These veterans are bringing about positive change with cardboard signs - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

These veterans are bringing about positive change with cardboard signs

The CFT has nothing to do with combat, Kuwait isn’t a real deployment, not every Marine is a rifleman, stop piggybacking off the XO—every service member has thought these things in some form at one point or another. You may have even said it aloud to a buddy. Putting a military spin on Dude With a Sign, Veteran With A Sign takes these thoughts that we have all had and actually says them.


VWAS is an Instagram page that started in March 2020 as a writing project by a f̶o̶r̶m̶e̶r̶ Marine named Zach. He served two tours in Afghanistan as an infantryman and held every position in a Marine infantry squad up to squad leader. “GWOT was hot and COIN was cool,” Zach said as he recalled the intensity of combat operations over a decade ago. After separating from the Marine Corps, Zach continued to support his brothers and sisters in arms working for Centerstone, a nonprofit national network that offers essential behavioral healthcare to veterans. Like most veterans, Zach started following military memes as a way to connect with the community. However, he found that most of the memes were the same; heavy handed, punching down, and generally negative in nature. He decided to try something different.

As quarantines went into place across the country and people went internal both literally and on the internet, Zach saw an opportunity to test out his idea and seized it. His first sign read, “Take motrin Drink water Change your socks.” This military cure-all was followed by other popular sayings like “Hurry up and wait” and “Standby to standby.” VWAS’s posts are meant to help veterans with a type of humor that serves as a common language across the services. “Everything’s with a wink and a smile,” Zach said. However, the community was slow to catch on. The number of followers was low and Zach found that people just weren’t getting the joke. “It was annoying,” he recalled. By May, he wondered if he shouldn’t just shut the whole thing down. However, seemingly overnight, the community got the joke.

Early on, Zach began consulting with his Marine Corps buddy Jay. The two served together in Afghanistan with Zach becoming Jay’s squad leader on their last deployment. “We stayed in touch after the Marines,” Jay said, “but we went from good friends to best friends with VWAS.” While working toward a business degree, Jay helped to direct the social media strategy of the page and grow its followership by tagging friends, sharing posts, and trying to line up just the right hashtag. When Zach considered shutting it down, the page was hovering around 600-800 followers. The next day, it had jumped to 1,200. In a week, it more than doubled to 2,500. After a week and a half, VWAS had over 10,000 followers. “We found a common unified voice for the page,” Jay said.

These veterans are bringing about positive change with cardboard signs

Zach (left) and Jay (right) hold signs written by the other (veteranwithasign)

As the page grew, so did its message. Zach and Jay realized the social responsibility that had been placed on them and crafted their posts accordingly. While they still made humorous signs like “Mortarmen Are Infantry That Can Do Math”, they also used their platform to bring attention to serious topics with signs like “Text Your Buddies…It Could Save A Life” and “Where Is Vanessa Guillén??” The two also carefully crafted the identity of the page with the character of the Warfighter. Wearing OD green skivvies, black sunglasses, and a hat, the Warfighter persona aims to focus attention on the message of the sign while also representing all types of veterans. “Anyone who puts on the uniform is fighting the war,” Jay said. From S1 and supply to mechanics and logisticians, “everybody is the warfighter in their own way.” Zach says that the concept was inspired by the 2006 film V for Vendetta, in which a masked man fights against a fascist tyrannical government. V’s face, hidden by a Guy Fawkes mask, is never seen in the film and the mask becomes a symbol of freedom and rebellion against the oppressive regime. Jay reinforced this idea when he talked about donning the skivvies, hat, and shades to hold up a sign. “In that moment, I’m the Warfighter.”

Expanding the VWAS community, Zach and Jay started taking suggestions from followers who had a message that they wanted to share. Working with Zach and Jay to craft and home the message, the follower would then don the Warfighter outfit, assume the identity, and hold up their sign for the world to read. One such collaboration was with a veteran and former law enforcement officer who goes by the Instagram name donutoperator—the sign read, “Military Experience Doesn’t Equal Law Enforcement Experience.” Another major expansion for VWAS came when Tim Kennedy shared a post in which Zach held up a sign reading, “No One Hates Successful Veterans Like Veterans” while his friend held one reading, “He Sucks”.

These veterans are bringing about positive change with cardboard signs

“Wives aren’t the only ones wanting to be called by rank” (veteranwithasign)

“There’s a current cultural problem with the veteran community. It feels as if we eat our own,” Kennedy said in his sharing of the post. “We need to be supporting each other. We need to back each other.” While Zach and Jay hope to continue to grow the page as a forum of free speech, there’s no room on VWAS for negativity. The page receives dozens of DMs and comments on a daily basis, and while Zach and Jay like to respond to all of them, they simply ignore the constant suggestions to do signs bashing on veteran-owned apparel or coffee companies.

“That’s just being a bully,” Jay said, “and no one likes a bully.”

On the other hand, many DMs to the page come from concerned friends looking for resources to provide to battle buddies who they think might be suicide risks. Zach and Jay take the time to identify the most appropriate and effective resources and pass the information on with best wishes. “That’s what this is all about,” Zach said, “helping veterans laugh more and hurt themselves less.” While veteran suicides have gone up since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, VWAS wants to do more than just acknowledge the problem or point fingers at the VA. “That doesn’t solve anything,” Zach said. “Instead, I look at it like, ‘They’re doing what they can do and we’re doing what we can do.'”

Doing 22 push-ups for 30 days on Facebook can be a good way to bring awareness to the problem of veteran suicide, but there is a simpler course of action that addresses the problem directly. Call your buddies. Take the time to talk, catch up, and ask how they’re doing. Let them know that you care about them and are always there for them. The feeling of loneliness and hopelessness that tragically brings so many veterans to take their own lives can be combated with a phone call from a friend.

Be that friend.

Here are some resources designed to prevent veteran suicide:

Veterans Crisis Line—1-800-273-8255 and press 1

Veterans Crisis Line for deaf or hard of hearing—1-800-799-4889

Veterans Crisis Text—838255

Veterans Crisis Online Chat— https://www.veteranscrisisline.net/get-help/chat

MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korea accidentally burned a photographer alive during a missile test

There’s a saying in the photography community, first coined by the legendary Robert Capa: “if your photos aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.” If that’s true, there’s one North Korean photog who has the world’s best photo of a rocket launch. Sadly, no one will ever see it because the photo was burned up along with the man who took it.


The worst part is, the Korean Central News Agency distributed video of his gruesome death for all the world to see.

These veterans are bringing about positive change with cardboard signs

Ow Ow Ow Ow Ow Ow Ow Ow

No one loves testing missiles and telling the world about it more than North Korea, so it’s likely the photographer was put there on purpose. Whether or not anyone (especially the photographer) knew he was in the blast zone for the Hwasong-15 rocket is anyone’s guess.

“The photographer who stood near Hwasong-15 missile was enveloped by fire,” said one onlooker to the incident. “I was shocked to see officials watching the launch. I did not know whether it was the fault of the cameraman or the control center. But it was impossible for leader Kim Jong-un who was at the site not to have witnessed the incident.”

These veterans are bringing about positive change with cardboard signs

Kim Jong-un and the Korean People’s Army rejoice at the launch of a Hwasong-15 missile test.

As North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un and his cronies watched North Korea’s largest, most powerful Intercontinental ballistic missile test to date – and cheered on – it’s possible that up to 16 people who were in the test area were burned alive by the missile’s blast. South Korea says the KCNA broadcasts were later edited to remove the toasted photographer.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Army leaders ask us to ‘pay a little extra attention’ this month

September is Suicide Prevention Month, and U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz leaders ask community members to pay a little extra attention to their friends, family members, coworkers, and battle buddies.

“In the military, we’re family. We have to take care of each other,” USAG RP Command Sgt. Maj. Brett Waterhouse said. “Everybody has a state of normal, so when people you know don’t seem quite right, check on them — it’s really important. Losing one soldier or family member to suicide is too many. Please think about what you can do to prevent suicide. Intervene.”

USAG RP Suicide Prevention Program Manager John Wrenchey said it’s important to pause once in a while and say, “What is my role or responsibility for suicide prevention?”


Wrenchey said one thing people can do is keep “ACE” in mind, which stands for Ask, Care and Escort. ACE encourages asking a coworker, family member or friend whether he or she is suicidal, caring for the person and escorting him or her to a source of professional help if needed.

These veterans are bringing about positive change with cardboard signs

“The hard part about suicide prevention is that every person’s avenue of getting to the point of thinking about suicide is different — there’s no clear-cut ‘if you see this, they’re thinking about suicide’ indicator,” Wrenchey said. “That’s why it helps to know the person, because if something feels off in your gut — maybe something is different about your friend, or they’re saying or doing things that aren’t typical — you can reach out and ask what’s going on. It’s important to ask.”

According to unit risk inventories conducted by the garrison’s Army Substance Abuse Program, 7-8% of soldiers from units based in Kaiserslautern or Baumholder indicated on anonymous surveys that they have had some form of suicidal thoughts or behavior within the last year.

“If you think about that, that’s like going to the commissary and walking by 13 soldiers — statistically, one of them is struggling with thoughts of suicide, or has in the last year,” Wrenchey explained.

As far as the rest of the community — family members, Department of the Army civilians, retirees — it’s reasonable to expect the percentage to be as much or greater, Wrenchey said.

The ASAP utilizes unit risk inventories to look at what factors often go along with thoughts of suicide. Commonly correlated with suicidal thoughts or behaviors are anger issues, loneliness issues, lack of trust in leadership, legal issues and abuse, Wrenchey said.

These veterans are bringing about positive change with cardboard signs

Based on the unit risk inventories, the SPP is able to put together Ready and Resilient ‘Be There’ workshops tailored to specific issues a unit is facing — thereby addressing stressors in people’s lives that could potentially lead to suicidal ideation.

Another way the SPP works to prevent suicide is by training members of the community in suicide intervention skills. The two-day ASIST workshop gives participants knowledge about suicide, skills to reach out and confidence to help save a life. A list of upcoming ASIST workshops may be found on the garrison website at home.army.mil/rheinland-pfalz/index.php/asap.

Wrenchey reiterated that simply checking on others is the most important thing to do.

“People do care, they just get caught up in their own lives and get busy. But if they knew that somebody was truly thinking about suicide, they would be there for them. It’s just a matter of getting to that point of awareness,” he said.

If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, contact your chain of command, a chaplain, or call the Military Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 (00800-1273-8255 – or DSN 118 – in Europe).

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army rebuilds Myrtle Beach after Hurricane Florence

South Carolina is no stranger to hurricanes and each one takes its toll on shorelines and beach communities located across the Atlantic coastal region.

After each significant storm, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers personnel assess erosion impacts, work hand-in-hand with state and local partners to determine mitigation measures for erosion damage to shoreline projects and take authorized measures to rehabilitate effected areas.


According to USACE Deputy Commanding General for Civil and Emergency Operations, Maj. Gen. Scott A. Spellmon, these efforts are extremely beneficial to both local communities and nationwide efforts to protect the environment and foster economic growth.

These veterans are bringing about positive change with cardboard signs

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers beach renourishment operations underway along Myrtle Beach, S.C., following Hurricane Florence, Sept. 22, 2018.

(Photo by Edward Johnson)

“Our scientists venture out and measure where shoreline erosion has occurred,” said Spellmon. “At Myrtle Beach, it appears the impacts of Hurricane Florence were enough that we’re adding additional quantities of sand to an existing contract underway to address damages from Hurricanes Matthew and Irma.”

These veterans are bringing about positive change with cardboard signs

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Deputy Commanding General for Civil and Emergency Operations, Maj. Gen. Scott Spellmon (left), discusses beach renourishment operations with Chris Promfret, a USACE contractor with the Great Lakes Dredge and Dock LLC, following Hurricane Florence, Sept. 22, 2018.

(Photo by Edward Johnson)

Work was paused because dredging craft were moved to safe harbor during the storm, but has since resumed.

“We’re deploying high-tech equipment to quantify the losses and then utilizing dredging vessels and ship-to-shore pipelines to rehabilitate the federal project, thus ensuring beaches and dunes are ready to provide their full benefits whenever the next storm may impact the area,” added Spellmon.

These veterans are bringing about positive change with cardboard signs

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers beach renourishment operations underway along Myrtle Beach, S.C. (lower left), following Hurricane Florence, Sept. 22, 2018.

(Photo by Edward Johnson)

Great Lakes Dredge Dock LLC, contracted to complete this project, utilizes hopper dredges to vacuum sand from the sea floor through drag arms from a location approximately three miles from the impacted shoreline.

Chris Promfret, a USACE contractor with the Great Lakes Dredge and Dock LLC, says the sand being pumped to the beach comes from an underwater area about 30 feet below the Atlantic ocean’s surface.

These veterans are bringing about positive change with cardboard signs

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Deputy Commanding General for Civil and Emergency Operations, Maj. Gen. Scott Spellmon, points out beach renourishment operations to local government officials, USACE personnel and contractors along Myrtle Beach, S.C., following Hurricane Florence, Sept. 22, 2018.

(Photo by Edward Johnson)

The renourished shoreline beaches and dunes serve to reduce the impacts of future hurricanes and other coastal storms to communities and infrastructure. With that in mind, USACE partners with state and municipal officials on shoreline restoration initiatives.

These veterans are bringing about positive change with cardboard signs

A hopper dredge vessel uses a ship-to-shore pipeline to transfer sand from the ocean flood to the shoreline as part of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers beach renourishment operations underway along Myrtle Beach, S.C., following Hurricane Florence, Sept. 27, 2018.

(Photo by Edward Johnson)

Chief of Programs and Civil Project Management for USACE, Charleston District, Brian Williams, says this project covers more than 25 miles of beach shoreline.

“Under normal conditions, we cost-share 65 percent of this work at the federal level,” said Williams. “But in emergency situations like the one following Hurricane Florence, we fully fund all rehabilitation operations, subject to Congressional appropriations, in support of our state and municipal partners.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

A stealth drone is in line to be Russia’s next-generation fighter

Russia says that it will turn its new drone, which is about to make its maiden flight, into a sixth-generation aircraft, according to TASS, a Russian state-owned media outlet.

“Okhotnik will become a prototype of the sixth generation fighter jet,” a Russian defense industry official told TASS, adding that the sixth generation fighter “has not yet taken full shape, [but] it’s main features are known.”


The single-engine Okhotnik (“Hunter” in Russian) drone has a top speed of 621 mph, and might make its maiden flight in 2018, according to Popular Mechanics, citing TASS.

Popular Mechanics also published a supposed picture above of the Okhotnik, which was posted on a Russian aviation forum called paralay.iboards.ru.

Russia “may use [the Okhotnik] as a platform to develop technologies for an ‘autonomous’ or more likely pilotless drone,” Michael Kaufman, a research scientist at CNA, told Business Insider.

These veterans are bringing about positive change with cardboard signs

Possible picture of the Okhotnik drone.

(Screenshot / paralay.iboards.ru)

But Kaufman added that the claims are rather questionable since TASS sourced a Russian defense industry official.

“Any technological advances from the Okhotnik development could be carried into future aircraft or drone design,” Sim Tack, the chief military analyst at Force Analysis and a global fellow at Stratfor, told Business Insider, “and this [TASS] source may be a proponent of that route.”

“As far as I see it, this is a large drone similar to X-47B, with sizable payload,” Kaufman said. Popular Mechanic’s Kyle Mizokami likened the Okhotnik to the American RQ-170 Sentinel drone.

Still, it’s unclear exactly what the Okhotnik’s capabilities are now, and what they would be if turned into a sixth-generation fighter — a concept that is still not fully realized.

The Okhotnik drone in its current capacity has an anti-radar coating, and will store missiles and precision-guided bombs internally to avoid radar detection, Popular Mechanics reported.

In any event, Russia appears to be aiming for some sort of sixth-generation aircraft, recently testing sixth-generation onboard systems on the Su-57 and even researching a radio-photonic radar for the potential aircraft.

Featured image: An X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System demonstrator.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

A Boeing 757 was hacked and the Department of Homeland Security is concerned

The increasing use of electronics and internet connectivity in transportation vehicles is a double-edged sword. While new technology gives drivers and pilots more information and makes communication easier, it also leaves vehicles more vulnerable to cyber attacks.


The Department of Homeland Security illustrated that fact when it remotely hacked into a Boeing 757 through its radio communication system at an airport in Atlantic City, NJ, according to CSO. While the hack occurred in September 2016, it wasn’t revealed until DHS official Robert Hickey gave his keynote address at an aerospace security summit on Nov. 8.

These veterans are bringing about positive change with cardboard signs
American Boeing 757 flight deck.

Though the exact details of how he and his team managed to hack into the plane are classified, Hickey indicated that no one on his team was in physical contact with the aircraft or used any materials that would be flagged by security. Boeing insists that the hack was limited to the aircraft’s communication system and did not reach any of the controls or software that could alter its flight path.

“We witnessed the test and can say unequivocally that there was no hack of the airplane’s flight control systems,” the company told the Daily Beast.

Also Read: The vulnerability of US Navy ships to computer hacking is scarier than you’d think

Still, this is alarming news for the aviation industry. The Department of Homeland Security and Transportation Security Administration have been aggressive in trying to prevent passengers from boarding aircraft with items that could put other passengers at risk, but if it becomes possible to control a plane’s communication and flight capabilities from the ground, their existing security infrastructure may need a significant update.

MIGHTY TRENDING

75 years after death, WW2 hero buried in hometown

Hundreds of people attended the memorial and funeral of a World War II soldier in his hometown of Troy, Indiana on March 30, 2019. Most of them never met him.

Pfc. Clifford M. Mills, a soldier who fought with the 319th Glider Field Artillery Battalion, 82nd Airborne Division, was buried 75 years after his death during Operation Market Garden in 1944.


Mills was considered Missing in Action since Sept. 18, 1944, after the glider he was in crashed behind enemy lines near Wyler, Germany, until January 2019 when his remains were identified by the Defense Prisoner Of War/Missing in Action Accounting Agency and transferred back to his hometown on March 28, 2019.

These veterans are bringing about positive change with cardboard signs

U.S. Army Paratroopers assigned to the 319th Field Artillery Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, carry the casket of Clifford M. Mills, a World War II veteran, in Troy, Ind., March 30, 2019.

(Photo by Spc. Justin W. Stafford)

Mills’ remains were transported from Tell City’s Zoercher-Gillick Funeral Home to Troy Cemetery in an elaborate procession consisting of local fire departments, law enforcement, and motorcycles flashing red and blue lights.

As the procession made its way, it passed beneath a large American flag attached to the outstretched ladder of a firetruck. Residents of all ages lined the streets or stood in front of public buildings waving American flags or saluting as the procession passed by them.

These veterans are bringing about positive change with cardboard signs

A portrait of U.S. Army Pfc. Clifford M. Mills, formerly a member of the 319th Glider Field Artillery Battalion, 82nd Airborne Division, is displayed at his memorial service in Tell City, Ind., March 30, 2019.

(Photo by Spc. Justin W. Stafford)

The Purple Heart recipient was buried with full military honors provided by the 319th Field Artillery Battalion, 82nd Abn. Div. from Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

“In the 82nd Airborne, we walk in the footsteps of legends,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Gregory Seymour of the 319th. “With each of these homecomings, we close the gap of those still missing and come closer to fulfilling our promise to never leave a comrade behind.”

Currently, there are 72,000 Americans still unaccounted for from World War II.

Seymour presented Mills’ 91-year-old brother, Robert Lee Mills, with a folded flag during the burial ceremony March 30, 2019.

These veterans are bringing about positive change with cardboard signs

U.S. Army Paratroopers assigned to the 319th Field Artillery Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, carry the casket of Clifford M. Mills, a World War II veteran, in Troy, Ind., March 30, 2019.

(Photo by Spc. Justin W. Stafford)

Mills was buried next to his wife, Ethel Mills, who died in 2004. She never remarried.
Notably, the efforts of a 33-year-old Dutch man from the Netherlands proved unmeasurable in facilitating the positive identification and homecoming of Mills.

Nowy van Hedel was approved by a volunteer program 12 years ago, which assigned him the name of a soldier on the Walls of the Missing at the Netherlands American Cemetery in Margraten, Netherlands.

After over a decade of research conducted in his free time, Hedel submitted his findings to the DPAA in 2017. Scientists from the DPAA were able to make a positive identification. Hedel received the news from Mills’ family in January 2019.

These veterans are bringing about positive change with cardboard signs

The casket vault of Clifford M. Mills rests above ground before being buried at Troy Cemetery in Troy, Ind., March 30, 2019.

(Photo by Spc. Justin W. Stafford)

“You’d get one lead and search that direction. Then you’d hit a dead end. It went on for 12 years,” said Hedel. “When I received the information from the family that there was a 100 percent match, my world was turned upside down. I couldn’t believe it.”

Hedel keeps a photograph of Mills in his living room. He also continues to help others in identifying unknown soldiers.

A rosette has been placed next to Mills’ name on the wall to indicate he has been accounted for.
“It is like a piece of closure for me,” said Hedel holding back tears, “but you also feel the pain because it’s a funeral. He died 75 years ago for our freedom.”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How the Air Force will replace JSTARS battle management

The Air Force is launching a next-generation airborne surveillance and command and control technology intended to successfully synchronize air, ground, drone, and satellite assets onto a single, seamless network, service officials said.


The emerging system, planned to reach full maturity in the 2040s, is called Advanced Battle Management and Surveillance (ABMS). It was introduced in the recently released Air Force 2019 budget.

“The budget proposes to change the way we execute battlefield management command and control in the multi-domain environment,” an Air Force official explained to Warrior Maven.

This initiative, carving out a new innovation-based short and long-term plan, articulates a much-deliberated Air Force path forward regarding the future of its Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS) platform. The emerging plan represents the manifestation of lengthy Air Force considerations about whether the large and “not-so-stealthy” JSTARS platform would remain functionally useful in a high-threat, high-tech, modern environment.

Also read: How the Air Force is going to replace JSTARS

ABMS seeks to harvest the latest ISR-oriented technologies from current and emerging systems as a way to take a very large step forward — and connect satellites, drones, ground sensors, and manned surveillance aircraft seamlessly, in real time, across a fast-changing, dispersed combat area of operations. ABMS is described by Air Force officials as more of a “system” than platform-specific application. This technical approach is of great significance amid anticipated future threat scenarios wherein electronic attacks, cyber intrusions, and GPS “jamming” weapons are both emerging and proliferating.

Over the longer term, the advanced ABMS suite of sensors and ISR technologies could integrate on a number of current and future air platforms, Air Force officials told Warrior Maven.

At the same time, the service is also identifying a near-term “bridge” or “interim” solution to meet combat commands while ABMS develops. This plan includes an immediate effort to modernize E-3 Airborne Warning Command and Control aircraft and upgrade the current JSTARS fleet through the mid-2020s.

These veterans are bringing about positive change with cardboard signs
An E-3 Sentry airborne warning and control system aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo)

“We propose to modernize 7 E-3 Airborne Warning Command and Control aircraft and keep the current E-8C JSTARS operational through the mid-2020s, as we develop and transition to an advanced battle management system,” the Air Force official said.

Air Force developers further specified to Warrior Maven that integrating advanced communications, networking, and sensor capabilities onto an E-3G aircraft will “mitigate operational risk prior to the arrival of ABMS in the early 2040s.”

The JSTARS mission

The Air Force manned Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System has been using advanced technology to gather and share combat-relevant information, circle above military operations and share key intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance data with service command and control.

Since its combat missions during the Gulf War in the early 1990s, JSTARS has been an indispensable asset to combat operations, as it covers a wide swath of terrain across geographically diverse areas to scan for actionable intelligence and pertinent enemy activity.

Related: This is the little business jet that could replace the Air Force’s JSTARS

JSTARS is able to acquire and disseminate graphic digital map displays, force tracking information and – perhaps of greatest significance – detect enemy activity; information obtained can be transmitted via various data-links to ground command and control centers and, in many instances, connected or integrated with nearby drone operations.

The current Northrop E-8C surveillance aircraft can identify an area of interest for drones to zero in on with a more narrow or “soda-straw” sensor view of significant areas below. JSTARS can detect enemy convoys, troop movements or concentrations and pinpoint structures in need of further ISR attention.

JSTARS is a critical airborne extension of the Theater Air Control System and provides Ground Moving Target Indicator data to the ISR Enterprise, Air Force officials explain.

Ground Moving Target Indicator, GMTI, is another essential element of JSTARS technology which can identify enemy movements below.

Air Force officials say the current ongoing competition to recapitalize JSTARS will continue alongside a commensurate or greater focus upon ABMS. The plan sheds some light on recent lingering questions about whether the service would continue its recap effort or replace it with something designed to operate more successfully in a high-tech modern threat environment.

These veterans are bringing about positive change with cardboard signs
(U.S. Air Force photo)

Service developers have emphasized that the JSTARS recap will be a commercial derivative aircraft designed to keep pace with rapid technological changes and reduce life-cycle costs for the service.

JSTARS uses Synthetic Aperture Radar to bounce an electromagnetic “ping” off of the ground and analyze the return signal to obtain a “rendering” or picture of activity below. Since the electronic signals travel at the speed of light – which is a known entity – an algorithm can then calculate the time of travel to determine the distance, size, shape, and movement of an object or enemy threat of high value.

JSTARS planes, which have been very active supporting combat operations in Afghanistan, have flown 130,000 combat mission hours since 9/11.

More: This is why the Air Force is replacing JSTARS

Although initially constructed as a Cold War technology to monitor Soviet Union tank movements in Eastern Europe, the JSTARS has proven very helpful in key areas such as near North Korea, Iraq, and Afghanistan. The platform has also succeeded in performing maritime missions in the Pacific theater, Southcom (U.S. Southern Command), and Central Command areas of responsibility.

The JSTARS has been able to help meet the fast-expanding maritime demand for ISR and command and control due to an upgrade of its radar to Enhanced Land/Maritime Mode, Air Force officials said.

Air Force plan adjusts to advanced threats

While Air Force officials did not elaborate much on the various future threat conditions currently informing the calculus of decision-making, there has been much discussion of a broader need for air surveillance assets to operate in a more contested, high-threat, near-peer type warfare environment. Given these dynamics, broadly speaking, it makes sense that a larger, and therefore more detectable platform, like JSTARS, could be a more vulnerable target against adversaries with sophisticated weapons and sensors.

Accordingly, while JSTARS functions with great effect in lower threat combat circumstances, such as Afghanistan, where the US maintains air supremacy, its size, configuration, and radar signature are such that it could potentially be more vulnerable to advanced enemy air defenses.

These veterans are bringing about positive change with cardboard signs
Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron conduct a post-flight systems check on an E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System Oct. 20, 2016, following a mission supporting Operation Inherent Resolve. JSTARS uses its communications and radar systems to support ground attack units and direct air support throughout the area of responsibility. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Miles Wilson)

At the same time, the platform is known to add tremendous value in combat scenarios — and advances in aircraft defenses, countermeasures, electronic warfare, and newer sensor technology, it seems, could potentially enable JSTARS to operate successfully against sophisticated enemy air-to-air weapons and ground-based air defense systems. Clearly, the aircraft is not intended to fly at the edge of combat, unprotected, against enemy fighter jets and air defenses — the question is what kinds of assets, emerging systems or supplemental technologies might be leveraged to expand its mission functionality in more contested areas?

An ability to address a high-threat electromagnetic warfare environment, by any estimation, is a likely focal point of the calculus regarding how best to equip large sensor platforms — such as JSTARS —for future combat environments. While many details regarding these kinds of technologies are, naturally, not available, engineering and upgrading an aircraft such as JSTARS with EW countermeasures or systems designed to minimize its electronic “signature” could indeed be fundamental to an ability to operate in sophisticated near-peer types of warfare scenarios.

It may be that other kinds of advanced countermeasures and aircraft protections, including the use of nearby unmanned drones as protection, could prove useful with respect to upgrading JSTARS to operate against advanced enemies.

More reading: This is how the Air Force will use prop planes on high-tech battlefields

There are other potential considerations or likely reasons why an upgraded current JSTARS aircraft might be positioned to operate with some success against sophisticated modern enemies; attack aircraft or stealth bombers could eliminate air defenses before a JSTARS enters a high-threat area of operation, thus enabling it to operate with great effect — electronic jamming aircraft such as the EA-18 Growler equipped with a high-tech Next-Generation Jammer, also, could potentially detect and jam radar signals from enemy air defenses — and semi-autonomous drones operated from a JSTARS cockpit in the future might test enemy air defenses or assess the threat environment while the surveillance aircraft operates at a safer distance.

Moving into the future, there may be emerging assets able to perform these missions more effectively against extremely advanced enemies; newer EW and sensor technology, for instance, are rapidly evolving such that smaller, better-protected platforms might have occasion to track wider areas at increasingly longer ranges — all while maintaining a lower radar signature. Faster computer processing speeds, enabling a smaller hardware footprint — coupled with more “hardened” networks and data links — might enable smaller, new platforms to gather, organize, analyze, and disseminate crucial, combat-relevant information in near-real time.

These veterans are bringing about positive change with cardboard signs
Crew members in an E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System aircraft pass targeted information to fighter and bomber aircraft during an exercise in the Korean Peninsula area July 29. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Rey Ramon)

In short, command and control technology is evolving so quickly, that the Air Force might wish to ensure it can consistently identify and leverage the best emerging technical solutions able to perform the requisite surveillance and command and control functions currently executed by legacy JSTARS planes.

Would emerging drone surveillance technology, historically thought of as providing a “soda-straw” view of areas below, be able to survey wide-swaths of dispersed terrain across a combat area of operations? Perhaps stealthy platforms, increasingly equipped with advanced sensor technology, could perform some of the wide-area command and control missions currently taken up by the JSTARS. It may be that a new JSTARS platform could operate in tandem with other systems, networks and aerial platforms able to assist the mission in higher-risk environments. In fact, this kind of cross-domain connectivity seems to be at the heart of what ABMS seeks to accomplish.

Related: These are the Air Force’s 10 most expensive planes to operate

The current JSTARS is based on a four-engine Boeing 707. Of the 16 JSTARS currently in the Air Force inventory, 11 of them are operational. The JSTARS is the only platform technically able to simultaneously perform command and control as well as ISR, Air Force developers describe.

The crew of an existing JSTARS, which can go up to 21 people or more, includes a navigator, combat systems operator, intelligence officers, technicians and battle management officers. However, technology has advanced to the point wherein a smaller crew size will now be able to accomplish more missions with less equipment and a lower hardware footprint. Advanced computer processing speeds and smaller components, when compared with previous technologies, are able to perform more missions with less hardware.

MIGHTY MOVIES

‘Game of Thrones’ season 8 premiere watched by record 17.4 million viewers

HBO’s “Game of Thrones” had its biggest night ever on April 14, 2019.

The epic fantasy series was watched by 17.4 million viewers across all HBO platforms (linear TV, HBO Go, and HBO Now) during its final season premiere, breaking the show’s previous viewership record of 16.9 million for the season seven finale in 2017. The season seven premiere was watched by 16.1 million viewers.

HBO said on April 15, 2019, that viewership for its standalone streaming platform, HBO Now, grew by 50% from the season seven finale, and by 97% from the season seven premiere. It’s the biggest streaming night for HBO of all time.


The 9 p.m. airing on the premium cable network reeled in 11.8 million viewers, but failed to break the record set by the season seven finale’s 12.1 million viewers. But HBO said this could have been affected by the Dish dispute. HBO became unavailable for Dish subscribers in November 2018, after the two sides failed to land on a deal. Dish urged its subscribers to sign up for HBO Now ahead of the “Game of Thrones” premiere.

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(HBO)


“Even though HBO is not available on Dish, you can still watch their content with the HBO NOW app,” a video on Dish’s website explained on April 14, 2019.

Just how big a night did “Game of Thrones” have compared to TV’s top shows?

For comparison, the highest-rated shows of 2018, according to Nielsen, included “Roseanne” (20 million average viewers), “Big Bang Theory” (18.3 million average viewers), “NCIS” (16.3 million average viewers), and “This Is Us” (16.6 million viewers). Nielsen’s “Game of Thrones” ratings, which don’t include streaming data, will be released on April 16, 2019.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Over 7,000 troops deployed or prepared for hurricane response

More than 7,000 service members — National Guard and active duty — are standing by ready to assist as Hurricane Florence hits the Carolina coast, DoD officials said here today.

Defense Secretary James N. Mattis and Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick M. Shanahan are monitoring the Category 2 hurricane and the department is “leaning forward” to help civilian agencies as the storm approaches.

“The secretary is also receiving reports throughout the day on actions the military services are taking to protect the safety and well-being of the military community, and ensure the readiness of DoD installations in the region affected by Hurricane Florence,” Kenneth P. Rapuano, assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense and global security, said at a Pentagon news conference.


‘Dangerous storm’

Both Rapuano and U.S. Northern Command commander Air Force Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy called Hurricane Florence a “dangerous storm” and urged Americans to listen to the warnings from state and local officials.

O’Shaughnessy also commands North American Aerospace Defense Command.

Outer bands of the storm have already started hitting the coast and officials said there are already winds exceeding 100 mph in some areas. The storm surge has hit in North and South Carolina and the storm is expected to slow down and deposit huge amounts of rain.

These veterans are bringing about positive change with cardboard signs


Kenneth P. Rapuano, left, assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense and global security, and Air Force Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, commander of the North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command, brief reporters at the Pentagon, Sept. 13, 2018, on Defense Department preparations for Hurricane Florence.

(DoD photo by Air Force Tech. Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)

DoD is already working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to pre-position helicopters, vehicles, and supplies. The department is prepared to assist FEMA and our other federal partners in supporting the affected regions, Rapuano said.

O’Shaughnessy said DoD assets have virtually surrounded the area where the storm is expected to make landfall.

Positioning forces

“We are proactively positioning forces now to respond from the north, from the south, from the east, and from the west, across the full spectrum of DoD capabilities at every level — by air, by sea and by land,” the general said.

Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia; Joint Base Bragg, North Carolina; North Auxiliary Airfield, South Carolina; and Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama are staging areas for FEMA.

About 80 light/medium tactical vehicles are staged at Fort Stewart, Georgia, set to respond quickly once Florence passes through the area. These trucks are high-water-clearance vehicles which can carry supplies or first responders. These vehicles proved their worth in this type of situation last year during Hurricane Harvey in Houston.

At Hunter Army Airfield, Georgia, there are 35 helicopters available for search-and-rescue operations. A similar unit is at Fort Bliss, Texas, ready to move forward.

At Fort Bragg, there are 40 high-wheel vehicles for rescue and transportation, as well as seven helicopters staged for use in search and rescue and recovery missions, the general said.

These veterans are bringing about positive change with cardboard signs

Army Spc. Benjamin Holybee, a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crew chief assigned to Charlie Company, 1st General Support Aviation Battalion, 169th Aviation Regiment, Oklahoma Army National Guard, conducts preflight checks in Lexington, Okla., Sept. 13, 2018.

(Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Brian Schroeder)

The USS Kearsarge amphibious assault ship and the USS Arlington amphibious transport dock ship are following behind Florence. These vessels have Navy and Marine personnel, 16 helicopters, and six MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft.

At Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, the Air Force has six HH-60 helicopters, two HC-30 aircraft and four pararescue teams at the ready.

At Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida, 1st Air Force will provide robust command-and-control, air operations support to the DoD effort. This will include airborne command-and-control assets.

‘Ready to respond’

“North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and Georgia are all home to well-known military bases and installations, and the secretary of defense is given authority for life-saving and life-sustaining actions in order to make DoD capabilities immediately available, and local commanders are proactively positioning forces and equipment to be ready,” O’Shaughnessy said. “At the state level, National Guard units, whether Army or Air, under the authority of their governors, are ready to respond to the individual and oftentimes neighboring states’ needs.”

Mattis has activated dual-status commanders in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia to provide seamless command and control over assigned active duty and National Guard forces.

Rapuano said U.S. Transportation Command is staging and prepositioning FEMA resources. “The Defense Logistics Agency is directly supporting FEMA logistics with the procurement and distribution of relief commodities, including food, fuel and water,” he said.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is also directly supporting FEMA and is poised to support flood mitigation, temporary emergency power, temporary roofing, and debris removal, Rapuano said.

The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency will provide imagery analysis and assessment, he said.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

Veterans

Veterans campaign to end ALS, a disease they are twice as likely to develop

Norman Jones, Juan Reyes, Yvette Marie Wilson, Guill Garcia, and Matt Bellina all once fought for our country. Now they are fighting for their lives because of a terminal disease called Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).


They are not alone. If you served in the military, you are much more likely to develop ALS. The numbers are stunning–1 in 6 ALS patients have served in the military. It doesn’t matter which branch you come from, or if you served in combat–and we have no idea why.

ALS is a disease that attacks cells in the body that control movement. It makes the brain stop talking to the muscles, causing increased paralysis over time. Ultimately, ALS patients become prisoners within their own bodies, unable to eat, breathe, or move on their own. In every case, ALS is fatal.

The disease can affect anyone, and 90 percent of patients have no family history, so when Jones, Reyes, Wilson, Garcia, and Bellina were all told they had ALS they were blindsided. Anyone who has ever put on the uniform knows that, when you serve, your family serves, too. You can’t do it alone. Fighting ALS is the same. They knew that as their condition progressed and they began to lose control of their bodies, the support from the people around them would have to grow.

These veterans are bringing about positive change with cardboard signs

No one needs to tell a veteran that you don’t stop serving just because you take off the uniform–once in the military, always in the military. Tapping into their sisters and brothers in arms, these five veterans are activating their community not only for their own personal support but for the bigger fight — to build an army of advocates that can change how the ALS story ends.

One of the biggest hurdles faced in the fight against ALS is awareness. Earlier this year an I AM ALS/Ipsos poll uncovered that, even in the aftermath of 2014’s viral ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, awareness about the disease remains very low. The majority of Americans, including members of the military, still know nothing about ALS.

Instead of retreating after receiving devastating news, these advocates banded together with veterans from across the ALS community to launch a campaign with the patient-led, patient-centric organization I AM ALS to raise awareness about the thousands of men and women who serve or have served our country affected by ALS every year.

I AM ALS, founded by ALS patient Brian Wallach and his wife, Sandra Abrevaya, was born out of a similar desire to change the future for all ALS patients by activating people and building a movement that empowers and mobilizes patients to lead the fight for cures. Since its launch in January 2019, I AM ALS has already built a community of 25,000 people including patients, advocates, organizations and scientists to deliver critical and innovative resources.

They are fighting for patients every day, including the veterans community. The organization is leading an advocacy effort that this year resulted in the House of Representatives and Senate Appropriations Committees voting to double Department of Defense funding for ALS research from million to million. These funds will help us finally understand why those who serve are so much more likely to be afflicted by ALS, and understanding is a giant step towards finding a cure.

This is an incredible win for all ALS patients. Especially given that recent acceleration of research has ensured that it is no longer a question of if, but when there will be a significant treatment breakthrough that brings a cure within reach.

Even with the recent successes, there is still a necessary urgency to expand and accelerate this progress. ALS patients typically live two to five years after diagnosis, so time is always of the essence. Your help is needed to support members of the military community fighting this disease today.

We need you in this battle because it will only be won if we work as one.

You can start pitching in today by joining with these brave men and women to spread the word about ALS. If you have a story about a teammate affected by ALS, reach out and let us know. These may sound like small actions, but spreading the word is a fundamental step towards finding a cure. Share this video using #VetsFightALS, talk to your colleagues and neighbors, and get engaged at iamals.org/action. We need you in this fight.
MIGHTY TRENDING

For first time, Japan’s leader visits Australia’s Pearl Harbor

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will pay his respects at a war memorial in Darwin, the Australian city devastated by Japanese bombing in 1942, in the first formal visit from a Japanese leader to Darwin since during World War II.

Abe is expected to visit the Darwin Cenotaph, a monument to the country’s servicemen, with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison in a historic and symbolic meeting.

It will be the leaders’ first meeting since the Australian PM unexpectedly took office in August 2018.


Abe also plans to take a look at Japan’s biggest ever foreign investment, the gigantic $U40 billion Ichthys gas project, which began shipping LNG in October 2018.

Abe is expected to cement ties with Australia by promoting Tokyo’s “free and open Indo-Pacific” policy, touted to “promote stability and prosperity in areas between Asia and Africa rooted in rule-based order and freedom of navigation,” as well as reconfirm cooperation in maritime security, Japanese government sources told The Japan Times.

During his visit Abe will visit a memorial erected in 2017 to commemorate 80 seamen killed about a month before the infamous bombing of Darwin in February 1942.

These veterans are bringing about positive change with cardboard signs

The explosion of a ship, filled with TNT and ammunition, hit during the first Japanese air raid on Australia’s mainland, at Darwin on Feb. 19, 1942.

Allied forces sank one of four Japanese submarines that tried to attack the northern town, according to The Australian newspaper

The I-124 submarine now lies on the seabed off Darwin. It is ­thought to be intact and undisturbed.

Abe goes to Canberra

Abe’s visit to Australia, and his hectic Asian Pacific schedule is widely viewed by analysts as a counter to Beijing’s growing influence across the Indo-Pacific.

The show of postwar reconciliation and the tightening of strategic bonds will strengthen Canberra and Tokyo’s economic and defense ties at a time when China is asserting its role in the region and US engagement in Asia under the Trump administration is less certain, the Times noted.

Japan and Australia normalized ties in 1957, with the signing of the “Agreement on Commerce”, just 12 years after the end of World War II.

The deal was controversial at the time as many Australians said Canberra had moved too quickly to sign a formal agreement with its regional adversary and the only nation to attempt to invade modern Australia, Japan.

Today that agreement is widely seen as a critical turning point in Australia’s engagement with its own backyard and Asia as a whole.

Abe’s visit comes almost two years after the Japanese prime minister made a similar significant visit to Pearl Harbor in Hawaii in December 2016.

Pearl Harbour was the site of the 1941 attack by Japan that brought the US roaring into the second world war, and prompted then President Franklin Roosevelt to name Dec. 7, 1941, as “a date which will live in infamy.”

These veterans are bringing about positive change with cardboard signs

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt delivers his “Day of Infamy” speech to Congress on December 8, 1941.

On that day, Japanese planes attacked the United States Naval Base at Pearl Harbor, killing more than 2,300.

Yet the bombing attack on Darwin was even more brutal than Pearl Harbor.

More bombs were dropped on Darwin, more civilians killed, and more ships sunk.

Japan’s sudden and ferocious campaign finally brought a distant war home for Australians and Darwin became the frontline.

It was the largest and most destructive single attack mounted by a foreign power on Australia and led to the worst death toll from any event in the nation’s history.

More than 240 people were killed by the air raid in the former stronghold of Allied forces. Darwin later endured dozens more Japanese air attacks.

The visits reflect Abe’s intention for a postwar Japan to shore up regional ties with allies like the US and Australia.

Japan faces both military and economic challenges as a growing China flexes its regional muscle and poses more of a strategic question for Japan’s key ally, the US.

While Japan expressed biter disappointment that France beat it to lucrative contracts for Australia’s multi-billion dollar revamp of its ailing submarine fleets the two nations have moved closer to signing off on the Reciprocal Access Agreement (RAA) — which would effectively allow Australian and Japanese forces to move freely in and out of either territory.

Japan is also likely to be pleased with prime minister Morrison’s “Pacific pivot” speech on Nov. 9, 2018, committing some billion to support infrastructure projects around the region — largely in line with Japanese intentions to diversify sources of investment in the region away from China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

Abe’s visit will be bookended by Association of Southeast Asian Nations-related meetings in Singapore and a summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in Papua New Guinea.

All after meeting with the US vice president Mike Pence who arrived in Japan Monday evening Tokyo time, as the two held brief talks Tuesday before traveling onto Singapore and then to Australia.

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

Military Life

How Tim Kennedy believes the recruitment problem can be improved

It’s no secret that military recruitment numbers have been on the decline in recent years. There’re many factors that play into this, but one of the main reasons is eligibility. According to Tim Kennedy, however, the military isn’t out of luck just yet. And his solution doesn’t (and none should ever) involve lowering the standards.


On a recent appearance on the Joe Rogan Experience Podcast, Kennedy discussed, at great depth, the problems that plague recruiting depots, specifically recruitment within the Special Forces community. There simply aren’t enough able-bodied recruits. Obesity remains the leading disqualifying factor among young Americans.

These veterans are bringing about positive change with cardboard signs
(Photo by Pfc. Kelcey Seymour)

Recruits need to be able to meet physical requirements. While basic training and boot camp help slim down prospective troops, recruits must join up at a trainable level — after all, a drill sergeant isn’t a miracle worker.

“It’s harder to get into the military than it is to get into college,” says Kennedy. “You can’t go into the military if you smoke weed. You can’t go into the military if you have bad eyes. You can’t go into the military if you’re diabetic,” and the list goes on. “You can go to college if you have all those things.”

These veterans are bringing about positive change with cardboard signs
If college was so much more difficult than the military, then so many veterans wouldn’t finish their time in the service and easily get in to nearly any university.
(Photo by Airman 1st Class Alyssa M. Akers)

Those factors above disqualify, off the bat, roughly 71 percent of young adults. Then, when you factor in the willingness to join among the remaining 29 percent, you’re stuck with the headache-inducing task of bringing in just 182,000 new troops this year. “The perception of the military is way less of an issue than us just having a qualified population of viable candidates to chose from.”

The obvious solution is to tell young adults to get healthy. But, as anyone who has had any sort of interaction with young adults can tell you, you’d be better off asking a brick wall to do something. Being unfit for service is a cultural problem that no amount of snazzy recruitment videos can fix.

Kennedy’s suggestion makes far more sense — and it was how he was brought into the military: selectively recruiting physically fit student athletes. Convincing a small subset of students to join is a much easier task than convincing the youth at large to slim down.

These veterans are bringing about positive change with cardboard signs
I’m not going to lie, having a recruiter sh*t-talk me while I was trying to impress him with my whole two pull-ups as a teenager may or may not have played a huge role in my enlistment.
(Photo by Airman 1st Class Adam R. Shanks)

Back in Tim Kennedy’s high school wrestling days, he was approached by an Army Special Forces recruiter in a really bad suit. All it took was for the recruiter to show up and say, “hey guys, ever thought about Army Special Forces?” He handed Kennedy the card and took off.

That’s all it took to snag the most-beloved Green Beret of our generation.

To watch the rest of The Joe Rogan Experience Podcast, check out the video below.

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