VA employees volunteer to answer nation’s call - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

VA employees volunteer to answer nation’s call

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 1,000 Veterans Health Administration staff have volunteered for more than 3,700 deployments to support Veterans and civilians in the most hard-hit areas of the country.

Volunteers deploy through VA’s Disaster Emergency Personnel System (DEMPS), VA’s main program for deploying clinical and non-clinical staff to an emergency or disaster elsewhere in the country. The all-volunteer assignments vary in skillsets, geographic locations and length of time for the support.

Many volunteers deploy multiple times

Sophia Didley, a nurse manager at the Perry Point VA Medical Center in Maryland, has deployed three times through DEMPS.

Didley, a 24-year Air Force Veteran, went to Puerto Rico during Hurricane Maria. More recently, she deployed to assist with the COVID-19 response at the Menlo Park Veterans Memorial Home, a state Veterans home. She also deployed to the Waters Edge Healthcare Rehabilitation Center, a private rehabilitation facility, both in New Jersey.

Didley describes the DEMPS experience as similar to the military in the sense that you are volunteering at any given moment to go anywhere in the world, or in the case of DEMPS, the country.

These VA employees put aside their fears, leave their homes and families, and volunteer where they are needed most – to support their colleagues while caring for Veterans sick with COVID-19.

No truer definition of paying back Veterans for their service

“Most of the time your family is proud of you and fearful at the same time,” Didley said. “My friends were my cheerleaders. I was proud to be helping with this pandemic.”

To date, VA personnel have deployed to more than 49 states and territories to support VA medical centers with surges of COVID-19 cases and to provide support to state and community nursing homes.

VA staff are currently deployed to facilities and Federal Emergency Management Agency regional response coordination centers across Arkansas, California, Delaware, Idaho, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

Ruth Ortiz, a respiratory therapist at the Gainesville VA Medical Center in Florida, has also been on three DEMPS deployments – all three in this year alone. At the beginning of the year she went to Puerto Rico for earthquake relief. Later in the year she traveled to New Orleans and then San Antonio for COVID-19 relief.

“You’re not really sure what you’re walking into when you get there,” Ortiz said. “Once you are presented to the department where you’re going to work, you’re given your assignment and you’re oriented and basically you hit the ground running. For New Orleans and San Antonio, I was working in their COVID ICU. So that was a very new and challenging experience for me.

“The DEMPS program is a very rewarding program. It is going to take you out of your comfort zone. It’s going to be a challenge, but it’s going to be a very rewarding challenge. You’re going to use your skills and your knowledge in any type of critical care setting you might come into. It is just an amazing experience to be a part of.”

VA’s Fourth Mission – assisting the nation

Since its inception in 1997, the DEMPS program continues a long history of service and support. It has grown in scope and complexity. DEMPS volunteers deployed to New Orleans in response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005. They also deployed to Puerto Rico in response to Hurricane Sandy in 2012. For a period of four months in 2017, DEMPS deployed more than 1,200 staff in response to hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.

The state and community support is provided as part of VA’s Fourth Mission to assist the nation in times of emergencies and disasters. During the pandemic, VA has supported states with direct patient clinical care, testing, education and training. We have provided more than 908,000 pieces of personal protective equipment, including gowns, gloves, masks, face shields and other resources. As part of Fourth Mission humanitarian support, VA has also admitted 376 non-Veteran citizens for COVID-19 care at VA medical centers.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Clinton VP prospect Adm. James Stavridis has a history of deep thoughts

Multiple news outlets are reporting that presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton is taking a serious look at former Navy Adm. James Stavridis as her potential running mate.


The news comes nearly a week after sources close to the Donald Trump campaign indicated the real estate mogul is seriously considering former Defense Intelligence Agency chief Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn as his running mate, an outside-the-box choice that would bring a registered Democrat and an Iraq war critic onto the 2016 Republican ticket.

The Clinton campaign’s look at Stavridis has been widely applauded by former colleagues of the once-Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, some of whom consider him a “warrior scholar” with deep knowledge of the global strategic landscape and a thought leader in national security policy.

“Admiral Stavridis is one of the finest military officers of his generation,” former top Pentagon official Michele Flournoy told Reuters in a statement. “He is a person of great ability and integrity, and an exceptional leader. He has the talents, experience, judgment and temperament to serve the American people at the highest levels of our government.”

A year before his retirement from the Navy in 2013, Stavridis was given a speaking slot at the prestigious Ted Talks, where he discussed his vision for a new global strategic policy in which security would be “built with bridges instead of walls.” The video has reportedly been viewed over 700,000 times.

Stavridis now serves as the Dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in Boston, one of the most prestigious graduate schools of foreign and national security policy in the United States. Before that, the 1976 Naval Academy graduate served as the 16th Supreme Allied Commander of Europe and the top military official at Southern Command.

According to his official bio, Stavridis has written six books and published hundreds of articles on leadership and strategic policy. And his accomplishments extend well beyond the lecture hall and onto the ship’s bridge, where he was awarded the Battenberg Cup for commanding the top ship in the Atlantic Fleet (USS Barry DDG-52) in the mid-1990s, and he was awarded the Navy League John Paul Jones Award for Inspirational Leadership after his command of Destroyer Squadron 21 in the Arabian Gulf in 1998.

Stavridis also led the Navy’s Deep Blue think tank, a service policy shop that often challenges leadership and technology assumptions and pushes new innovations for Navy strategy and tactics.

 

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US just sent nearly 1M bombs and missiles to Guam — here’s why

The Air Force munitions stockpile in Guam recently received a ten percent boost, according to the U.S. military.


A total of 816,393 munitions assets valued at over $95 million dollars were delivered to Andersen Air Force Base between Aug. 21 and Sept. 30, 36th Wing Public Affairs revealed in a statement Wednesday.

“The inbound munitions ensure required assets are available in theater to support national objectives,” explained Maj. Erik Schmid, 36th Munitions Squadron commander. “The munitions will increase the overall availability of day-to-day training assets and War Reserve Material stocks to support warfighting capabilities,” the statement introduced.

The commander of the Pacific Air Forces addressed the severity of the North Korean threat Monday while warning that the U.S. military remains ready to fight should that course of action be required.

“The North Korean nuclear weapons and missile development program is truly a threat to us all,” Pacific Air Forces commander Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy said in Seoul, South Korea, adding, “While the United States will always seek peace over war, we remain poised to defend our ideals, our allies, and those who help preserve these international rules and norms.”

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Kim Jong Un in a nuclear facility in North Korea. (KCNA)

The strategic air assets located at Andersen Air Force Base facilitate America’s continuous bomber presence in the Asia Pacific and are regularly used to warn North Korea of the dangers of threatening the U.S. and its allies.

B-1B Lancers, powerful bombers that are no longer nuclear capable but carry the largest conventional payload of any U.S. bomber, are regularly sent to Korea to train alongside South Korean and Japanese forces, conduct practice bombing raids, and carry out flybys near the inter-Korean border. These flights typically follow North Korean provocations, such as missile and nuclear tests.

With memories of the intense bombing campaigns of the Korean War still fresh in mind, Pyongyang tends to express outrage about the threat posed by U.S. flights around the peninsula. North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho recently suggested that North Korea has the right to defend itself and could move to shoot down U.S. aircraft that get too close.

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This shocking video illustrates the huge number of WWII fatalities

A new data-driven video produced by Neil Halloran illustrates the massive number of fatalities of Second World War like never before.


The video, which was released on Memorial Day, “uses cinematic data visualization techniques to explore the human cost of the second World War, and it sizes up the numbers to other wars in history, including recent conflicts,” according to a press release. “Although it paints a harrowing picture of the war, the documentary highlights encouraging trends in post-war battle statistics.”

The video features a number of eye-opening insights, such as the relatively small number of German losses during the initial invasions, or the huge numbers lost — both civilian and military — by the Soviet Union during the war. At one point, the chart showing Soviet deaths continues to grow higher, leaving the viewer to wonder when it will ever stop.

“As the Soviet losses climbed, I thought my browser had frozen. Surely the top of the column must have been reached by now, I thought,” a commenter wrote on Halloran’s fallen.io website.

From Fallen.io:

The Fallen of World War II is an interactive documentary that examines the human cost of the second World War and the decline in battle deaths in the years since the war. The 15-minute data visualization uses cinematic storytelling techniques to provide viewers with a fresh and dramatic perspective of a pivotal moment in history.

The film follows a linear narration, but it allows viewers to pause during key moments to interact with the charts and dig deeper into the numbers.

Now watch:

The Fallen of World War II from Neil Halloran on Vimeo.
MIGHTY TACTICAL

The B-52’s next bomb upgrade to be harsh message to China

U.S. Air Force officials are looking to upgrade the B-52 Stratofortress‘ bomb load at a time when the service, and the Defense Department as a whole, is preparing for near-peer rivals.

In June 2018 the service posted a request for information survey to identify potential contractors that could offer insights on how to best integrate newer and much heavier bombs under the aircraft’s wings.


Given that the aircraft is expected to fly for another 30 years, the potential upgrade — part of the Heavy Weapon Release Pylon Program — speaks to the Air Force’s initiative to stay ahead of emerging threats, particularly aggressors in the Pacific, according to a service official.

“This is not a requirement that came out of nowhere,” the service official told Military.com on background July 9, 2018. “There are compelling reasons for why we have to go down that road.”

While specific munitions haven’t been advertised, the goal is to quadruple the bomb size. Officials want pylons “capable of carrying multiple weapons in the 5,000-lb to 20,000-pound weight class,” according to the RFI. The current common pylon maximum is for 5,000-pound munitions.

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A B-52 Stratofortress

The external pylon “was designed in 1959 and has been in service since the 1960s. When it was introduced, there wasn’t a requirement nor did anyone foresee a need to carry weapons heavier than 5000 lbs,” the RFI states.

Now that’s changed, the official said.

High-end competitors are driving these choices,” the service official said, referencing the Defense Department’s latest National Defense Strategy.

According to the 2018 NDS, “China is a strategic competitor using predatory economics to intimidate its neighbors while militarizing features in the South China Sea.

“It is increasingly clear that China and Russia want to shape a world consistent with their authoritarian model — gaining veto authority over other nations’ economic, diplomatic and security decisions,” the NDS says.

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson has on multiple occasions referenced China’s quick pace in technological development, which is driving the service to react. There has been explicit recognition “of the re-emergence of great power competition,” she has said.

“[China] is modernizing very quickly. They’re modernizing their air defenses, but also their air-to-air capability is really modernizing across the board. It is the pacing threat for the U.S. Air Force because of the pace of their modernization,” she told reporters at the Pentagon in February 2018.

The official also pointed to the bomber road map, which enhances the B-52 aircraft as a whole.

The service debuted the new “Bomber Vector” strategy alongside its fiscal 2019 budget rollout, which aims to allocate more resources for the nuclear-capable BUFF, or “Big Ugly Fat Fellow.”

The Air Force is pushing for a major engine overhaul for the bomber as it intends to keep the long-range B-52 flying into the 2050s.

The B-52 is no stranger to the Pacific. In January 2018, the B-52 swapped back in for the B-1B Lancer at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam.

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An Air Force B-1B Lancer.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Adrian Cadiz)

The move marked a significant shift to bring back the B-52H, which previously filled the continuous bomber presence mission from 2006 to 2016 before the B-1 briefly took over.

Bringing the B-52 back meant putting a nuclear-capable bomber in theater at a time when relations between the U.S. and North Korea were largely unpredictable, and as China continued to flex its muscles in the South China Sea.

The B-52 in recent weeks has made appearances near the South China Sea as tensions over the man-made territory remain high.

In June 2018, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said there could be repercussions for China if it doesn’t curtail its expansion and aggressive behavior in the region.

“It was time to say there’s a consequence to this,” Mattis said at the 2018 Shangri-La Dialogue on June 2, 2018.

Weeks earlier, the Defense Department disinvited China from the Rim of the Pacific Exercise, known as RIMPAC, the world’s largest international maritime warfare exercise.

“Nothing wrong with competition, nothing wrong with having strong positions, but when it comes down to introducing what they have done in the South China Sea, there are consequences,” Mattis said.

As for the B-52 bomb pylon upgrade, the program is in the early stages.

The RFI “is only for market research of possible contractor sources,” said Stephen Palmer, a contracting officer with Air Force Life Cycle Management Center who specializes in the B-1 Lancer and B-52 programs at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma.

“[We] are not asking for any contractor to provide a proposal at this time,” he said in an email.

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

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This video shows how an Iraqi soldier saved his comrades from a suicide bomber

A video that reportedly captures the dramatic moment an Iraqi soldier saved his squad by driving his bulldozer into an incoming Islamic State group suicide bomber, has emerged this week.


The footage, which was shot from the dash cam installed inside the driver’s cabin, was taken in West Mosul where IS have been making their last stand against a massive operation to retake the Iraqi city.

It shows the driver deliberately ramming his bulldozer into an incoming IS car bomb in the narrow streets of the extremists’ final Iraqi bastion.

“Sir, I stopped it,” the driver, named in media reports as Mohammed Ali al-Shuwaili, can be heard saying as the smoke from the explosion fills his cabin.

“Thank God you’re alright,” his commander responds.

The New Arab could not independently verify the authenticity of the video.

Baghdad forces first took the eastern side of the city before crossing the Tigris and attacking the more densely packed western section of Mosul.Iraqi forces launched the massive operation to retake Mosul from IS nearly seven months ago, fighting their way into the jihadist-held city.

In the course of the fighting, security forces have faced a seemingly endless waves of IS car bombs, which when detonated erupt into towering fireballs.

Such attacks have featured heavily in the jihadi group’s latest propaganda films.

Iraqi officers said on Tuesday that Iraqi forces have recaptured nearly 90 percent of west Mosul from IS, which is on the “brink of total defeat”.

Brigadier General Yahya Rasool, spokesman for Iraq’s Joint Operations Command, told a news conference in Baghdad that IS now controls just over ten percent of west Mosul.

The drive to retake Mosul has been supported by a campaign of US-led coalition air raids in and around the city.

IS now controls just a handful of neighborhoods around the Old City, one of the country’s heritage jewels.

Half a million people are currently displaced as a result of the Battle for Mosul, and some 250,000 civilians are estimated to still be trapped inside the city’s west.

Click here to watch the dramatic video.

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(Source: The New Arab)

MIGHTY TRENDING

Green Berets remember first mission in Afghanistan after 9/11 (Part I)

The movie 12 Strong arrives in theaters Jan. 19 and tells the harrowing story of the first U.S. Special Forces mission in Afghanistan following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The following recounts the events of the Green Berets’ first mission in Afghanistan, as they sought to destroy the Taliban regime and deny Al-Qaeda sanctuary in that country.


The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania sent shockwaves throughout the world. While the tragedy prompted responses of love and comfort, it also inspired a sense of resolve and retribution. In fact, the sun hadn’t even set on the smoldering ruins of the World Trade Center when the Central Intelligence Agency, the U.S. military, and U.S. Army Special Operations Command began planning a response. They would rain fire on the terrorists who had claimed the lives of thousands of innocent Americans, and on the brutal regime in Afghanistan that had sheltered them.

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Now-Chief Warrant Officer 2 Brad Fowers poses with Afghan fighters and warlords who opposed the Taliban. Fowers served on one of the first Special Forces detachments from the U.S. Army Special Operations Command’s 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) to arrive in Afghanistan following 9-11. Their mission was to destroy the Taliban regime and deny Al-Qaeda sanctuary in Afghanistan. They scouted bomb targets and teamed with local resistance groups. (Photo courtesy of Chief Warrant Officer 2 Brad Fowers)

Task Force Dagger

It was soon clear that the initial operation, named Task Force Dagger, would involve bomb drops and small teams of special operators who would link up with local warlords and resistance fighters known collectively as the Northern Alliance. The task force would train and supply the Afghans, coordinating between the U.S. and the various ethnic groups — many of which were historic enemies of one another.

The Army’s 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) eagerly took on the mission, despite little available intelligence on Afghanistan, and despite the fact that few Soldiers could speak Dari or Pashtun. The task force picked up a few phrases pretty quickly and worked using three-way translations with other languages they already knew, such as Arabic, Farsi, and Russian.

“You had all of the emotions going on from 9-11,” remembered Chief Warrant Officer 2 Brad Fowers, then a junior weapons sergeant on Operational Detachment A 574. It would be his first combat deployment, and his team wound up escorting future President Hamid Karzai into the country. “There was a lot of emotions, excitement, amazement. It was an extreme honor. Looking back on it now, it’s humbling. … It was a very privileged moment in our history to see how things unfolded and what so many are capable of doing.”

Also Read: ’12 Strong’ showcases the best of America’s fighting spirit

“We went carrying what we believed to be the hopes of the American people with us,” added Lt. Gen. John F. Mulholland, former USASOC commander, in a speech. In September 2001, he served as the 5th Special Forces Group (A) commander. “If there was any fear that we had, it was that we would be worthy of the American people … the people of New York, the people of Washington, the people of Pennsylvania, the people of our great country and all those … who lost people that day. So that was with us constantly, the fear that we would not be worthy of the American people.”

Knuckle-whitening flight

After almost two weeks of bombings, which kicked off Oct. 7, 2001, the first insertion was set for mid-October. As with any covert, nighttime flying operation, the dangerous mission was assigned to the Night Stalkers of the 160th Special Operations Regiment (Airborne), “the finest aviators in the world, bar none” according to Mulholland.

But the mission to insert the Green Berets into Afghanistan, flying from Uzbekistan over the Hindu Kush mountains — which could reach up to 20,000 feet and caused altitude sickness — was something else. The weather, sandstorms, and a black cloud of rain, hail, snow, and ice was so bad it delayed the first insertion by two days until Oct. 19 — an eternity for men who pledge to always arrive at their destination on time, plus or minus 30 seconds. The weather could change from one mile to the next, from elevation to elevation, and continuously caused problems throughout Task Force Dagger.

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Command Sgt. Maj. Mark Baker of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) poses in front of De Oppresso Liber, or the Horse Soldier, a 16-foot bronze statue honoring the work of Special Forces Soldiers in Afghanistan at the beginning of Operation Enduring Freedom in the last months of 2001. As a flight engineer on a 160th SOAR MH-47 Chinook, Baker helped transport the first Special Forces teams into Afghanistan through horrible weather and in some of the most challenging flying conditions in history. (U.S. Army Special Operations Command photo by Cheryle Rivas)

“Just imagine flying when you can’t see three feet in front of you for a couple of hours, landing or hoping the weather would clear so you could refuel, and then flying through the mountains all the while getting shot at and hoping our (landing zone) was clear,” recalled Command Sgt. Maj. Mark Baker, now of the SOAR’s Special Operations Training Battalion. Fifteen years ago, he was a young, brand-new flight engineer on his first combat mission.

I was proud and scared. … There was a lot of stuff going on. There was bad weather. A lot of people compared those first missions to Lt. Col. (James) Doolittle in World War II because we were doing stuff no one had ever done before. … We had a mission to make sure these Soldiers got in. … It was my first time ever getting shot at. That’s a pretty vivid memory. … It was war. I don’t think I’ve ever been any closer to my fellow brothers-in-arms than I was then. All we had was each other.
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army snipers field test a more accurate, ergonomic rifle

Eight Ivy Division snipers with the 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team field tested an upgrade to the Army’s sniper rifle in the shadows of the fabled Rocky Mountains.

Engineered as an upgrade to the M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System, the Compact, Semi-Automatic Sniper Rifle (CSASS) was redesigned to enhance a sniper’s capability to perform missions with greater lethality and survivability, according to Maj. Mindy Brown, CSASS test officer with the Fort Hood, Texas-based U.S. Army Operational test Command.


Upgrades being tested include increased accuracy, plus other ergonomic features like reduced weight and operations with or without a suppressor.

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A sniper team fires the M110E1 Compact, Semi-Automatic Sniper Rifle (CSASS) in Mission Oriented Protective Posture (MOPP) gear during operational testing at Fort Carson, Colo.

(Photo by Maj. Michael P. Brabner)

Brown said the purpose of the operational test is to collect performance data and soldier feedback to inform the Army’s procurement decision regarding the rifle.

“We do this by having the snipers employ the system in the manner and the environment they would in combat,” Brown said.

“In doing this, we achieve a twofold benefit for the Army as we test modernization efforts while simultaneously building unit — or in this case — sniper readiness.”

She went on to explain how the 2nd IBCT snipers stressed the rifles as only operators can, during the 10-day record test.

The snipers fired 8,000 rounds from various positions while wearing individual protective and tactical equipment as well as their Ghillie suits and cold weather gear.

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A sniper engages targets from behind a barrier during the short-range tactical scenario of the Compact, Semi-Automatic Sniper Rifle (CSASS) operational test at Fort Carson, Colo.

(Photo by Maj. Michael P. Brabner)

To also test how the CSASS allowed snipers to shoot, move, and communicate in a realistic combat environment, they also executed Situational Training Exercise (STX) force-on-force missions in what they described as, “the best sniper training they’d received since attending Sniper School at Fort Benning, Ga.”

The 2nd IBCT snipers really pushed each other, testing the CSASS in what evolved into a competitive environment on the ranges.

“Despite single-digit frigid temperatures, gusting winds, and wet snow, the snipers really impressed me with their levels of motivation and competitive drive to outshoot each other,” said Sgt. 1st Class Isidro Pardo, CSASS Test Team NCOIC with OTC’s Maneuver Test Directorate.

An agreed upon highlight of the test among the snipers was the force-on-force day and night STX Lanes.

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A test sniper occupies an observation post and conducts counter-sniper operations on a dismounted Situational Tactical Exercise Lane at Fort Carson, Colo..

(Photo by Maj. Michael P. Brabner)

Sniper teams were pitted against one another on tactical lanes in natural environmental and Urban Terrain to see who could infiltrate, detect, and engage whom first.

Staff Sgt. Cameron Canales, from Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment said, “The force-on-force STX lanes were an extremely fantastic way for us as snipers to hone our field craft.”

One other sniper, Sgt. 1st Class Cecil Sherwood, from Headquarters Troop, 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment said he really enjoyed all the “trigger time” with the CSASS.

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A test sniper engages targets identified by his spotter while wearing a Ghillie suit during the Compact, Semi-Automatic Sniper Rifle (CSASS) operational test at Fort Carson, Colo.

(Photo by Maj. Michael P. Brabner)


Sherwood said he was able to learn from the other test snipers and improve his field craft.

“In a regular sniper section, I would never get this much trigger time with a sniper rifle or be issued nearly as much ammunition to train with in a fiscal year, let alone a 10-day period,” he said.

While OTC celebrates its 50th Anniversary, 2nd IBCT snipers and OTC’s CSASS Test Team are a testament to the importance of the half century relationship between the Operational Force and the test community.

“As we move into a period of focused modernization, now, more than ever, that relationship is decisive to ensuring only the best materiel capability solutions make it into the hands of the men and women in uniform serving on the front lines around the world and at home,” Brown said.

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This veteran is restoring the same helicopter he flew in Vietnam

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Navy F/A-18 test fires high powered anti-ship missile

The Navy has released its emerging Long Range Anti-Ship Missile from an F/A-18 Super Hornet, marking a new milestone in the development of a next-generation, long range, semi-autonomous weapon designed to track and destroy enemy targets – firing from aircraft and ships.


Long Range Anti-Ship Missile was successfully released earlier this month from a U.S. Navy F/A-18E/F Super Hornet at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, a Lockheed Martin statement said.

The weapon, called the LRASM, is a collaborative effort between Lockheed, the Office of Naval Research and the Defense Advanced Project Research Agency, or DARPA.

The test involved a “jettison release” of the first LRASM from the Super Hornet, used to validate the aerodynamic separation models of the missile, Lockheed developers said. The test event was designed to pave the way for flight clearance to conduct captive carry integration testing scheduled for mid-year at the Navy Air Weapons Station, China Lake, California.

The LRASM, which is 168-inches long and 2,500 pounds, is currently configured to fire from an Air Force B-1B bomber, Navy surface ship Vertical Launch Tubes and a Navy F-18 carrier-launched fighter. The current plan is to have the weapon operational on board an Air Force B-1B bomber and a Navy F-18 by 2019, Navy statements have said.

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U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ryan U. Kledzik

“The first time event of releasing LRASM from the F/A-18E/F is a major milestone towards meeting early operational capability in 2019,” Mike Fleming, Lockheed Martin LRASM program director, said in a written statement.

With a range of at least 200 nautical miles, LRASM is designed to use next-generation guidance technology to help track and eliminate targets such as enemy ships, shallow submarines, drones, aircraft and land-based targets.

Navy officials told Scout Warrior that the service is making progress with an acquisition program for the air-launched variant of LRASM but is still in the early stages of planning for a ship-launch anti-ship missile.

“The objective is to give Sailors the ability to strike high-value targets from longer ranges while avoiding counter fire. The program will use autonomous guidance to find targets, reducing reliance on networking, GPS and other assets that could be compromised by enemy electronic weapons,” a Navy statement said.

Alongside the preparation of LRASM as an “air-launched” weapon, Lockheed Martin is building a new deck-mounted launcher for the emerging  engineered to semi-autonomously track and destroy enemy targets at long ranges from surface ships.

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A B-1B bomber deploys a LRASM. | Public Domain photo

The missile has also been test fired from a Navy ship-firing technology called Vertical Launch Systems currently on both cruisers and destroyers – as a way to provide long range surface-to-surface and surface-to-air offensive firepower.

The Navy will likely examine a range of high-tech missile possibilities to meet its requirement for a long-range anti-ship missile — and Lockheed is offering LRASM as an option for the Navy to consider.  .

A deck-mounted firing technology, would enable LRASM to fire from a much wider range of Navy ships, to include the Littoral Combat Ship and its more survivable variant, called a Frigate, Scott Callaway, Surface-Launched LRASM program manager, Lockheed Martin, told Scout Warrior in an interview last year.

“We developed a new topside or deck-mounted launcher which can go on multiple platforms or multiple ships such as an LCS or Frigates,” Callaway said.

The adaptation of the surface-launcher weapon, which could be operational by the mid-2020s, would use the same missile that fires from a Mk 41 Vertical Launch System and capitalize upon some existing Harpoon-launching technology, Callaway added.

Along with advances in electronic warfare, cyber-security and communications, LRASM is design to bring semi-autonomous targeting capability to a degree that does not yet exist. As a result, some of its guidance and seeker technology is secret, developers have said.

The goal of the program is to engineer a capable semi-autonomous, surface and air-launched weapon able to strike ships, submarines and other moving targets with precision. While many aspects of the high-tech program are secret, Lockheed officials say the available information is that the missile has a range of at least 200 nautical miles.

Once operational, LRASM will give Navy ships a more a short and long-range missile with an advanced targeting and guidance system able to partially guide its way to enemy targets and achieve pinpoint strikes in open or shallow water.

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An LRASM acquires its target. | Lockheed Martin image

LRASM employs a multi-mode sensor, weapon data link and an enhanced digital anti-jam global positioning system to detect and destroy specific targets within a group of ships, Lockheed officials said.

LRASM is engineered with all-weather capability and a multi-modal seeker designed to discern targets, Lockheed officials said. The multi-mode sensor, weapon data link and an enhanced digital anti-jam global positioning system can detect and destroy specific targets within a group of ships, Lockheed officials said.

LRASM is armed with a proven 1,000-pound penetrator and blast-fragmentation warhead, Lockheed officials said.

Distributed Lethality

The development of LRASM is entirely consistent with the Navy’s emerging “distributed lethality” strategy which seeks to better arm the fleet with long-range precision offensive and defensive fire power.

Part of the rationale to move back toward open or “blue water” combat capability against near peer competitors emphasized during the Cold War. While the strategic and tactical capability never disappeared, it was emphasized less during the last 10-plus years of ground wars wherein the Navy focused on counter-terrorism, counter-piracy and things like Visit Board Search and Seizure. These missions are, of course, still important, however the Navy seeks to substantially increase its offensive “lethality” in order to deter or be effective against high-tech adversaries.

Having longer-range or over-the-horizon ship and air-launched weapons is also quite relevant to the “distributed” portion of the strategy which calls for the fleet to have an ability to disperse as needed.  Having an ability to spread out and conduct dis-aggregated operations makes Navy forces less vulnerable to enemy firepower while. At the same time, have long-range precision-strike capability will enable the Navy to hold potential enemies at risk or attack if needed while retaining safer stand-off distance from incoming enemy fire.

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Former US general calls for pre-emptive strike on North Korea

The former top American commander in South Korea on Thursday said the Trump administration must be ready to launch a pre-emptive strike on North Korea before it tests a long-range missile capable of hitting the U.S. mainland.


“I don’t think any talking, any diplomacy, is going to convince Kim Jong-un to change,” retired Army Gen. Walter Sharp said of the North Korean leader in suggesting the possibility of a pre-emptive strike to eliminate the nuclear threat.

Also read: As North Korea gets more ambitious with missiles, Japan looks to US for backup

Should North Korea put a missile such as the three-stage Taepodong 2 on the launchpad, and the U.S. was unsure whether it carried a satellite or a nuclear warhead, the missile should be destroyed, said Sharp, the former commander of U..S. Forces-Korea and the United Nations Command from 2008 to 2011.

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The U.S. also must be ready to respond with overwhelming force if North Korea retaliated, Sharp said. “If [Kim] responds back after we take one of these missiles out,” he should know “that there is a lot more coming his way, something he will fear,” Sharp said.

“I think we’re to that point that we need to have that capability. I am to that point,” he said, adding that the U.S. could not risk relying solely on anti-missile defenses to counter North Korean long-range missiles.

Sharp spoke at a panel discussion on challenges from North Korea at an all-day forum sponsored by the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., on the national security issues that will confront President-elect Donald Trump.

Others on the panel, while sharing Sharp’s concerns about the North Korean nuclear threat, worried about the aftermath of a pre-emptive strike. Despite North Korea’s nuclear tests, “there is potential in diplomacy,” said Christine Wormuth, the former undersecretary of defense for policy in the Obama administration.

“I’m concerned about pre-emptive action on the launchpad,” Wormuth said. “What does Kim Jong-un do in response? I worry quite a bit about our ability to sort of manage a potential retaliation.”

During the campaign, Trump called Kim Jong-un a “bad dude” and a “maniac,” but also said he might be willing to meet with Kim over a hamburger to defuse tensions on the peninsula.

The panel discussion came a day after the U.N. Security Council imposed new sanctions on North Korea aimed at cutting its export revenues. The latest sanctions were in response to the country’s fifth and largest underground nuclear weapons test, which occurred in September.

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A North Korean propaganda poster depicting a missile firing at the United States. | Via Flickr

The 15-member council unanimously adopted a resolution to slash North Korea’s exports of coal — its main export item — by about 60 percent and also imposed a ban on its export of copper, nickel, silver and zinc.

Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said that the sanctions would cost North Korea about $800 million annually.

“No resolution in New York will likely, tomorrow, persuade Pyongyang to cease its relentless pursuit of nuclear weapons, but this resolution imposes unprecedented costs,” she said.

In a statement, North Korea’s Foreign Ministry said the sanctions would have no effect on the regime’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and delivery systems.

“There will be no greater miscalculation than to think that Obama and his henchmen can use the cowardly sanctions racket to try to force us to give up our nuclear armament policy or undermine our nuclear power status,” the statement said.

Articles

Russia appears to now be aiding the Taliban

Back in the 1980s, the US supported Afghan “freedom fighters” against the Soviet Union. Those fighters later morphed into the Taliban. And now, the Russians seem to be returning the favor.


Moscow said last month it was in contact with the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan, with the stated reason being that Russia was sharing information and cooperating on strategy to fight the local ISIS affiliate there, according to The Wall Street Journal. So far, cooperation apparently doesn’t involve cash or guns.

But it understandably has US commanders there spooked.

Gen. John Nicholson, the top American military commander in Afghanistan, has spoken out against Russia’s extension of an olive branch to the Taliban as offering “overt” legitimacy to a group intent on toppling the Afghan government.

Als read: Vietnam-era S-60 gun turns Russian T-15 Armata into a Bradley killer

Russia’s “narrative goes something like this: that the Taliban are the ones fighting Islamic State, not the Afghan government,” Nicholson said at a Pentagon briefing last month. “So this public legitimacy that Russia lends to the Taliban is not based on fact, but is used as a way to essentially undermine the Afghan government and the NATO efforts and bolster the belligerents.”

Surprisingly, even Taliban officials say the excuse of offering help to fight ISIS doesn’t add up. Two officials disputed that characterization, including the group’s spokesman, who toldReuters that “ISIS is not an issue.” In fact, both groups forged a shaky truce in August 2016 to turn their guns away from each other, and instead target US-backed Afghan forces.

“In early 2008, when Russia began supporting us, ISIS didn’t exist anywhere in the world,” one senior Taliban official told Reuters. “Their sole purpose was to strengthen us against the US and its allies.”

As the Journal reported, it’s still unclear how a Trump administration will handle Afghanistan. The situation there has steadily declined since the Obama administration ended its “combat mission” in the country in 2014, and government forces only control about  two-thirds of the country now, according to Reuters.

Besides potential Russian meddling, Afghanistan is rife with political corruption and tribalism, while many civilians report to a “shadow” government run by the Taliban instead of the national one.

The Pentagon announced it was sending roughly 300 Marines back to the southern Helmand province this spring, where Marines haven’t been on patrol since leaving in 2014.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Rob Riggle and Seth Herzog are livestreaming a comedy show tonight. Here’s how to watch.

One of the few perks of quarantine is watching the entertainment community rally around those of us at home by providing us with incredible content to consume while we’re eating all of our quarantine snacks and longing for the days of simply being around other people.

If you’re going to be in social isolation, you might as well be laughing through it. And tonight, thanks to the great folks at the Armed Services Arts Partnership, you absolutely will be when you watch renowned comedian Rob Riggle interview Seth Herzog and other veteran comics perform. Here’s how to watch.


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The what

Tune in to ASAP’s live-stream show featuring a conversation with Rob Riggle and Seth Herzog, and stand-up comedy from ASAP veteran comics. Tonight’s event is just one in a series of great performers. For the full list, visit ASAP’s website.

Rob Riggle is a comedian, actor, and Marine Corps veteran best known for his roles on The Daily Show, Saturday Night Live, The Hangover, and The Other Guys.

Seth Herzog is a NYC-based stand-up comedian featured on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and Late Night with Conan O’Brien.

The where

Access to the live-stream will be provided to ticket holders after registering. Space is limited. Here’s where you can purchase tickets for only . Stage Pass holders gain free access. All proceeds from ticket sales support ASAP’s community arts programs.

The who

The Armed Services Art Partnership’s mission is to cultivate community and growth with veterans, service members, military families, and caregivers through the arts. Learn more here.

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Michael Garvey and Liberty perform at The White House in Oct. 2016.

The why

For one, this show is going to be awesome. Also, ASAP has an incredible mission. Here’s their story:

We believe that trauma and loss breeds creativity and discovery.

The veterans and military families in Armed Services Arts Partnership (ASAP)’s community prove this point. But, it also holds true for our founder, Sam Pressler. After losing a family member to suicide while in high school, Sam turned to comedic expression to cope. When he later learned about mental health challenges affecting veterans through his college research at William Mary, Sam felt compelled to act. While at WM, he launched the country’s first comedy class for veterans, as well as the largest veterans writing group in the Southeast. Within a year, a supportive community formed – one that gave veterans permission to process and express, connect and grow, heal and serve others.

After receiving the Echoing Green Fellowship, Sam converted the student organization into ASAP, a 501(c)3 non-profit. Today, ASAP is thriving in the D.C. Metro area and Hampton Roads, VA, serving thousands of veterans and military families, and empowering its alumni to become artistic leaders in their communities. As a result of our impact in the communities we serve, we have received significant attention. We have performed at The White House, have been featured on a PBS documentary, and have been recognized by Forbes 30 Under 30 list for “Social Entrepreneurship.”

The reintegration of our nation’s veterans is not just a veterans issue. It involves veterans and civilians, community arts organizations and local health providers, military recruiting and VA care. It requires social, physical, and artistic outlets just as much as it demands traditional medical care. Through our collaborative, community-driven, and deeply focused program model, we are forging a new path for veterans to reintegrate into civilian life, and for our communities to welcome them home.

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