Why is it so hard to understand what it's like to be a veteran? - We Are The Mighty
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Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?
This post is reprinted with permission from NationSwell, new digital media company focused on American innovation and renewal. 


As soon as he wrapped up his studies in film and literature at Boston University, Henry Hughes followed family tradition and signed up for the Army. For the next five years, he took fire, dodged IEDs and grappled internally with the meaning of military service while on two tours of duty in Afghanistan with the 173rd Airborne Brigade. After Hughes returned home and earned another degree from the American Film Institute, he began making movies, including his short film,”Day One,” which tells the story of a female Army interpreter facing a moral quandary during her first day on the job: saving the newborn child of a known enemy. The film was nominated for this year’s Academy Award for best live-action short.

NationSwell spoke to Hughes, a Got Your 6 Storyteller, by phone from Los Angeles about the lingering questions from war and their portrayal on film.

 

What inspired you to serve your country?

For me, it was a long family tradition. We basically had someone in the Army since the [American] Revolution. I wanted to be part of that tradition.

Is there one question that you continually ask yourself about your experience?

It’s probably, “why is it not so simple?” It’s a very complex part of my life, not something that is full of simply good memories or simply bad memories: it’s a mixture of all types of life. So I always wonder why it’s not like anything else. At this point, why can’t it be simpler? Why is it so difficult for everyone to understand it?

I’m guessing that’s why did you decided to make the film “Day One?”

For sure, it’s about those questions. There’s not a reducible answer like the one I just tried to give you. So that’s why I thought I could make a movie about it instead, to kind of show the way it felt. So the movie is not a true-to-life of what exactly happened to me that one day. But the feeling when I’m watching the movie, it’s that sublime space of things that are horrible and beautiful in the same breath.

What’s the most important lesson civilians can take away from art that’s made about war?

I would say that everyone’s wartime experience is subjective. I don’t know if there’s some sort of universal experience.

What’s your favorite movie about war?

For me, it’s “The Thin Red Line.” I think it touches me because there’s no other war movie like it, that accepts the soulfulness of the warrior experience. A lot of movies don’t go that way, they kind of go along the more visceral, more experiential route.

What is the quality you most admire in a comrade?

What I actually admire most is hard to come by in our community: vulnerability. When it’s a vulnerability to look at your military experience, I really love meeting those people.

Who was the most inspirational person you encountered while serving?

I would say my interpreter on my second tour. She’s the one I based the movie on, or it’s inspired by her. She’s an Afghan-American woman, naturalized as an American citizen, but born over there. The deck was stacked against her, and she looked inside herself to find out what she thought was right and wrong. It wasn’t something that someone told her to do. She just had incredible integrity.

If you could change one thing about your service, what would it be?

I wouldn’t want one of my guys to be wounded or for any of my guys to die.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

I would probably say chasing down my wife. It was a long shot, and it worked out. In 2010, after my first tour, I flew to New York without knowing she was there. We hadn’t spoken in a long time. We knew each other as children, when we were 13, and I hadn’t seen her in a number of years. I thought I could track her down, and so on Facebook messenger, I basically said, “Hey, I just landed in New York. Let’s hang out. We haven’t seen each other in a decade.” We went on one date and then a few more dates. She started me writing me a lot of letters when I was in Afghanistan again for my second tour, and we decided to be together.

How can the rest of us, as civilians, do more to support veterans?

Just look at them as people first. I feel like there’s a big divide on some level, but a lot of it is imagined. The fact of the matter is that all of those veterans are just people. I would look at them that way first and then look at their experience.

To you, what does it mean these days to be a veteran?

Well, it’s inescapable, I suppose. The definition of being a veteran is you can never not be a veteran one once you are one. And that speaks to, I think, how profound that experience is. There’s no way you can stop being a veteran.

 

MIGHTY CULTURE

An exclusive look inside the US military’s largest ammunition plant

Carry the battle to them. Don’t let them bring it to you. Put them on the defensive and don’t ever apologize for anything.” When most people think of Harry S. Truman, they think of the president who signed off on the first and only wartime use of nuclear weapons. But before Truman became the 33rd President of the United States during World War II, he was a senator from Missouri. One of the projects in which Truman was instrumental as a senator was establishing Lake City Army Ammunition Plant (LCAAP).


LCAAP is the single largest producer of small-arms munitions within the Department of Defense. Initially operated by Remington Arms, the government-owned, contractor-operated facility is currently run by Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems, formerly Orbital ATK. Basically, they provide all branches of the U.S. military with every round of small-caliber ammunition they need. This goes beyond supply and demand — it’s a living legacy.

Lake City Army Ammunition Plant Installation Mission Video

www.youtube.com


uring an exclusive private tour of LCAAP, Whitney Watson, manager of media relations and communications with Northrop Grumman, divulged that the media hadn’t been granted access to the facility in years. However, being invited to visit Lake City and actually getting through the doors are two different things — the security process was unlike any I’d previously experienced. Once inside, though, it was like stepping back in time.

In 1940, the government purchased nearly 4,000 acres of privately owned property in Independence, Missouri. Then-senator Truman helped secure both the land and the funding for establishing LCAAP. Ground broke in December 1940, and the first round — a .30 caliber — came off the line on Sept. 12, 1941. In October 1941, the first shipment left by rail. LCAAP was up and fully functioning within nine months in an era before modern capabilities and technology while enduring a Midwestern winter and in the midst of war. During World War II, LCAAP employed 21,000 full-time workers and produced 50 million rounds per year.

Lake City lives up to its name, functioning as a self-sufficient city. The property contains 22 miles of road, 11 miles of railroad (not currently in use), military housing, a 24-hour police force, a hospital, nine medical locations, a cafeteria, a non-federal post office, a fire station (complete with a bunkhouse), a gym facility, a road maintenance crew, a water production plant, three wastewater treatment facilities, and indoor and outdoor shooting ranges.

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?

An aerial view of the Lake City Army Ammunition Plant.

(Photo courtesy of the LCAAP Facebook page)

From the buildings to the machines, all of the original equipment remains functional and, to some extent, is still utilized. It was surreal to see the newer robotic equipment mixed in with the legacy equipment on the production floor. The legacy machines are the original machines installed upon the opening of LCAAP. As of today, they continue producing rounds as quickly and efficiently as their modern counterparts — this is 1930s technology functioning without fail in 2019! It speaks volumes for LCAAP and the pride with which they have maintained their facility and equipment.

The employees at LCAAP are often generational, and they share a deep understanding of the importance of their product, where it goes, and what it’s used for. The prevailing objective is that not a single round can fail — lives literally depend upon it. To ensure this, LCAAP has a prodigious process for case traceability. Each round has a specific stamp on the head, which allows it to be individually traced to the day, time, and machine that produced it. This way, if there is ever an issue during their extensive testing protocol, they can quickly ascertain why. Lake City produces 4 million rounds per day, so being able to trace each one is not only essential, it’s astonishing.

Another example of the pride and teamwork at LCAAP is the motto “One Team, One Mission,” which is visible at various places around the facility. The saying was originated by Watson.

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?

LCAAP produces 4 million rounds of small-caliber ammunition per day.

(Photo by Karen Hunter/Coffee or Die)

“In the years immediately following the terrorist attacks of 9/11, with widespread military operations throughout the Middle East, Lake City employees could turn on the news every night and see the products they produce in action. In 2019, that isn’t the case. Even though we still have troops fighting all over the world, it’s not on the scale it was a decade earlier,” Watson said.

“We were looking for a way to remind Lake City employees that, first, we are all on the same team — regardless of what your job here is, every one of us is an important part of the team and we need to perform like it,” he continued. “And second, that our mission hasn’t changed: to produce the quality ammunition that the men and women who defend our country deserve.”

The phrase has been incorporated throughout the plant on signs, shirts, hats, and other items, and, according to Watson, it’s working.

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?

LCAAP has a history of employing women, as well as generations of family members, that goes back to its World War II roots.

(Photo courtesy of Lake City Army Ammunition Plant)

“Our employee engagement has risen dramatically over the past few years,” he said. “Fewer employees are leaving for other opportunities (even in this historically low unemployment), and we are performing amazingly. I never served in the Armed Forces, but I am very proud to be a part of a team whose sole mission is to support the warfighter.”

LCAAP’s commitment to those who serve the country doesn’t stop when they turn in the uniform; the company also supports and values veterans. They partner with the Foundation for Exceptional Warriors to host an annual turkey hunt for veterans. The vets get to hunt the LCAAP property — 4,000 private acres of prime hunting land. While at the facility, the guests of honor are treated as such. They enjoy a hotel stay, catered food, dinners out, and a paid shopping spree for gear.

LCAAP is also involved in the Kansas City, Missouri, chapter of the Association of the United States Army. This spring, 100 LCAAP team members will participate in and financially support a project to build a home for a disabled veteran who is raising her young grandchildren. Watson said that a significant percentage of the workers at LCAAP are veterans and that hiring former service members is a top priority.

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?

(Photo by Karen Hunter/Coffee or Die)

When asked what Lake City Ammunition means to him, Watson responded: “My father fought in the Pacific during World War II. Even though we have some of the most modern manufacturing equipment in the industry, we also still use some legacy equipment that has been in operation since the early 1940s. It means a lot to me knowing that some of that equipment may have been used to produce the rounds he fired, either in training or in combat. The ammunition that may have helped save his life or the life of one of his buddies. Who knows? I do know that the ammo we make today definitely helps save lives. And that means more than I could express.”

Lake City Army Ammunition Plant is much more than a facility manufacturing small-caliber munitions — it’s a small community and an important asset to the U.S. military. With a 1.6 billion round per year production capacity, Lake City is vigilantly prepared to ramp up production at a moment’s notice. But most importantly, Lake City is a family — a family that extends to every individual who touches one of their rounds.

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Air Force uses new technology to improve mission readiness

Airmen at Travis Air Force Base are implementing innovative strategies to reduce man hours and increase mission effectiveness.

Over the past several months, the base has implemented a variety of innovations including 3D printing and 3D scanning.

Cultivating a culture of innovation is essential to mission success, said Col. Matthew Leard, 60th Air Mobility Wing vice commander.

“At Travis (AFB), airmen are empowered to identify and solve problems at their level, rapidly,” he said. “We want airmen to think big and try the ideas others say will never work. It does not always have to be proven technology or have a business case. Let’s just try it, who knows it may just work.”


The innovations under way at Travis AFB were made possible when the Air Force distributed million in Squadron Innovation Funds in an effort to increase readiness, reduce cost, save time and enhance lethality of the force.

In October 2018, Travis AFB procured a 3D hand scanner capable of producing three-dimensional representations of aircraft parts. The device has also been used to inspect aircraft damage.

“The scanner displays the deepest part of a dent to the nearest thousandth of an inch,” said Master Sgt. Christopher Smithling, 60th Maintenance Squadron assistant section chief for aircraft structural maintenance. “The scanner can identify the shape of a dent, as well as if it’s sharp, smooth or round, which allows us to give our engineers a better damage analysis than we could before.”

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?

Joshua Orr, 60th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, uses a CreaForm HandyScan 700 to capture digital information to render a three-dimensional image of an aircraft part into specialized computer software, Nov. 16, 2018, at Travis Air Force Base.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Heide Couch)

Smithling said the scanner was first used in November 2018 to inspect the landing gear of a C-17 Globemaster III after a bird strike, and over the past month, has greatly reduced the time required to complete damage inspections.

“One of our C-5 aircraft went through a hail storm in 2013 and we found many dents on all the panels,” he said. “We’ve performed an inspection of this aircraft every 180 days and we’ve had to measure every dent that’s still on the wing’s surface. The first few times we did that, it took us 48 hours. We had that C-5 in our hangar last week and we were able to inspect the four primary structural panels in 30 minutes.”

The 60th MXS is also in the process of procuring two 3D printers, one polymer printer and one metal printer, so they can reproduce aircraft parts.

“With the two additive manufacturing units, we will be able to grab any aircraft part, scan it, and within four to eight hours, we will have a true 3D drawing of it that we can send to the additive manufacturing unit to print it,” Smithling said.

That capability, he said, will decrease the time Travis AFB aircraft are out of service.

“Right now, we could have one of our aircraft down for about 48 hours while we try to get the part it needs,” he said. “Once we have this additive manufacturing capability in place, we will likely be able to print and replace parts in a few hours and return our aircraft to flying status much quicker.”

Innovation is also leading to improved patient care at David Grant USAF Medical Center, the largest medical center in the Air Force. The Dental Clinic at DGMC received a Form2 printer in August 2018, which has enabled the clinic to produce a variety of items used for dental surgery.

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?

A Formlabs Form2 printer, operated by 60th Dental Squadron airmen, prints a dental guard at Travis Air Force Base, Calif., Dec. 17, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Louis Briscese)

“We currently fabricate surgical guides, hard night guards and dental models or casts with different variations,” said Capt. Geoffrey Johnston, 60th Dental Squadron prosthodontist. “We are also investigating printing temporary crown and bridge restorations, complete and partial dentures and orthodontic clear aligners.”

“Prior to additive manufacturing techniques, there were shapes and designs for instruments and restorations in dentistry that were either impossible or so expensive and cumbersome to fabricate, they were not feasible to create,” Johnston added. “The Form2 overcomes those pitfalls and does so with resins that have been determined biocompatible for intraoral use.”

This technology leads to improved patient care, said Johnston.

“By merging 3D radiographs of jaws with 3D models of actual teeth, we are able to plan exact placement of implants and with 3D printing technology added to that, we are able to carry out those plans with extreme precision,” he said. “This precision of placement gives us the ability to more predictably avoid nerves, vessels and adjacent teeth with our implant placement. Also, this technology enables us to have temporary crowns made before dental implant surgery to attach to the implants at the time of surgery.”

Currently, Travis AFB airmen are working on a dozen 2018 SIF-funded projects and preparing to submit innovative ideas for the 2019 SIF campaign. Airmen can submit ideas through the U.S. Air Force Ideation Platform at https://usaf.ideascalegov.com/.

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

Articles

Why the F-22 Raptor is using its eyes instead of its guns in the skies over Syria

The US Air Force’s F-22 Raptor stealth fighter is playing a crucial yet evolving role in air operations over Syria and Iraq.


With advanced stealth technology and powerful sensors, the aircraft is the first coalition plane back in Syrian airspace after a major incident. Such was the case after the US downings of Syrian aircraft this month, as well as the US Navy’s Tomahawk missile strike on al Shayrat air base in April.

Notably missing from the high-profile shoot-downs, the fifth-generation aircraft made by Lockheed Martin Corp. isn’t necessarily showcasing its role as an air-to-air fighter in the conflict. Instead, the twin-engine jet is doing more deconflicting of airspace than dog-fighting, officials said.

“This is a counter-ISIS fight,” said Lt. Col. “Shell,” an F-22 pilot and commander of the 27th Squadron on rotation at a base in an undisclosed location, referring to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS. He spoke to Military.com on the condition that he be identified by his callsign.

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?
USAF photo by Tech. Sgt. Michael Holzworth.

“ISIS doesn’t have advanced surface-to-air missiles, they don’t have an air force … but we are deconflicting the air space,” Shell said. “Not everyone is on the same frequencies,” he said, referring to the US, Russian, Syrian, and coalition aircraft operating over Syria. “Deconfliction with the Russian air force — that is one of the big things that we do.”

The pilot said the F-22’s ability to identify other aircraft — down to the airframe — and detect surface-to-air missiles and relay their existence to other friendly forces while remaining a low-observable radar profile makes it critical for the fight.

The Raptor is typically flying above other aircraft, though not as high as drones such as the MQ-9 Reaper and other intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance aircraft, Shell said.

The F-22, along with the E-3 Sentry Airborne Warning and Control System, “has really high fidelity sensors that we can detect when non-coalition aircraft are getting close,” he said, “and we can move the coalition aircraft around at altitude laterally, so that, for example, if a Russian formation or Syrian formation going into the same battlespace to counter ISIS, [they are] not at conflict with our fighters.”

Weapon of Choice: Small Diameter Bomb

Even so, to defend itself in the air and strike targets on the ground, “we carry a mixed load out,” Shell said.

The F-22 wields the AIM-9X Sidewinder missile, the AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile, the laser-guided GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb, and the GPS-guided GBU-32 Joint Direct Attack Munition.

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?
An F-22A Raptor fires an AIM-9M Sidewinder missile. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

The Small Diameter Bomb is more likely to be used, especially in the counter-ISIS fight in urban areas where the Raptor is conducting precision strikes, Shell said.

“We carry the low collateral damage weapon, the Small Diameter Bomb GBU-39, to precisely strike enemy combatants while protecting the civilian population,” he said. “We also can carry the 1,000-pound JDAM GBU-32 used for targets where there is less-to-little collateral damage concern,” meaning a larger blast for attack.

Location Isn’t ‘Scramble-able’

The Combined Air Operations Center, or CAOC, based in another location, develop the F-22’s mission tasking typically three days out, Shell said. For logistical purposes, all aircraft in theater don’t fly unless the mission is deemed critical, he said.

“Typical maintenance practices will not have every airplane airborne at once,” he said.

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?
USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Joseph Araiza

In addition, “We’re not in a scramble-able location,” he said. “We’re not [a dozen or so] miles away from the OIR fight — we have to drive.”

Between flying in Iraq and Syria, “there are different rules based on where we’re flying,” Shell said, stopping short of detailing each country’s rules of engagement and flight restrictions. “They’re minor in the technical details.”

‘The Only Thing That Can Survive’

During the Navy’s TLAM strike, “serendipitously,” there were more F-22s in the area of responsibility because some were getting ready to fly home while others were coming in, according to Brig. Gen. Charles Corcoran, commander of the 380th Expeditionary Wing, which houses the F-22 mission in an undisclosed location for Operation Inherent Resolve, the Pentagon’s name for the anti-ISIS campaign.

After incidents like that, “We kind of go to F-22s only — fifth gen only” because “it’s the only thing that can survive in there,” he said, referring to the plane’s ability to fly in contested airspace despite the presence of anti-access aerial denial weapons.

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?
USAF photo by Master Sgt. John Gordinier

Should Russia paint coalition aircraft with surface-to-air missile systems, “the only thing we’ll put in there is F-22s,” Corcoran said. Leaders will then decide which types of fourth-generation fighter — like an F-16 Fighting Falcon with capable radars — and/or drone can return to the fight, he said. Only later would they allow “defenseless aircraft” such as tankers to circle back through taskings, he said.

“If an F-15 or an F-18 — which is really more of a ground-attack airplane — is busy doing this, they’re not available to do the close air support stuff, so if we [have] got to keep this up, we’re probably going to need some more forces over here that can do their dedicated jobs,” Corcoran said. That includes more “defensive counter air” assets like F-22s so the tactical fighters can drop more bombs “and get after ISIS,” he said.

‘We Can Bring More’

Given the nature of how the US air operation against ISIS has evolved in recent months, Shell acknowledged the possibility that commanders may decide to deploy more F-22s to the area of responsibility.

“The airplanes that we have here, it’s not the maximum we can bring, we can bring more if directed,” he said. With more Raptors in theater, “they would obviously task us more,” he said.

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?
Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Orlando Corpuz

Shell said, “People often call us the quarterback [in the air]. I don’t like that because we’re not always in charge — there is a mission hierarchy … and most of the time it is not the F-22. We enhance the mission commander’s situational awareness by feeding him information based on off our sensors for him or her to make a decision.”

When asked if that meant the stealth fighter works as a “silent partner” gathering intel, he said, “We’re not really silent. We’re pretty vocal.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

A gymnast just defected from North Korea by ‘vaulting a 12 foot border wall’

Just in time for Thanksgiving, WATM brings you breaking news to remind you to to feel especially grateful: North Korea is the worst. Sure, America might have super high COVID rates and a little election chaos, but at least you don’t feel the need to defect by vaulting a 12′ barbed wire fence to your freedom. That’s right, a North Korean gymnast mustered all of his talent and courage combined with a healthy amount of desperation and hope, and vaulted a border wall into South Korea to seek asylum.

According to the Chosun Ilibo, the 20-something man climbed an iron pole and used the height to jump over the border fence. He was then spotted about a mile south of the border by South Korean forces using a thermal observation device. The man was promptly detained, identified himself as a former gymnast and reportedly requested political asylum.

Officials were so taken aback by his feat that they asked him to demonstrate twice how he was able to jump over the three-meter fence, according to the BBC’s Seoul correspondent. Authorities vowed to investigate why hi-tech security systems did not work.

According to the London Telegraph, “the audacious defection sparked alarm that the high security demilitarized zone, separating North from South, had been successfully crossed. The four-kilometre-wide, 250-kilometre-long strip is fortified by fences, minefields and armed sentry posts. Few defectors take the dangerous option of trying to break through, with most of the 33,000 who have fled North Korea since the ’90s opting for risky but more achievable routes through China.”

And, just because we love you and know how much you love reading about North Korea, here are 7 facts about North Korea from our good friends at Business Insider:

1. North Korea ranks 51st in population, but has one of the largest standing militaries

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?
The North Korean military. 

CIA data ranks North Korea’s estimated 25 million-person population 51st out of the world’s nations. North Korea’s outsized military is among the most powerful in the world, boasting approximately 1,190,000 active-duty troops, according to Newsweek.

China, the world’s leader in both population (over 1.3 billion) and military size (2.3 million), has a military that employs about 0.18% of the population.

North Korea’s military, on the other hand, employs about 4.7% of the total population.

CIA data ranks North Korea’s estimated 25 million-person population 51st out of the world’s nations. North Korea’s outsized military is among the most powerful in the world, boasting approximately 1,190,000 active-duty troops, according to Newsweek.

China, the world’s leader in both population (over 1.3 billion) and military size (2.3 million), has a military that employs about 0.18% of the population.

North Korea’s military, on the other hand, employs about 4.7% of the total population.

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?
Two North Korean children rollerblade. 

According to National Geographic photographer David Guttenfelder, rollerblading is popular “all over the country.” He reported that he couldn’t “count the number of rollerblading locations there are in the capital city [Pyongyang],” in particular.

3. Drugs are common and largely unregulated

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?
Kim Jong-Un visiting Ryuwon Footwear Factory in Pyongyang. 

Drug use in North Korea is largely unregulated and quite common, with an estimated 30% of North Koreans using drugs, UPI reports. Known locally as yeoksam, marijuana is grown in such quantity that smugglers sneak it across the border into China for foreign sale, according to Radio Free Asia.

Public Radio International reports that methamphetamines, and specifically highly potent crystal meth, are also common in the DPRK, and though these drugs are not as openly permitted as pot, their use is widespread. Meth is often used less for recreational purposes and more as an appetite suppressant and to help workers toiling away for long hours at farms, factories, and in other trades.

4. North Korea is home to the world’s largest stadium

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?
The May Day Stadium in Pyongyang. 

Not only is the DPRK home to the biggest stadium in the world in terms of seating capacity, but it holds that distinction by a massive margin. The Rungrado 1st of May Stadium (also known as May Day Stadium) has a total capacity of 150,000 people.

It dwarfs the next largest stadium, which is Ann Arbor’s Michigan Stadium, which accommodates 107,600 people. The venue is used for occasional sporting events, but its primary purpose is to host the annual Arirang Festival, a massive affair held each August and September that celebrates North Korean history, culture, and achievements.

5. North Korea holds political elections every five years

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?
North Koreans clap during a mass rally organized to celebrate the re-election of Kim Jong Un as First Chairman of the ruling National Defense Commission, 2014. 

Strange as it might seem for a dictatorship to hold elections, North Korean citizens go to the polls every five years. However, the ballots they receive only list one candidate name, for the office of Supreme People’s Assembly deputy in their district, according to The Economist.

The only decision the voters have to make is whether to vote for the sole candidate listed or to vote against them, which involves placing their ballot in a separate box from the positive votes and having their identity noted, which could be considered an act of treason, The Economist reports.

6. North Korea exists in its own time zone

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?
A clock hangs above chairs inside a waiting room at the Pyongyang Maternity Hospital. 

As of August 15th, 2015, North Korea exists in its very own time zone, shifted at least a half-hour apart from any other place on earth, CNN reports. Pyongyang time is GMT+08:30, to be precise, and was adopted in an apparent return to the time the nation used prior to twentieth-century Japanese colonization.

7. For some North Koreans, life is improving

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?
Munsu Water Park, North Korea. 

To be clear, for many North Koreans almost every day is a struggle where food shortages, horrid work conditions, and government oppression define life. But for some DPRK citizens, everyday life bears some similarities to the rest of the world, NPR reports.

More and more North Koreans have access to mobile phones, DVD players, and other devices that were virtually unknown less than a generation ago, according to NPR. Recreational opportunities including movie theaters, amusement and water parks, and more are common in Pyongyang and a handful of other population centers, and influence from the wider world increases more with each passing year, NPR reports.

Articles

D-Day: The story behind the largest amphibious assault in history

With more than 6,000 ships and 150,000 troops involved, along with nearly 12,000 aircraft, D-Day stands as the largest amphibious assault in history. The Allies pulled together every resource available to breach Hitler’s Fortress in Europe, but they had to do so without America’s experts in amphibious warfare. The U.S. Marine Corps was busy pushing back the Japanese in the Pacific, island by island. Here’s how Eisenhower and his generals did it.


Planning for D-Day pits allies against each other

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?
Photo: US Army Signal Corps

The demands of D-Day caused fights for resources. The Americans and British fought over when to make Normandy the priority while the Army was pitted against the Navy for resources, according to historical essays from “Command Decisions.”

The stress between the American and British leadership centered on an American belief that the British wanted to spend more time consolidating gains in the Mediterranean rather than pivot to France and open the new front in the war. The Americans thought that British leadership wanted to spend more time in Southern Europe to gain political power there, while British planners thought the focus should remain in the area a little longer to force Germany to move more reinforcements away from Normandy.

For the Army and Navy, the fight was over how shipbuilding assets should be used. The Army wanted more landing craft while the Navy needed shipbuilders focused on repairing and rebuilding the deepwater fleet that had been diminished by Pearl Harbor, submarine warfare, and escort duties for convoys.

Both problems were settled at the Cairo-Tehran conferences in 1943. British leaders assured the U.S. that they were committed to crossing the English Channel in 1944. The issue of new landing craft was settled due to two factors. First, the Navy had reduced need for new ships as German submarines were sinking fewer craft. Second, Churchill decried the shortage of landing craft, pledging his country would focus on constructing ships for the landing if the Americans would increase their effort as well.

Heavy German defenses force the Allies to do the unexpected

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?
Photo: US Army History Museum

The obvious points for an Allied force to invade Normandy in the 1940s were the large port at Pas-de-Calais or the smaller ports at La Havre and Cherbourg. German defense planners reinforced these zones to the point that invaders would either fail to reach the beaches or be immediately pushed back upon landing. Instead, the Allies created a plan to land at a beach instead of a port.

The final plan was to land between Le Havre in the east and Cherbourg in the west. The invading forces would spread from there while airborne troops would jump ahead onto key objectives, securing bridges, destroying artillery, and wreaking havoc on the enemy communications. The plan faced numerous challenges, though two stood out.

First, German leadership knew of the Allies use of landing craft in Sicily and assessed the beaches as vulnerable, likely targets. Second, the Normandy coast was famous for bad weather and extreme tides, up to 21-foot changes in a day.

This would leave the Allies with relatively lightly-defended beaches, but a huge logistics problem once they had landed. Large ships would have no deepwater piers to pull up to and no cranes to remove supplies from cargo holds.

The Allies would ultimately get around this through the construction of “Mulberry Harbors,” prefabricated, floating piers protected by sunken World War I ships and caissons. The first piers were operational by June 14 and allowed vehicles and supplies up to 40 tons to drive from deepwater ships to the shore.

Weather delays D-Day but also saves it

The movement of supplies and soldiers to Britain had taken place over two years, culminating in a massive troop buildup in 1944. But the day of the invasion had to be set for small, three-day windows centered on proper tides and moonlight. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of Allied Forces, set the invasion date for June 5, 1944 and trusted British Capt. James Stagg to make the weather decision for proposed invasion dates.

Stagg and the British meteorologists found themselves in disagreement with the Americans as to the weather for June 5. Stagg recommended delaying the invasion due to storms the British predicted, while the Americans thought a high pressure wedge would stave off the storms and provide blue skies. Luckily, Eisenhower only heard directly from Stagg and accepted his recommendation. D-Day was pushed to June 6.

The Germans, meanwhile, also predicted the storms but thought they would last for at least a week or more. With this weather forecast, the German high command went ahead with war games and pulled its troops away from the coastal defenses so they could practice defending the coasts. The head of German land defenses, Gen. Erwin Rommel, left to give his wife a pair of birthday shoes. The beaches would be more lightly defended and lack key leadership when the Allies arrived.

June 6, 1944: D-Day

Though the weather wouldn’t clear for hours, Stagg recommended to Eisenhower that he go ahead with the June 6 invasion. Just after midnight, the invasion of Hitler’s Fortress Europe began.

Prior to the beach landings, 23,000 American, British, and Canadian paratroopers dropped through heavy cloud cover to begin securing what would become the flanks of the main force at the beaches. They also struck at key logistics and communications hubs, allowing for the eventual push from the beach while also weakening the Germans’ ability to organize their counter attacks. Allied bombers struck targets on the beaches, preparing the objectives for the main force.

The landings on the Normandy coast began at 6:30 a.m. with the 8th Regimental combat team under Brig. Gen. Theodore Roosevelt at Utah Beach. Soldiers at Utah experienced a successful, relatively light invasion. Over the next few hours, Allied troops were landing at Gold, Juno, Sword, and Omaha Beaches.

At Omaha, bombing and naval fire had been relatively ineffective and many floating tanks were sunk due to the weather. Troops landed at heavily defended beaches where engineers had trouble clearing obstacles. The first wave took cover behind enemy anti-ship defenses and was bogged down. Follow-on troops helped assault the enemy defenses, climbing cliffs under fire to reach objectives. All four Medal of Honor awardees from D-Day fought on Omaha Beach.

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?
Photo: US Army

“As our boat touched sand and the ramp went down, I became a visitor to hell,” said Pvt. Charles Neighbor, a veteran of Omaha Beach. By nightfall, the other four beaches were held with forces pushing between two and four miles inland. At Omaha, Allied soldiers continued to fight against pockets of resistance.

D-Day cost the lives of 4,413 Allied soldiers and between 4,000 and 9,000 Germans. The remaining pockets of resistance on Omaha Beach were conquered on June 7, and the Allies began the long push to Berlin. The War in Europe would rage for nearly another year before Victory in Europe Day, May 8, 1945.

NOW: Listen to Reagan’s chilling speech about soldiers who scaled cliffs under heavy fire on D-Day

OR: 12 rare and amazing photos from the “War to End All Wars’

MIGHTY TRENDING

U.S. personnel injured ahead of massive war games

Tens of thousands of NATO troops have converged on Norway for Trident Juncture, the alliance’s largest military exercise in nearly two decades.

The exercise officially starts on Oct. 25, 2018, but the arrival of thousands of troops and their equipment in the harsh environs of the North Atlantic and Scandinavia hasn’t gone totally smoothly.

On Oct. 23, 2018, four US soldiers were injured in a roadway accident as they delivered cargo to Kongens Gruve, Norway, in support of the exercise.


“The accident occurred when three vehicles collided and a fourth vehicle slid off the pavement and overturned while trying to avoid the three vehicles that had collided,” the US Joint Information Center said, according to Reuters.

One of the soldiers was released shortly after being hospitalized, and as of late Oct. 23, 2018, the three others were in stable condition but still under observation, according to the information center. The troops and their trucks were assigned to the Army’s 51st Composite Truck Company, stationed in Baumholder, Germany.

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?

A US Army Stryker vehicle completes an uncontested wet-gap crossing near Chełmno, Poland, June 2, 2018.

(US Army photo by 1st Lt. Ellen Brabo)

US ships taking part have also encountered trouble.

The amphibious dock landing ship USS Gunston Hall, part of a group of ships carrying a Marine Corps contingent to the exercise, returned to port in Reykjavik, Iceland, on Oct. 22, 2018, after heavy seas caused damage to the ship and injuries to its sailors.

The US 6th Fleet, which oversees operations in the Atlantic around Europe, said the ship’s well deck and several of the landing craft aboard it were damaged. The Gunston Hall returned to port for a damage assessment, though there was no timetable for its completion, the fleet said.

The sailors who were injured received medical treatment and returned to duty.

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?

A landing craft enters the well deck of the USS Gunston Hall to embark for Trident Juncture 2018, Oct. 3, 2018.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 3rd Class Colbey Livingston)

The amphibious transport dock ship USS New York, also on hand for the exercise, also returned to Reykjavik “as a safe haven from the seas until further notice,” the fleet said.

A 6th Fleet spokesman told Navy Times that the seas were challenging “but not out of the [Gunston Hall’s] limits” and that the USS New York “will remain in port until it is safe to get underway.”

The Gunston Hall and the New York were part of a group led by the amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima that left the US in October 2018, carrying some 4,000 sailors and Marines.

That group carried out a simulated air assault in Iceland and has been doing cold-weather training in preparation for Trident Juncture.

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?

US Marines with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit hike to a cold-weather training site in Iceland, Oct. 19, 2018.

(US Marine Corps photo)

It’s not clear if the absence of the Gunston Hall and the New York will affect the exercise, the 6th Fleet spokesman told Navy Times.

Trident Juncture will include some 50,000 soldiers, sailors, marines, and other personnel from each of NATO’s 29 members as well as Sweden and Finland. The drills will be spread across Scandinavia and the waters and airspace of the Baltic Sea and the North Atlantic.

Massing men and machines for such exercises rarely goes off without problems.

In June 2018, as some 18,000 personnel from 18 countries took part in the Saber Strike 18 exercise in Eastern Europe, four US Army Stryker armored vehicles collided during a road march in southern Lithuania.

Fifteen soldiers were taken to a local hospital, 10 of whom were held for overnight observation, but all returned to duty.

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

Articles

Blinded by flak shrapnel, this airman helped save his B-17 crew

Radioman Sgt. Forrest Vosler thought he was going to die.


German fighters hit the B-17s and B-24s as they crossed the French coast, but it wasn’t that bad until they were over Bremen, Germany and Vosler’s Jersey Bounce and the rest of the 303rd Bomb Group began their runs. The flak was heavy. The formation’s escort fighters tried to keep the German fighters at bay, but the Luftwaffe pilots slipped into the contrails of the bombers and hit them from behind.

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?
The B-17 Jersey Bounce.

“As soon as we got over the target, they smashed hell out of us,” Capt. Don Gamble, commander of the 303rd Bomb Group said.

Vosler’s B-17 was able to complete her bomb run but by then, there were holes in one wing, an engine was ablaze, and the plane had been knocked out of formation. As she pulled out to head home, a 20mm shell hit the plane’s tail. Shrapnel flew through the body of the plane and Vosler was hit in both legs. He huddled in his radioman’s chair for a few minutes, “terribly scared” and feeling the blood run down his legs, before realizing, as he later said, “This is stupid… I’ve got to do something to protect myself or I’m not going to make it.”

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?
The pin-up nose art on the Jersey Bounce.

Vosler, a western New York native, had volunteered for the Army Air Corps shortly after his nineteenth birthday, was picked for radio school and sent to Scott Air Field in Illinois and gunner school in Texas, then to England, and finally onto to Jersey Bounce for the Dec. 20, 1943 raid on Bremen factories.

At gunner school, he was told that, on a B-17, “everyone is a gunner.”

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?
The crew of Vosler’s Liberator.

Vosler moved to one of the Bounce’s empty guns and began firing, knocking off chunks of a fighter’s wing with his first burst. He kept firing and when his goggles steamed up, he flipped them back to continue. Just then, another 20mm shell hit the Bounce. Vosler was knocked away from his gun, sustaining multiple small wounds and more serious ones in his hand and chest.

“He was shrapnel from his forehead to his knees, everywhere,” Ball Turret Gunner Ed Ruppel recalled“There was blood all over him.” Vosler could see blood pouring through his right eye. The blood, he found out later, had been inside the eye.  

“I [thought] I had lost the whole side of my face… I thought I only had half a face,” he said.

He prayed.

“I became very content, very calm, very collected,” he said. “I no longer feared death, [and] I slowly realized that if God didn’t want to take me at that particular point, then I had to go on and do the best things I could do.”

Almost blind, he returned to his gun until the Jersey Bounce cleared Bremen and then began trying — by touch — to fix the radio that had been damaged in the fighting. Pilot Lt. John Henderson took the Bounce as low as he dared, and the crew busied itself throwing out anything they could to lighten the craft — including damaged guns, ammunition boxes, and seats. As they scoured the plane for material to jettison, Engineer Bill Simpkins passed the radio room where Vosler was working.

“I looked him right in the face,” Simkins said, “and I saw there was stuff dribbling down his right cheek from his eye. He was in a daze, groggy, visibly shook up. He wasn’t normal.”

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?
Forrest Vosler, the second enlisted Airman to earn the Medal of Honor.

As the Bounce cleared the French coast and flew over the North Sea, Vosler, having fixed the radio, began sending an SOS and then a holding signal so rescuers could find the plane. With England in sight, Lt. Henderson put down in the water. As the crew climbed out on the plane’s wings, Vosler grabbed wounded tail-gunner, George Buske, who was slipping into the water and held him until a raft could be deployed.

Vosler spent the next several months in the hospital, part of that time completely blind.

He lost his right eye, but he survived.

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?
Retired serviceman Forrest T. Vosler, a World War II air mission Medal of Honor recipient, examines a medal during a memorial reunion of US Air Force Medal of Honor recipients.

Eight months later, in August 1944, he received the Medal of Honor from President Franklin Delano Roosevelt for, as his citation says, “extraordinary courage, coolness, and skill… when handicapped by injuries that would have incapacitated the average crewmember.”

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

Iran coronavirus deaths mount, including senior adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader

Iran’s Health Ministry reported 12 more deaths from the coronavirus, bringing the total to 66 deaths, while the number of cases in the country has reached 1,501.


A member of a council that advises Iran’s supreme leader is among those who died, state television reported on March 2.

Expediency Council member Mohammad Mirmohammadi died at a Tehran hospital of the virus, state radio said. He was 71. Mirmohammadi is the first top Iranian official to succumb to the COVID-19 disease that is affecting several members of Iran’s leadership.

The council advises Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. It also acts as a mediator between the supreme leader and parliament.

Mirmohammadi’s death comes as other top Iranian officials have contracted the virus. Iran has the highest death toll in the world after China, the epicenter of the outbreak.

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?

Infections Could Be Higher

Among those who are infected are Vice President Masumeh Ebtekar and Iraj Harirchi, the head of an Iranian government task force on the coronavirus who tried to downplay the virus before falling ill.

Across the wider Middle East, there are over 1,150 cases of the new coronavirus, the majority of which are linked back to Iran.

Experts say Iran’s ratio of deaths to infections, around 5.5 percent, is much higher than other countries, suggesting the number of infections in Iran may be much higher than official figures show.

In a move to stem the outbreak, Iran on March 2 held an online-only briefing by its Foreign Ministry.

Ministry spokesman Abbas Musavi opened the online news conference by dismissing an offer of help for Iran by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Meanwhile, a team from the World Health Organization (WHO) has arrived in Tehran to support Iran’s response to a coronavirus outbreak, the UN agency said.

The plane carrying the team also contained “medical supplies and protective equipment to support over 15,000 health care workers, as well as laboratory kits enough to test and diagnose nearly 100,000 people,” the WHO said in a statement.

The supplies worth more than 0,000 were loaded onto the United Arab Emirates military transport plane in Dubai.

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?

Earlier, Britain, Germany, and France have offered Iran a “comprehensive package of both material and financial support” to combat the spread of coronavirus.

In a statement, the three European countries committed themselves to providing financial support “close to” 5 million euros (.6 million) through the World Health Organization or other UN agencies.

The group would send by plane medical material to Iran on March 2, including equipment for laboratory tests, protective body suits, and gloves, it said.

live.staticflickr.com

The British Embassy in Tehran announced that it has begun evacuations over the virus.

It said that essential staff were still in Iran, but if “the situation deteriorates further,” the embassy’s ability to help British nationals there “may be limited.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Coronavirus: this is how air evacuation of patients under biosafety containment works

The U.S. Air Force, RAF and Italian Air Force are the only ones to have the ability to carry out Bio-containment missions aboard their aircraft.


In the next hours, a Boeing KC-767A tanker and transport aircraft of the 14° Stormo (Wing) of the Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force, ItAF) will depart from Pratica di Mare Air Base, near Rome, to carry out the air evacuation of an Italian student stuck in Wuhan, China, who could not be repatriated along with the others on Feb. 2, 2020, because he developed fever. While the same aircraft has already taken part in a previous flight to the Chinese town that is the coronavirus epicentre, the next one will be in “bio-containment” configuration.

This kind of missions are flown with an aeromedical isolation crew that can take care of the patient in isolated area of the aircraft (with bathroom) because he/she has been exposed to, or infected with, highly infectious, potentially lethal pathogens. For this reason, aircraft involved in this tasks require specific disinfection and decontamination procedures after the mission.

Considered the peculiar health conditions of the patients, it is also important to make sure the quality of the flight is not affected by the so-called major and minor stressors of flight:

  • Major stressors are Hypoxya and Barometric pressure changes that can induce expansion of trapped gas, decompression and sickness
  • Minor stressors are Dryness, Noise, Vibrations and turbolence, Temperature changes and overall Fatigue of flight

ATIs (Air Transit Isolators) are boarded for these missions. An ATI is a self-contained isolation facility designed to transport safely a patient during air evacuation, protecting healthcare personnel, air crew and the aircraft from exposure to the infectious agents. The ATI provides a microbiologically secure environment using a multi-layer protection: around the rigid or semi-rigid frame, a PVC “envelop” surrounds the patient while allowing observation and treatment of the patient in isolation and an Air Supply Unit puts the ATI unit under negative pressure, with HEPA Inlet and Outlet filters that filter out 99,97% of particles 0.3mm and larger preventing the passage of potentially infected micro-particles. Four 12V batteries with an operating time of 6 hours each provide the ATI 24 hours independent time.

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?

The ATI/STI systems.

(Italy MoD/Ministero Salute)

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?

ATI frame with PVC envelope

(Italy MoD/Ministero Salute)

The team is usually composed of a Team Leader, a doctor who is responsible for coordinating the mission, manages relations with the civil entities involved and supervises all the operations. At least two medical officers (an anesthesiologist and an infectious disease specialist) are responsible for the health management of the patient while six non-commissioned officers take care of the patient and carry out transport procedures.

Needless to say, all the team wears protective gear that may vary according to the required Biosafety Level and that can range from simple gown, facial mask and gloves up to the Full body suit (tychem C) with positive pressure gloves.

The Aeronautica Militare has started developing the bio-containment evacuation capability since 2005, with the purchase of the ATI systems. Military doctors and nurses attended the training courses of the U.S. Army Institute of Infectious Diseases in Maryland, while the assets used for this peculiar mission were certified by the Centro Sperimentale Volo (Flight Test Wing). The ATI has been certified in extreme conditions after undergoing Rapid decompression, Vibration, Electromagnetic and Environmental Tests and can be carried by the ItAF C-130J, the C-27J and the KC-767A that have carried out some bio-containement missions in the last few years: on Nov. 25, 2014, a KC-767 repatriated an Italian doctor who developed a fever and was positive at the Ebola virus after working at a clinic located few miles west of Sierra Leone’s capital Freetown. Earlier, on Jan. 24, 2006, a C-130J transported back to Italy a patient suffering from a severe form of pulmonary tuberculosis resistant to any pharmacological treatment.

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?

The bio-containment capability is based on the use of special ATI (Aircraft Transport Isolator) stretchers, used to board the patient, and the smaller TSI (Stretcher Transit Isolator) terrestrial system, required to transfer the patient from the aircraft to the ambulance upon arrival.

(Image credit: ItAF)

Just a few air forces are able to conduct bio-containment flights like those described above: the U.S. Air Force and UK’s Royal Air Force are the other services capable to perform such mission.

In Italy, the bio-containment mission is a military capability available for civilian use (for this reason it is called a “dual use” capability): it was developed in coordination with the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Interiors and Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as the Protezione Civile (Civil Protection).

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

Articles

Here’s where the US military is going to deploy its most advanced weaponry

Long relegated to the world of science fiction, lasers and rail guns are increasingly appearing in real life.


Rail guns use electromagnets to fire projectiles at supersonic speeds, while lasers fire pure energy bursts.

In 2012, the US Navy test-fired a rail gun for the first time and later announced plans to put one on the guided-missile destroyer USS Zumwalt.

In 2014, the Navy mounted and tested a laser on the USS Ponce, an amphibious transport dock, successfully taking out the engine of a small inflatable boat containing a rocket-propelled grenade.

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?
The USS Ponce. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Ian M. Kummer.

More recently, the US Army successfully tested a laser mounted on an Apache helicopter, and the Air Force is planning to put lasers on AC-130s.

Despite these many successful tests, the two weapons aren’t currently operational, Bob Freeman, a spokesman for the Office of Naval Research, told Business Insider, notwithstanding CNN’s recent story claiming that the laser aboard the Ponce is “ready to be fired at targets today and every day by Capt. Christopher Wells and his crew.”

The laser aboard the Ponce is “not the final product,” Freeman said. It is a low-energy laser that has been tested to shoot down drones. If the Ponce is threatened, they’ll still use conventional weapons.

So questions remain about when the weapons will be operational, how they will be used, and which will be used more.

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?
USS Ponce conducts an operational demonstration of the Office of Naval Research-sponsored Laser Weapon System. Navy photo by John F. Williams.

“They both have unique capabilities,” but, Freeman said, “it seems to me you have less options with rail guns.”

Lasers have more capabilities in that they can be set to different energy levels, giving the operators the option to deter or take out targets.

For example, if a US ship perceives an aircraft as a threat, “you can put [the laser] on low-power and scintillate the cockpit” and make the pilot turn around, Freeman said. He wasn’t exactly sure what the enemy pilot would experience but said he or she would see the laser and probably wouldn’t be injured.

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?
USS Ponce conducts an operational demonstration of the Office of Naval Research-sponsored Laser Weapon System. Navy photo by John F. Williams.

Or, if needed, the operators could turn the energy levels up and destroy the enemy target, either by melting precision holes through the craft or “cutting across” it, he said.

High-energy lasers, he added, are “still in development.”

But for larger targets, such as enemy ships, rail guns would probably be the best weapon.

“It packs a punch … and can go through steel walls,” Freeman said.

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?
One of the two electromagnetic rail gun prototypes on display aboard the joint high speed vessel USS Millinocket. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kristopher Kirsop.

Once they are both operational, the US military will use them along with conventional weapons, and it’ll take years of evolution for one to make the other, or even conventional weapons, obsolete, Freeman said.

“They both have challenges to go through,” he told Business Insider, including where to get the power needed to fuel them. But they also offer other benefits in addition to their lethality: They’re cheaper and can even be safer for sailors, as they don’t require stores of ammunition that can explode.

As for exact tactics regarding how and when to use rail guns and lasers, the Navy and other branches employing them will decide once they’re operational, Freeman said.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

8 technologies that will have militaries fighting like Marvel superheroes

Militaries and private companies around the world are developing new technologies that turn war fighters into supersoldiers. Jet-powered suits that allow the wearer to hop between boats moving at 20 knots and flying hoverboards are just the start of it.

The Russian military is developing motorized body armor that looks like it belongs on Boba Fett from “Star Wars.” And the hoverboard isn’t just something from “Back to the Future,” it’s a real invention that France’s Franky Zapata successfully used to cross the English Channel.

The Russian military, as well as the US, France, and Great Britain, are all developing futuristic technologies that seem like something straight out of a Marvel blockbuster. But these technologies aren’t far off in the future; many are already in testing phases — or in use on the battlefield.

Read on to see some of the most wild futuristic military tech out there.


Jet-powered flyboard steals the show at Bastille Day celebrations

www.youtube.com

1. The French inventor Franky Zapata’s high-flying hoverboard made it all the way to France’s Bastille Day celebrations this year. French President Emmanuel Macron was so enamored that he tweeted a video of it, suggesting that the French military might use them in combat one day.

“Proud of our army, modern and innovative,” Macron tweeted during the Bastille Day festivities.

Zapata’s Flyboard Air can fly at speeds up to 190 kph (118 mph), according to The Guardian.

Source: INSIDER

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?

ENVG-B.

(Photo provided by L3)

2. The US Army is in the final testing stage for its Enhanced Night Vision Goggles-Binocular (ENVG-B), which will allow soldiers to accurately shoot from the hip and around corners. They also provide improved situational awareness, thermal imaging, and better depth perception.

The new goggles have dramatically improved marksmanship, Lt. Gen. James Richardson, deputy commander of Army Futures Command, recently told Congress.

The goggles can display the weapon’s aim point and can be linked to see video or virtual feeds from other positions, allowing troops to accurately shoot around corners without exposing their heads.

An armored brigade combat team deploying to South Korea will be the first to use the new goggles, according to Army Times.

Source: INSIDER

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?

FLIR Black Hornet III.

(FLIR Systems)

3. The FLIR Black Hornet III is a pocket-sized drone that will perform intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions in combat. The 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, already has the drones, which come in a pair — one for daytime and one enabling night vision. The drones are about 6 inches long and can fit on a soldier’s utility belt. The Army hopes to equip every soldier with the drones in the future.

Source: INSIDER

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?

Paratroopers of the 83rd Airborne Brigade preparing for jump drills in 2017.

4. According to Russian state media, the Russian military is developing the D-14 Shelest parachute system, which will allow soldiers to access their weapons and begin firing immediately after they jump out of a plane.

Russia’s Tass news agency reported the parachute system would allow paratroopers to have small arms strapped to their chests and that the new technology would be tested at the Research Institute of Parachute-Making soon.

Source: Tass

New Russian exoskeleton ratnik

www.youtube.com

5. Russia’s infantry could soon be wearing the Ratnik-3  armor that reportedly allows soldiers to fire a machine gun with one hand. It has integrated electric motors — an improvement over the Ratnik-2 version, which was not motorized. It’s in testing.

The US had a similar suit in development, the Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit, or TALOS. However, we’re not likely to see the TALOS in combat anytime soon, Task Purpose reported earlier this year.

Source: Tass

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?

Gravity Industries’ jet-pack suit.

(Gravity Industries/YouTube)

6. The inventor and former Royal Marine Richard Browning tested his jet suit over the English Channel, using the five-turbine suit to move back and forth with ease between Royal Navy boats.

7. “Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No it’s Rocket Man! Inventor, pilot and former Royal Marines Reservist Richard Browning, along side HMS Dasher, tested his jet-powered body suit over the water of the Solent for the very first time,” the Royal Navy tweeted on Tuesday.

Source: INSIDER

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?

A Stryker Dragoon vehicle.

(US Army photo by Sgt. LaShic Patterson)

7. The Army is developing a 50 kilowatt laser cannon, the Multi-Mission High Energy Laser (MMHEL), to be mounted on Stryker combat vehicles. It’s designed to shoot drones and explosives out of the sky, and the Army plans to roll it out in the next four years.

The Army accelerated the development and deployment of the MMHEL. “The time is now to get directed energy weapons to the battlefield,” Lt. Gen. L. Neil Thurgood, the director of hypersonics, directed energy, space, and rapid acquisition, said in a statement.

Source: Task Purpose

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?

Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert B. Neller using a HoloLens.

(US Marine photo by Lance Corporal Tayler P. Schwamb)

8. The Army is testing goggles that employ facial recognition, as well as technology that translates written words like road signs. The goggles may even be able to project visual data from drones right in front of soldiers’ eyes. The Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) is a modified Microsoft HoloLens technology and is expected to go into wide use in the mid-2020s.

“We’re going to demonstrate very, very soon, the ability, on body — if there are persons of interest that you want to look for and you’re walking around, it will identify those very quickly,” Col. Chris Schneider, a project manager for IVAS, said at a demonstration of the technology recently.

Source: Defense One

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

Articles

This is how the rest of the world sees the threat from the US — and it isn’t good

A recent poll from the Pew Research Center shows some pretty surprising statistics when it comes to how countries see the threats around them.


Pew says that most of the world thinks terrorism from the ISIS is the biggest threat to security, followed closely by climate change.

But when researchers dug deeper and asked major countries — including longtime U.S. allies — how they saw the influence of the United States, China and Russia, the results were a major bummer for Uncle Sam.

The country most fearful of the United States is Turkey, with 72 percent of those surveyed seeing the U.S. as a major threat.

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?
Don’t believe ’em for a second. (U.S. Army photo)

By a large margin, NATO ally Greece sees the U.S. as a “major threat” to their country, with 44 percent of those surveyed worried about too much U.S. influence as opposed to 22 percent who see the U.S. as a minor threat. And that’s 5 percentage points lower than a similar survey three years ago.

In a true head scratcher, 59 percent of Spaniards see the U.S. as a major threat — a 42 percent swing over the 2013 survey. Are there some plans lurking around to lure Lionel Messi to the U.S. we don’t know about?

“The proportion of the public that views American power as a major threat to their country grew in 21 of the 30 nations between 2013 and 2017,” Pew says.

Ouch.

But hey, at least we got Poland and India who each swung 8 percentage points more in favor of the U.S. than three years ago — with 15 and 19 percent seeing the U.S. as a major threat respectively.

Shockingly, fewer Russians see the U.S. as a major threat than do Canadians, with 39 percent of our northern brothers seeing the U.S. as a major threat as opposed to 37 percent of Russians.

“Just in the past year, perceptions of the U.S. as a major threat have increased by at least 8 percentage points among several long-standing American allies, including Australia (13 points) and the UK (11 points),” Pew said. “Concern about U.S. power is up 10 points in Canada, Germany and Sweden, and 8 points in France and the Netherlands.”

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?
Guarding the perimeter against a Chinese attack … or from the Yanks? (U.S. Army photo)

Japan? Don’t get us started on Japan. The Pew survey finds about the same amount of Japanese think the U.S. is a major threat at 62 percent as they see China as a major threat, with 64 percent saying Beijing worries the heck out of them.

Ugh.

But, hey, we’ve always got Israel, right? Just 17 percent of Israelis see the U.S. as a major threat with neighbor Jordan coming in at 24 percent. So at least we got that going for us.

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