also: These are the boats you didn’t know the Army had

2. Military recruits are people who couldn’t hack it in the real world.

US Marines practice hitting the beach with the Philippines and Japan
Photo: US Navy Communication Specialist 3rd Class K. Ashley Lawrence

While this claim offends service members for a few reasons, the crux of the idea is that the average recruit joins the military because no one else will take them. Different recruits sign for different reasons, but military recruits are more likely to have a high school diploma than civilians. One of the Department of Defense’s biggest challenges now is finding recruits that are smart, fit, and disciplined enough to join the military. The mental and physical rigors of military service are actually so great, organizations of retired military leaders are worried there won’t be enough eligible recruits to fill military ranks in the future.

3. There is no gold at Fort Knox.

US Marines practice hitting the beach with the Philippines and Japan
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Cliff

This is one of the claims we can’t outright debunk, but it’s still ridiculous. The story goes that at the United States Bullion Depository at Fort Knox, Kentucky, there is actually just an empty vault. A former head of the mint claims the gold is all there and points out that a full audit in 1953 found that all of the gold was present, a visit by Congressional leaders and the news media in 1974 found nothing suspicious, and annual inspections by the Treasury Department and the U.S. Mint always report that the gold is in place.

Conspiracy claims that the vault in Fort Knox is empty generally fail to explain how the gold was smuggled out of the vaults and through the active Army base that surrounds the mint. It took an armed train and a cavalry brigade to get the gold into the vault.

4. At base flagpoles, there are items to destroy the flag with honor in case the base is overrun.

US Marines practice hitting the beach with the Philippines and Japan
Photo: US Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Steven L. Shepard

The story goes that military installation flags are supposed to be destroyed if a base is overrun, and there is a kit with each flagpole to accomplish the task. The items stored at the flagpole change depending on who’s telling the story. Generally, there is a razor or match for destroying the flag, a set of printed instructions, and a pistol round. Either these items are in the truck, the ball at the top of the flagpole, or they are buried in a footlocker nearby. There is supposedly also a pistol, almost always in a buried footlocker, that the service member uses with the pistol round to kill themselves when they’re done destroying the flag.

This is insane for a few reasons. First, if a base is being overrun, the military has bigger problems than the flag. Flags are important symbols, but the tanks, ships, classified documents, and personnel on military bases are typically more important. The military Code of Conduct orders service members to resist the enemy as long as they can, so they should use the pistol round to kill the enemy rather than themselves. Finally, as a military historian pointed out to Stars and Stripes, few service members would actually be able to climb the flagpole which can be as high as 75 feet tall.

5. There are self-destruct buttons on bases and ships.

US Marines practice hitting the beach with the Philippines and Japan
Photo: Youtube.com

The idea that military bases, ships, or manned vehicles have self-destruct buttons likely comes from Hollywood, which uses the trope a ridiculous amount. Some foreign military vehicles have had self-destruct charges in rare instances, but the U.S. military typically guards its secrets in other ways.

Navy ships can be scuttled and the Air Force can bomb any downed airplanes or damaged vehicles. Modern computers can be “zeroized” to get rid of sensitive information. Any infrastructure on a military post that might need to be quickly destroyed could be destroyed with incendiary grenades nearly as quickly as with a built-in self-destruct mechanism.

But, some U.S. weapons and unmanned vehicles do have remote self-destruct mechanisms. DARPA is working on electronics that will automatically self-destruct after a certain time or when exposed to certain conditions.

6. Extraterrestrial life at Area 51

US Marines practice hitting the beach with the Philippines and Japan
Photo: Flickr/Steve Jurvetson

Like the gold at Fort Knox, this one can’t be firmly disproven. Those who want to believe that aliens landed in the desert in Nevada will continue to believe while the rest of us make jokes.

But, government agents have confessed to creating UFO hoaxes in the desert in order to keep classified aviation projects secret. Area 51 and other U.S. bases in the deserts were selected for secret projects during the Cold War due to their geographic isolation.

NOW: 5 wild conspiracy theories that turned out to be true

OR: Long-hidden photos from Roswell show aliens (or not)

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8 facts you didn’t know about First Kids

Being the President’s kid comes with plenty of perks. But even though it’s not an elected job, much like becoming the First Lady, it still comes with ample responsibilities. Public appearances, scrutiny that abounds, and of course, access to things that the average joe would never dream of … in good ways and bad.

Take a look at these little-realized facts about the First Kids — past and present — of the United States. 

  1. They look out for each other
US Marines practice hitting the beach with the Philippines and Japan
Jenna and Barbara Bush with their grandfather, former President George Bush Sr. (Image courtesy of jennabhager, Instagram)

It’s stated that First Kids Chelsea Clinton reached out to the Bush twins, Barbara Pierce and Jenna, and they carried on the tradition. The pair even wrote a letter to Sasha and Malia Obama as they were ending their stint in the White House. 

2. They can decorate, while leaving historic aspects

When moving into the White House, yes if you live with your parents, that’s your home while Dad’s in office, the First Family has much sway in the overall decor and how their living quarters will look. However, as a historic residence, there’s also much they cannot change. Certain features must be left alone and while things like decor and paint can be adapted to taste, complete construction is a no-no. 

3. They can’t open windows

Not in the White House, nor in the car. We’re guessing it’s a security issue, but in any case, the action is forbidden. Former First Lady, Michelle Obama, stated that one of her daughters once opened a window in the White House and they received immediate calls asking for it to be shut. 

4. They get Secret Service security until 16

Even once they are no longer in the White House, former First Kids have access to Secret Security detail until they reach 16 years of age. The service can be declined, however, if the family chooses not to take it. However, while in office, the detail for minors is a must.

5. You’re subject to the media

US Marines practice hitting the beach with the Philippines and Japan
Chelsea Clinton, left, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and former U.S. President William Jefferson Clinton in 2011 (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Petty Officer John Lill)

Perhaps the biggest controversies took place in the 90s when teenaged Chelsea Clinton was publicly insulted on SNL and on the radio by Rush Limbaugh. The latter, making fun of her looks. Mike Meyers wrote an apology letter to the Clintons of the SNL skit. 

More recently, 10-year-old Baron Trump was offensively tweeted about by an SNL writer. The writer was briefly fired by NBC. 

Adult First Kids also receive public scrutiny, though theirs is seen as more socially acceptable. 

6. They usually attend private schools

To better work with security and get their kids the supervision they need as First Kids, most presidential children attend private schools. However, it’s not a rule. In fact, former President Jimmy Carter purposefully enrolled his 9-year-old daughter, Amy, in Washington D.C.’s public school system. Carter had campaigned that public schools were no worse than private ventures, and when it came to his own child, put his money where his mouth was. 

7. They can’t take official roles

US Marines practice hitting the beach with the Philippines and Japan
Ivanka Trump visits the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center to meet with United States Agency for International Development staff members in promoting her Women’s Global Development and Prosperity (W-GDP) Initiative, on January 9, 2020.  (USAID photo by Patrick Moore/Released)

As for adult children of the president, they aren’t allowed to work in the White House, that is officially. A 1967 anti-nepotism law went into effect, helping ensure that the president doesn’t have too much sway by bringing in family. However, Donald Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, and her husband, Jared Kushner, worked for former President Trump as unpaid advisors. 

8. Expensive gifts belong to the U.S.

When receiving anything as a gift, First Families have to turn in the item to the National Archive and have it appraised. Anything worth more than $390 has to be purchased out of pocket. The Obama girls, Hilary Clinton, and George W. Bush are all noted as having bought back important gifts they received while at the White House. 

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VA’s LA campus draft master plan just released, needs vet input

US Marines practice hitting the beach with the Philippines and Japan
(Photo courtesy of NPR.org)


The Department of Veteran Affairs has just released the draft master plan for how the agency intends to improve the campus of its West Los Angeles facility after years of encroachment, misuse, and neglect. The plan follows a landmark legal ruling last year following a lawsuit that alleged that VA was violating the covenant of an 1888 deed whereby the United States acquired title to the West LA Campus by misusing parts of it for commercial purposes in lieu of caring for and serving veterans.

The agreement established a nonprofit, Vets Advocacy, to serve as a partner in the West LA VA master planning process. Vets Advocacy and We Are The Mighty have joined forces in a grassroots campaign to assist the veteran community in voicing how they’d like to see VA services provided at the West LA VA campus.

“With the proper veteran input, the West LA VA redevelopment plan has the potential to serve as a 21st Century blueprint for VA campuses nationwide,” said Jonathan Sherin, a psychiatrist and veteran advocate who has been a key facilitator of the planning effort.

The new master plan for the West LA Campus will help VA determine and implement the most effective use of the campus for veterans, particularly for homeless veterans, including underserved populations such as female veterans, aging veterans, and those who are severely physically or mentally disabled. Focus areas include considerations surrounding vet housing (both temporary and permanent), vet services, and historic preservation.

The draft plan divides the campus into four zones labeled (1-4 respectively) “Healthcare Excellence,” “Coordinated Care,” “Veteran Housing,” and “Recreation.” Details of each zone can be found in the document.

“This draft master plan provides the VA with a stronger foundation to build a 21st century healthcare campus and vibrant community for veterans,” VA Secretary Robert McDonald said in a statement. “It also helps to ensure we will have the housing and healthcare resources needed to sustain the mission of ending veteran homelessness.”

Now that the draft master plan has been published, veterans have 45 days to review it and provide inputs, thereby helping to ensure the plan meets the needs of those it is designed to assist. The master plan can be viewed and downloaded and comments can be submitted at #VATHERIGHTWAY.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This awesome anti-tank missile is getting mounted on drones

You ever imagine the guts it takes to be an infantryman trying to kill a tank? Sure, we develop a new missile to make the job easier every few decades, but that still leaves a dude in 35 pounds of body armor going up against a 41-ton tank. And the infantryman often has to get within 2.5 miles of a tank that can kill him from 5.5 miles away. Luckily, Raytheon has a new plan for that.


US Marines practice hitting the beach with the Philippines and Japan

(Raytheon)

Unsurprisingly, that plan includes buying lots of Raytheon’s Javelin missiles. But if you can forgive us some enthusiasm, we’re willing to give them a pass if it means America is getting remote-controlled tank killers.

Basically, Raytheon put its missile into a Kongsberg remote launcher and mounted that on the Titan unmanned ground vehicle. The advantage would be clear. Infantrymen who need to kill a tank would no longer need to expose themselves to enemy fire.

Instead, they can send out the Titan, line up on the tank, and fire the missile. And since it’s a Javelin, they don’t even need line of sight on the enemy to kill the tank. Javelins, as the name implies, can fire up into the sky and then dive back down onto their target.

And the Javelin is “fire-and-forget.” So once the missile is launched, the firer can start re-positioning the drone. And if the tank or another enemy combatant manages to get a shot at the drone before it gets hidden away again, that’s still way better than the current situation where that counter fire would hit a U.S. Marine or soldier.

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How Easterseals helped this veteran build a life after service

This post is sponsored by Easterseals.


When he finished his enlistment and left the Army in 2012, Alex Ortega wasn’t quite sure what he wanted to do for his post-military career.

With no specific plan for a civilian career, Ortega decided school was the best option. But he still wasn’t sure what direction to take.

While in school one of his classmates, a military veteran like him, mentioned help available through the Easterseals Bob Hope Veterans Support Program.

An Easterseals employment specialist helped Ortega by guiding the former soldier through the process of crafting a plan for his post-military education and to find work in a professional field.

The specialist helped Ortega retool and improve his resume — such as translating military-specific tasks and jobs he held during his six years in the Army into similar, equivalent duties in civilian employment. With the specialist’s help, Ortega was able to detail his military experience on his resume in a way that was clearer and more relevant to potential civilian employers.

That assistance paid off. Today, Ortega works as a veteran peer support specialist at a leading university in Southern California.

“An employment specialist will help that veteran accomplish his or her goals, which is very important,” he said. “I’m very thankful for Easterseals and the employment mentorship. They provided great mentorship and guidance for me and assisted in the transition … from my military experience to my civilian job now that I’m completely happy and content in.”

Ortega said he’s grateful to the work of the Easterseals Bob Hope Veterans Support Program, which “is making a big difference in the lives of veterans like myself.”

Ortega is among many veterans and their spouses who have received help, guidance and resources through Easterseals and the Bob Hope Veterans Support Program. The transition assistance program gives veterans and their families some peace of mind after they leave the military and have to reset themselves or their families for a new chapter of life — whether they want to find civilian employment, pursue college or technical training, or start a small business.

Funded with a seed grant from The Bob Hope Legacy, the support program was launched in 2014 and provides referrals and resources, including one-on-one support for transitioning veterans and reservists and National Guard members who are leaving active duty.

The program provides resources that fit each veteran’s interests, skills and goals. Specialists help them write resumes, sharpen interviewing skills, learn how to network and boost their confidence to help them obtain work with potential employers. The program also helps with direct referrals to partner agencies who can provide housing, legal assistance, counseling or child care.

Support is free for post-Sept. 11, 2001, veterans leaving active or reserve duty who intend to work in San Diego County or Orange County and who have received an honorable, general or other-than-honorable discharge. A veteran does not need to have a disability to be eligible for the program.

The service also is available to spouses or registered domestic partners of veterans who are unable to work due to a disability.

The transition program is part of Bob Hope’s legacy, and its impact is felt in veterans like Ortega. He follows a long lineage of military service in his family, including his father, brother and an uncle who all served in the Army like him.

Growing up, Ortega often watched videos of Bob Hope as he entertained tens of thousands of U.S. troops during his famous USO shows and worldwide tours.

“For a well-known comedian to come out like that and boost the morale of the troops in tough times, it’s a game-changer, and it really helps the veterans get through the day and deployment,” he said. “It really brings a touch of home, a piece of the United States to wherever they were.”

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