The US military is testing sealift  fleet like never before - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

The US military is testing sealift  fleet like never before

The US military is currently conducting a massive sealift stress test during which ships will flex atrophied muscles needed to fight a great power conflict.

US Transportation Command (TRANSCOM), which oversees important military logistics activities, launched the large-scale “Turbo Activiation” sealift readiness exercise on Sept. 16, 2019, the command announced in a statement Sept. 17, 2019.

While these exercises, which began in 1994, typically include only a handful of ships, the latest iteration will involve 28 vessels from the US Navy’s Military Sealift Command (MSC) and TRANSCOM’s Maritime Administration (MARAD) Ready Reserve Force.


Navy Capt. Kevin Stephens, a TRANSCOM spokesperson, told Defense News that this is the largest training activation on record.

Ships located along the East, West, and Gulf Coasts will have five days to go from reduced operating status to fully crewed and ready for action. The no-notice activations are usually followed by sea trials.

The MSC, according to The War Zone, has 15 roll-on/roll-off (RORO) cargo ships, and MARAD has another 46 ships consisting of 35 RORO ships and 11 special mission ships. The MSC, Defense News reports, also has 26 pre-positioning ships.

These vessels are “maintained in a reserve status in the event that the Department of Defense needs these ships to support the rapid, massive movement of military supplies and troops for a military exercise or large-scale conflict,” TRANSCOM explained in a statement.

There are reportedly another 60 US-flagged commercial ships in the US Maritime Security Program available to serve, but they are not part of the reserve fleets.

These sealift ships would be responsible for moving roughly 90 percent of US Army and Marine Corps equipment abroad for a fight, but this force has been languishing for years.

The US military is testing sealift  fleet like never before

(US Army photo by Steven J. Mirrer)

“We are not in a good position today,” Rear Adm. Peter Clarke, the director of Strategy, Policy, Programs and Logistics at Transportation Command, said of US sealift capabilities last year, according to USNI News. “We’re on the ragged edge,” Kevin Tokarski, the associate administrator at MARAD, explained at that time. “Foreign countries [especially China] are eclipsing us.”

There are also concerns that in the event of a major great power conflict, the US Navy may not be able to provide enough escorts, given that the service is smaller than it once was.

The ongoing stress test is a critical evaluation of the sealift force’s ability to surge ships, but also the “underlying support network involved in maintaining, manning and operating the nation’s ready sealift forces,” TRANSCOM explained.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US just arrested an alleged Russian agent

U.S. prosecutors have arrested a Russian woman who cultivated ties with American conservative politicians and groups and charged her with acting as a covert agent for the Russian government.

In U.S. court filings in Washington late on July 16, 2018, prosecutors said Maria Butina, 29, entertained and cultivated relationships with U.S. politicians and worked to infiltrate U.S. political organizations, particularly the National Rifle Association, the powerful gun lobbying organization, while reporting back to a high-ranking official in Moscow.


The U.S. complaint says Butina in an e-mail in 2015 described the gun association as the “largest sponsor” of congressional elections in the United States and said Russia should build a relationship with it and the Conservative Political Action Conference, a top backer of Republican political campaigns, to improve U.S.-Russia relations.

The U.S. case against Butina, a founder of the pro-gun-rights Russian advocacy organization Right to Bear Arms, was announced just hours after the conclusion of a summit in Helsinki between U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The US military is testing sealift  fleet like never before

Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump in Helsinki.

The complaint portrays Butina as active in promoting Russian interests in U.S. politics, including an easing of sanctions imposed on Moscow in 2014, in the year leading up to Trump’s election as president in 2016.

In a video posted on YouTube from the FreedomFest, a conservative political event in Las Vegas in July 2015, Butina is seen asking then-candidate Trump if he would continue to support sanctions against Russia if he were elected president.

Reuters, citing an anonymous source, reported that Butina was a Trump supporter who bragged at parties in Washington that she could use her political connections to help get people jobs in the Trump administration after the election.

According to the complaint, Butina reported back to a top government official in Moscow, who is not named in the court papers. But the official was described as “a high-level official in the Russian government who was previously a member of the legislature of the Russian Federation and later became a top official at the Russian Central Bank.”

That description fits Aleksandr Torshin, whom Butina has previously been affiliated with. She is pictured with Torshin in numerous photographs on her Facebook page.

The US military is testing sealift  fleet like never before

Aleksandr Torshin (right)

Torshin, who became a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association in 2012, was among a group of Russian oligarchs and officials targeted with sanctions in April 2018 because of their ties with Putin and their roles in “advancing Russia’s malign activities.”

Court papers filed in support of Butina’s arrest accuse her of participating in a conspiracy that began in 2015 in which the senior Russian official “tasked” her with working to infiltrate American political organizations with the goal of “reporting back to Moscow” what she had learned.

In addition to seeking out meetings with U.S. lawmakers and candidates, the complaint says Butina attended events sponsored by private lobbying groups, including the National Prayer Breakfast, an annual event in Washington that attracts leading conservative politicians.

Butina allegedly organized Russian-American “friendship and dialogue” dinners in Washington and New York with the goal of developing relationships with U.S. politicians and establishing “back channel” lines of communication, as well as “penetrating the U.S. national decision-making apparatus to advance the agenda of the Russian Federation,” the complaint says.

Court papers say that an unnamed American who worked with Butina in an October 2016 message claimed to have been involved in setting up a “private line of communication” ahead of the 2016 election between the Kremlin and “key” officials in a U.S. political party through the National Rifle Association.

Butina was arrested on July 15, 2018, and charged with conspiracy to act as an unregistered agent of the Russian government under the Foreign Agent Registration Act, a decades-old law that until recently was rarely enforced.

In a statement, Butina’s attorney, Robert Driscoll, called the allegations “overblown” and said prosecutors had criminalized mundane networking opportunities.

Driscoll said Butina was not an agent of the Russian Federation but was instead in the United States on a student visa, graduating from American University with a master’s degree in international relations.

“There is simply no indication of Ms. Butina seeking to influence or undermine any specific policy or law or the United States — only at most to promote a better relationship between the two nations,” Driscoll said.

“The complaint is simply a misuse of the Foreign Agent statute, which is designed to punish covert propaganda, not open and public networking by foreign students.”

Court papers charging Butina with conspiracy to inflitrate U.S. political organizations include several e-mails and Twitter conversations in which she refers to the need to keep her work secret or, in one case, “incognito.”

Prosecutions under the U.S. foreign-agent law picked up in 2018 amid growing concern in Washington about Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

It wasn’t immediately clear if the case against Butina was connected to U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into alleged Russian election meddling. The charges against her were brought by a different Justice Department office: the U.S. Attorney for Washington, D.C.

Among the most prominent people to face charges under the foreign-agents law is Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, who was charged by Mueller in 2017.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

popular

Why Germany was always the underdog in World War II

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not here to make you sympathize with the Nazis. They were literally a hate group that committed murder on a national scale in addition to helping start and prosecute the deadliest war in human history. They were evil, so don’t let a title like “Underdog” garner them any sympathy. It’s the fault of the fascists that this war ever happened in the first place.

But, while the German military was one of the most feared and successful in the late 1930s and early 1940s, the Third Reich had a severe weakness that would hamper the military at any turn: economics.


 

We know, we know. It’s not a very sexy flaw, but industrial warfare relies on an industrial base, and I’m here to tell you that Germany’s industrial base was horrible. Its coal deposits were of mostly low quality and, more importantly, its oil deposits were limited and were much better suited for creating lubricants than fuels.

Not all oil is equal for all purposes, and German crude oil was waxy. It had few of the chemicals necessary for refining fuels, like diesel and gasoline. So while Germany was one of the top producers of iron and steel in the 1930s, often sitting at number two in the world, it relied heavily on imports to fuel its industry.

In 1938, Germany used 44 million barrels of oil. Only 3.8 million barrels of crude had been made in Germany, and the country was able to produce another nine million barrels of synthetic oil. Imports made up the difference, but many of those imports would dry up when the war started, just as the necessity of increasing war production demanded much more oil.

The Third Reich also needed additional access to cobalt, copper, and some other important minerals.

The US military is testing sealift  fleet like never before
A British factory produces De Havilland Mosquitoes in 1943. (Imperial War Museum)

 

France and Britain, meanwhile, had large networks of colonies around the world that could send important resources back to the motherland. They had the navies necessary to keep those supply lines open everywhere but the Pacific, where Japan would hold sway. And, France and Britain could buy more oil from the U.S., the top producer at the time with up to 1 billion barrels per year.

When Germany invaded Poland in September 1939, Great Britain instigated a blockade of Germany. At that point, Germany could no longer buy oil from the U.S. But the Nazis had thought ahead, signing the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact with Soviet Russia in August 1939. For the time being, imports to Germany from Russia could keep the Nazi war machine going.

It was partially thanks to this imported oil that Germany was able to invade France and the Low Countries on May 10, 1940, and quickly roll across the country thanks to France’s stubborn belief that that the Ardennes was impassable to armored vehicles. France fell in mid-June.

The US military is testing sealift  fleet like never before
​German tank production duringWorld War II was always limited by the availability of steel and oil. (German Bundesarchiv)

 

This was, arguably, the high-water mark for the Third Reich in economic terms. Its industry was strong and undamaged by the war, it had seized vast swaths of Europe including Norway, France, and Austria, and its ally Italy was having some success in seizing resource-rich areas in North Africa.

And, on paper, Germany had ample access to the oil products of the world’s second largest producer, Russia. In theory, this made Germany a powerful force against Britain, its only real adversary at the time. America, the world’s top producer of steel and oil among other industrial and wartime goods, wasn’t officially part of the war. Germany appeared to be top dog.

The US military is testing sealift  fleet like never before
Hey, here’s an idea: Don’t trust Hitler (Recuerdos de Pandora, CC BY-SA 3.0)

 

Except, it wasn’t. Hitler planned to invade Russia, so counting Russian petroleum towards German needs only makes sense in the very short term. And Germany was reliant on Russia for 20 percent of its oil, even after Romania joined the Axis powers.

America, meanwhile, was clearly tying itself closer and tighter to Britain through policies like the expanded Cash-and-Carry in 1939, Destroyers-for-bases in 1940, and Lend-Lease in early 1941. As long as Britain didn’t fully surrender in 1940, it should be expected that America’s industrial might would continue to come down on the side of the Allies for the duration of the war.

This was especially true when it came to Destroyers-for-bases, since this resulted in America gaining bases and stationing troops on British territories around the world. Germany couldn’t possibly conquer Britain and consolidate the gains without entering conflict with the U.S.

The US military is testing sealift  fleet like never before
The Frontier Refining Company built this 100-octane plant in Cheyenne, Wyoming, during World War II to make aviation fuel. (Wyoming State Archives)

 

So, if you look at this high-water mark of the Third Reich in 1940, but you place an asterisk next to Germany’s imports from Russia and added U.S. industrial output to the Allies, even with an asterisk, it’s clear that Germany was always underpowered against its enemies.

At its zenith, with its allies doing reasonably well, and with goods flowing into Germany like food from conquered France, aluminum and fish oil from conquered Norway, iron from Sweden, and oil from Romania, Germany still faced constant shortages of key war resources.

Meanwhile Britain, while it faced massive logistics challenges thanks to the sheer size and scope of its empire and alliances, was backed by the U.S. and its ability in 1940 to churn out more oil than the rest of the world combined as well as 34 percent of the world’s pig iron, one of the key ingredients for steel.

None of this is to say that the outcome of the war was determined before it was fought. The fascists brought World War II upon themselves, and it was thanks to the bravery and sacrifice of millions everywhere—from the Polish Resistance to British Royal Air Force to the Soviet Army to the U.S. Navy—that the fascist countries were stopped and defeated.

After all, if the Axis powers had successfully seized all those oil fields in Russia or North Africa, or if Germany had successfully invaded Britain in 1940, they may, may, have been able to win and consolidate their international gains. With the added power from conquered European, African, and Asian nations, the Axis powers might have even swallowed America.

So, we are duly grateful to all the veterans of World War II, but we should also thank our lucky stars for the miners, oil workers, farmers, and factory workers who made sure that the Allies were always better supplied than the Axis.

MIGHTY GAMING

This official USMC video evokes all that is awesome about ‘Super Smash Bros’

Every branch has their own social media team that serves as a front-facing brand to their troops, the military, and the civilian population at large. By in large, these efforts aid in recruitment and build branch pride — but keep in mind that these teams are just a handful of social media guys acting as the face of the entire branch.

Normally, the branches have fun with the users who play along. The Army and Navy’s social media accounts constantly throw shade at one another while the Go Coast Guard Facebook team pulls a few cues from Wendy’s Twitter tactics whenever someone tries to berate them.

And then there’s the Marine Corps social team who has way too much fun with their job…


The U.S. Marines Twitter is a goldmine of Marines-related humor. They proudly boosted the Recruit Mullet meme, which was centered around a recruit calling home while looking ‘Murica AF by sporting a mullet while wearing a Budweiser tank top. They’re also responsible for one of the greatest April Fool’s Day pranks — all they had to say was that “Drill Instructors” were going to be renamed “Drill Sergeants” and chaos ensued.

Their most recent addition to this collection of classics comes on the very same day that Nintendo Direct announced a host of new characters set to join the roster of Super Smash Bros Ultimate, which is slated for a December 7th release. They made a parody video that showcases Marines doing dope Marine sh*t in quick, little snippets to the tune of a Smash Bros song.

It parodies the exact style of the character-reveal trailers that the series is known for. Like this one:

Of course, because this was posted to Twitter, there were plenty of rustled jimmies in the replies. To you angry few: Relax. It’s just a joke.

No, it’s not a waste of government money when this could easily be made in an hour. No, it’s not making light of the seriousness of combat or military service. And no, it’s not directed at recruiting young kids who like Nintendo games.

But it is freaking hilarious and made even funnier by getting the Official Marine Corps stamp of approval.

Let’s do this. 1v1 me. No items, infantry only, Final Destination.

The upcoming game is slated to have 71 playable fighters duking it out across over 100 different maps. Nearly every character from every single Nintendo title is set to appear in some fashion and many characters from outside IP will appear, including Snake from Metal Gear, Ryu from Street Fighter, Cloud from Final Fantasy, and now, Simon Belmont from Castlevania.

Who’s to say that Nintendo won’t add actual Marines to the game? It wouldn’t be the first time they’ve added characters that make little sense given the game’s tone. Or, and this entirely wishful thinking from a fan, they could add Doomguy — why not? He’s a Marine that made an appearance on the Super Nintendo. That’s fair game, in my book.

Articles

The 13 funniest military memes of the week

Look, we know that it’s Apr. 1 and you can’t trust anything, but there really are 13 funny military memes below this line.


1. Sailors, don’t go too crazy with the new tattoo regs (via Sh-t my LPO says).

The US military is testing sealift  fleet like never before
If it works in the Navy, the other branches may finally let up as well.

2. Welcome to the military’s fine dining facility (via Sh-t my LPO says).

The US military is testing sealift  fleet like never before
Would you like your eggs boiled or tartare?

SEE ALSO: Watch one of the baddest A-10 pilots ever land after being hit by a missile

3. Weather reports in ISIS-Land:

(via Military Memes)

The US military is testing sealift  fleet like never before

4. “We found some sand on the inside of one of the liners. Take everything back and re-clean.”

(via Do You Even Airborne, Bro?)

The US military is testing sealift  fleet like never before

5. If you’re going to lie for someone, make sure everyone is on the same page (via Devil Dog Nation).

The US military is testing sealift  fleet like never before
And who says he’s buying map pens? Appointments get excused. Errands do not.

6. He’s a weekend warrior. Why should he moderate his diet on weekdays?

(via Pop Smoke)

The US military is testing sealift  fleet like never before
Gooey, gooey chocolate.

7. This run builds esprit de corps … somehow (via Air Force Nation).

The US military is testing sealift  fleet like never before
After the run, we’ll all build camaraderie by cleaning weapons and emptying connexes.

8. The elite Air Force Arts and Crafts Squadron:

(via Coast Guard Memes)

The US military is testing sealift  fleet like never before
In World War II, they crossed the Rhine on bridges made of popscicle sticks.

9. Oddly enough, the spelling doesn’t bother me as much as the fact that they used an upside-down “W” for the first “M” (via Coast Guard Memes).

The US military is testing sealift  fleet like never before
Frist sargeent is going to be pissed when he sees this.

10. “I want back in the plane! I want back in the plane!”

(via The Salty Soldier)

The US military is testing sealift  fleet like never before

11. Maybe some nice squats or something?

(via Team Non-Rec)

The US military is testing sealift  fleet like never before
Calf raises? No? Alright then.

12. Looks like we’re never making it home after all (via The Salty Soldier).

The US military is testing sealift  fleet like never before
Everyone empty out the footlockers! It’s time for games!

13. The Army keeps this up, they’ll be able to join the Corps (via Team Non-Rec).

The US military is testing sealift  fleet like never before
Except the Army probably still won’t have any swim training.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here’s how you can find meaningful employment as a veteran

Finding a job is a daunting and sometimes difficult task after separating from the military. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes (HOH) is a nationwide initiative to help veterans, transitioning service members, and military spouses find meaningful employment opportunities. Hiring Our Heroes provides a variety of tools such as a resume builder, a corporate fellowship program and a career planning tool, along with several hiring events across the U.S each year.


Career Summits

Career Summits are meant to help veterans improve their chances of obtaining a job by providing training programs and job fairs around the country.

Resume Engine

The Hiring Our Heroes Resume Engine is a resume building tool used to help civilian employers understand skills learned in the military. Veterans can better explain their skills to potential employers by using this system.

The US military is testing sealift  fleet like never before

Hiring Our Heroes helps Veterans and military personnel translate skills, build resumes and find employment after they leave service.

Vet Roadmap

Hiring Our Heroes provides a guide to help veterans understand the resources available in their search for a job. Much like the military, the transition process requires a strategic plan, an assessment of resources, and a lot of work. The VET Roadmap breaks the military-to-civilian transition process into three simple actions, helps a veteran navigate the transition process which is continuous, and identifies best-in-class resources.

Veteran Fellowship Program

The Veteran Fellowship Program is a six week long paid internship with businesses in Maryland, and Washington D.C. Veterans have the opportunity to work and learn valuable skills from these businesses. Additionally, the fellowship program helps veterans with their resume and interview skills.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

Articles

US Navy official: Russia’s submarine activities are at their highest since the Cold War

The US military is testing sealift  fleet like never before
Wiki Commons


The US Commander of Naval Forces in Europe has warned CNN in an interview that Russian submarine activity has reached levels not seen since the Cold War.

Speaking of the spread of submarines, their aggression, buildup, and capabilities, Admiral Mark Ferguson warned that the situation could pose serious problems for NATO in the coming years.

“The submarines that we’re seeing are much more stealthy,” Ferguson told CNN. “We’re seeing (the Russians) have more advanced weapons systems, missile systems that can attack land at long ranges, and we also see their operating proficiency is getting better as they range farther from home waters.”

Ferguson’s concerns echo those raised by NATO Vice Admiral Clive Johnstone, who told IHS Jane’s 360 in February that Russian increase has once again made the North Atlantic a primary area “of concern” to the military alliance.

Additionally, the admiral warned that such levels of Russian activity are nearly unprecedented.

There is now more reported “activity from Russian submarines than we’ve seen since the days of the Cold War,” Johnstone told Jane’s.

And it is not just the number of Russian submarines in a previously uncontested area that has NATO concerned. Although Russia’s navy suffered strongly after the fall of the USSR, Moscow’s submarine forces continued to stay effective.

Playing to its strengths, the Kremlin has successfully continued to focus on its submarine forces through both an effort to modernize and professionalize that segment of the Navy.

US Navy Rear Adm. Dave Johnson said, during a 2014 symposium at the Naval Submarine League, that he was so impressed by the new Russian nuclear guided missile submarine Severodvinsk that he had a model of the submarine built from unclassified data.

“The rest of the world’s undersea capability never stands still,” Johnson said.

Johnstone echoed these comments from Johnson to Jane’s. Russia, in his view, has made “technology leaps that [are] remarkable, and credit to them.”

And retired Admiral James Stavridis, a former NATO supreme allied commander, told CNN that “Russian subs pose an existential threat to U.S. carrier groups,” as the US can no longer maintain “100% awareness of Russian sub activity.”

This sudden Russian expansion is additionally deeply troubling to NATO due to a lack of knowledge about what Moscow’s potential plans may be. This, coupled with Russia’s perceived willingness to interfere in Ukraine and other neighboring states, has unnerved NATO members.

“Just outside NATO’s territory we face major challenges that could have direct consequences for Norwegian and allied security,” Norwegian Defense Minister Ine Eriksen Soreide writes. Norway has increased military spending by 9.4% for 2016.

The US has also slated an increase in funds for submarines. Over the next five years, the Pentagon is hoping to have $13 billion for submarine research, development, and procurement.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This WWII ace scored kills from every Axis country – and the US

Army Air Forces Lt. Col. Louis E. Curdes got a piece of every original signatory to the Axis Pact: Germany, Italy, and Japan. If that wasn’t outstanding enough, it’s how he got an American flag kill mark on his fuselage that earned him a place in military history — and maybe even the Distinguished Service Cross.



It’s not a mistake. The young, 20-something pilot earned every single one of his kill marks. He joined the Army Air Corps in 1942 at the age of 22 to fly planes against the Nazis. By 1943, he was a hotshot lieutenant scoring three kills against Nazi Messerschmidt Bf-109s, the workhorse of the German Luftwaffe, in his P-38 Lighting. That was ten days into his first assignment. Within the next month, he notched up two more kills, earning fighter “ace” status.

In August of that year, he ran into an Italian Macchi C.202 and shot that one down. Unfortunately, that was his last combat kill over Europe. He was shot down by Nazi pilots over Italy and captured by the Italians, resigning himself to spending the rest of the war in a POW camp.

But that didn’t happen. Italy capitulated a few days into Curdes’ internment.

The US military is testing sealift  fleet like never before
Then-Lt. Louis E. Curdes.

Curdes was then sent to the Philippines and put behind the stick of the new P-51 Mustang fighter, going up against talented Japanese pilots. He was quickly able to shoot down a Japanese recon plane near the island of Formosa. His hat trick was complete, but that’s not where the story ends.

He and his plane, “Bad Angel,” were fighting over Japanese-held Bataan when his wingman was shot down over the Pacific. Soon after, he saw a C-47 transport plane, wheels-down, headed to land on the Japanese island. When he was unable to make radio contact, he tried to physically wave the transport off, but came up empty. So, rather than allow the American plane and its crew to be held prisoner by the Japanese, he used the option left: He shot them down over the ocean.

The US military is testing sealift  fleet like never before
Baller.

Curdes skillfully took out one engine and then the other without blowing the entire cargo plane to bits. He was able to bring the C-47 down just yards from his downed wingman. Curdes returned to the site the next morning as an escort to an American “flying boat.” The pilot, crew, and its human cargo were completely intact.

Among the passengers he shot down was a nurse Curdes dated just the night before, a girl named Valorie — whom he later married. The story was rewritten by Air Force Col. Ken Tollefson in his book US Army Air Force Pilot Shoots Down Wife.

Internet legends say that he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for downing the unarmed cargo plane, but his citation was so ordered for actions while in the European Theater.

The US military is testing sealift  fleet like never before
(Pima Air and Space Museum)

He still wins the best “How I Met Your Mother” story of all time, though. His P-51 named “Bad Angel” is in the Pima Air and Space Museum in Tucson, Arizona.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

DOD & VA to hold ‘closed door’ conference on burn pits

Defense Department and Department of Veterans Affairs officials are meeting in March 2019 in Arlington, Virginia, for a two-day symposium on burn pits and airborne pollutants but, as with previous Joint VA/DoD Airborne Hazard Symposia, the meeting is closed to the public and press.

The symposium’s purpose, according to documents from the first meeting in 2012, is to “provide an opportunity to discuss what we know, what we need to know and what can be done to study and improve care” for veterans and troops who “might have suffered adverse health effects related to exposure to airborne hazards, including burn pit smoke and other pollutants.”


Attendance is tightly controlled, with Pentagon and VA officials convening to discuss topics such as a joint action plan to address potential health conditions related to exposure, the VA’s Airborne Hazards and Burn Pit Registry, monitoring deployment environments and the impact of exposures on the Veterans Benefits Administration, according to a copy of the first day’s agenda obtained by Military.com.

The US military is testing sealift  fleet like never before

A soldier pushing a bulldozer into the flames of a burn pit at Balad, Iraq

(US Army photo)

Members of several veterans service organizations and advocacy groups have been invited to speak, including the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Disabled American Veterans, American Legion, Burn Pits 360 and the Sgt. Sullivan Circle.

But those veterans’ representatives are allowed to attend only a handful of sessions on the first day, March 14, 2019, including opening remarks and segments on outreach and education, as well as a brown-bag lunch during which they can discuss concerns and issues.

All events scheduled for March 15, 2019, remain unpublished.

Neither the VA nor the DoD responded to requests for information on the event. Veterans advocates also declined to discuss the meeting or their participation, with some expressing concern that they would be prevented from receiving future invites.

Thousands of troops serving in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere were exposed to airborne pollutants while working and living near burn pits used to dispose of trash, medical waste and other types of refuse at area military bases.

Some have developed a chronic lung disease, constrictive bronchiolitis, while others have developed skin rashes, autoimmune disorders and various types of cancer, including glioblastoma, a brain cancer rarely seen in young adults, that they believe are related to burn pit exposure.

Veterans and advocates have pressed the VA for years to recognize these illnesses as related to burn pit exposure and want them to be considered “presumptive” conditions, a designation that would automatically qualify them for disability compensation and health services.

The VA says it lacks the scientific evidence to directly tie burn pit exposure to certain diseases but has granted service connection for several conditions associated with burn pits, deciding each claim on a case-by-case basis.

In 2011, the Institute of Medicine reviewed all available studies, reports and monitoring data on burn pit utilization and combustibles exposure and concluded that there was not enough evidence or data to draw conclusions about the long-term consequences of exposure.

The US military is testing sealift  fleet like never before

A service member tosses unserviceable uniform items into a burn pit

(DoD photo)

More than 140,000 veterans have enrolled in the VA Burn Pit and Airborne Hazards Registry.

From June 2007 through Nov. 30, 2018, the VA received 11,581 claims applications for disability compensation with at least one condition related to burn pit exposure. Of those, 2,318 had a burn pit-related condition granted, according to VA Press Secretary Curt Cashour.

During the same time frame, the VA processed nearly 13.5 million claims; burn pit-related claims made up less than a tenth of a percent of those claims.

“VA encourages all veterans who feel their military service has affected their health to submit a claim, which will be adjudicated using the latest scientific and medical evidence available,” Cashour said.

The Pentagon and VA are developing a way to track environmental exposures in service members starting with the day they enlist. The Individual Longitudinal Exposure Record, or ILER, will record potential and known exposures throughout a service member’s time on active duty. A pilot program is set to begin Sept. 30, 2019.

But those who have suffered exposures in the past 30 years will need to rely on Congress to pass legislation to assist them, the Defense Department to continue researching the issues, and the VA to approve their claims.

Veterans of Foreign Wars, Vietnam Veterans of America, Wounded Warrior Project, IAVA, Disabled American Veterans, the Fleet Reserve Association, the Military Order of the Purple Heart and Military Officers Association of America all have made burn pit and toxic exposure issues a top legislative priority this year.

Several lawmakers, including Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, have introduced legislation that would require the DoD and VA to share information on troops’ exposure to airborne chemicals and provide periodic health assessments for those who were exposed.

The meeting is to take place at the Veterans Health Administration National Conference Center in Crystal City, Virginia.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why World War II veterans are returning captured Japanese flags

It’s not uncommon for troops who overrun an enemy position to take a photo with a captured enemy banner. It’s just as common for them to take that banner home as a souvenir. There are a lot worse things to remove from the battlefield. American troops have been capturing flags since the founding of the republic.

So, why are these World War II veterans returning captured Japanese flags?


The importance of a unit’s standard dates back to antiquity. Roman legions carried standards that took on an almost divine quality, representing the Legion, the Emperor, and even the Gods themselves. They would take extraordinary measures to recover a captured standard, even invading neighboring countries decades after losing the standards just to get them back. The Japanese had a similar tradition with their Yosegaki Hinomaru.

The US military is testing sealift  fleet like never before

The hinomaru was a blank flag carried by every drafted Japanese soldier. It was signed by everyone in their life; mother, father, sisters, brothers, neighbors, teachers, wives, and children. It was a good luck charm that wished bravery and a safe return home to the carrier. The Japanese troop then marched off to war, the flag folded and tucked somewhere on his person.

These are usually the flags that were captured by American troops in World War II. Because no one enjoys taking photos with the flags of their fallen enemies like U.S. troops.

Read: These 13 photos of US troops with enemy flags show some traditions never die

The US military is testing sealift  fleet like never before
U.S. Marines with a yosegaki hinomaru after the Battle of Iwo Jima. (U.S. Army)

But American troops had no idea these flags were the personal keepsakes of fallen individuals and not unit flags carried by the Japanese army. Now that the men who captured these battlefield trophies are aging and dying, the flags are being sold off or thrown away altogether, but there’s a better way to handle these pieces of history: giving them back.

And that’s what World War II veterans and their families are doing. Through the international nonprofit Obon Society, families and veterans who still possess a captured yosegaki hinomaru are tracking down the Japanese veterans and families of Japanese veterans of the Pacific War to return the family heirlooms and help the aging veterans heal their decades-old, invisible wounds.

If there’s any doubt about the power of these standards, even to this day, just watch below as a Japanese man reacts to seeing his missing brother’s yosegaki hinomaru.

There are no better frenemies than American and Japanese veterans of WWII. In the years that followed, the U.S. and Japan grew ever closer as allies and as people. Despite the overwhelming brutality of the war, the enduring friendships that developed in the years since have been a testament to the idea that peace is always possible, even in the face of such hard fighting. The only thing that remains is handling the losses incurred along the way – brothers, fathers, sons, and friends.

Groups like the Obon Society and its team of researchers make it easy to start healing the pain that remains between families and friends who lost loved ones in the war. If you or your departed veterans have a flag like the ones seen in the photos above, contact the Obon Society to return the flag to its family and maybe even make contact with them.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

F-22 and F-35 test their ‘beast mode’ stealth technology

US F-22 and F-35 stealth fighters and B-2 stealth bombers in the western Pacific recently trained for high-end combat scenarios requiring the full might of the US military — exercises that came as Beijing reacts with fury to heavy-duty missile deployments.

In a first, the F-35B, the short-takeoff, vertical-landing variant of the world’s most expensive weapons system, took off from the USS Wasp, an amphibious assault ship capable of launching aircraft, and dropped externally mounted bombs.


The F-35 is a stealth aircraft designed to store most of its weapons internally to preserve its streamlined, radar-evading shape, but the F-35Bs on the Wasp ditched that tactic to carry more bombs and air-to-air missiles.

An executive from Lockheed Martin, which builds the F-35, previously told Business Insider that an F-35 with external bomb stores represented a kind of “beast mode,” or an alternative to the normal stealth mode, and was something F-35s would do on the third day of a war, after enemy defenses had been knocked out and stealth became less of a priority.

The US military is testing sealift  fleet like never before

A B-2 bomber from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri conducts aerial refueling near Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii during a training exercise in January 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Russ Scalf)

“We conducted these missions by launching from the USS Wasp, engaging role-player adversary aircraft, striking simulated targets with internally and externally mounted precision-guided munitions,” and then landing aboard the Wasp, Lt. Col. Michael Rountree, the F-35B detachment officer-in-charge on the Wasp, said in a statement.

While F-35s trained for Day Three of an all-out war in the Pacific, stealthier jets — the F-22 fighter and the B-2 bomber — trained for Day One.

B-2s from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri flew to Hawaii, where they met up with F-22 stealth jets, the top air-to-air fighters in the US fleet.

The B-2s spent their time near Hawaii “going out to an airspace and practicing realistic threats,” with an F-22 on either wing, said Lt. Col. Robert Schoeneberg, commander of the 393rd Bomb Squadron at Whiteman.

The US military is testing sealift  fleet like never before

(South China Sea)

The Pacific area of responsibility “is of high importance as of late,” Schoeneberg said, adding that “it will continue to be of high importance.”

F-22s and B-2 bombers represent the US’s most high-end platforms, designed to work as “door kickers,” or the opening punch in a war.

B-2s carry “massive ordnance penetrators” — the biggest non-nuclear bomb in the US inventory — and nuclear gravity bombs. Both could play a role in opening a conflict.

F-22s also serve an air-to-ground role and are frequently discussed as a first-strike weapon that could take out enemy air defenses and clear the way for less stealthy fighters.

(South China Sea)

China is getting mad and trying to get even

Washington’s focus on air power in the Pacific comes as Beijing’s military installations in the South China Sea are becoming formidable.

China has landed nuclear-capable bombers and fighter jets and deployed surface-to-air missiles and an extensive network of radars at those installations.

This, coupled with “carrier killer” long-range anti-ship missiles deployed on China’s mainland, indicates China is determined to lock the US out of international waters in the western Pacific.

China’s military is also speaking openly about fighting the US and even about sinking aircraft carriers.

The US military is testing sealift  fleet like never before

(Defence.Pk Frorums)

Chinese state media said in early February 2019 that Gen. Xu Qiliang, the vice chairman of the Central Military Commission, “required the officers and soldiers to be well-prepared for different cases, encouraging them to staunchly safeguard China’s maritime rights and interests.”

Days earlier, US Navy ships had sailed through the tense Taiwan Strait. Days later, Navy destroyers challenged China’s extrajudicial claims in the South China Sea with a freedom-of-navigation exercise.

China responded to the US Navy’s sailing in international waters near its artificial islands with its usual fury, saying the US had threatened its sovereignty.

Beijing knows Washington is training, and it wants anti-stealth

China has been pioneering anti-stealth technology in an attempt to blunt the advantage of F-22s and F-35s.

“China is fielding networked air-defense systems that can coordinate the radar pictures from multiple sites in an area like the South China Sea,” Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments who was formerly a special assistant to the chief of naval operations, told Business Insider.

“This could enable the radars to see F-35Bs or other low-observable aircraft from the side or back aspect, where they have higher radar signatures, and share that information with [surface-to-air missile] launchers elsewhere in the region to engage the F-35Bs,” he added.

But the US knows no aircraft is truly invisible, especially in an area with a dense network of radars, like the South China Sea.

Instead of focusing solely on stealth, the US has shifted to employing decoys and electronic warfare to fight in highly contested areas, Clark said.

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

Articles

Here’s how microwaves and micro-robots could stop North Korea

With the apparently successful test of an ICBM by North Korea, questions arise about what can be done about the regime of Kim Jong Un. This is understandable. After all, he did threaten Sony over the 2014 movie “The Interview.”


Also, the whole humanitarian crisis thing.

The US military is testing sealift  fleet like never before
Photo from North Korean State Media.

According to an op-ed in the Washington Times, there are some high-tech options that could shut down the North Korean threat. Investigative reporter Ronald Kessler stated that the Pentagon was looking at a cruise missile that could fry electronics. He reported that the Pentagon is also exploring micro-robots capable of delivering a lethal toxin to the North Korean dictator.

The cruise missile is known as the Counter-electronics High-powered Microwave Advanced Missile Project, and it comes from Boeing’s Phantom Works — a lesser-known advanced aerospace projects division than the Lockheed Skunk Works. The missile uses microwaves to knock out radios and other electronic equipment. Boeing released a video about a 2012 test that you can see here.

According to army-technology.com, CHAMP is capable of knocking out electronics in specific buildings. This means that the effects on civilians would be minimized. FlightGlobal.com reported that the Air Force has chosen the AGM-158B JASSM-ER to deliver the CHAMP warhead. The system is capable of firing 100 shots.

The US military is testing sealift  fleet like never before
The AGM-158 JASSM in action (YouTube: Lockheed Martin)

Kessler also mentioned the use of insect-sized robots as potential weapons. While assassinations are currently prohibited by an executive order signed by President Gerald R. Ford, such a policy could be reversed by President Trump “with a stroke of the pen.” The advantage of using the micro-drones to bump off Kim Jong Un would be the fact that no American lives would be put at risk for the operation.

The US military is testing sealift  fleet like never before
U.S. Pacific Command has deployed the first elements of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, known as THAAD, to South Korea, implementing the U.S.-South Korean alliance’s July 2016 decision to bring the defensive capability to the Korean Peninsula. (DoD photo)

FoxNews.com reported that since the North Korean test, the United States tested the Terminal High-Altitude Air Defense system in Alaska. The system continued a perfect record on tests when a battery stationed in Alaska took out a missile launched from Hawaii. Two launchers from a battery of six have been deployed in South Korea.

MIGHTY TRENDING

17 Russian jets buzzed and threatened a British destroyer

Footage released as part of a documentary about life aboard a British warship shows an incident in which 17 Russian warplanes swarmed the Royal Navy destroyer HMS Duncan as it sailed near Crimea in the Black Sea earlier this year.

Russia intervened in Ukraine and annexed Crimea in early 2014, and tensions between Russia and other countries in the West have been elevated since then, particularly in the Black Sea region and eastern Europe.


Tour of HMS Duncan

www.youtube.com

The Duncan’s transit near Crimea, sailing just 30 miles from the peninsula, is the closest any British navy ship has come to Crimea since Moscow annexed it.

SNMG2 exited the Black Sea after that tour on May 20. (An international treaty limits which warships from countries that do not border the Black Sea can enter it and restricts them to 21 days there.)

Commodore Mike Utley, who was leading the NATO group from the Duncan at the time, said in the clip that the British ship was “probably the only maritime asset that has seen a raid of that magnitude in the last 25 years.”

“To me it felt unprecedented,” said Cmdr. Eleanor Stack, the Duncan’s captain. “There were more aircraft than we have seen in a long time.”

The clip posted by Sky News shows the Duncan’s crew reacting as call signs and bearings are issued for Russian jets as they appear on radar.”

Our long-range radars are picking up air contact. The air team are trying to work out what type of aircraft that contact is and whether or not that contact poses any threat,” a British sailor in the Duncan’s command center explains.

“The assumption is that they are Russian, because they’re coming from Russian airspace and from a Russian point of origin,” another crew member says.

The herd of Russian jets flying out of Crimea — a mix of fighters and fighter-bombers — zoomed over the Duncan, sometimes as low as a few hundred feet, alarming crew members trying to determine whether they were there to attack or just intimidate.

The jets came so close that electronics systems they carried could have been affected by the Duncan’s radar, potentially causing a crash.

Upon departing, one of the Russian pilots sent the Duncan a brief message — “Good luck, guys” — which one of the Duncan’s crew members interpreted as a final rattle of the saber.

Utley scoffed at the show of force. “I think their tactics are naive,” he said. “What they don’t know is how capable the ship is.”

The US military is testing sealift  fleet like never before

A Russian Su-27 fighter jet intercepts a US Navy EP-3 Aries reconnaissance plane over the Black Sea in January.

(U.S. Navy Screenshot via YouTube)

“When you see that much activity, I think it reinforces the nature of what people expect at the moment and why there is a challenge from Russia,” Utley added.

“They had 17 aircraft. We’ve got 48 missiles. I think we’re going to win that one,” a lieutenant commander in the Duncan’s command center said in the clip.

The Russian jets departed without incident, but earlier in the deployment the British ship scrambled its Merlin Mk2 helicopter to track down a Russian spy ship detected by the Duncan’s radar.

British Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson praised the Duncan’s crew members, saying they “epitomized the nation we are going to be as we exit the EU — a truly global Britain.”

“As NATO flagship, she has faced down brazen Russian hostility in the Black Sea with jets buzzing overhead, been stalked by Russian spy ships and played a vital role protecting NATO allies during the British, American and French strikes against Syrian chemical weapons facilities,” Williamson said of the Duncan.

Tensions between Russia and Western countries have led to close encounters on and above the Black Sea.

In July, British fighter jets in Romania were scrambled to intercept a Russian fighter that flew close to NATO airspace over the sea.

Earlier this month, in the second close encounter publicized this year, a Russian jet flew close to a US Navy reconnaissance plane over the Black Sea and suddenly banked right, forcing the US aircraft to fly through turbulence.

Such encounters have led observers to describe a return to Cold War behavior over Eastern Europe.

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

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