Women who saw combat star in new play - We Are The Mighty
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Women who saw combat star in new play

It was less than two years ago — December 2015 — that the last barriers barring women from certain combat positions finally fell. Now, the new play “Bullet Catchers” envisions a not-so-distant future where women and men officially serve together in the same infantry unit.


“It’s been a 70-year journey for women to fully integrate into all branches, units, and occupations of the military,” said Lory Manning, who served in the Navy for 25 years, starting in the late 1960s.

For Manning, the armed forces offered a different path at a time where options were limited for women. “I did not want to be a schoolteacher and I wanted out of New Jersey,” she recalled by phone. “The Navy seemed like a good opportunity – for travel especially.”

Also read: This is how the military is integrating women

She explained that it has been a piecemeal process to lift the restrictions. For example, in 1992 women were allowed into combat aviation, said Manning, a fellow at the Service Women’s Action Network, known as SWAN. According to the organization’s website, there are “nearly 2.5 million service women in the US.”

Women who saw combat star in new play
USMC photo by Sgt. Tyler L. Main

The nature of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the sheer number of women deployed during those two conflicts means women (and men) who were not in combat roles saw combat, she said.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, over “300,000 women have deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq,” according to a SWAN report dated Feb. 1, 2017. More than 1,000 women were wounded, and 166 were killed during combat operations, the report noted.

“Now, even though they fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, they are officially allowed to fight,” Manning said.

Sandra W. Lee, who plays two roles in “Bullet Catchers,” saw combat in Iraq although she was assigned to civil affairs, she told Chelsea Now in a phone interview. Lee joined the army in response to 9/11, she said, and served from 2002 to 2010.

Women who saw combat star in new play
Army photo by Cpl. Mariah Best

Civil affairs focuses broadly on rebuilding a country’s infrastructure, and in Iraq, Lee explained she worked on rebuilding schools. Her unit did train in combat, and Lee said she went along with another division as they conducted security sweeps and raids, and looked for weapons caches.

“We would fill in a lot,” she recalled. “We did a lot of missions that were not part of our job description. But being a solider, that is in the job description.”

Lee, who was in Iraq from 2003 to 2004, said that while driving in the country, her convoy was hit four different times by roadside bombs. She said she has a brain injury that stems from those incidents. She was also diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, known as PSTD. Lee said she was raped by another solider during her deployment.

Her experiences inform how she plays Até, which in the play is the goddess of war and a warrior. Being a woman in the military, Lee explained, there is a perception that females are not good enough and “you have to prove yourself in order to join their ranks.”

Women who saw combat star in new play
DoD Photo by Spc. Crystal Davis

Due to her brain injury, Lee was somewhat apprehensive about contributing to the writing of the play but said she put her voice into Até, whose character was a “shell” when she joined the production last December.

“The nice thing about this process it was a group effort,” she said.

Indeed, the co-creators of “Bullet Catchers,” Maggie Moore and Julia Sears, sought input from the actors for the play, which was a collaborative endeavor. “It felt like a writer’s room for a lot of the process,” Sears, who is also the play’s director, said by phone.

Related: First 10 women graduate from Infantry Officer Course

The actors were given writing assignments, Sears said, such as writing the fairytale version of their character’s arc in the play, or being challenged to write five minutes of theater within a half hour. “They have so much ownership over what they’re making,” Sears said.

Moore and Sears were the final editors but the actors had a part in shaping their characters, like Lee with Até. Moore, who is also the play’s associate director, said the actors found their voices as writers. While Moore and Sears were honored to be the leaders, she said, the play belongs to the collective. “We all jumped off the cliff together,” Moore said by phone.

Women who saw combat star in new play
Staff Sgt. April Spilde, a pallbearer with the U.S. Air Force Honor Guard at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, is one of two women serving in the elite unit during ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery. Photo by Paul Bello.

Neither Moore nor Sears served in the military. The genesis of the project stems from when Moore was working at the Washington, DC-based Truman National Security Project in early 2015, she explained. Sears and Moore have been friends since college, and followed the news of whether the last restrictions on combat positions would be lifted. Sears thought the story of women fighting for recognition in combat would be an excellent story, Moore said.

Sears and Moore interviewed 35 veterans and current service members – an about even mix of women and men. The veterans had fought in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, Sears said. The interview process took about three months, Sears said, with Moore and her then listening and transcribing the interviews. From there, they started to narrow down stories and characters, Sears said.

A bullet catcher is “army slang for an infantryman,” according to the play’s website, and Moore said, “It’s kind of a badge of honor to be a bullet catcher.”

Some women are going through infantry training right now, she said, and “we’re seeing the movement towards the world we built in the play becoming a reality.”

Women who saw combat star in new play
USMC photo by Cpl. Tyler J. Bolken

“Bullet Catchers” follows the journey of “the first official mixed gender infantry unit in the US Army, from training to deployment,” according to the play’s website. Moore said it was important to highlight a diversity of experience and so the play’s characters run the gamut from private to lieutenant colonel.

Women in the Fight: 15 women who helped pave the way in the Army

Jessica Vera plays Maya de los Santos, who, in the play, is a lieutenant colonel and the first female commander of a forward operating base, Vera explained by phone. Vera described Maya as a leader, someone who not only sees the opportunity before her, but also the weight of that level of responsibility.

While Vera has no military experience, her father was an Army Ranger, her older brother was in the Army Cavalry and is currently serving in the Air Force. Growing up in a military household has informed how she plays Maya, she said.

Women who saw combat star in new play
Sailors participating in the Riverine Combat Skills course prepare for a field training exercise at Camp Lejeune, N.C., Oct. 24, 2012. Navy photo by Specialist Seaman Heather M. Paape

One of the play’s first scenes is Maya picking up her wife, Jordan, a civilian, and taking her over the threshold after getting married. Lee, the veteran, also plays Jordan in the play, and said Vera helped to shape Jordan’s character. While the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy has been officially abandoned, Lee said, “There’s still a stigma. It depends on who your command is.”

On the other end of the military spectrum is character Joan Boudica, played by Emma Walton. Joan is a private and is brand new to the experience, Walton explained by phone. Joan is part of the reserves and is randomly picked for special training and is deployed, she said. “It’s a coming of age story for her,” Walton, who has no military experience, said.

Walton said women have been in the military for a long time – flying planes and protecting the country like men are. “We’re excited to show it,” she said. “The rest of America thinks that they’re nurses, they’re doing paperwork. That’s just not true.”

Sears, the director, said she hopes the play spurs a myriad of conversations for the audience, including a larger discussion of women in leadership roles. “We’re hoping that this story — as specific and nuanced [as it is] – can still have reverberations for woman and anyone who has tried to move the needle of gender integration in general,” she said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US troops still ready to fight North Korea despite canceled exercises, according to general

U.S. troops are still ready to “fight tonight” against North Korea despite the indefinite suspension of major military training exercises on the Korean peninsula, Pentagon officials said Tuesday.


Army Gen. Robert Abrams, commander of U.S. Forces Korea and the 28,500 U.S. troops on the peninsula, is confident “that we still have the readiness required to be able to respond to any aggression,” Air Force Lt. Gen. David Allvin told the House Armed Services Committee.

If Abrams “felt like he was not able to achieve the readiness to accomplish the mission for which he was assigned, he would certainly come up voicing that, and we’d be hearing that,” said Allvin, director of strategy, plans and policy for the Pentagon’s Joint Staff. “The overall posture remains strong.”

The large-scale Ulchi Freedom Guardian, Key Resolve and Foal Eagle exercises were suspended in 2018 by President Donald Trump as too costly and “provocative” to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who repeatedly branded them as practice for an invasion.

Women who saw combat star in new play

media.defense.gov

However, Allvin said that readiness has been maintained through more than 270 small-scale exercises with South Korean forces in 2019.

He said U.S. troops had conducted 273 of 309 “planned activities” with the South Koreans last year, giving the combined force the fighting edge to deal with any threat mounted by North Korea.

The readiness of U.S. forces is crucial as diplomatic leverage to maintain prospects for resuming long-stalled negotiations with North Korea on disarmament and denuclearization, said John Rood, the under secretary of Defense for Policy, but he cautioned that Kim’s next steps are impossible to predict.

Kim broke off talks last year after the U.S. refused to ease sanctions ahead of negotiations, and the North has since resumed test launches of short- and medium-range missiles.

A top North Korean official last month also threatened that the U.S. would be receiving a “Christmas gift” that the U.S. and regional allies suspected might be the launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile or a resumption of underground nuclear testing, but there was no follow-through.

“We are watching very carefully what they are doing,” Rood said. “We don’t know clearly the reasons why North Korea did not engage in more proactive behavior, which they seemed to be hinting they were planning to do in December.”

To maintain pressure on the North, the U.S. is continuing to ask South Korea to pick up more of the cost for the presence of U.S. troops on the peninsula, he said.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in balked last year at Trump’s suggestion that South Korea should boost its contribution from id=”listicle-2644992511″ billion to billion.

Rep. Adam Smith of Washington, the chairman of the committee, said the South Koreans are unlikely to agree to a five-fold increase in their share for the U.S. presence.

“How are we going to walk our way through that rather difficult situation?” he asked.

Rood did not give specific numbers, but said the U.S. objective is a “larger burden sharing of the costs,” and one that “doesn’t unduly strain the alliance” with South Korea.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

3 Marines receive Purple Hearts for actions in Syria

Three U.S. Marines received the Purple Heart for wounds sustained during fighting in Syria in support of Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command, during ceremonies in Twentynine Palms, California, on October 22, 2018, and in an undisclosed location in U.S. Central Command on November 7, 2018.


Women who saw combat star in new play

U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Nathan Rousseau, a mortar Marine with 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command, receives the Purple Heart, October 21, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Gabino Perez)

The awardees were Cpl. Tyler A. Frazier, a mortar Marine with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines; Cpl. Nathan Rousseau, a mortar Marine with 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment; and Cpl. Brendon Hendrickson, an anti-tank missile Marine with 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment.

All three Marines have fully recovered from their injuries, according to a press release from the Marine Corps. U.S. troops have been deployed to Syria since at least 2015, but the exact details of the deployments have often been kept quiet due to security concerns and the tense political situation as Russian, Iranian, U.S., and other forces operate so close to one another.

So, it’s not much of a surprise that the Marine Corps hasn’t offered details of the incident that resulted in the Purple Hearts being awarded to the Marines.

Women who saw combat star in new play

U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Brendon Hendrickson, an anti-tank missile Marine with 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command, stands by during a Purple Heart ceremony, October 22, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Gabino Perez)

But while the U.S. has taken relatively few losses despite having an estimated 2,000 troops deployed to Syria, that largely speaks to the professionalism of the troops and leaders deployed there as warfighters have found themselves in sticky situations repeatedly.

Five service members have been killed fighting there. And dozens of special operators were forced to kill approximately 100 Russian mercenaries attacking them en masse in a February, 2018, attack.

Women who saw combat star in new play

Cpl. Tyler A. Frazier, a mortar Marine with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, is awarded the Purple Heart Medal by Lt. Col. Steven M. Ford, commanding officer, 3/7 at Victory Field aboard the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, Calif., November 7, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Preston L. Morris)

The U.S. deployment was originally focused on wrenching as much territory as possible back from the Islamic State, the terror organization that swept Iraq and Syria and made inroads in nearby countries, and has stuck around to help eradicate remnants of the group.

The U.S. deployments to Syria are typically of special operations units like the Army Rangers and Special Forces and U.S. Navy SEALs, but conventional Marines have also been part of the mix, especially infantrymen who employ mortars or missiles and artillerymen.

Articles

The 7 most important military decisions the next president will make in 2017

With ISIS continuing to fight, Russia and China throwing their weight around, and budget shortfalls becoming bigger and bigger problems, the Department of Defense will definitely need strong leadership in the form of a commander-in-chief and his political appointees in the months immediately following the inauguration next year.


Here are 7 important decisions he or she will have to tackle:

1. Will the U.S. pressure China to get off of contested islands, force them off with war, or let China have its way?

Women who saw combat star in new play
The Littoral Combat Ship USS Fort Worth conducts a patrol through international waters near the Spratly Islands. (Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Conor Minto)

America has a vested interest in navigational freedoms in the South China Sea. Many allies transport their oil, other energy supplies, and manufactured goods through the South China Sea and the U.S. Navy uses routes there to get between the Pacific and Indian oceans.

Currently, a few sets of islands in the area are contested, most importantly the Spratly Islands. In addition to controlling important sea routes, the area may hold vast supplies of oil and natural gas. The most optimistic estimates put it second to only Saudi Arabia in terms of total oil reserves

China is deep in a campaign to control the South China Sea by claiming historical precedent and by building new bases and infrastructure on them. An international tribunal ruling on the issue will likely side against China shortly, but China probably won’t accept the decision.

That leaves a big decision for the next president. Does America recognize Chinese claims, back up U.S. allies in the area through diplomatic pressure, or begin a military confrontation that could trigger a major war?

2. How dedicated is the U.S. to the NATO alliance and deterring Russian aggression?

Women who saw combat star in new play
173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team soldiers conduct exercises in partnership with NATO forces. (Photo: US Army Pfc. Randy Wren)

For decades, America’s presence in NATO was unquestionable. Candidates might argue about specific NATO policies, but membership was a given. Now, a debate exists about whether NATO might need to be adjusted or a new, anti-terror coalition built in its place.

America pays more than its fair share for the alliance. Every member is supposed to spend 2 percent or more of its GDP on defense, but only America and four other countries did so in 2015. Even among the five who hit their spending goals, America outspends everyone else both in terms of GDP and real expenses. The U.S. is responsible for about 75 percent of NATO spending.

And NATO was designed to defeat Russia expansion. Though members assisted in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, they’ve struggled with what the alliance’s responsibilities are when addressing ISIS. For those who think ISIS should be the top priority, there’s a question about why the U.S. is spending so much time and energy on a European alliance.

So the question before the next president is, should America continue to dedicate diplomatic and military resources to a Europe-focused alliance when ISIS continues to inspire attacks in America and Europe while threatening governments in the Middle East?

3. What part of the world is the real priority?

Women who saw combat star in new play
(Photo: US Air National Guard Staff Sgt. Christopher S. Muncy)

To use the cliche, “If everything is a priority, nothing is.” The American military does not have the necessary size and resources to contain both Russia and China while fighting ISIS and other terrorist organizations. The next U.S. president will have to decide what is and isn’t most important.

Alliances can help the U.S. overcome some of the shortfalls, but each “priority” requires sacrifices somewhere else. The next president will have to decide if protecting Ukranian sovereignty is worth the damage to negotiations in Syria. They’ll have to decide if the best use of military equipment is to park it in eastern Europe to deter Rusia or to send it to exercises in Asia to deter China.

Obama spent most of his administration trying to pivot to Asia while Middle Eastern and European crises kept forcing America back into those regions. Where the next president decides to focus will decide whether Russia is contained, China is pushed off the manmade islands, and/or if ISIS and its affiliates are smothered.

4. What is America’s role in the ongoing fight against ISIS and is there a need for more ground troops?

Women who saw combat star in new play
U.S. Marines fire artillery to break up ISIS fighters attacking Kurdish and Peshmerga forces. (Photo: US Marine Corps Cpl. Andre Dakis)

On the note of transferring forces, those vehicles that could be redirected from supporting NATO or conducting exercises could be set to Iraq, Syria, and other countries to fight ISIS, but is that America’s job?

Though America’s invasion destabilized the region, Iraq’s rulers asked U.S. troops to leave before putting up a half-hearted and strategically insufficient response to ISIS. So the next president will have to decide whether America owes a moral debt to prop up the Iraqi government and Syrian rebels and whether it is in America’s best interest to do so.

The answer to those two questions will fuel the biggest one, should America deploy additional ground forces (something generals are asking for), risking becoming mired in another long war, to stop the rise of ISIS and other terrorist groups in the region?

5. How long will the Air Force keep the A-10?

Women who saw combat star in new play
(Photo: US Air Force Senior Airman Chris Drzazgowski)

The struggle between A-10 supporters and detractors continues to rage. Air Force officials and A-10 detractors say the plane has to be retired due to budget constraints and the limited ability to use the plane in a contested environment. Proponents of the A-10 insist that it’s the cheapest and most effective close-air support platform.

The battle has nearly come to a head a few times. The Air Force was forced by Congress to keep the A-10 flying and finally agreed to a showdown between the A-10 and F-35 for some time in 2016. The critical analysis of the results will almost certainly come while Obama is still in office, but the A-10 decision will likely wait until the next president takes office.

The decision will officially be made by the Air Force, but the president can appoint senior officers sympathetic to one camp or the other. Also, the president’s role as the head of their political party will give them some control when Congress decides which platforms to dedicate money to supporting.

So the new president will have to decide in 2017 what close air support looks like for the next few years. Will it be the low, slow, cheap, and effective A-10 beloved by ground troops? Or the fast-flying, expensive, but technologically advanced and survivable F-35?

6. How much is readiness worth and where does the money come from?

Women who saw combat star in new play
US Marines conduct underwater training. (Photo: US Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jered T. Stone)

Sequestration, the mandatory reduction of military and domestic budgets under the Budget Control Act of 2011, puts a cap on U.S. military spending. The service chiefs sound the alarm bell every year that mandatory budget cuts hurt readiness and force the branches into limbo every year.

The next president, along with the next Congress, will have to decide how much military readiness they want to buy and where the money comes from. To increase the percentage of the force that is deployed or ready to deploy at any one time without sacrificing new weapons and technology programs, money would need to be raised by cutting other parts of the federal budget or raising taxes.

So, what size conflict should the military always be ready for? And where does the money for training, equipment, and logistics come from to keep that force ready?

7. How many generals and admirals should the U.S. have?

Women who saw combat star in new play
Generals and admirals are on the chopping block, though service chiefs like Marine Corps Gen. Robert Neller, seen here speaking to a group of Marines, are likely too valuable to cut. (Photo: US Marine Corps Cpl. Shawn Valosin)

As the number of U.S. troops has decreased in the past 30 years, the number of U.S. general officers has rarely dropped and was actually raised by over 100 since Sep. 11, 2001, causing a 65 percent increase in the number of four-star officers to total number of service members. This has led to questions about whether it’s time to ax some generals and admirals.

Former Secretaries of Defense Chuck Hagel and Robert Gates both proposed serious cuts, and the Senate Armed Services Committee has recently floated a 25 percent reduction in the total number of general officers.

Not only would this significantly cut personnel costs since each general and their staff costs over an estimated $1 million per year, but it would reduce the bureaucracy that field commanders have to go through when getting decisions and requests approved.

Articles

This WWII battle had ships firing point blank with 16-inch guns

In the Pacific Theater of World War II, many of the battles were either curb-stomp affairs by one side or the other — either because Japan was “running wild” in the early parts of the war, or because America brought its industrial might to bear.


Many historians view Midway as an exception to that one-sided rule since America’s victory is often viewed as a pure luck.

But one engagement where the two sides stood toe-to-toe occurred during the Second Naval Battle of Guadalcanal.

Women who saw combat star in new play
Henderson Field in August, 1942. (US Navy photo)

On the night of Nov. 14, 1942 — less than 48 hours after Rear Adm. Daniel Callaghan had defied the odds to turn back an attempt to bombard Henderson Field — the Japanese made another run for the airfield that was the big prize of the Guadalcanal campaign. They went with the battleship Kirishima, two heavy cruisers, two light cruisers, and nine destroyers to do the job.

Women who saw combat star in new play
Japanese ships sailing towards Guadalcanal on Nov. 14, 1942. (Japanese photo)

Against this force, Vice Adm. William F. Halsey was scraping the bottom of the barrel. He stripped the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CV 6) of most of her escorts, sending in four destroyers and the fast battleships USS Washington (BB 56) and USS South Dakota (BB 57), under the command of Rear Adm. Willis A. Lee.

Women who saw combat star in new play
USS Washington (BB 56), shortly after being commissioned. (US Navy photo)

Admiral Lee was an expert on naval gunnery, and according to The Struggle for Guadalcanal, written by naval historian Samuel Eliot Morison, “knew more about radar than the radar operators.”

That knowledge would soon be put to the ultimate test.

The Japanese force cut through the American destroyers, sinking two outright, fatally damaging a third, and crippling the fourth. The battleship USS South Dakota then turned and was silhouetted by the burning destroyers. The South Dakota took 26 hits from the Japanese guns, but the Japanese lost track of the Washington, which closed to within 8,500 yards of the Japanese battleship Kirishima.

Women who saw combat star in new play
USS Washington (BB 56) fires at the Kirishima, Nov. 14, 1942. (US Navy photo)

USS Washington was about to slug it out with a Japanese battleship in a one-on-one fight. Using radar control, the Washington opened fire on Kirishima, and scored as many as 20 hits with her 16-inch guns. The Kirishima was rendered a sinking wreck.

The Japanese tried to even the score with Long Lance torpedoes, but missed.

The Japanese made a very hasty retreat, leaving Kirishima and a destroyer to sink. Their last chance at shutting down Henderson Field for the Allies was gone.

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.

Women who saw combat star in new play
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.

Women who saw combat star in new play
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.

Women who saw combat star in new play
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.

Women who saw combat star in new play
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 TRENDING

Watch the Ukroboronprom ‘Fantom’ take its first step toward world domination

A new fighting robot called the Phantom might be deployed on the battlefield in eastern Ukraine next year, according to Defense One.


Ukroboronprom, the Ukrainian defense contractor developing the robot, displayed the robot at the Association of the US Army show in Washington DC on October 9th, Defense One reported.

The Phantom can be fitted with tracks or wheels, as well as a wide variety of weapons, including a coaxial 23 mm machine gun, antitank missiles, and grenade launchers, according to Ukroboronprom.

It runs on a 30 kilowatt hybrid engine that can hit speeds of up to 37 mph, and it can cover a maximum distance of about 81 miles, Ukroboronprom said. It is even capable of evacuating wounded soldiers from the field.

The Phantom also has a backup microwave-communication link that allows it to function even if its receiver is jammed or hacked, Defense One reported. This feature was specifically designed to counter Russian electronic-warfare attacks that have plagued Ukrainian forces, especially in the early days of the war.

Women who saw combat star in new play

The US is developing fighting robots as well, and Russia already “has a wide array of ground bots” but has not deployed them to the Donbas, according to Defense One.

Ukroboronprom is looking to sell the Phantom and form partnerships in general with other nations, especially the US, according to Foreign Policy.

“We came [to the AUSA in DC] to show our expertise and potential — to show that we can be partners,” Roksolana Sheiko, director of communications policy for UkrOboronProm, told Foreign Policy.

In recent months, the US and Ukraine have agreed to or discussed a number of weapons-and military-equipment sales and joint ventures.

In June, two deals were made to facilitate sale of military equipment and promote joint research and development between the two countries.

In late July, the Pentagon said it was considering arming Kyiv with lethal weapons, including the Javelin antitank missile, to deter Russia.

In late August, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis announced during his visit to Kyiv that the US had just approved supplying Ukraine with $175 million in military equipment.

The US, however, is still weighing whether to supply Ukraine with lethal weapons, as some believe it might actually provoke, instead of deter, Russia.

Watch the Phantom in action below.

MIGHTY TRENDING

NOAA sends first all-female crew on a ​mission to track Hurricane Dorian

As Hurricane Dorian approaches the US, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration sent a crew to perform recon on the storm on Aug. 29, 2019. And for the first time, the pilots deployed were all women.

The all-female pilot crew was comprised of Captain Kristie Twining, Commander Rebecca Waddington, and Lieutenant Lindsey Norman. The women piloted a seven-and-a-half-hour flight to collect data on the storm as it gathers steam and heads toward Florida.


The crew flew a Gulfstream IV aircraft nicknamed “Gonzo” during the recon mission. On these trips, crews travel thousands of miles collecting high-altitude data that enable forecasters to better track storms, according to NOAA.

Waddington and Twining were previously on NOAA’s first all-female hurricane hunting crew last year when they were deployed on a mission to fly toward Hurricane Hector, CNN reported.

“While we are very proud to have made history yesterday by being the first all-female flight crew, we are more proud of the mission we are doing and the safety we are providing for people,” Waddington told CNN at the time.

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

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Here are the best military photos of the week

The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:


AIR FORCE:

An F-16 Fighting Falcon releases a flare over Grand Bay Bombing and Gunnery Range at Moody Air Force Base, Ga., March 4, 2016. Multiple aircraft within Air Combat Command conducted joint aerial training that showcased tactical air and ground maneuvers as well as weapons capabilities.

Women who saw combat star in new play
U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Brian J. Valencia

A CV-22 Osprey deploys a tactical air control party onto the ground of Grand Bay Bombing and Gunnery Range at Moody Air Force Base, Ga., Mar. 4, 2016. Multiple aircraft within Air Combat Command conducted joint combat rescue and aerial training that showcased tactical air and ground maneuvers as well as weapons capabilities.

Women who saw combat star in new play
U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Brian J. Valencia

ARMY:

Soldiers assigned to 3rd BCT, 101st ABN DIV (AASLT), conduct air assault operations during a field training exercise at U.S. Army Fort Campbell, Ky., March 14, 2016. The 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) Soldiers partnered with UH-60 Black Hawk and CH-47 Chinook helicopter crews from 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division to prepare for their upcoming rotation to JRTC and Fort Polk, La.

Women who saw combat star in new play
U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Joel Salgado

A soldier, assigned to 25th Infantry Division, fires a M2 machine gun during an exercise at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, March 13, 2016.

Women who saw combat star in new play
US Army photo

Soldiers assigned to the Louisiana National Guard, use a bridge erection boat to assist residents impacted by recent flooding near Ponchatoula, La., March 13, 2016

Women who saw combat star in new play
U.S. Army photo courtesy of The National Guard

NAVY:

EAST SEA (March 16, 2016) Forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) conducts fueling operations with guided-missile cruiser USS Shiloh (CG 67). Bonhomme Richard is the flagship of the Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group and is participating in Exercise Ssang Yong 2016. SY16 is a biennial combined amphibious exercise conducted by forward-deployed forces with the Republic of Korea Navy and Marine Corps, Australian Army and Royal New Zealand Army Forces in order to strengthen interoperability and working relationships across a wide range of military operations from disaster relief to complex expeditionary operations.

Women who saw combat star in new play
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jeanette Mullinax

PACIFIC OCEAN (March 10, 2016) The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Lassen (DDG 82) patrols the eastern Pacific Ocean. Lassen is currently underway in support of Operation Martillo, a joint operation with the U.S. Coast Guard and partner nations within the 4th Fleet area of responsibility.

Women who saw combat star in new play
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Huey D. Younger Jr.

ATLANTIC OCEAN (March 13, 2016) The guided-missile cruiser USS San Jacinto (CG 56) fires its MK 45 5-inch lightweight gun during a weapons training exercise. San Jacinto is currently underway preparing for a future deployment.

Women who saw combat star in new play
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ryan U. Kledzik

MARINE CORPS:

U.S. Marines with Golf Battery, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, and Republic of Korea Marines assigned to Bravo Battery, 11th Battalion, 1st ROK Division, conduct artillery fire missions at Sanseori, South Korea, as part of Exercise Ssang Yong 16, March 15, 2016. Ssang Yong is a biennial combined amphibious exercise conducted by U.S. forces with the Republic of Korea Navy and Marine Corps, Australian Army and Royal New Zealand Army forces in order to strengthen interoperability and working relationships across a wide range of military operations.

Women who saw combat star in new play
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Gunnery Sgt. Ismael Pena

A U.S. Navy Corpsman assigned to Field Medical Training Battalion East (FMTB-E), checks on members of his squad during a final exercise (FINEX) at Camp Johnson, N.C., March 1, 2016. FINEX is a culminating event at FMTB-E which transitions Sailors into the Fleet Marine Force.

Women who saw combat star in new play
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. James R. Skelton

U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Oliver Blair, a rifleman with 1st Battalion, 3d Marines – “The Lava Dogs” reads during exercise Ssang Yong 16 in South Korea, March 7, 2016. Ssang Yong is a biennial combined amphibious exercise conducted by forward deployed U.S. forces with the Republic of Korea Navy and Marine Corps, Australian Army and Royal New Zealand Army Forces in order to strengthen our interoperability and working relationships across a wide range of military operations – from disaster relief to complex expeditionary operations.

Women who saw combat star in new play
U.S. Marine Corps photos by MCIPAC Combat Camera Lance Cpl. Sean M. Evans

COAST GUARD:

Coast Guard MH-65 Dolphin helicopters stand ready at Air Station Elizabeth City Wednesday, March 10, 2016. Air Station Elizabeth City helicopter crews were at Kill Devil Hills to celebrate the centennial anniversary of the Coast Guard’s aviation program with formation flights and a classic painting scheme.

Women who saw combat star in new play
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Auxiliarist David Lau

Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crews fly flight formations at the Wright Brothers National Memorial, Wednesday, March 10, 2016. Air Station Elizabeth City helicopter crews were at Kill Devil Hills to celebrate the centennial anniversary of the Coast Guard’s aviation program with formation flights and a classic painting scheme.

Women who saw combat star in new play
U.S. Coast Guard illustration by Auxiliarist David Lau)

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Army is developing exoskeletons that will save your knees

David Audet, chief of the Mission Equipment and Systems Branch in the Soldier Performance Optimization Directorate, at the Research, Development and Engineering Command’s Soldier Center, is gearing up his team for the next User Touch Point activities to explore exoskeleton options in late January 2019.

“As we explore the more mature exoskeleton options available to us and engage users, the more we learn about where the possible value of these systems is to Army operations,” said Audet.


“Before the Army can consider investing in any development above what industry has done on their own, we need to make sure that users are on board with human augmentation concepts and that the systems are worth investing in. The Army is not ready yet to commit. NSRDEC [RDECOM Soldier Center] has a lead role in working with PEO-Soldier and the Maneuver Center of Excellence, Fort Benning, to determine whether or not a longer-term investment in fielding new technologies is justifiable. But this is what we do best. We find the options and create the partnerships to help us figure it out.”

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Soldiers from Army’s 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, New York, were able to get hands on and try two of the current human augmentation technologies (pictured here) being pursued by the RDECOM Soldier Center. The soldier on the left is wearing the ONYX and the soldier on the right is wearing the ExoBoot.

(RDECOM Soldier Center)

Recent media has brought a lot of attention to the Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Controls, or LMMFC, ONYX, a Popular Science award recipient for 2018.

As innovative as it is, and with all the attention on the Soldier Center’s .9 million Other Transaction Agreement (OTA) award, it’s easy to get caught up in the moment and lose perspective of the overall work the Soldier Center is actually doing.

Out of the 48-month phased effort, roughly 0K has been put on the LMMFC OTA — currently focused on having enough systems to take to the field for operational evaluation. Although performing, the technology has yet to prove itself in a full operational exercise before moving forward. And while LMMFC is highly confident in their product and continues to invest their funding on further developing the system for commercial use, the Soldier Center is also looking at other technologies.

Located in Maynard, Massachusetts, Dephy, Inc.’s ExoBoot is another entrant in the program. The Dephy ExoBoot is an autonomous foot ankle exoskeleton that was inspired by research done at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology under collaboration with the Army. It is currently under consideration for evaluation during the third and fourth quarter of 2019. Brigadier General David M. Hodne has worn the ExoBoot during Soldier Center program updates and is quite intrigued by the capability. User feedback will determine if both systems move forward and under which considerations.

“Under ideal conditions, we would favor a full development effort,” said Audet. “However, given the push for rapid transition and innovation, we can save the Army a lot of time and money by identifying and vetting mature technologies, consistent with the vision of the Army Futures Command, or AFC.

Women who saw combat star in new play

(David Kamm, RDECOM Soldier Center)

“In order to achieve the goal of vetting and providing recommendations, NSRDEC [the Soldier Center] and PEO-Soldier are strong partners, teamed up to work with third party independent engineering firms such as Boston Engineering out of Waltham, Massachusetts. The engineering analysis of systems will provide an unbiased system-level analysis of any of the technologies under consideration, following rigorous analysis of the capabilities as they exist, the operational parameters provided by users and assessment of how humans will use and interact with the systems.”

“We are confident products will succeed or — at a minimum — fill a gap we have not been able to address by any other materiel or training means,” said Audet.

“We will be prepared to transition, but we know there is a road ahead before we get there. We aren’t committing to anything more than to bring the systems to a demonstration and educate the community at large on what these preliminary technologies can offer. In the meantime, we add a layer of third party independent analysis as a reassurance policy that we are mitigating bias and staying laser focused on user needs and meeting the demands of the future warfighting landscape.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

This laser dune buggy fries enemy drones from 5000 meters

It may look like R2-D2 from Star Wars slapped on top of a dune buggy, but Raytheon says its new laser weapon holds the promise of providing maneuver formations with portable air defenses against drones.


“This can identify a quadcopter out to five clicks,” or 5,000 meters, and then fry it with a laser, said Evan Hunt, business development lead for high-energy lasers at Raytheon.

Hunt spoke as he stood in the Pentagon’s courtyard March 19, 2018 in front of a Mad Max-style Polaris off-road vehicle mounted with a Raytheon Multi-Spectral Targeting System, a combination of electro-optical and infrared sensors with a high-energy laser.

Also read: Navy destroyers will get these new anti-drone lasers

The system can operate remotely or as part of an integrated air defense network, he said.

“You can park it at the end of a runway or at a [forward operating base],” Hunt said.

But one of its main advantages, he said, is that the laser can be carried by an off-road vehicle with maneuver formations to provide defense against unmanned aerial systems, or drones.

“Basically, we’re putting a laser on a dune buggy to knock drones out of the sky,” Dr. Ben Allison, director of Raytheon’s high-energy laser product line, said in a company release.

The company says the concept grew out of a meeting between Allison and Raytheon Chairman and CEO Tom Kennedy on adversaries’ increased use of small drones for surveillance and as weapons when fitted with small explosives.

In the siege of Mosul in 2017, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria used small drones extensively to target the Iraqi Security Forces.

Kennedy told Allison he had heard that a Patriot missile had been used to shoot down a cheap drone fitted with a grenade-type munition, and they both began thinking there had to be a better cost-to-kill ratio, Raytheon said.

The quadcopters used by ISIS are worth a few hundred dollars, while Patriot missiles cost about $2 million apiece.

Women who saw combat star in new play
ISIS is increasingly incorporating drones into warfighting tactics.

“So, the question became, ‘What can we do for a counter-UAS system using a high-energy laser, and do it quickly.’ We wanted to take the assets and capabilities Raytheon has today and use them to really affect this asymmetrical threat. We settled on a small system that’s hugely capable,” Allison said.

Art Morrish, vice president of Advanced Concepts and Technology at Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems, said of the system, “Right now, it’s a shoot-on-the-halt capability. You drive the vehicle wherever you’re going to drive it. You stop, and then you fire up the laser.

“That makes it great for protecting forward operating bases and places where convoys have to stop. The next step is to set it up so you can actually shoot on the move,” he said.

Related: The military is going to put laser attack weapons on fighters

Raytheon is expected to demonstrate the system at the Army’s Maneuver Fires Experiment at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, December 2018.

The Polaris mounted with the laser was part of a number of corporate displays in the Pentagon’s courtyard in a sign of the military’s growing interest and investment in directed energy weapons to defend against an array of threats.

February 2018, at an Association of the U.S. Army forum on missile defense, Air Force Gen. John Hyten, commander of U.S. Strategic Command, said the nation needs directed energy weapons — lasers, particle beams, microwaves — to take out enemy ballistic missiles in the launch stage.

“The day you can actually shoot a missile down over somebody’s head and have that thing drop back on their heads — that’ll be a good day, because as soon as you drop it back on their heads, that’s the last one they’re going to launch, especially if there’s something nasty on top of it,” he said.

“I think directed energy brings that to bear,” Hyten said, although such weapons do not yet exist in the U.S. arsenal.

“Directed energy is an interesting challenge,” he said, but “I think directed energy has a huge potential on the missile defense side.”

Women who saw combat star in new play
(Photo by DOD)

At a House Armed Services Committee hearing on the budget March 20, 2018, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said her service has $280 million allocated for directed energy research in 2018.

One of the military’s priorities is to develop countermeasures, including lasers, to cope with the proliferation of small drone attacks against U.S. forces, according to a report last month by a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine committee commissioned by the Army.

More: The Army is really amping up its laser weapon technology

“Hobby drones are easy to buy, their performance is improving dramatically, and their cost has dropped significantly,” said Albert Sciarretta, president of CNS Technologies and committee chairman.

“Now, with millions of them around the world, they pose a growing threat to the U.S. warfighting forces if used for nefarious intents,” he said.

The Defense Department has invested in technologies that can jam drones’ radio frequencies and make them inoperable.

However, the academy’s report states that a new generation of small drones can increasingly operate without radio frequency command-and-control links by using automated target recognition and tracking, obstacle avoidance, and other capabilities enabled by software.

Articles

This documentary captures the Battle of Ia Drang with stunning 4K footage

U.S. Army Colonel (ret.) Tony Nadal fought with Hal Moore (of We Were Soldiers fame) at the Battle of Ia Drang in the Vietnam War. In a stunning new documentary short from the team at AARP, Nadal recalls the first heliborne assault against North Vietnamese Army, the battle he’ll never forget.


“I can forget a lot of things about life but I won’t forget the feel, the sense, the smell of LZ-XRAY,” Nadal says. “Colonel Moore immediately realized it was going to be a battle for survival.”

Over the course of three days, 3,500 U.S., South Vietnamese, and North Vietnamese soldiers fought for a contested victory, leaving 308 Americans and 660 NVA dead, with 544 U.S. and 670 NVA wounded. Then-Captain Tony Nadal lost 15 of his men in the first two days of fighting. Sleepless and battered, his command was ordered out before an Air Force bombardment could be launched.

“I feel the loss of all my soldiers,” Nadal recalls. “When you get through all of the bravado, what you’re left with is anguish. They fought for a cause… there was the expectation that when your country calls, you go.”

The soldiers who fought at LZ-XRAY have gathered for the last 22 years at an annual reunion. It’s a way for them all to come together, get to know one another, and heal each other’s invisible wounds.

The legendary battle was depicted in the book “We Were Soldiers Once… and Young” and the 2002 film “We Were Soldiers.” The advocacy group AARP went to the National Archives of the United States and pulled 16mm and 35mm film reels. The ran the reels through a 4K scanner and cleaned up the footage to produce this amazing piece (though it is presented in HD here).

Articles

3 myths about the new military retirement system

Women who saw combat star in new play
Veronica Ballek, wife of Col. Michael Ballek, pins a retirement pin on her husband during his retirement ceremony at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, June 2, 2015. | US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Samuel Morse


You’ve probably heard that currently serving military members and their families soon will have to choose whether to switch to the new military retirement system or stick with the old one.

But retirement options and savings choices can be confusing. How can troops know which to pick?

Also read: Pentagon considers lifetime access to Exchange system for vets

Military leaders want families who are thinking through the choice to be armed with as much information as possible, said Lt. Col. Steven Hanson, who heads the Army‘s compensation and entitlements office.

He discussed three military retirement myths at a recent Association of the United States Army conference.

Myth 1: You’ll be forced into the new military retirement system.

That’s false, Hanson said.

Everyone who joins the military after Jan. 1, 2018, will be a part of the new system whether they like it or not. But those who are currently serving at that time will have to make a choice: Keep the old system or opt into the new one.

“One of the big misconceptions about this is that people will be forced into the new system and that is simply not the case,” he said. “Nobody will be moved into the blended system unless they actively choose to do so.”‘

The current retirement program is based on a pension system. Under that plan, if a military member serves 20 years, is medically retired or is forced out and qualifies for early retirement, he’ll be able to walk away with a pension based off his rank at retirement.

But most troops don’t retire out of the military — they simply leave the service. And thanks to the way the current system is set up, that means they walk away empty-handed.

That’s a problem the new “blended” retirement system is designed to fix. Instead of retirement or nothing, it gives service members a savings that is closer to what’s used by employers in the civilian sector.

Under it, troops can contribute money to their Thrift Savings Plans (TSP), and the Defense Department will match it up to a certain percent, much like a 401(k) plan. Even if a service member opts to put nothing in his TSP, the DoD will still contribute an amount equal to one percent of his base pay to the account each month.

And service members who stay in long enough to become retirees will still get a version of the pension system in the new military retirement plan as well, although payments will be based on a lower amount than they are today.

Myth 2: It’s easy to tell which plan you should use.

False. While it would be nice to know if the new system is the right choice for you simply based on how many years you’ve been in, that’s not the case. Whether the new system is right for any given service member is going to be based on a whole slew of information specific to that person and his or her family, Hanson said.

“There’s no cookie-cutter answer. Every service member is going to have different circumstances,” he said. “Everyone should do what’s best for their personal circumstances.”

Myth 3: You’re going to have to figure out which plan is best for you on your own.

Mostly false. While the final choice ultimately will be up to each individual service member, the law that required the retirement plan change also requires the Defense Department to provide a lot of education about what the change means — and how service members can pick which plan is right for them.

“We need to make sure that they have the tools, the skills and the knowledge to make an informed decision,” Hanson said. “We are putting together a training and education plan to make sure service members understand the old system versus the new system so they can make an informed choice.”

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