The theft prompted many to question how it could have been lost, why the Air Force has an M240, does the Air Force really need an M240, how many do they have or need, and would the Air Force notice if I took one.
The Air Force Office of Special Investigations obtained a federal search warrant, executing it at the off-base residence of a Team Minot airman on June 19, 2018.
Missing for little over a month, the automatic weapon and the fallout of its theft made waves across the military-veteran community and in the military news cycle. After a box of 40mm MK 19 grenades fell off the back of a humvee while traversing a Native American reservation, the subsequent inventory of the Air Force arsenal on Minot discovered the missing M240 machine gun. This prompted the 5th Bomb Wing, 91st Missile Wing, and other installations to make a thorough inventory of their weapons.
The theft also caused the dismissal of 91st Security Forces Group commander Col. Jason Beers, who was moved from Minot to his new job as Chief of Air Force Special Operations Command’s installations division. With AFSOC being based primarily in Florida, I think we can call that an overall win for the Colonel but unfortunately Chief Master Sgt. Nikki Drago was also fired as the unit superintendent.
A few days after multiple US bomber flights over the disputed waters of the South China Sea, fighters and bombers from the Chinese military carried out live-fire exercises over the same area — the latest round of drills in a period of increasing tension between the two countries.
Aircraft from the Southern Theater command of the People’s Liberation naval air force conducted “live fire shooting drills” at a sea range in the South China Sea, according to the People’s Daily official newspaper, which released photos from a broadcast by state-run CCTV.
Chinese fighter jets during live-fire drills over the South China Sea, September 28, 2018.
The brief report by CCTV stated that dozens of fighter jets and bombers performed the drills to test pilots’ assault, penetration, and precision-strike abilities during operations at sea, according to The Japan Times.
Those exercises came days after US aircraft carried out several overflights through the area.
On Sept. 23 and Sept. 25, 2018, a single US Air Force B-52 Stratofortress bomber flew over the South China Sea in what US Pacific Air Forces described as part of the US’s ongoing continuous bomber presence operations.
A US Air Force B-52H bomber and two Japan Air Self-Defense Force F-15 fighters during a routine training mission over the East China Sea and the Sea of Japan, Sept. 26, 2018.
(Pacific Air Forces photo)
“US Indo-Pacific Command’s Continuous Bomber Presence (CBP) operations have been ongoing since March 2004,” PACAF told Business Insider, saying that recent missions were “consistent with international law and United States’s long-standing and well-known freedom of navigation policies.”
On Sept. 26, 2018, a B-52H heavy long-range bomber based in Guam met Japanese Air Self-Defense Force fighter jets over the East China Sea and Sea of Japan for what Pacific Air Command called “a routine training mission.” The B-52 carried out drills with 12 Koku Jieitai F-15 fighters and four F-2 fighters before returning home.
The US sent B-52s over the disputed waters of the East and South China Seas four times in August 2018, and the increased activity in the skies there comes amid a period of heightened tensions between Beijing and Washington.
A B-52H bomber and two JASDF F-15 fighter jets, Sept. 26, 2018.
(Pacific Air Forces photo)
Asked about the overflights on Sept. 26, 2018, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis described them as normal and pointed to Beijing’s actions in the South China Sea — where Chinese forces have constructed artificial islands and equipped them with military facilities and hardware — as setting the stage for tensions.
“That just goes on. If it was 20 years ago and had they not militarized those features there it would have been just another bomber on its way to Diego Garcia or wherever,” Mattis said, referring to a US base in the Indian Ocean.
“So there’s nothing out of the ordinary about it,” he added.
Beijing has made expansive claims over the South China Sea, through which some trillion in global trade passes annually, clashing with several other countries that claim territory there. China has also set up an air-defense identification zone and claims uninhabited islands controlled by Japan in the East China Sea.
A Chinese fighter jet during a live-fire exercise in the South China Sea, Sept. 28, 2018.
On Sept. 27, 2018, China condemned the recent US overflights.
“As for the provocative action taken by the US military aircraft, we are firmly against it and we will take all necessary means to safeguard our rights and interests,” Defense Ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang said.
In recent days, the US has also sanctioned China’s Equipment Development Department and its director, Li Shangfu, for buying Russian Su-35 combat aircraft in 2017 and Russia’s S-400 air-defense missile system in 2018.
The sanctions are part of a US effort to punish Russia for its actions abroad, and US officials said Moscow was the “ultimate target” of sanctions on Chinese entities. The sanctions did come amid a broader trade dispute between Washington and Beijing, however.
The US also moved ahead with the sale of 0 million in spare parts and other support for Taiwan’s US-made F-16 fighter jets and other military aircraft.
A Chinese fighter jet during a live-fire exercise in the South China Sea, Sept. 28, 2018.
China also denied a request for a port call in Hong Kong by US Navy amphibious assault ship USS Wasp in October 2018. The last time China denied such a request was in 2016, during a period of increased tension over the South China Sea.
Asked on Sept. 26, 2018, about recent events, Mattis said he didn’t think there had been a “fundamental shift in anything.”
“We’re just going through one of those periodic points where we’ve got to learn to manage our differences,” he said.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
He’s a golfer, a filmmaker, a podcaster, and he has no problem swearing (which makes him cool in my book). There are worse people to hit 18 holes with.
When he set out to play at Rob Riggle’s InVETational Golf Classic, he was in for a different type of game. This one had a little more meaning as his team consisted of a couple of wounded warriors from Semper Fi Fund, a charity dedicated to supporting critically ill and catastrophically wounded service members and their families.
Playing Golf w Inspiring Vets at Rob Riggle’s InVETational
Playing Golf w Inspiring Vets at Rob Riggle’s InVETational
Lang’s teammates included 1st Sgt. Michael Barrett (U.S. Marines) and Sgt. Saul Martinez (U.S. Army Retired) — and they were cracking jokes before the first shot of the day. After the opening ceremony, hosted by U.S. Marine Rob Riggle himself, they were off, meeting up with 4-time long drive champion Frank Miller, sharing some wisdom, and, sadly, not winning a trip to Pebble Beach. But they were not winning in style.
I was there that day, and I have to say, it was refreshing to watch Lang’s experience of the event. I was working for We Are The Mighty, capturing footage, sharing the event on social media, and acting as MC for the awards ceremony in the evening.
In other words, I was working, so I didn’t get to see what it was like for everyone who came out to support Semper Fi Fund.
Lang’s video showed that the InVETational did exactly what we’d hoped it would do: raise money for a great cause, get people out of the house and into their bodies, and cross that military-civilian divide.
Lang’s dedication was more proof that Riggle’s tournament was a success: “This video is dedicated to those who have served. Please take a moment to experience the feeling of gratitude towards the men and women that have served in your country, whatever country that may be. No matter our differences, political, societal, or geographical, we all have golf.”
Check out the video to see these vets describe what golf means to them, especially after their injuries, and keep an eye out for the 2019 InVETational because it just keeps getting better.
As the United States approaches the 20-year mark of the war on terror, the country continues to lose her service members. But we aren’t losing the vast majority of them to combat with the enemy. Instead, accidents and suicide are inflicting most of the devastation.
In 2019, a Congressional report compiled the data from 2006 through 2019. The results determined that 12,116 of the 16,652 killed in service during that period didn’t die from combat related causes. That’s 73% who weren’t lost due to fighting an enemy during war but instead – most died accidentally or by suicide.
Since 2015, the non-combat related deaths have been outpacing those lost while fighting. According to the Defense Reauthorization Act of 2019, in 2017, almost four times the amount of combat related deaths were attributed to training accidents. The number has continued to grow, causing alarm within the military and government.
These accidental deaths are often attributed to training and safety insufficiencies.
The increasing numbers led many members of the Armed Services Committee to state that America is “at a crisis point.” The committee’s 2019 proposal for funding addressed rebuilding the military so that its members can safely meet the needs of present and future threats to the country. That same proposal called for more training, equipment repair and increased readiness on land, at sea and in the air.
But some of the battles they will face are within their own minds.
Since 2004, the suicide rates for the military have increased substantially. Tragically, 23.2% of all service member deaths from 2006 to 2019 were labeled by the Department of Defense as “self-inflicted.” In 2019, the Air Force’s numbers were trending so high that their Chief of Staff called for a resiliency and suicide prevention stand down, which was unprecedented.
A 2019 historical study within the Army painted a picture for the increased numbers. The data within the study demonstrated that there was a decrease in suicides for the Army during the active combat of the U.S. Civil War, the Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II and the Korean War. But beginning with the Vietnam War, the numbers changed and continued to climb. By 2012, the rates of suicide within the military surpassed the rates of suicide within the civilian world.
Accidental deaths and increasing suicide rates highlight the increased danger that America’s troops encounter a long way from the battlefield. Ensuring that those who raise their right hand to defend this country have effective and safe training environments with working equipment is vital. Their mental health support should also be continual and ongoing, with the stigma of seeking help eradicated from the top down. We owe them all of this – and so much more.
The State Department has fired six employees at the U.S. embassy in Afghanistan for allegedly using or possessing prohibited drugs, a particularly troubling infraction given the years-long U.S. effort to eradicate opium production in the country.
A senior State Department official said those who were embassy employees were fired and others who were contractors were released from their contracts.
The official declined to say what led to the investigation, but the Wall Street Journal reported it was launched after a person was wandering about in a state of confusion.
A State Department official told Voice of America News on March 30 the fired workers “were found to have been using or in possession of prohibited substances.”
Opium production in Afghanistan is a major source of income for the Taliban and other insurgents.
Afghanistan is the source of more than 90 percent of the world’s heroin. Despite global efforts to stem the flow of narcotics, the United Nations says production reached near record levels in 2016.
The United States has spent more than $8 billion on drug interdiction in Afghanistan since the start of war against the Taliban in 2001.
North Korea’s inter-continental ballistic missiles still have a lot of work to do in order to be ready for prime time, the Defense Intelligence Agency claims. North Korea in the past has had problems getting its missiles up – but that technological hitch may not last long.
According to a report by Bloomberg News, North Korea still faces a number of “important shortfalls” in its longer-range missiles like the Taepo-dong 2 and the KN-08 inter-continental ballistic missiles. Last month, North Korea saw a failure when it attempted to launch a missile during a test.
That said, senior American intelligence officials note with concern that North Korea is not letting the failures prevent a push toward developing a reliable ICBM inventory.
“North Korea has also expanded the size and sophistication of its ballistic missile forces—from close-range ballistic missiles (CRBMs) to ICBMs—and continues to conduct test launches. In 2016, North Korea conducted an unprecedented number of ballistic missile tests. Pyongyang is committed to developing a long-range, nuclear-armed missile that is capable of posing a direct threat to the United States; it has publicly displayed its road-mobile ICBMs on multiple occasions. We assess that North Korea has taken steps toward fielding an ICBM but has not flight-tested it,” Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said in a written statement to the Senate Intelligence Committee prior to a May 11, 2017 hearing.
“North Korea is poised to conduct its first ICBM flight test in 2017 based on public comments that preparations to do so are almost complete and would serve as a milestone toward a more reliable threat to the US mainland,” Coats added later in the statement.
The United States has currently deployed a Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense missile battery to South Korea, and also operates MIM-104 Patriot missile batteries – systems also owned by South Korea and Japan. All three countries also have Aegis warships, capable of launching SIM-66 Standard SM-2 and RIM-161 Standard SM-3 missiles.
The United States has deployed a carrier strike group to the area around North Korea as tensions have increased.
There are many joyous things about the holiday season, but this time of year can also bring on stress, depression, and other challenges. For veterans or their family members, the unique experiences of the military and transitioning back to civilian life can make enjoying the season difficult.
Here are a few things to keep an eye out for as the holiday season approaches — as well as healthy tips for managing these challenges.
The holidays are typically times spent with family members and friends. But veterans transitioning back to civilian life — or even those who returned home years ago — might find themselves avoiding the people and activities they would usually enjoy.
“I’m a pretty extraverted, amicable person, but I didn’t want anything to do with anybody. I didn’t want to talk with anybody,” says Bryan, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran. Sometimes a vicious cycle can develop: The more time you spend alone, the less you feel like people will understand you. And the less you feel like people understand you, the more time you want to spend alone.
“You can’t isolate yourself,” says Bryan. “You have to surround yourself with good people that want to see you do better. Take advantage of the programs they have at the VA or the nonprofit organizations that are there to help veterans out.”
Feelings of guilt can sometimes lead people to withdraw, become irritable, or feel like life has lost meaning. These behaviors can strain personal relationships, especially during the holidays, when most people spend a lot of time with family members and friends. But if you’re having trouble forgiving yourself — for something you did or did not do — talking with your family members and friends is actually a positive first step.
If you notice yourself withdrawing from loved ones, here are a few ways to begin breaking a pattern of isolation. If these actions feel overwhelming, start with small steps.
Identify the thoughts and feelings that make you want to be alone.
Reach out to your family members or friends, even if it’s the last thing you feel like doing. Research shows that spending time talking with family members and friends improves your mood and your health.
Connect with veterans’ groups or participate in clubs or hobbies focused on something you like.
“Isolation and withdrawal [are] not going to get you the end result that you need,” says Marylyn, a U.S. Army veteran. “You want to get back to enjoying your life, the things you like to do, and be able to explore new things. So you’re going to eventually have to talk to someone and connect with someone.”
Whether you’re walking through a crowded shopping mall or attending a large party with loud noises, you may find yourself in situations that make you uncomfortable during the holidays. Your military training taught you the importance of being observant and alert when you need to be — and being in that state of high alert in civilian life may be stressful.
“When you’re in large crowds or there’s a lot of chaos, you have to keep an eye on everything because you don’t know where a potential threat is,” says Casey, a U.S. Army medic. “After you see things like a life or death matter, your No. 1 goal is ‘I’m always going to protect myself.'”
This experience of feeling on edge is also called hypervigilance, a symptom experienced by some veterans who have returned from war or experienced traumatic events during their time in the military. Hypervigilance is a state of being on very high alert — constantly “on guard” — to possible risks or threats.
“It takes a long time to shed that alertness,” says Casey. “Once it’s there and you depend on it to stay alive, it’s really hard to lose it once you’ve been back.” Talking to your family and friends can be a first step. Turn to them whenever you are ready.
An Italian woman was in a severe car collision in Niger and staff at the local hospital realized they couldn’t treat the woman properly with the equipment they had on hand. What followed was an 18-hour odyssey that relied on medical staff from six countries and U.S. Special Operations Command Forward, a pop-up blood bank, and a doctor translating medical jargon between four languages.
It all started when an Italian woman and her male passenger were driving near Nigerien Air Base 101 in Niamey, capital of Niger. The ensuing wreck injured them both. Nigerien ambulance services moved them to the local hospital where doctors made the call that the woman needed to go to a more advanced facility.
The hospital said the woman had a liver bleed, a life-threatening condition that requires surgery. The case was referred to Italian military doctors nearby who asked the American surgeons of SOCFWD — North And West Africa for help. The ground surgical team quickly discovered that the liver bleed wasn’t the only problem.
Three doctors, U.S. Air Force Capts. Melanie Gates, left, Nick McKenzie, and Richard Thorsted, all with Special Operations Command Forward — Northwest Africa ground surgical team, gather for a photo at Nigerien Air Base 101, Niamey, Niger, on June 21, 2018. The doctors were all involved in an emergency surgery which successfully saved the life of an injured Italian woman.
(U.S. Air Force)
“Upon reviewing the CT scans, there was also evidence of free air in the abdomen, concerning for a small bowel injury,” U.S. Air Force Capt. Melanie Gates, GST emergency medical physician, told an Air Force journalist. “When the patient arrived, her skin was white and she was in serious pain with minimal responsiveness. Her vitals were much worse than previously reported.”
“First thoughts upon seeing patient … she wasn’t doing well,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Richard Thorsted, GST anesthesiologist. “She arrived to us in critical condition with a high fever.”
Italian military members, left (sand-colored uniforms), Special Operations Command Forward Northwest Africa ground surgical team members, middle (in civilian clothes), and members from the 768th EABS, right (in multi camo-patterned uniforms) gather for a photo at Nigerien Air Base 101, Niamey, Niger, on June 4, 2018. A multinational team of medical practitioners on the base saved the life of an Italian civilian injured outside by patching together a team of doctors and other medical personnel from six nations and multiple military branches.
(U.S. Air Force)
The doctors initiated two important actions as they prepared to conduct the surgery; coordination for an airlift to take the patient to Senegal once the surgery was finished, and the collection of A-positive blood to keep the patient going during surgery and airlift.
Both requests would require more work and luck than expected.
First, the major stakeholders needed to ensure the aeromedical evacuation took place included French personnel who controlled a lot of the coordination in the area, Senegalese personnel who would receive the patient into their care, Germans who would conduct the evacuation if civilian personnel could not, Americans who were performing the first surgery, and Nigerians who had originally secured the patient and whose country was hosting her first surgery.
Luckily, Italian military doctor Valantina Di Nitto spoke at least three languages and was able to pass critical patient information and medical plans of action between all the stakeholders. She created a road map for medical care, from the surgery in Niger to Senegal and, eventually, to Italy.
At the same time, base personnel needed to immediately procure five units of A-positive blood. Unfortunately, the medical personnel who knew how to draw the blood weren’t yet familiar with the equipment available on the base.
Lt. Col. Justin Tingey, 768th Expeditionary Air Base Squadron flight doctor, and Master Sgt. Melissa Cessna, 768th EABS independent duty medical technician, pose for a photo at Nigerien Air Base 101, Niamey, Niger, on June 21, 2018. The team recently set up a walking blood bank to enable life-saving surgery to an Italian woman who nearly died in a car accident outside the base. The patient is now in good condition and recovering in Italy.
(U.S. Air Force)
In a weird coincidence, U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Bryan Killings did know how to use the equipment, and he was passing through the base en route to another destination. He got a text message from his bosses while at dinner.
“My leadership told me they had a patient coming through and they needed me to assist them,” Killings said. “They said they needed A-positive blood.”
Killings rushed to the walking blood bank and trained Army and Air Force personnel on how to use the equipment, then assisted in the collection of blood from five donors.
In the operating theater, a team of Air Force doctors took the blood and got to work. The three doctors, Air Force Capts. Melanie Gates, Nick McKenzie, and Richard Thorsted, were all recent graduates of medical school.
Luckily, after completing their residency programs, all three had undergone special military training before heading to Africa that included clinical scenarios in austere conditions.
“Our training kicked in. We all knew our roles and worked well together,” Gates told Tech Sgt. Nick Wilson. “I believe our training was crucial for our development as a team and ability to handle situations like this.”
In the end, the amalgamation of civilian and military medical personnel pulled it off, and the patient is recovering Naples, Italy. She is currently in good condition.
(H/t to Tech Sgt. Nick Wilson who wrote a three-part series on this story for the Air Force. To learn more, you can read his full articles here, here, and here.)
Amazon is planning to make a foray into delivering ready-to-eat meals based on a technology program pioneered by the Army to improve the infamous MRE field rations.
According to a report by Reuters, the online retailer currently trying to acquire Whole Foods is also looking to sell food items like beef stew and vegetable frittatas that would be shelf stable for at least a year.
This is done using a preparation technique called microwave assisted thermal sterilization, or “MATS,” which was developed by 915 Labs, a start-up in the Denver area.
MATS came about as the Army was seeking to improve its Meals Ready to Eat for troops in the field. Traditional methods of preparing shelf-stable foods involve using pressure cookers, which also remove nutrients and alter the food’s flavor and texture. This requires the use of additive, including sodium and artificial flavors, according to reports.
The new technology involves putting sealed packages of food into water and using microwaves to heat them. Currently, machines can produce about 1,800 meals per hour, but some machines could produce as many as 225 meals a minute.
The shelf-stable foods would be ideal for Amazon’s current delivery system, which involves warehouses to store products that are later delivered to customers. Shelf-stable food that is ready-to-eat is seen as a potential “disruptor” in the industry.
“They will test these products with their consumers, and get a sense of where they would go,” Greg Spragg, the President and CEO of Solve for Food, told Reuters. The company is based in Arkansas, near the headquarters of Wal-Mart.
One bottleneck had been getting approval from the Food and Drug Administration for dishes prepared with MATS. 915 Labs has developed dishes, but is awaiting the go-ahead. Meanwhile, the Australian military has acquired the technology, and several countries in Asia that lack refrigerated supply chains are also purchasing machines.
Oh, and MATS could also be used on MREs, providing the same five-year shelf life that the current versions get as well.
Ask around Fort Detrick and you’ll probably learn more about Operation Whitecoat — an Army program that exposed human participants to infectious pathogens. But outside the base, the experiments are virtually unheard of, according to Randy Larsen, a former Air Force pilot turned documentary filmmaker.
“I found there are very few people who have ever heard of Whitecoat, which is why there’s a good reason to tell the story,” Larsen said.
Larsen himself became fascinated with the program — which recruited more than 2,300 noncombatant conscientious objectors from the Seventh-day Adventist Church — after a friend suggested it as a documentary topic.
What he anticipated would be a five- to six-month hobby project eventually turned into a 20-month film production, culminating in an eponymously named documentary on the operation and its volunteers.
The film “Operation Whitecoat” made its debut in Frederick on May 30 at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, the agency that conducted the tests from 1954 to 1973. But Larsen will also hold two public screenings on June 3 at the Frederick Seventh-day Adventist Church on Jefferson Pike.
Gary Swanson and Ken Jones, two Whitecoat participants who attended the screening on May 30, said outreach to the church was especially important. Despite the huge role played by Seventh-day Adventists, knowledge of the project has faded among church members.
“It’s very little-known, I’ve found that to be true,” Swanson said. “Even in the church, it doesn’t come up very often.”
A lasting legacy
Despite the relative obscurity of Operation Whitecoat, civilians around the country — and around the world — can thank the program for the development of several widely used vaccines. Tularemia, yellow fever, and hepatitis vaccines were all tested on participants in the project, Larsen said.
“That’s why I found it interesting to see that the yellow fever outbreak was a front-page story today,” he added at the May 30 screening, pointing out a USA Today article on the spread of the disease in Brazil. “Because the vaccine was developed here at Fort Detrick with the Whitecoat program.”
To research for his documentary, Larsen interviewed participants all across the country and dug deep into the documentation of the program.
Letters between military and church leaders indicate that the Army considered the program a viable alternative to battlefield service for church members, whose religious beliefs urge against combat.
“The general consensus is that it is just not morally responsible to bear arms,” said Swanson, who later worked in publishing for the Adventist church. “That the taking of life is not the business of a Christian.”
There is, however, strong scriptural support for serving one’s country in a peaceful capacity, he added. As a result, most church members served the U.S. either as medics or as Whitecoat volunteers once the program became an option.
While both Swanson and Jones participated in the program, their experiences were slightly different. Jones, 83, served from 1954 to 1955 and then worked as a corpsman for the program until September 1958.
As one of the inaugural volunteers, he distinctly remembers walking across a catwalk at Fort Detrick — then called Camp Detrick — to the “Eight Ball,” where participants were exposed to the pathogens.
He and the other men in his group were dosed with Q fever, a relatively common bacterial disease with flu-like symptoms. None of them got sick, Jones said, but the experiment did help researchers adjust the dose for future volunteers.
“It’s like this — when you start your car, you take little steps to get there,” he explained. “You don’t take one big step and just jump in. Well, the amount they gave us, they knew we handled it OK. Now, the next three that came up, they did get sick.”
Swanson served later, and was part of an even lesser-known aspect of the program — one that benefited scientists at NASA. He reported for service in October 1969, and was part of an experiment to determine how well astronauts could function should they became sick while on a mission.
In his study, teams of five men were exposed to sandfly fever and then trained on a simulated spacecraft console. Eight hours a day, three days a week, the teams pretended to operate the consoles, even while some of them developed nausea and fevers of up to 104 degrees.
“You had to keep calibrated and you had to keep it set,” Swanson said. “When you saw it going wrong, you had to figure out how to fix it. And we were told it was part of a study underwritten by NASA to anticipate astronauts’ ability to operate sophisticated equipment if they were sick.”
Beyond the benefit to NASA, USAMRIID still attributes the development of essential safety gear — including gas masks and biohazard suits — to Operation Whitecoat.
The program even played a small role in the Camp David Accords. In 1977, an outbreak of Rift Valley fever in Egypt killed thousands of residents and animals. The vaccine for the disease — tested by Whitecoat volunteers — was a major bargaining chip for both Egypt and Israel when leaders met with President Jimmy Carter in 1978.
“That was such a little-known piece of history that the people at USAMRIID didn’t even know about it,” Larsen said.
Larsen and researchers at USAMRIID also tout the program as the harbinger of stringent standards for human testing. Operation Whitecoat set a precedent for informed consent — the policy of clearly educating human test subjects on the details and risks of research experiments — and served as a foil to other horrific experiments conducting on unknowing subjects, including the Tuskegee syphilis experiment and human radiation exposure by the Atomic Energy Commission.
“It’s a story that all Americans can be proud of,” Larsen said. “The fact is, Operation Whitecoat is one of the highest standards of ethical research out there.”
One of the most striking details of the project, he added, is that military leaders and researchers at USAMRIID exposed themselves to the pathogens before subjecting their participants. Both Jones and Swanson said that it was strong leadership that prevented real fear among the volunteers.
“I’ve thought about this many times, and I can’t give you an answer on what went through my mind as I went across that catwalk,” Jones said. “I was 21 years old. We felt like we had good leadership. We trusted what they were telling us, and we followed.”
Six years ago, Marine Gunnery Sgt. Jared Coons grappled with the grief of the death of his father. Mark Coons, 54, left part of his estate to his son, who in turn has taken that gift to help wounded troops, children and families.
Coons gave some $25,000 to the Marine Corps’ Wounded Warrior Regiment and Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society. A $100,000 check covered two-thirds of the cost to build a playground for special-needs kids at the YMCA in his hometown of Hannibal, Missouri. An $85,000 donation benefitted local schools.
Smaller but still sizable donations funded outdoor camps and horse therapy programs.
The Marine Corps also recognized Coons for his charity. At a November 2013 ceremony at the Pentagon, it gave him the 2012 Spirit of Hope Award for his “extraordinary philanthropic contributions” of over $238,000 and noted his “generous and philanthropic character epitomizes the spirit of Bob Hope and was in keeping with the highest traditions” of the services.
But last year, Coons found himself in legal hot water. Why? He dug into his wallet several times in 2014 while serving as the logistics chief with a Japan-based Osprey squadron, VMM-262.
Tempo was high, he said, as the squadron was preparing to chop to another command for a shipboard deployment and prepping for training exercises in the region. Logistics are complicated business in the western Pacific, where units are further from military supply lines and stateside support.
Once, crunched for time, Coons spent about $1,400 to rent three large trash bins to haul away another unit’s property left in a Futenma Marine Corps Air Station hangar on Okinawa. Another time, he paid $1,450 to fund commercial Internet services from a contingency supply vendor for an exercise deployment to Clark Air Base in the Philippines.
The unit needed internet access so the Marines could track flight activities and do their daily work to meet the mission, he said. But there wasn’t enough time to wait for the waiver from Washington, which would likely come too late. So he decided to cover the cost and file for reimbursement.
Coons, a 15-year veteran, said it wasn’t the only times the squadron came up short with getting supplies and equipment the Marines needed.
“We had a very high mission tempo and we rarely received the support we needed,” he said. Higher-ups “should have supported the squadron better than it did.”
Coons contends he had the OK from his boss to get those mission-essential purchases. But he saw no reimbursement. Instead, the squadron, with a new commander in charge, in July 2015 ordered an investigation into his 2014 purchases. Coons was counseled for “unauthorized commitment of personal funds.”
But it didn’t end there. After a contingency mission to Nepal following an earthquake there, the squadron blamed Coons for several general-purpose tent poles in palletized GP tents, which he initially had signed out for but which later had missing parts. The Marine Corps valued those poles at $2,288 – his attorney says the parts are worth less than $100 — and it garnished his pay to cover that bill.
Jane Siegel, a retired colonel and Marine Corps judge advocate now in private practice near San Diego, said the Marine was “pressured” to sign a form that he’d agree to the garnishment from his military pay. He did it so he could take requested leave, which she said was subsequently wrongly cancelled and meant the loss of $1,147 airline ticket for his short trip to the U.S.
The money garnished was “20 times the amount he actually owed” for the missing poles, Siegel wrote in an appeal to Marine Corps Forces Pacific command in Hawaii to right the wrongs, order a new investigation and reimburse the gunnery sergeant for $6,276, in all.
“This is about fundamental fairness and admission that the red tape does not keep up with the mission tempo,” she wrote. “When the mission absolutely, positively has to be done, call the Marines. This is what the gunny was trying to ensure.”
Coons has few options left for redress. Last year he rotated back to the states and is stationed at the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center in California and he’s spent this year trying to recoup the money for things he said the squadron needed overseas. Commanders up the chain agreed with the investigation, blaming Coons for requesting reimbursement.
He’s hit dead ends with 1st Marine Aircraft Wing and III Marine Expeditionary Force’s Inspector General, all which have rejected his appeals to reinvestigate. Most recently, the Defense Department’s IG refused to reopen the case.
“We want someone to investigate. He wants a fair hearing – and he hasn’t gotten one,” Siegel said, calling Coons “an outstanding” Marine. “It’s not so much about the money. To him, it’s about the fact that he had to do these things. He had to outlay the money for the Internet, because he’s just that kind of a Marine.”
Ever see those signs on the highway that read “speed limit enforced by aircraft”?
Well, if you’re in South Africa, you might just start seeing similar signage declaring anti-poaching laws are being enforced by the country’s Saab JAS 39 Gripen fighter jets.
Of course, this doesn’t necessarily mean that illegal hunting could be dealt with using a JDAM strike, or even a gun run with the Gripen’s 27 mm Mauser cannon. However, it definitely does herald a new mission for the South African Air Force, and brings to the forefront the struggles the country has had over the years with curbing rampant poaching across its outback.
The SAAF aims to use the Litening III pod to track poachers at night near the South Africa-Zimbabwe border. Built by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems of Israel, the Litening is widely used as to designate targets for guided munitions, enhancing their effectiveness in combat situations.
Instead of designating poachers for an airstrike, the SAAF will use Litening’s reconnaissance capabilities, allowing them to see activity on the ground clearly, even while flying at night. The pod can be slung underneath the aircraft on its wings, or beneath its fuselage on a “belly pylon.”
Litening has already more than proven its worth in night operations in Afghanistan and Iraq over the past 15 years.
Using a datalink developed in South Africa known as “Link ZA,” information on the location of poachers as well images of them in action can be shared with other aircraft in the area, or even controllers on the ground. This would presumably be used to vector rangers on the ground to the general location of the poachers.
Poaching has been a widespread and seemingly unstoppable issue in South Africa for decades, causing an alarming decrease in the country’s rhino population. Combat veterans, hired by private security companies and smaller organizations such as Vetpaw have been deployed to the area to combat poaching in recent years.
The Gripen is a multirole fighter with air-to-ground and air-to-air capabilities, serving with a number of countries across the world. Designed and manufactured in Sweden, it was built as a versatile competitor to the likes of the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, Dassault Rafale and other similar fighters of the current era.
The single-engine fighter currently flies in Thailand, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Sweden, in addition to South Africa, and will soon enter service with the Brazilian Air Force. Saab is still aggressively courting a next-generation version of the Gripen, called the Gripen NG – slightly more on par with Boeing’s Advanced Super Hornet.
South Africa began taking delivery of its Gripens in 2008, purchasing a total of 26 planes — a mix of single and two-seaters. In 2013, less than half of these aircraft were operational at any given time. Slashes made to the country’s defense budget forced the SAAF to limit flight operations while placing a group of its brand new fighters in storage as they could not be flown.
It was reported last year that the SAAF began rotating its Gripens in and out of storage, activating some of the mothballed fighters to return to service, while storing others to be reactivated later on. Since South Africa does not face any military threats, none of these Gripens have ever been involved in combat situations.
It’s possible that using fighters in such a role might prove to be too expensive for the South African government, though, necessitating the SAAF to explore utilizing a different aircraft for its anti-poaching operations. However, this in itself could be problematic as the Litening pod can only be equipped to fighter and attack jets.
Using Gripens, orbiting high above poaching target zones, will likely turn out to be a decent interim solution while the South African government comes up with a cheaper and more cost-effective solution. Until then, poachers beware, you’re being watched by state-of-the-art fighter jets in night skies above.