If someone told you the only way for you to survive the coming recession unscathed would be to start your own business, would you even know where to begin? Would you be able to afford the startup costs on your own? Can you handle the workload that might come with such a venture? For most people, especially veterans, that answer is no. That’s what startup accelerators are for – access to knowledge, access to capital, mentorship, connections, talent – all these things can be acquired through these programs.
Vets have some unique skills and traits that make them natural entrepreneurs. And that’s why a startup accelerator like Bunker Labs has big plans for those who are ready to take the first steps toward entrepreneurship.
When some of the most powerful brands get together for vets, big things happen.
Veterans are an interesting slice of Americans, especially where entrepreneurship is concerned. Time and again, veterans show they have the work ethic and drive it takes to start their own enterprises. Of the 200,000 separating veterans every year, 25 percent of those are interested in starting their own businesses but only 4.5 percent of those 50,000 vets are actually able to pursue their own entrepreneurial vision. The reason is because starting your own business takes knowledge veterans may not have and capital most definitely do not have.
That’s where a veteran-owned business accelerator can come into play. If you don’t know where to begin but you have a great idea, an accelerator like Bunker Labs is a great place to start. Starting a business isn’t obvious – there’s a lot that goes into it that you will just not know. Bunker Labs is a non-profit startup accelerator for the military-veteran community comprised of veteran volunteers with the tools and resources to help their fellow vetrepreneurs start their business.
Bunker Labs has helped create more than 1,000 veteran jobs in the United States and helped raise some million in startup capital. This accelerator captures the ambition and innovation veterans bring to startups and equips them with knowledge, mentorship, and opportunities they might otherwise not have had access to. There are labs online, labs in-residency for vets, and when the ball really gets rolling, a cadre of CEO vetrepreneurs who are taking their work to the next level. Bunker Labs is even a partner with the 2019 Military Influencer Conference, a three-day entrepreneurial workshop which brings together the brightest and most inspiring veteran entrepreneurs to teach and share their lessons learned and best practices.
To get started with Bunker Labs, vets simply have to start with registering for their Launch Labs Online, fill out some quick demographic information and from there you can connect with other new members, find a mentor, engage the Facebook group, and more. After activating your account, you can start taking classes with Bunker Labs right away. The core classes include knowing yourself, knowing your customers, and how to make money. From there, the sky could be the limit.
If you’re interested in starting your own business and don’t know where to begin, the Military Influencer Conferences are the perfect place to start. There, you can network with other veteran entrepreneurs while listening to the best speakers and panels the military-veteran community of entrepreneurs can muster. Visit the Military Influencer Conference website for more information.
Defense Secretary James Mattis put out his first all-hands message to everyone in the Department of Defense on Friday, and it tells you everything you need to know about how he intends to lead.
Mattis, a retired Marine general revered by his troops, probably made a good first impression among the roughly three million men and women who make up the active duty, reserve, and civilian force. That’s due to the notable language he used in his first sentence (emphasis added):
“It’s good to be back and I’m grateful to serve alongside you as Secretary of Defense.”
As many who served under him can attest, Mattis has always been a humble warrior who led Marines from the front — not from an air conditioned bunker. And the language that he used — serve alongside you, as opposed to lead, or manage you — shows that Mattis will likely bring his beloved leadership style of the Marines with him into the civilian post.
“He’s a leader by example,” retired Sgt. Maj. of the Marine Corps Carlton Kent told Business Insider in December. “He’s not the type that’s ‘do as I say, not as I do.’ He’s out there doing it.”
Mattis kept his message short and sweet, praising the people who make up the DoD, calling America a “beacon of hope,” and pledging that he would do his best as Defense Secretary.
Here’s the full letter:
It’s good to be back and I’m grateful to serve alongside you as Secretary of Defense.
Together with the Intelligence Community we are the sentinels and guardians of our nation. We need only look to you, the uniformed and civilian members of the Department and your families, to see the fundamental unity of our country. You represent an America committed to the common good; an America that is never complacent about defending its freedoms; and an America that remains a steady beacon of hope for all mankind.
Every action we take will be designed to ensure our military is ready to fight today and in the future. Recognizing that no nation is secure without friends, we will work with the State Department to strengthen our alliances. Further, we are devoted to gaining full value from every taxpayer dollar spent on defense, thereby earning the trust of Congress and the American people.
I am confident you will do your part. I pledge to you I’ll do my best as your Secretary.
Cards for Connection is a free resource that puts simple coping skills and VA phone numbers directly into veterans’ hands. Originally created for veterans who had experienced homelessness, the card deck has now been updated with information for all veterans.
As a result, veterans playing a game of cards read positive affirmations, reminders to breathe, and encouragement to make a connection with others.
Developing Cards for Connection
VA received input by veterans and that helped inform the VA staff that works with them.
Some veterans reported great feedback. Many wanted to see phone numbers on the cards, whether to see a doctor, find a safe place to sleep, or ask about VA resources.
Cards for Connection hopes to help Veterans cope with different situations.
“I like the feel of them. I was noticing the texture, it’s nice,” said one veteran.
Another veteran said, “I love this picture. If you’re in a [bad place], and you actually have a picture of something beautiful to look at, that’s something great.”
Veteran feedback will update future versions
VA will collect additional feedback on the cards via anonymous pre-addressed/stamped postcards. It will also collect from focus groups and anonymous staff surveys. VA will use this information to update future versions.
How do I get a deck of Cards for Connection?
There are about 8,000 decks available for any veteran who could benefit from using them. Requests for a deck from veterans can be sent to Katherine.Juhasz@va.gov.
Navy investigators who looked into the event tallied up at least eight drinks for the admiral for the night of Apr. 7. Security cameras filmed Baucom stumbling around the hotel and hitting his head on a barstool during the night. He also wet his pants at one point, according to the Stars and Stripes.
Eventually, a hotel employee collected Baucom and took him to his room, said the Washington Times. But Baucom awoke and reemerged naked from the room hours later and his room door locked behind him.
Baucom later told a colleague he hadn’t packed pajamas because his suitcase was full and he didn’t want to pay a baggage fee for another bag, the Washington Post reported.
Two women staying at the hotel saw the admiral walking around the hotel and searching for a towel. They reported it to hotel employees and Baucom was led back to his room.
The admiral checked himself into a drug and alcohol program when he got back to his base, the Navy Times reported. He also has a medical condition that contributed to the incident.
Still, the Navy knows a drunken sailor when they see one and determined that his actions had more to do with his intoxication than his medication. The 34-year veteran was removed from his post and reprimanded for his behavior.
The Coast Guard has been very busy recapitalizing its fleet. Many of its vessels, like the Hamilton-class high-endurance cutters and Reliance-class medium endurance cutters are quite old.
The Coast Guard has built six Bertholf-class cutters out of a planned class of nine to replace the 12 Hamilton-class ships. How nine vessels can be in 12 places at once is a mystery, but that’s a discussion for another time.
For their next step, the Coast Guard has been building what have been called the Sentinel-class cutters to replace 49 Island-class cutters built from 1985-1992.
The Island-class cutters started out at 110 feet long, and were armed with a Mk 38 Bushmaster chain gun like the one used on the M2 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle, as well as a pair of M2 .50-caliber machine guns (“Ma Deuce”). They have a top speed of nearly 30 knots and a range of 3,300 miles. The Coast Guard had 49 of them, but an effort to lengthen and modernize them went bad, and eight vessels had to be mothballed.
The new cutters are 154 feet long. While the main gun is the same Mk 38 Bushmaster, a Sentinel-class cutter boasts four M2 heavy machine guns as a secondary battery – twice as many as an Island-class cutter. The cutter is slightly slower (28 knots) and has shorter range (2,900 miles), and can launch a Short-Range Prosecutor, essentially a rigid-hull inflatable boat.
The Coast Guard plans to build 58 of the Sentinel-class cutters, replacing the Island-class cutters. According to a report by Military.com, the 24th Sentinel-class cutter, USCGC Oliver Barry (WPC 1124), will be commissioned this coming October in Honolulu, Hawaii.
The Coast Guard though, is planning to retire the Island-class cutter USCGC Kiska (WPB 1336), which is based at Hilo, without replacing it at the largest city on the easternmost of the Hawaiian Islands.
The Coast Guard is also planning to purchase the first nine of a planned 25-ship “Offshore Patrol Cutter” class. These vessels will replace not only the 14 ancient Reliance-class medium endurance cutters, but the 13 Bear-class medium endurance cutters as well.
Soviet military weapons have an odd tendency to stay both dangerous and relevant decades after they’re issued. They might lack the creature comforts and modularity of modern firearm designs, but whether a bullet finds its mark from a World War I Mosin Nagant rifle, or a next generation Russian bullpup SVD sniper rifle, the result is the same.
The largest example of this, is the infamous AKM/AK-47. Every tin-pot dictatorship or ex-Soviet satellite nation has churned out terrifying numbers of these reliable automatic rifles. While the AKM is a deadly adversary at close and medium range, it is handily outclassed (both in accuracy, and effective range) by modern Western-made military rifles like the M4A3 and M16A4.
That said, there is one Soviet firearm that continues to confound and frustrate American military forces in the Middle East: the PKM.
The PKM or Modernizirovanniy Pulemyot Kalashnikova (PK Machinegun Modernized) is a belt-fed, open-bolt, long-stroke light machine gun chambered in the hard-hitting 7.62x54R cartridge — the same round used by Russian infantry in World War I, Vietcong snipers in Indochina, and modern Russian Federation snipers wielding the infamous Dragunov.
The internal workings of the PKM aren’t dissimilar to those of the AK, and because of this, the PKM is remarkably reliable and resilient to negligent treatment. This robust construction combined with its powerful cartridge, make for an extraordinarily dangerous weapon against Western militaries — especially since the PKM has an effective range of 1,000-1,500 meters, putting it on par or surpassing most DMR rifles, and light machine guns in service.
Personally, after firing less than 100 rounds through a stateside PKM at an ordnance-testing facility in Nevada, I was able to successfully engage human-sized steel targets with iron sights at 600 yards with frightening regularity. This was with 60-year-old ammunition out of a PKM built in the 1970s with more than a half-million rounds fired through it.
The threat posed by this LMG to American and NATO forces is not lost on military thinkers or modern weapon-makers. In fact, the PKM is the impetus behind the latest evolution of the medium machine gun – the lightweight, medium machine gun, or LWMMG.
Historically, machine guns are grouped into three categories: light, medium and heavy (and occasionally general purpose). The last two, medium and heavy, are crew-served weapons, normally fired from either a tripod or vehicle mount. These are generally not considered man-portable, but are designed to provide constant fire on an area.
The light machine gun, or LMG generally fires a smaller caliber round than the medium or heavy machine gun, and is designed to be used and transported by a single soldier. These weapons are fired from a bipod, but are light enough to be quickly repositioned in the field.
The 5.56mm caliber M249 Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW) is a prime example of a light machine gun, while the .50 BMG M2 is a perfect example of a heavy machine gun. The M2 is tremendously more effective at all ranges than the M249, but its tremendous weight and size make it a poor choice for urban environments. The M240B almost splits the difference, but its 7.62 cartridge is still out-ranged by the Soviet PKM.
Thus the idea behind the LWMMG, is to combine the lightweight, portable nature of the the LMG with the extended range, and increased ballistic effectiveness of the MMG.
The engineers at General Dynamics are attempting this by incorporating a new “Short Recoil Impulse Averaging” method of operation coupled with a new modified .338 cartridge. At first glance, this seems like the scribblings of someone with no practical experience behind any of these weapon systems. On paper, a man-portable machine gun with the effective range of a .50 BMG, that weighed at little as the M240B with no more recoil than the 240, seems impossible.
If the footage of the new LWMMG released by General Dynamics is any indication, the new machine gun is more than just a concept. What remains to be seen, is whether or not the Pentagon puts enough importance on infantry combat and their equipment, to justify spending millions on upgrading it.
If nothing else, the likelihood of the General Dynamics LWMMG finding its way into the hands of US Special Forces is all but guaranteed. And while the increased effective range of the new cartridge is very impressive, the .338 round lacks the ballistic effectiveness of the .50 BMG. After all, it isn’t intended to double as an anti-material round, nor does it have the anti-vehicle lineage of the .50 BMG cartridge.
That said, the .338 is designed with an ideal ballistic coefficient in mind — meaning the projectile itself sails through the air with minimal resistance. In effect, this means the rounds travel closer to where the soldier aims them.
In the traditional role of an MMG or HMG, this is sometimes seen as detrimental, as the weapon is supposed to be used to provide a field of fire to an area. If the rounds are too precise, the area might be under less wide-spread fire, and potentially leave some enemy combatants unsuppressed.
However, in this case, precision is key. Since the impetus behind the design is to counter insurgent PKM/PKP light machine guns. Conceptually, this should allow our soldiers to out-range insurgent elements, as well as provide more accurate counter-fire.
As for results, we’ll have to wait and see if the idea gains more traction – and if it does, wait a few months or years for an official reports of its combat effectiveness to surface.
Did the VA read anything I submitted to them? Are these outside medical exams a scam? Who is willing to fight for me?
These are all common questions that Joseph Sapien, a Southern California-based Veteran Service Officer and Army vet, encounters on a daily basis. Veteran Service Officers, or “VSOs,” serve as a free resource to help vets properly submit disability claims and steer them to all the benefits of their service.
WATM recently spoke with Sapien on what it’s like serving as a VSO and got some advice from him on how to handle issues veterans face during the process of filing claims with the VA.
1. Where do I find a Veteran Service Officer to help with my claim?
Finding a Veteran Service Officer is as easy as picking up the phone and dialing 888-777-4443 to locate the office nearest you or by visiting the Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Veterans, or the Disabled American Veterans. Visiting a VSO is free of charge. Veterans should refrain from paying out of pocket to any agency claiming to offer them help with their claim. There are veterans services available in all 50 states.
2. Who is willingly to fight for me?
One benefit that a lot of veterans don’t take advantage of is calling up their congressman. Sapien says it’s a good idea for all vets to know who their elected officials are and meet them in person.
“This guy listens and tries to help vets, I have seen him give his time and thoughts on veteran matters, and that impressed me,” Sapien says of his local congressman, Rep. Tony Cárdenas.
3.What are some benefits Veterans don’t know about?
Caregiver program: This program provides monthly stipends to pay for support caregivers along with home and vehicle modifications for those who qualify. Caregivers of eligible veterans are urged to apply through the Caregiver Program website or by calling 855-260-3274.
College fee waiver: This program is set up to waive tuition fees for dependents and possibly for spouses. This is a state-based program. Visit your local VSO for more information.
4.What paperwork should I have before visiting a VSO?
Having the most current medical record on hand is key. If it’s not up-to-date, consider tracking the paperworkdown by getting in touch with your previous commands. Have a good solid copy of your service record on hand as well as your DD-214. The better your records are kept, the fewer bumps in the road. Just remember, filing is a process.
If you’re missing some of the documents, you can request them from archives.gov. It typically takes four to six weeks.
5.What Joe would like you to know
“We need to take care of each other. The only reason our era of veterans are getting better treatment and benefits is due to the Vietnam veterans who fought for our government,” Sapien says. “They fought and kept fighting for what was right, not for what was popular, not for the status quo. It’s our turn to stand. It is our turn to fight for future generations, so when they come home, they will be taken care of better than we are today.”
Reports of sexual assaults in the military increased slightly last year, U.S. defense officials said Monday, and more than half the victims reported negative reactions or retaliation for their complaints.
The defense officials, however, said an anonymous survey conducted last year showed some progress in fighting sexual assault, as fewer than 15,000 service members described themselves as victims of unwanted sexual contact. That is 4,000 fewer than in a 2014 survey. Sexual assault is a highly underreported crime, so the Pentagon uses anonymous surveys to track the problem.
The new figures are being released Monday. Several defense officials spoke about the report on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the data ahead of time.
For more than a decade, the Defense Department has been trying to encourage more people to report sexual assaults and harassment. The agency says greater reporting allows more victims to seek treatment.
Overall there were 6,172 reports of sexual assault filed in 2016, compared to 6,083 the previous year. The largest increase occurred in the Navy, with 5 percent more reports. There was a 3 percent jump in the Air Force. The Army and Marine Corps had slight decreases.
Retaliation is difficult to determine, and the Defense Department has been adjusting its measurements for several years. It seeks to differentiate between more serious workplace retribution and social snubs that, while upsetting, are not illegal.
Two years ago, a RAND Corporation study found that about 57 percent of sexual assault victims believed they faced retaliation from commanders or peers. Members of Congress demanded swift steps to protect whistleblowers, including sexual assault victims, who are wronged as a result of reports or complaints.
Data at the time suggested that many victims described the vengeful behavior as social backlash, including online snubs, that don’t meet the legal definition of retaliation.
Officials are trying to get a greater understanding about perceptions of retaliation. They’ve added more questions and analysis to eliminate instances when commanders make adjustments or transfer victims to protect them, as opposed to punishing them or pressuring them to drop criminal proceedings.
As a result, while 58 percent of victims last year said they faced some type of “negative behavior,” only 32 percent described circumstances that could legally be described as retribution. This includes professional retaliation, administration actions or punishments. In 2015, 38 percent reported such actions.
Despite the small increase in reports last year, officials focused on the anonymous survey. The survey is done every two years and includes a wider range of sexual contact.
In 2012, the survey showed 26,000 service members said they had been victims of unwanted sexual contact, which can range from inappropriate touching and hazing to rape. The numbers enraged Congress and triggered extensive debate over new laws and regulations to attack the problem.
The surveys have shown a steady decline. Monday’s report shows 14,900 cases were reported. Of those, 8,600 were women and 6,300 were men. It marks the first time more women than men said they experienced unwanted sexual contact. There are far more men in the military and the total number of male victims had been higher, even if by percentage, women faced more unwanted contact.
The decrease in reports by men suggests a possible reduction in hazing incidents, officials said.
About 21 percent of women said they had faced sexual harassment, about the same as two years ago. The percentage of men dipped a bit.
Beaver County native Scott Marshall and his wife Karen were trying out a new church Sunday because she had recently moved back to their home in La Vernia, Texas, after finishing an assignment at Maryland’s Andrews Air Force Base, family members said.
In what was the first and only time they worshipped at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, the Marshalls were among 26 people shot and killed when Devin Patrick Kelley opened fire on a service there. Authorities said the attack appeared to stem from a domestic dispute .
Scott Marshall, 58, was retired from the Air Force and had been working as a civilian contractor and mechanic at Lackland Air Force Base, about 35 miles west of La Vernia, said his father Robert Marshall, 85, of Crescent. Scott and Karen met while they were in the service together more than 30 years ago.
Scott grew up in Hopewell, Beaver County, and joined the Air Force after graduating from high school.
Karen was a Master Sergeant in the Air National Guard and had just finished a posting at Andrews Air Force Base, Robert Marshall said. Scott was driving her back to Texas, where she would officially retire. The couple stopped in Pennsylvania on their way home to spend a few days with Scott’s family. They threw a birthday party for Robert two Sundays ago.
“It was a surprise party for my dad. He thought they were just celebrating her retirement,” said Scott’s younger sister Holly Hannum, 48, of Chippewa.
They left last Tuesday to continue on their way back to Texas, Hannum said. They were just settling back into life together, she said.
Hannum said Karen, who grew up in Nevada, wasn’t raised Baptist but she found a Baptist church that she liked in Maryland. She wanted to try another one of the same denomination when she got back to Texas.
“They wanted to try a Baptist church that was just 10 minutes from their house,” Hannum said.
Hannum was just returning from church herself when she said she felt a wave of apprehension come over her. Her heart sank when she saw news of a shooting in Texas and her brother wouldn’t answer her text messages. She reached Scott’s son Brandon, who told her that he was awaiting word from authorities about what happened to Scott and Karen.
The family found out early Monday morning — on Robert’s 85th birthday — that Scott and Karen were among the dead. Their red Xterra SUV was visible in many of the TV shots taken outside the church, Hannum said.
As of Monday night, the family was preparing for a trip to Texas — complicated by Robert’s need for an oxygen machine — by air and by car.
In addition to his father and sister Holly, Scott is survived by sisters Kim, Laurie and Amy; son, Brandon; daughters Martina and Kara; and five grandchildren. The Marshall family could not name all of Karen’s siblings.
Funeral arrangements were being planned for Texas, Hannum said.
Even the most innocuous data posted to a social media feed can be married up with other publicly available information to provide online criminals the tools they need to exploit members of the military or general public, an Army special agent said.
Special Agent Deric Palmer, program manager for the Digital Personal Protection Program, part of the Major Cybercrime Unit at the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command, explained how those who aren’t careful or aren’t paying attention can unwittingly provide scammers and other online criminals all the information they need to exploit them.
Social media accounts, Palmer said, serve as fertile ground for digging up the kinds of information that can be used to impersonate someone, steal identities or break into other online accounts, such as banking or insurance.
A Facebook page, for example, might contain current and past physical addresses where a person has lived, phone numbers, email addresses, names of pets, significant events such as birthdays and anniversaries, hobbies and other interests. Just browsing a Facebook page, Palmer said, he can figure out your favorite music, books, TV shows, political and religious leanings.
All that, he said, serves as “an attack vector” that an unscrupulous person can use to communicate with users further and gain their trust. Additional communications can bring out even more details that might later be used to break into online accounts or exploit users in other ways. Some social media users, Palmer added, even volunteer critical information that could be used to access their online financial accounts that they’d never divulge if they were asked by a stranger.
Some online memes, he noted, pose as games that get users to volunteer information that, coupled with other easily obtainable information, can be used to exploit them. A quick search online reveals a simple graphic meme that purportedly allows users to choose “your new cat name” and then post the results, along with the meme itself, on their own social media feed.
For the “cat name” meme, users would use the last digit of their phone number as a selector for any of nine name prefixes, their zodiac sign to choose from a list of 12 middle names, and their favorite color to choose from a list of eight potential last names.
A user might end up with “Count Sassy Pants” as a silly name for their cat. When they post that on their social media feed, along with the meme image itself, would-be criminals will know their phone number ends in 8, they were born in either August or September, and that their favorite color is yellow. Coupled with data already on their social media feed, and with data that can be obtained from data brokers, the information makes it easier to exploit users, Palmer explained.
Image memes such as this one ask users to construct and share on their social media feeds new, “fun” information that is constructed from their personal information.
Military personnel also are candidates to be impersonated online — malicious users might opt to use imagery of real-world service members available online to exploit other users. The U.S. military is one of the most trusted institutions in the nation, and online criminals, Palmer said, take advantage of that.
“The U.S. military is viewed as a prestigious club … It’s an indicator of prestige,” Palmer said. “It’s instant respect. If I can pretend to be a U.S. general, unwitting people will respect me immediately.”
With that respect, he said, a criminal can exploit other users while pretending to be a member of the U.S. military. Palmer’s advice to service members: don’t post your picture in uniform with the name tape visible. “It immediately makes you a target,” the special agent said.
Palmer offered some tips to avoid being scammed:
Immediate red flag! Be suspicious if you are asked for money or a wire transfer to pay for a purported service member’s transportation, medical bills, communication fees or marriage-processing charges.
Be suspicious if the person with whom you are corresponding wants you to mail anything to a foreign country.
Be aware that military members at any duty location or in a combat zone have access to mail, cyber cafes, Skype and other means of communicating with their families, and they have access to medical and dental treatment.
The military will ensure that family members are notified should a service member is injured.
Insist on a “proof of life.” The scammers will not video chat with you, because they know you will catch them in their lie.
Trust your instincts! If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
The special agent also provided eight points for better security online, and to make users less likely to be victimized by online criminals:
Permanently close old, unused accounts.
Enable two-factor authentication on any platform that allows it.
Use strong passwords, and use different passwords for every account.
On social media, accept friend requests selectively.
Configure the strongest privacy settings for each social media account.
Think before you post.
Limit use of third-part applications on social media applications, read the license agreement, and be sure exactly what those applications want to be able to access.
Change answers to security questions, and use false answers so that online criminals can’t use information they gather online to gain access to your accounts.
There are certain things that some soldiers and service members may take for granted: equipment provided, a full plate of food, ammunition for their weapons. It might seem like there is a mystical force operating behind the scenes to make these resources magically appear, but it’s a result of the organized, detailed planning, and execution that is logistics.
Soldiers, sailors, and civilians with the U.S. Transportation Command helped to further advance the efficiency of military logistics by testing a high-speed vessel to transport troops and cargo across the Black Sea, Aug. 24, 2018.
“This is a great opportunity to test this vessel and the crewmembers,” said Navy Cmdr. Steven Weydert, the USNS Carson City military detachment officer in charge. “Hopefully it opens up more options for the Army and any other service to develop interoperability in this area of responsibility for multiple missions and to support our allies.”
Members of U.S. Transportation Command oversee the docking of the USNS Carson City (T-EPF 7) at the Port of Constanta, Romania, Aug. 24, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Kris Bonet)
Soldiers, Abrams Battle Tanks, and Bradley Fighting Vehicles departed the Poti Sea Port in Georgia on Aug. 22, 2018, aboard the USNS Carson City and docked at the Port of Constanta, Romania after a two-day voyage. The Carson City is the first high-speed vessel of its kind to travel the Black Sea in support of U.S. Army Europe operations.
Carson City (T-EPF 7) is a Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transport, a high-speed, shallow draft vessel that can hold up to 600 short tons, sail across 1,200 nautical miles (1,381 miles) at an average speed of 35 knots (40 mph). The vessel’s role is to support joint and coalition force operations for the Army and Navy by transporting troops, military vehicles, supplies, and equipment.
Sgt. Matthew Grobelch, a transportation management coordinator with the 839th Transportation Battalion, helps to load U.S. military cargo at the Port of Constanta, Romania, Aug. 24, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Kris Bonet)
“Looking forward to future exercises being planned to take place in the Balkans as well as the Black Sea region, the T-EPF is perfect for some of those smaller ports that we want to utilize but can’t get the larger ships to dock,” said Lt. Col. John Hotek, commander of the 839th Transportation Battalion. “This proved that its a very viable solution, very cost effective, [and] very economical and efficient.”
This proof-of-principle operation brought together two of three service component commands that make up USTRANSCOM: the Navy’s Military Sealift Command and the Army’s Surface Deployment and Distribution Command.
Soldiers with the 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment stage their Abrams Battle Tanks at the Port of Constanta, Romania, Aug. 24, 2018 after downloading them from the USNS Carson City.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Kris Bonet)
“We’re trying to incorporate other services like the Navy’s MSC and see how well we can use this asset to deploy and redeploy units to various exercises and real-world missions,” said Sgt. 1st Class Miguel Elizarraras, cargo specialist with the 839th Transportation Battalion, 598th Transportation Brigade. “We’re testing the capabilities of the vessel to transport a company-size element of infantry or mechanized units in and out of port in a faster way.”
As part of the Army’s Surface Deployment and Distribution Command, the mission of the 839th is to provide strategic transportation support to joint military forces throughout the Mediterranean, Caspian and Black Seas as well as the vast majority of the continent of Africa.
Pfc. Albert Hsieh, an armor crewman with the 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, inspects an Abrams Battle Tank after it is staged at the Port of Constanta, Romania, Aug. 24, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Kris Bonet)
Equally important, the Navy’s MSC has the responsibility for providing sealift and ocean transportation for all U.S. military services, as well as replenishments and controlling the military transport ships.
“I have a tendency sometimes to say ‘we work in the shadows,'” said Hotek. “We are that strategic link between the tactical and operational force, and the Department of Defense’s command structure that determines the movements.”
The USNS Carson City’s success in traversing the Black Sea will affect the planning of future exercises within the European training environment.
With the Army’s Next Generation Squad Weapon Project, the days of the M4 Carbine and M249 SAW may be numbered. The prototypes from General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems Inc., Textron Systems, and Sig Sauer are vying to replace both 5.56mm weapon systems in infantry and close-combat units. All three NGSW candidates utilize a 6.8mm round, though their designs and mechanics vary greatly. While the NGSW Project is a departure from the M4/M16 family, it is certainly not the first time that the Army or military in general has attempted to find a new rifle.
The prototypes for the Army’s Next Generation Squad Weapon (U.S. Army)
The SPIW on display at the Aberdeen Proving Ground Museum (Public Domain)
1. Special Purpose Individual Weapon
The Special Purpose Individual Weapon was an Army program that began in 1951 to develop a flechette-firing rifle. I know what you’re thinking: the M16 wasn’t even adopted until 1964. So how can the SPIW have been a potential replacement for the M16?
Well, Project SALVO was the Army’s first attempt to create the SPIW with the intent of arming soldiers with a weapon that fired small projectiles in large volumes at a high rate of fire, hence its name. Though flechette rounds were tested, the conclusion of Project SALVO was to adopt the Armalite AR-15 as the M16 rifle. However, research and development of the SPIW continued with Project NIBLICK. Now trying to replace the newly adopted M16, the Project NIBLICK also aimed to develop a grenade launcher to complement the flechette-firing rifle. AAI, Springfield Armory, Winchester Arms, and Harrington Richardson all submitted their own unique entries for the SPIW. T
hough none of the submissions were deemed to be effective combat weapons, the grenade launcher from the AAI design was further developed and was eventually as the M203 40mm grenade launcher.
Top to bottom: AAI, HK, Steyr, and Colt ACR prototypes (Public Domain)
2. Advanced Combat Rifle
Started in 1986, the Advanced Combat Rifle program aimed to replace the M16 with a more accurate rifle. AAI, Colt, HK, Steyr, Ares Inc., and McDonnell Douglas Helicopter Systems all received development contracts, but only the first four companies advanced to the weapon testing phase. The AAI entry utilized a flechette round which, despite the addition of a sound suppressor, created a louder muzzle blast than the M16.
The HK entry was the innovative caseless ammunition G11 which many people will remember from the video game Call of Duty: Black Ops. Steyr submitted a flechette-firing bullpup design that bore a superficial resemblance to the AUG. Colt’s ACR prototype was the most conventional, as it was a highly modified version of the existing M16 design with the addition of a new sight, a hydraulic buffer, and a collapsing buttstock. The Colt ACR also utilized an experimental “duplex round”, a single cartridge with two small bullets in it, to increase the rifle’s volume of fire. However, the “duplex rounds” resulted in decreased accuracy at long range, defeating the purpose of the ACR. In the end, none of the ACR prototypes met or even approached the 100% improvement over the M16 that the program aimed for.
A soldier with the XM29 Block 3 prototype (U.S. Army)
3. Objective Individual Combat Weapon/XM29
In the aftermath of the ACR program, the Army started the Objective Individual Combat Weapon program. The central idea of the OICW program was to develop an infantry rifle that allowed the user to engage targets behind hard cover with the use of airburst munitions. This idea was refined to combine the airburst, low-velocity cannon with an assault rifle.
The kinetic rounds of the rifle could engage a target directly and, if the target retreated behind cover, the airburst munition could be employed instead. By the early 2000s, contract winner Heckler Koch had resigned the XM29, which featured a 20mm High Explosive Air Bursting launcher and a short-barrel 5.56x45mm NATO rifle. However, the 20mm HEAB was found to be inadequately lethal and the short barrel of the rifle did not generate enough muzzle velocity to be as effective as a standard infantry rifle. The XM29 was also too large and heavy to be carried by a rifleman on the frontlines. The XM29 was shelved in 2004.
Army Chief of Staff, General Peter J. Shoomaker, and Sergeant Major of the Army Kenneth O. Preston fire the compact variant of the XM8 at Fort Benning, August 2004 (U.S. Army)
Designed by Heckler Koch, the XM8 was an offshoot of the shelved XM29. The grenade launcher part of the project went on to be developed into the XM25 Counter Defilade Target Engagement System. The XM8 was a configurable weapon system that allowed the user to set it up as an infantry rifle, a short-barreled personal defense weapon, and even a bipod-equipped support weapon.
The XM8 also featured an integrated sight and IR laser aiming module/illuminator. Over 200 developmental prototypes were delivered to the military. However, testing yielded numerous complaints including the short battery life of the integrated sight and IR module, ergonomic issues, heavy weight, and a hand guard that would melt after firing too many rounds. Following this first phase of testing, the military requested funding for a large field test, which Congress denied. The project was put on hold in April 2005 and formally canceled on October 31 later that year.
Soldiers fire the HK HK416 (U.S. Army)
5. Individual Carbine
The Individual Carbine competition began in 2010 and sought to replace the M4 carbine in the US Army. The Army solicited manufacturers to submit rifles that provided accurate and reliable firepower, could be fired semi or fully-automatic, possessed integrated Picatinny rails, and was fully ambidextrous. Though the competition did not specify a caliber, any submissions not chambered in 5.56x45mm NATO or 7.62x54mm NATO had to be supplied with ammunition by the manufacturer.
Submissions for the competition included Robinson Armament Co.’s XCR, LWRC’s M6A4, Remington’s ACR (not to be confused with the ACR program), FN Herstal’s FN SCAR, Colt’s CM901, Beretta’s ARX-160, Adcor Defense’s A-556, and HK’s HK416, among others. Over the course of testing, some companies backed out after the Army announced that the winner would have to turn over technical data rights to the Army; others dropped out for financial reasons. By Phase II testing, only FN, HK, Remington, Adcor Defense, Beretta, and Colt remained in the running.
Though Phase II was completed, Phase III was halted in 2013 by questions regarding the program’s cost and necessity. With M4A1 carbines set to be purchased through 2018, the Army began to rethink carbine acquisition. On June 13, 2013, the Individual Carbine competition was formally cancelled on the grounds that none of the submissions met the minimum scores to continue to the next phase of the evaluation.
A Marine armed with an M27 IAR covers his team in Afghanistan (U.S. Marine Corps)
6. M27 Infantry Assault Rifle
The Marines pride themselves on their ingenuity. Their ability to improvise, adapt, and overcome us part of what makes them such a lethal fighting force. The Corps demonstrated this ability with their acquisition and fielding of the M27 Infantry Assault Rifle. In 2006, the Marine Corps issued contracts to manufacturers to replace the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon with a more mobile Infantry Assault Rifle. Submissions included IAR variants of the FN SCAR and HK416 as well as the Colt IAR6940. In 2009, the HK416 won the competition and began a five-month final testing period before it was formally designated as the M27 IAR in the summer of 2010.
In May 2011, General James Amos ordered the replacement of the M249 SAW by the M27 IAR and limited fielding began. Though the 30round magazine-fed M27 could not provide the sustained suppressive fire that the belt-fed M249 SAW could, the M27’s increased accuracy and reliability offset the rate of fire. In early 2017, Commandant of the Marine Corps General Robert Neller announced that he wanted to equip every 0311 Marine rifleman with the M27 IAR. To meet this demand, the Corps issued a request for 11,000 M27 IARs from HK. Chris Woodburn, deputy of the Maneuver Branch, Fires and Maneuver Integration at Marine Corps Combat Development Command, said, “The new order will replace all M4s in every infantry squad with an M27, except for the squad leader.”
The change would also include Marine infantry training battalions. The deal was finalized in 2018, with the Marines purchasing just over 14,000 M27 IARs. In 2019, the Marine Corps reported that the last of the M27s would be delivered and issued to every infantryman from platoon commander and below by mid-2021. While the M27 will replace the M4 as the standard-issue rifle for the Marine Corps infantry, non-infantry Marines will continue to field the M4 for the foreseeable future. Still, it could be argued that the Marine Corps succeeded in replacing the M4 in a short period of time where the Army failed over a period of decades of programs and competitions. If anything, the NGSW goal of replacing the M4 and M249 with a single weapon system appears to have been lifted from the Marine Corps acquisition and fielding of the M27 IAR.
Only time will tell if the Army will succeed in replacing the M4 through the NGSW Project, or if it be the latest in a long line of failed attempts.
Despite the record heat on July 19 and 20, 2019, in Davenport, Iowa, more than 600 veterans and their family members attended the Quad Cities Veterans Experience Action Center (VEAC) at St. Ambrose University. The event was held to bring together community service providers, veteran service organizations, and other government partners to provide services, resources and information directly to veterans and those currently serving.
Planning for Quad Cities Veterans Experience Action Center began in May 2018 in collaboration with the Veterans Experience Office, the National Cemetery Administration, VBA regional offices, Iowa City VA Health Care System, the local Vet Center, two Community Veteran Engagement Boards, the Rock Island Arsenal, UnityPoint Health Trinity, the United Way, St. Ambrose University and many more; all came together to ensure veterans have the resources, services, and information needed to get to “yes.”
Community partners took on this challenging event knowing it would have a significant and lasting impact on the lives of veterans in their community, which made the many months of planning worth it.
A Veteran and his spouse learning more about many different resources available.
“I have desire to help the ones that served our Nation in uniform and knew there was a need in the Quad Cities area to bring together community partners and VA under one building to provide information and resources to Veterans,” said Daniel Joiner, Director of Community Engagement at UnityPoint Health Trinity and Quad Cities VEAC organizer.
During the two-day event, the Des Moines, IA, and Chicago, IL, Veterans Benefit Administration regional offices were on-site to assist veterans wanting to file a disability compensation claim, check on a claim decision, check on the status of an existing claim, obtain representation from a Veteran Service Organization, receive counseling services through the mobile Vet Center and learn about many other community resources.
After reading about the Quad Cities VEAC’s success on day one, Paige, a U.S. Army veteran, flew from Baltimore, MD, for the VEAC’s second day.
U.S. Army Veteran Paige waiting to meet with representatives from Veterans Benefits Administration.
“After reading the excellent reviews, I knew this event would be best opportunity for me to receive some answers. I was told by the representative from the regional office I would have a decision within a week,” said Paige.
Another veteran from Orlando, FL, heard about the VEAC in April 2019 and booked his flight and hotel room to attend. Army veteran, Vincent, had been struggling for years to get the help he needed. “This event was just what is needed for veterans. Today, I was able to get all of my issues resolved. I can now go back home and sleep peacefully,” he said.
Paige and Vincent were not the only two veterans that were from out of state. Veterans from Alaska, Texas and one Marine Corps veteran from Belgium and her mother, an Army veteran, attended to take advantage of the resources that were available.
U.S. Army Veteran Vincent discussing how important it was for him to attend the Quad Cities VEAC.
The Iowa City VA Health Care System provided information, enrollment and eligibility representatives so veterans could enroll in VA health care. “Often times, many veterans are unsure if they are eligible for VA health care benefits, that’s why we are here today to assist veterans in registering for benefits they earned. During the two day event, we were able to enroll 46 veterans to receive VA health care benefits,” said the Iowa City VA Health Care System’s Director, Judith Johnson-Mekota.
Carmen Gamble, an Army veteran that retired at the rank of Command Sergeant Major and works for VA’s Veterans Experience Office explained, “Over the two-day event, more than 30 community partners and dozens of VA staff came together here in the Quad Cities to serve our Nation’s Heroes to help them receive what they need. We plan to engage other communities in other states to look at how a Veterans Experience Action Centers could benefit their veteran population.”
Several more Veterans Experience Action Centers including San Juan, Puerto Rico, Sep. 4-6, 2019; and Cary, North Carolina, Sep. 18-21, 2019, are being planned.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.