Workshops for Warriors trains veterans for advanced manufacturing - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Workshops for Warriors trains veterans for advanced manufacturing

Workshops for Warriors started with a handful of wounded service members in a 400-sqaure foot garage. Twelve years later it’s poised to become the world’s largest training facility for advanced manufacturing.

Despite the meteoric growth, founder and CEO Hernán Luis y Prado said he’d never had an interest in manufacturing. The 15-year Navy veteran had planned a 40-year career. This changed in 2008 when he started visiting National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. There, he saw wounded warriors dealing with terrible conditions. He described service members living in tunnels while waiting for hospital rooms in facilities that weren’t designed for a sudden influx of survivors.


“These Marines that were used to jumping out of helicopters were just languishing in bed for days after days just waiting for physical therapy that came once a week,” Prado said. “And the docs that would come by every week and say ‘hey next week you’re going home.’ And that would go on for 30, 40, 50 weeks. That was just soul crushing.”

The final straw came during a trip to the local mall where Prado ran into a friend he’d served with in Iraq. Since they’d last seen each other, Prado’s friend had stepped on a landmine and lost both legs.

“Here I was — tough guy, combat vet, and my legs literally melted underneath me,” Prado said. “I grabbed my wife as I sank to the deck and I said ‘we’re going to sell everything. We’ve got to do something.’ My wife, to her eternal credit, said, ‘yes we are.’ I loved the Navy and I would’ve stayed there forever. But I had to do something. I was so tired of seeing my friends dying of suicide and just being lost. These are guys that I had served with and they were hyper-capable, hyper-competent. All the sudden they would just be hollowed–out versions of themselves that were drifting aimlessly into the shadows.”

Workshops for Warriors trains veterans for advanced manufacturing

Prado speaks with students.

Prado started what would eventually become Workshops for Warriors by inviting service members receiving treatment in Bethesda to his home to hang out. He said they loved to tinker in his garage. This got him thinking about next steps. Most of the service members being treated in Bethesda were only there for four to six months. This ruled out apprenticeships which can take up to 10,000 hours to complete, he said, and college degrees which can take years. Professional credentials, on the other hand, are stackable and portable, he added.

Next, Prado developed partnerships with multiple U.S. manufacturers to get the equipment, supplies and instructors. As a lieutenant in the Navy he didn’t make enough to cover the costs.

“Fortunately, we got some incredible companies that donated time, tools, software and connected us with other people,” Prado said. “Little-by-little we started moving forward.”

Prado’s next move was to take his last Navy assignment in San Diego, California. He said he did this because more people leave the service there – 17,000 a year – than anywhere else in the country.

Workshops for Warriors trains veterans for advanced manufacturing

Machining students.

The current Workshops for Warriors facility takes up three city blocks in San Diego and includes housing and dining facilities for students. A 8 million expansion is slated for next year.

Since 2008, 760 veterans and transitioning service members have graduated from Workshops For Warriors. Prado said 95% of the program’s graduates receive job placements with an average salary of ,000 a year.

Courses are open to honorably discharged veterans and transitioning service members who are within six months of separation. Students take four-month courses in advanced manufacturing, welding fabrication or machine repair. The ,000 tuition can be covered by the G.I. Bill. For those who don’t have access to the G.I Bill, scholarships are available, Prado said.

Each course is coupled with opportunities to gain nationally recognized credentials in welding, machining, computer aided design, computer aided manufacturing and more. Programs are accredited through the Bureau of Private and Post-Secondary Education, American Welding Society and the National Institute for Metalworking Skills.

Prado said most students have between four and eight written job offers prior to graduation. The only shortcoming he sees in his program is its capacity for students. Workshops for Warriors currently has the ability to teach 162 students per year. But the organization receives seven to ten times that many applications, according to Prado.

To deal with this, there are plans in the works for a train the trainer program and eventual expansion into other locations throughout the country.

Prado said Workshops for Warriors is almost as beneficial to manufacturers as it is to veterans and transitioning service members.

“You have no idea how desperate employers are for properly–trained machinery repair technicians,” he said.

Prado said there are 2.4 million advanced manufacturing jobs in the United States currently unfilled due to a lack of skilled labor. That number is projected to rise to 4.8 million over the next ten years.

“If you couple that with the fact that the median age of manufacturing workers today is 57 years old, in 10 years, who is going to build our ships, our aircraft, our bridges, our buildings,” Prado asked. “We cannot allow our manufacturing capability and our economic resiliency to be outsourced to China.”

Service members or honorably discharged veterans can apply for entry at https://wfw.org/.

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.


Articles

Listen to accused deserter Bowe Bergdahl tell his story publicly for the first time

This American Life’s wildly popular Serial podcast came to fame in 2014 with the story of Adnan Syed, a young man from Maryland who was convicted in 2000 for the murder of his ex-girlfriend and high school classmate Hae Min Lee. Syed’s case was clouded with a number of possible discrepancies and suspicions not mentioned in his trial. The case was wild enough to merit retelling via the first season of the podcast, which earned the convicted Syed another hearing based on the new evidence.


The much-anticipated second season of Serial features the story of accused deserter Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. Bergdahl is a U.S. Army soldier who spent nearly five years held in captivity by the Taliban-aligned Haqqani Network after walking away from his outpost in Afghanistan’s Paktika Province. His captors allege he was captured after getting drunk while off-base, while some of his fellow soldiers say he simply walked away from his post. Others say he was captured from a latrine. Bergdahl has, until now, mostly remained silent.

The episode opens with a vivid description of Bergdahl’s rescue and tells the story of his capture and rescue, laying out exactly what happened and why through the lens of host Sarah Koenig and filmmaker Mark Boal, with whom Bergdahl regularly speaks directly.

Workshops for Warriors trains veterans for advanced manufacturing

Boal, a producer and director whose work includes many war films, including “Zero Dark Thirty,” “The Hurt Locker,” and “In The Valley of Elah,” spoke with Bergdahl about everything from his experience in captivity to “motorcycles, God, and how good spicy salsa is.”

Workshops for Warriors trains veterans for advanced manufacturing

Through the context of Boal’s discussion with Bergdahl, Serial attempts to address how Bergdahl’s decision to walk away has “spun out wider and wider… played out in unexpected ways from the start.”

It reaches into swaths of the military, the peace talks to end the war, attempts to rescue other hostages, our Guantanamo policy. What Bergdahl did made me wrestle with things I’d thought I more or less understood, but really didn’t: what it means to be loyal, to be resilient, to be used, to be punished. – Sarah Koenig

Bergdahl reveals in his own words why he left that base in Afghanistan in 2009, which led to a massive search where other U.S. troops died trying to find and rescue him. His story is the same as it always was, he wanted to create a crisis to get a meeting with higher-level commanders to address what he saw were leadership problems in his chain of command, but Bergdahl doesn’t stop there. He wanted to show everyone he could be an outstanding soldier, the outstanding soldier.

Workshops for Warriors trains veterans for advanced manufacturing
A still from Bergdahl’s capture video

“I was trying to prove myself,” he told Boal. “I was trying to prove to the world, to anybody who used to know me, that I was capable of being that person.”

After 20 minutes into his sojourn, Bergdahl realizes he’s made a huge mistake.

“I’m going, ‘Good grief, I’m in over my head,'” he says in the podcast.

Editor’s note: The producers will be interacting with listeners as the show progresses. Ask them questions via Tumblr, twitterFacebook and Instagram.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This ‘Ragged Old Flag’ Super Bowl commercial hit it out of the park

If you were among the millions of Americans that tuned into the Super Bowl last night, you probably saw the powerful, patriotic ad in the lead up to kick off. Featuring Marine and Medal of Honor recipient Kyle Carpenter, the NFL spot is a video set to Johnny Cash’s spoken word song, “Ragged Old Flag.”


www.youtube.com

Tracing the flag’s (and America’s) journey through major wars and events, the video also shows images of protest and anger with several shots of the flag being burned before going back to images of the military, first responders and ordinary, everyday Americans.

The video spot struck a nerve immediately with some saying it was a dig at Colin Kaepernick.

Others said the video didn’t line up with Johnny Cash’s politics or beliefs although Cash was always ambiguous about where he stood on the political spectrum.

Cash released the song as part of his 47th album in 1974, at a time during great turmoil in the USA, much like today. The U.S. was winding down its involvement in Vietnam and was dealing with the Watergate scandal with President Richard Nixon just resigning the office. The song was penned to be an optimistic song for Americans dealing with such tumultuous times.

Cash, an opponent of the war and believer in social justice, had actually met Richard Nixon a couple of years before and performed several songs for him, including an anti-Vietnam War song, “What is Truth” and “The Ballad of Ira Hayes,” a heartbreaking song about one of the Flag Raisers of Iwo Jima and his life as a Pima Indian.

Cash himself would open his concerts with the song and preface it with the following:

“I thank God for all the freedom we have in this country, I cherish them and treasure them – even the right to burn the flag. We also got the right to bear arms and if you burn my flag – I’ll shoot you.”

“Ragged Old Flag” was a hit upon its release with his fans who embraced the message that one can have criticisms of this country but should still respect those people and images that symbolize it. It is a message that resonates with many to this day.

The moving lyrics of the song:

I walked through a county courthouse square
On a park bench an old man was sitting there
I said, your old courthouse is kinda run down
He said, naw, it’ll do for our little town
I said, your old flagpole has leaned a little bit
And that’s a ragged old flag you got hanging on it.

He said, have a seat, and I sat down
Is this the first time you’ve been to our little town?
I said, I think it is
He said, I don’t like to brag
But we’re kinda proud of that ragged old flag

You see, we got a little hole in that flag there when
Washington took it across the Delaware
And it got powder-burned the night Francis Scott Key
Sat watching it writing say can you see
And it got a bad rip in New Orleans
With Packingham and Jackson tuggin’ at its seams.

And it almost fell at the Alamo

Beside the texas flag, but she waved on though
She got cut with a sword at Chancellorsville
And she got cut again at Shiloh Hill
There was Robert E. Lee, Beauregard, and Bragg
And the south wind blew hard on that ragged old flag

On Flanders field in World War one
She got a big hole from a Bertha gun
She turned blood red in World War Two
She hung limp and low a time or two
She was in Korea and Vietnam
She went where she was sent by Uncle Sam

She waved from our ships upon the Briny foam
And now they’ve about quit waving her back here at home
In her own good land here she’s been abused
She’s been burned, dishonored, denied, and refused

And the government for which she stands

Is scandalized throughout the land
And she’s getting threadbare and wearing thin
But she’s in good shape for the shape she’s in
‘Cause she’s been through the fire before
And I believe she can take a whole lot more

So we raise her up every morning
We take her down every night
We don’t let her touch the ground and we fold her up right
On second thought, I do like to brag
‘Cause I’m mighty proud of that ragged old flag

Articles

Commandant: Dropping ratings would create ‘chaos’ in Coast Guard

With the Navy‘s decision to phase out ratings in favor of an alphanumeric job code system to create more career flexibility, the Coast Guard is the only service to continue using traditional ratings.


Don’t expect that to change anytime soon, Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft said.

Also read: These are the Coast Guard’s special operations forces

Speaking to reporters following an address at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, Zukunft said the Navy’s change had prompted a brief internal evaluation for the Coast Guard — and one with a definite conclusion.

“With the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard [Steven Cantrell], we said, ‘What would the workforce think about this,’ and it would cause chaos,” Zukunft said. “I cannot afford chaos when every person in the Coast Guard has a 24-by-7 job to do.”

Workshops for Warriors trains veterans for advanced manufacturing
The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter George Cobb stand ready for a uniform inspection prior to the cutter’s change of command ceremony held at Coast Guard Base Los Angeles-Long Beach on June 16, 2016. | U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Andrea Anderson

The Coast Guard, the smallest of the branches, has an active-duty force of about 40,000, compared to the Navy’s nearly 324,000. It also has a smaller ratings system, with fewer than two dozen separate ratings compared with 89 for the Navy.

The Navy and Coast Guard use the same naval rank system, which is different from that used by the Army, Air Force and Marine Corps.

Coast Guardsmen are “very proud of the rating badge that they wear on their sleeve,” Zukunft said, “so I’ve listened to my master chief and he’s provided me the best advice. So that was a very easy question for me to say ‘no’ to.”

The Navy has also had to contend with pushback from sailors and Navy veterans who have strong attachments to the 241-year-old ratings system, with culture and community built around certain titles.

Workshops for Warriors trains veterans for advanced manufacturing
Adm. Paul F. Zukunft | U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley

A WhiteHouse.gov petition to reverse the decision reached 100,000 signatures within a month, prompting a member of the White House staff to issue a response backing the overhaul and promoting the Navy’s goals of creating additional opportunities and career paths for sailors and a more straightforward transition to jobs matching their skills as they enter the civilian sector.

The chief of naval personnel, Vice Adm. Robert Burke, has engaged in a number of efforts to sell the concept to sailors, writing opinion pieces and essays addressing the fleet and traveling to the Middle East to participate in town hall meetings with some 9,000 sailors at the end of October and beginning of November.

Navy officials say the full transition to the new system will take time and be done in stages. Key decisions have yet to be detailed, including the future of Navy ratings badges.

Burke published a timeline in October indicating plans to update uniform insignia in keeping with the new job title system, but it remains possible that the badges will be redesigned rather than eliminated.

“Did we choose an easy path forward? Absolutely not,” Burke wrote in an op-ed published by Military.com on Nov. 20. “But I believe this change needs to occur, and now is the right time to do so.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

4 missions of the military working dog

“The relationship between a military working dog and a military dog handler is about as close as a man and dog can become. You see this loyalty, a devotion unlike any other, and the protectiveness.”
– Robert Crais


The United States military has utilized working dogs since the Revolutionary war. They were originally used as pack animals, carrying as much as forty pounds of supplies between units, including food, guns and ammo. Then during World War I, they were used for more innovative purposes, like killing rats in the trenches. However, it was during World War II that there was a surge in the use of military working dogs. The U.S. military deployed more than 10,000 working dogs throughout WWII. These specially trained dogs were used as sentries, scouts, messengers, and mine detectors. It is estimated that there are approximately 2,300 military working dogs deployed worldwide today.

The military working dogs of today are utilized in many different missions and specialties. After intensive training, each dog is then assigned to a specific specialty based on their strengths and abilities. Once the military working dogs are assigned their specialty, they are shipped out to military installations worldwide.

A few of the possible specialties these dogs can be selected for are:

Workshops for Warriors trains veterans for advanced manufacturing

Sentry dogs

Sentry dogs are trained to warn their handlers with a growl, bark, or other alert when danger or strangers are nearby. These dogs are valuable assets, especially for working in the dark when attacks from the rear or from cover are the most likely. Sentry dogs are often used on patrols, as well as guarding supply dumps, airports, war plants, and other vital installations.

Workshops for Warriors trains veterans for advanced manufacturing

Scout/Patrol dogs

Scout and patrol dogs are trained with the same skills that sentry dogs are. However, in addition, these dogs are trained to work in silence. Their job is to aid in the detection of ambushes, snipers, and other enemy forces. These particular dogs are somewhat elite among the military working dogs, because only dogs with both superior intelligence and a quiet disposition can be selected for this specialty. Scout and patrol dogs are generally sent out with their handlers to walk point during combat patrols, well ahead of the Infantry patrol.

Workshops for Warriors trains veterans for advanced manufacturing

Casualty dogs

Casualty dogs are trained in much the same way search and rescue dogs are. They are utilized to search for and report casualties in obscure areas, and casualties who are difficult for parties to locate. The time these dogs save in finding severely injured persons can often mean the difference between life and death.

Workshops for Warriors trains veterans for advanced manufacturing

Explosive detection

With the current war on terrorism, explosives hidden on a person, in a vehicle, or in a roadside location is a common threat. Explosive detection dogs are trained to alert their handlers to the scent of the chemicals that are commonly used in explosives. These dogs have such a superior sense of smell that it is nearly impossible to package explosives in a way that they cannot detect.

No matter what their specialty or their mission, the reality is these highly trained K9s are an invaluable part of today’s military. There has yet to be a technology created that can match the ability and heart that military working dogs sustain every day. These dogs are the unsung heroes of the U.S. military, and it is only in recent years that there has been a movement to make sure they are given the appreciation and benefits they deserve. There is constant research going into the best ways to protect them in combat. And along with a push to make K9 Veterans Day an official holiday, there is also a movement to make sure these four-legged heroes are taken care of when their time in service comes to an end.

MIGHTY TRENDING

F-22 Raptors intercept two Russian bombers in Alaska

Two U.S. fighter jets intercepted two Russian bombers in international airspace off the coast of Alaska on May 11, 2018.

The two Russian TU-95 Bear bombers flew into a so-called Air Defense Identification Zone located about 300 kilometers off Alaska’s west coast, according to a spokesman for the North American Aerospace Defense Command in a statement to CNN on May 12, 2018.


Two F-22 fighter jets intercepted and visually identified the Russian bombers until they left the zone. The Russian aircraft never entered U.S. airspace, CNN reported, citing the statement.

Russian bombers were escorted by two F-22 fighter jets in international airspace for 40 minutes, the RIA Novosti news agency cited the Russian Defense Ministry as saying on May 12, 2018.

The U.S. fighter jets did not get closer than 100 meters to the Russian bombers, the Russian military was quoted as saying.

Encounters between Russian and U.S. as well as NATO warplanes have increased as Moscow has demonstrated its resurgent military might.

Workshops for Warriors trains veterans for advanced manufacturing
F-22 Raptor
(Photo by Master Sgt. Jeremy Lock)

Russia also has increased its naval presence in the Mediterranean, Black Sea, and other areas.

In January 2018, a Russian Su-27 came within 1.5 meters of a U.S. Navy surveillance plane while it was flying in international airspace over the Black Sea.

Russia has increased its military presence in the area since it annexed Crimea in 2014.

There have also been interactions between the United States and Russia in the skies above Syria, where the nations support differing sides in the ongoing civil war.

In December 2017, two U.S. F-33 Stealth fighter jets fired warning flares after Russian Su-25 jets entered an agreed deconfliction area in Syrian airspace.

Such incidents have added tension to Russia’s relationship with the West, which has been severely strained by Moscow’s takeover of Crimea, its support for separatists in eastern Ukraine, and its alleged meddling in the U.S. election in 2016, among other things.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Operation Song changes tune for military community

Thank you for your service isn’t enough. Although service members are proud to wear the uniform and serve their country, their devotion often comes at a cost and with a heavy weight. Operation Song is working with the VA to help carry that burden, through music.

Nashville Grammy and Dove-nominated songwriter Bob Regan knows good music. He’s written a string of hits for the famous guitar-town over multiple decades and knows the power of a song. In the early 2000s he began touring for the Armed Forces Entertainment overseas. From the Emirates to Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Djibouti, Japan, Western Europe and Kosovo, he met several service members whose stories stuck with him. Regan was made aware of the large number of service-related injuries and the difficulty of transitioning after service.


It was there in the hot desert of Afghanistan that he began to wonder if weaving their stories into a song might bring peace.

Regan founded Operation Song in 2012 and started at the VA Medical Center in Murfreesboro, TN. “Eight hundred and fifty songs later, we have veterans from all the way back to World War II, spouses, children and parents. None of this was planned out but the need was there so we just kept going,” he explained.

Initially, Operation Song was working specifically with the post 9/11 veterans but that quickly changed. “At the VA, we started to see a lot of Vietnam Veterans and then Korean War veterans. Once in a while we were getting a World War II veteran too. There’s not many of them left. We began to seek them out and we’ve been honored to tell some of their stories while they are still with us,” Ragan said.

He shared that for the first seven years, it was intensely busy and he was trying to do everything as Operation Song continued to grow. With support and sponsors, they were able to bring in Kyle Frederick as the Executive Director, who had a background as a songwriter, musician and nonprofit manager.

Workshops for Warriors trains veterans for advanced manufacturing

(Operation Song)

“I love it. It makes perfect sense to me; I have family members that are veterans. I understand the concept and it is a great thing,” Frederick said. “We are fortunate to have great writers just down the road. These men and women who can listen for a few hours and literally a few hours later there is a work of art that’s therapeutic. It never doesn’t work.”

“Songwriters are really skilled at taking all these pieces and hanging them on an arc with a melody. I think what makes it so effective is when we work with veterans that have PTSD and traumatic brain injuries, is that they come in and say, ‘I could never write a song.’ We tell them, ‘Good, you are the perfect candidate,'” Ragan said with a laugh.

The songwriters tell them to just share whatever they want, starting with a simple conversation. The magic and healing begins from there. The guitar starts strumming and the songwriter takes those pieces of their lives, crafting them into a song. Regan shared that watching the veterans’ faces as the songs come alive is worth more than anything. “Over and over we’ve been told ‘I’ve never told that to anyone before,'” Ragan said.

Workshops for Warriors trains veterans for advanced manufacturing

(Operation Song)

For several years they’ve been working with survivors of Military Sexual Trauma, bringing peace through melody and storytelling. As they were creating healing for veterans, they realized there was more they could do for the families of those veterans. Spouse retreats started and they began serving the children of veterans, too.

One memorable song, Lima Oscar Victor Echo, tells the story of falling in love with a service member, a song military spouses everywhere can relate to. One of the lines of the chorus is strikingly raw, saying, “I wasn’t ready for this mission but I guess I’m signed up, too.” The song highlights not only the reality of sacrifices made by spouses of service members but the love that makes it worth it all.

Operation Song also began bringing healing to Gold Star Families.

Nanette West lost her son, Kile West, to a roadside bomb in 2007 while he was deployed to Iraq. He died trying to rescue others who were trapped, receiving the Bronze Star and Purple Heart for his heroism. Nanette journeyed to Iraq in 2011 to retrace her son’s steps, spending two years there as a defense contractor. The experience brought her closure and the music she created with Operation Song, peace.

The words of the song are a stark reminder of the cost of our almost 20-year war: “You swore to bring your troops back against all the odds and you kept your promise to every single one. If you could, I know you would stay. You gave your life on Memorial Day but I’m prouder than you could ever know. Even though it’s hard to let you go, so many miles away from home. You’ve always been the braver one. My hero, my soldier, my son.”

Nanette helped perform My Hero My Soldier My Son with Jenn Franklin at the Grand Ole Opry in August 2020. There were no dry eyes in the audience.

Although COVID-19 has made it near impossible to work in person for song writing, Operation Song isn’t letting that stop them. Instead, they are using technology to their advantage. “We’ve discovered that we can reach more people. We were like, ‘Wow, this works online,'” Frederick said.

“It’s been incredibly rewarding for me and the best thing I’ve ever done,” Regan shared. While he’s loved his long and successful career as a songwriter, using his abilities to give back to those who serve and sacrifice has been the joy of a lifetime. Despite writing over 850 songs for the military community since 2012, they are just getting started. Operation Song’s mission says it all: Bringing them back, one song at a time.

To learn more about Operation Song and the incredible work they are doing for our country’s military, veterans and their families, click here.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

High-tech body armor of the future could come from spider butts

The silk spiders produce is tougher than Kevlar and more flexible than nylon, and Air Force researchers think it could be key to creating new materials that take the load and heat off troops in the field.

Scientists at the Air Force Research Lab and Purdue University have been examining natural silk to get a sense of its ability to regulate temperature — silk can drop 10 to 15 degrees Fahrenheit through passive, radiative cooling, which means radiating more heat than it absorbs, according to an Air Force news release.


Workshops for Warriors trains veterans for advanced manufacturing

Spc. Arielle Mailloux gets some help adjusting her protoype Generation III Improved Outer Tactical Vest from Capt. Lindsey Pawlowski, Aug. 21, 2012, at Fort Campbell, Ky.

(US Army photo by Megan Locke Simpson)

Those researchers want to apply that property to synthetics, like artificial spider silk, which is stronger than Kevlar, the polymer typically used in body armor, and more flexible than nylon.

Enhancing body armor and adding comfort for troops is one of many improvements hoped for by a team led by Dr. Augustine Urbas, a researcher in the Functional Materials Division of the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate.

“Understanding natural silk will enable us to engineer multifunctional fibers with exponential possibilities. The ultra-strong fibers outperform the mechanical characteristics of many synthetic materials as well as steel,” Urbas said in the release. “These materials could be the future in comfort and strength in body armor and parachute material for the warfighter.”

In addition to making flexible, cooler body armor, the material could also be used to make tents that keep occupants cooler as well as parachutes that can carry heavier loads.

Artificial spider silk may initially cost double what Kevlar does, but its light weight, strength, flexibility, and potential for other uses make it more appealing, according to the release.

Air Force researchers are also looking at Fibroin, a silk protein produced by silkworms, to create materials that can reflect, absorb, focus, or split light under different circumstances.

It’s not the military’s first attempt to shake up its body armor with natural or synthetic substances.

Workshops for Warriors trains veterans for advanced manufacturing

Maj. James Pelland, team lead for Marine Corps Systems Command’s Individual Armor Team, jumps over a log to demonstrate the mobility provided by a prototype Modular Scalable Vest, the next generation body armor for the Marine Corps.

(USMC photo by Monique Randolph)

Two years ago, the Army said it was looking into using genetically modified silkworms to create a tough, elastic fiber known as Dragon Silk.

Dr. James Zheng, chief scientist for project manager Soldier Protection and Individual Equipment, told Army Times at the time that while the Army is developing and testing material solutions all the time, “Mother Nature has created and optimized many extraordinary materials.”

At the end of 2016, then-Air Force Academy cadet Hayley Weir and her adviser, professor Ryan Burke, successfully tested a kind of viscous substance that could be used to enhance existing body armor. Weir did not reveal the formula for the substance, but she used plastic utensils and a KitchenAid mixer to whip up the gravy-like goo, placing it in vacuum-sealed bags and flattened into quarter-inch layers.

The material was designed to be lighter than standard Kevlar and offer more flexibility for the wearer. During tests, when struck by bullets, the gooey material absorbed the impact and stopped the bullets.

“Like Under Armour, for real,” Weir told the Colorado Springs Gazette.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why the Air Force now faces a shortage of maintainers

The Air Force’s protracted pilot shortage has garnered considerable attention.


Air Force officials said this spring that the force was 1,555 pilots short — about 1,000 of them fighter pilots. But the shortage of pilots continued to grow during the 2017 fiscal year, which ended in September.

At that point, it had expanded to 2,000 total force pilots — active duty, Air National Guard, and Air Force Reserve. That includes nearly 1,300 fighter pilots, and the greatest negative trends over the past two fiscal years have been among bomber and mobility pilots, Air Force spokeswoman Erika Yepsen told Business Insider.

Read More: This is why the Air Force pilot shortage is only getting worse

But fliers aren’t the only ones absent in significant numbers

According to Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein, the lack of maintainers to keep planes flying has also become a hindrance on the service’s operations.

“When I started flying airplanes as a young F-16 pilot, I would meet my crew chief … and a secondary crew chief at the plane,” said Goldfein, who received his commission from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1983, in a briefing in early November, adding:

We’d walk around the airplane. I’d taxi out. I’d meet a crew that was in the runway, and they’d pull the pins and arm the weapons and give me a last-chance check. I’d take off. I’d fly to a destination [where] different crew would meet me. Here’s what often happens today: You taxi slow, because the same single crew chief that you met has to get in the van and drive to the end of the runway to pull the pins and arm the weapons. And then you sit on the runway before you take off and you wait, because that crew chief has to go jump on a C-17 with his tools to fly ahead to meet you at the other end. This is the level of numbers that we’re dealing with here.

Workshops for Warriors trains veterans for advanced manufacturing
U.S. Air Force Senior Airmen Krystalane Laird (front) and Helena Palazio, weapons loaders with the 169th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, South Carolina Air National Guard, download munitions from an F-16 fighter jet that was just landed after a month-long deployment to Łask Air Base, Poland. (South Carolina Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Caycee Watson)

‘The tension on the force right now is significant’

The pilot and maintainer shortages are part of what Air Force officials have called a “national air-crew crisis” that has been stoked by nearly 30 years of ongoing operations, hiring by commercial airlines, as well as quality-of-life and cultural issues within the force that drive airmen away. In recent years, pressure from budget sequestration has also had a impact on Air Force personnel training and retention.

The maintainer shortage has been a problem for some time. In 2013, the total shortage was 2,538. But the force’s drawdown in 2014 — during which the Air Force shed more than 19,800 airmen — added to the deficit. Between 2013 and 2015, the shortage of maintainers grew by 1,217, according to Air Force Times.

By the end of fiscal year 2015, the service was short some 4,000 maintainers, Yepsen told Business Insider.

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Blue Angels pilots greet Thunderbirds maintainers.

The shortage of maintainers created hardship for the ones who have remained.

The commander of the 52nd Maintenance Group at Spangdahlem Air Force Base in Germany told Air Force Magazine in late 2016 that workdays had stretched to 13 or 14 hours, with possible weekend duty meaning air crews could work up to 12 days straight. In the wake of the 2014 drawdown, maintainers at Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina saw their workdays extend to 12 hours or more, with weekend duties at least twice a month.

“There comes a point where people stop and say it isn’t worth it anymore,” Staff Sgt. Stephen Lamb, an avionics craftsman from the 20th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Shaw, told Air Force Times in March. “I’ve seen, in the past few years, a lot of good friends walk out the door.”

As with pilots, the Air Force has made a concerted effort to improve its maintainer situation. In 2016, the force quadrupled the number of jobs eligible for initial enlistment bonuses — among them 10 aircraft maintenance and avionics career fields.

The Air Force has also offered senior crew chiefs and avionics airmen perks, such as reenlistment bonuses and high-year tenure extensions. At the end of 2016, 43 Air Force specialty codes, many of them flight-line maintainers, were being offered bonuses averaging $50,000 to remain in uniform for four to six more years.

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Air Force Airman 1st Class Nathan Kosters, a crew chief with the 34th Aircraft Maintenance Unit, prepares to launch an F-35A Lightning II joint strike fighter during Red Flag 17-1 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Feb. 7, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)

Lt. Gen. Gina Grosso, the Air Force’s deputy chief of staff for manpower and personnel services, said earlier this year that the service closed 2016 with a shortage of 3,400 maintainers, warning that the ongoing shortage held back personnel development.

“Because of this shortage, we cannot generate the sorties needed to fully train our aircrews,” Grosso told the House Armed Services’ personnel subcommittee at the end of March.

According to Yepsen, the Air Force spokeswoman, that shortage has continued to decline, falling to 400 personnel at the end of fiscal year 2017. Several Air Force officials have said they hope to eliminate the maintainer shortage entirely by 2019.

But the health of the Air Force maintainer force won’t be solved by simply restoring its ranks. The complex aircraft the Air Force operates — not to mention the high operational tempo it looks set to continue for some time — require maintainers with extensive training. Air Force units can only absorb and train so many recruits at one time.

Read Now: If you’re a retired military pilot, the Air Force wants you back

“We have to have time to develop the force to ensure that we have experienced maintainers to support our complex weapons systems,” then-Col. Patrick Kumashiro, chief of the Air Force staff’s maintenance division, told Air Force Magazine in late 2016. “We cannot solve it in one year.”

Heftier bonuses for senior air-crew members are also a means to keep experienced maintainers on hand for upkeep of legacy aircraft and to train new maintainers, with the addition of those new maintainers allowing experienced crew members to shift their focus to new platforms, like the F-35 fighter and the KC-46 tanker.

“While our manning numbers have improved, it will take 5-7 years to get them seasoned and experienced,” Yepsen told Business Insider. “We are continuously evaluating opportunities to improve our readiness as quickly and effectively as possible.”

“We’re making the mission happen, but we’re having to do it very often on the backs of our airmen,” Goldfein said during the November 9 briefing. “The tension on the force right now is significant, and so we’re looking for all these different ways to not only retain those that we’ve invested in, but increase production so we can provide some reduction in the tension on the force.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Kim family visits South Korea for the first time since the Korean War

The sister of the North Korean leader on Feb. 9 2018 became the first member of her family to visit South Korea since the 1950-53 Korean War as part of a high-level delegation attending the opening ceremony of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.


Arriving on her brother Kim Jong Un’s white private jet for a three-day visit, Kim Yo Jong and the country’s 90-year-old nominal head of state Kim Yong Nam are scheduled to meet with South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Feb. 10 in a luncheon at Seoul’s presidential palace.

Dressed in a black coat, carrying a black shoulder bag, and hit with a barrage of camera flashes, Kim Yo Jong smiled as a group of South Korean officials, including Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon, greeted her and the rest of the delegates at a meeting room at Incheon International Airport.

The North Koreans — also including Choe Hwi, chairman of the country’s National Sports Guidance Committee, and Ri Son Gwon, chairman of the North’s agency that deals with inter-Korean affairs — then moved down a floor on an escalator to board a high-speed train to Pyeongchang.

Also read: Kim Jong Un suspected of ordering assassination of nephew

Moon has been trying to use the games as an opportunity to revive meaningful communication with North Korea after a period of diplomatic stalemate and eventually pull it into talks over resolving the international standoff over its nuclear program.

The last time a South Korean president invited North Korean officials to the presidential Blue House was in November 2007, when late liberal President Roh Moo-hyun, the political mentor of Moon, hosted then-North Korean premier Kim Yong Il for a luncheon following a meeting between the countries’ senior officials.

Skeptics say North Korea, which is unlikely to give up its nukes under any deal, is just using the Olympics to poke holes at the U.S.-led international sanctions against the country and buy more time to further advance its strategic weaponry.

The North Korean delegation’s arrival came a day after Kim Jong Un presided over a massive military parade in Pyongyang that was highlighted by the country’s developmental intercontinental ballistic missiles, which in three flight tests last year showed potential ability to reach deep into the U.S. mainland when perfected.

Related: North and South Korea to train together at the Winter Olympics

South Korean media have been speculating about whether Kim will send a personal message to Moon through his sister and, if so, whether it would include a proposal for a summit between the two leaders.

Kim Yo Jong, believed to be around 30, is the first member of North Korea’s ruling family to visit the South since the Korean War.

As first vice director of the Central Committee of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party, Kim has been an increasingly prominent figure in North Korea’s leadership and is considered one of the few people who has earned her brother’s absolute trust.

Analysts say the North’s decision to send her to the Olympics shows an ambition to break out from diplomatic isolation and pressure by improving relations with the South, which it could use as a bridge for approaching the United States.

By sending a youthful, photogenic person who will undoubtedly attract international attention during the games, North Korea may also be trying to craft a fresher public image and defang any U.S. effort to use the Olympics to highlight the North’s brutal human rights record.

South Korea has yet to announce a confirmed schedule for the North Korean delegates aside from their participation in the opening ceremony and the Feb. 8 luncheon with Moon.

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South Korean President Moon Jae-in. (Photo from official South Korea Flickr.)

There’s a possibility that they would attend the debut of the first-ever inter-Korean Olympic team at the women’s ice hockey tournament, hours after their meeting with Moon. They could also see a performance by a visiting North Korean art troupe in Seoul before heading back to Pyongyang.

The North has sent nearly 500 people to the Pyeongchang Games, including officials, athletes, artists and also a 230-member state-trained cheering group after the war-separated rivals agreed to a series of conciliatory gestures for the games.

Moon, a liberal whose presidential win in May last year ended a decade of conservative rule in Seoul, has always expressed a willingness to reach out to the North. His efforts received a boost when Kim Jong Un in his New Year’s Day speech called for improved ties between the Koreas and expressed willingness to send athletes to Pyeongchang.

This led to a series of talks where the Koreas agreed to have its delegates jointly march during the opening ceremony under a blue-and-white “unification” flag and field a combined team in women’s ice hockey. A North Korean art troupe also performed in Gangneung on Feb. 8 2018 and will perform in Seoul on Feb. 11 2018 before heading back home.

More: North and South Korea just took an enormous step back from war

Critics say that South Korea while cooperating with its rival over the Olympics allowed itself to play into the hands of the North which is apparently trying to use the games to weaken sanctions.

South Korea allowed the North to use a 9,700-ton ferry to transport more than 100 artists to perform at the Olympics, treating it as an exemption to maritime sanctions it imposed on its rival, and is now considering whether to accept the North’s request to supply fuel for the ship.

While neither Kim Yo Jong nor Kim Yong Nam are among the North Korean officials blacklisted under U.N. sanctions, the U.S. Treasury Department last year included Kim Yo Jong on its list of blacklisted officials over her position as vice director of the ruling Workers’ Party’s Propaganda and Agitation Department.

The U.N. committee monitoring sanctions against North Korea has proposed granting an exemption for Choe, who has been on the U.N. sanctions blacklist since last June.

MIGHTY TRENDING

F-35 makes its combat debut with Afghanistan strikes

The US has sent the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter into combat for the first time, CNN reported Sept. 27, 2018, citing defense officials.

A Marine Corps F-35B, launched from the amphibious assault ship USS Essex, conducted an airstrike in support of ground clearance operations on a fixed Taliban target in Afghanistan Sept. 27, 2018, according to a statement from US Naval Forces Central Command. The Essex arrived in the Middle East in early September 2018, with the onboard F-35s being deployed for intelligence and surveillance operations in Somalia prior to operations in Afghanistan.


CNN’s Sept. 27, 2018 report follows an earlier post from Sept. 25, 2018, indicating that the F-35 could be deployed for combat within the next few days. In the aftermath of a US F-35’s first combat mission, the Marine Corps released a video on Twitter showing the plane taking off from and landing on the Essex.

“The F-35B is a significant enhancement in theater amphibious and air warfighting capability, operational flexibility, and tactical supremacy,” Vice Adm. Scott Stearney, commander of US Naval Forces Central Command, said in a statement, “As part of the Essex Amphibious Ready Group, this platform supports operations on the ground from international waters, all while enabling maritime superiority that enhances stability and security.”

The most expensive weapons system in the history of the US military, the F-35 is a fifth-generation stealth fighter that has faced extensive criticism as numerous setbacks have hindered its deployment. The F-35B is designed for short takeoffs and vertical landings, giving it the ability to be deployed from assault ships like the Essex, which is smaller than modern aircraft carriers.

The first reported F-35 combat mission was carried out by Israel in May 2018, when Israeli Air Force (IAF) F-35A fighters participated in strikes on unspecified targets.

The Marine Corps variant — the F-35B — was the first to be declared combat ready. Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni became the first overseas base to operate the F-35 in 2017.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

US Coast Guard loosens its tattoo policy to bring in new recruits

For the second time in two years, the Coast Guard is relaxing its policy on tattoos in what officials say is an effort to widen the pool of eligible service recruits.

According to a new policy document released Oct. 3, 2019, Coast Guard recruits and current service members may now sport chest tattoos as long as they are not visible above the collar of the Coast Guard operational dress uniform’s crew-neck T-shirt.

The new policy also allows a wider range of finger tattoos. One finger tattoo per hand is now authorized, although the location of the tattoo is still restricted. It must appear between the first and second knuckle. And ring tattoos, which were the only kind of finger tattoo previously authorized, will be counted as a hand’s finger tattoo, according to the new guidance. Thumb tattoos are still off-limits.


Finally, in a change from previous guidance, hand tattoos are also allowed. While palm tattoos remain out of bounds, Coasties and recruits can sport a tattoo on the back of the hand as long as it is no more than one inch in any dimension. One finger and one hand tattoo are allowed on each hand, according to the new policy.

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The Coast Guard released a graphic to explain its new tattoo regulations.

“I am pleased to see the Coast Guard’s new tattoo policy reinforces a professional appearance to the public while adopting some of the very same tattoo standards that are now acceptable among the public,” Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard Jason Vanderhaden said in a statement. “The new tattoo policy will expand our recruiting candidate pool and provide those already serving in the Coast Guard with a few new options.”

The Coast Guard last updated its tattoo policy in 2017 with rule tweaks that offered a little more leniency. Chest tattoos were allowed to creep up to one inch above the V-neck undershirt, where previously they had to remain hidden; ring tattoos were authorized.

Unlike some other services, the Coast Guard has not restricted tattoo size of percentage of body coverage on tattooable areas, but the 2017 policy stated that brands could be no larger than four by four inches and could not be located on the head, face or neck.

The most recent policies serve to relax strict regulations handed down in 2005 to address overabundant body ink.

“The 1940s, party-hard sailor is not the image we’re going for,” Chief Petty Officer Keith Alholm, a spokesman in the Coast Guard’s Seattle-based 13th District, told the Kitsap Sun at the time.

The 2005 rules — the first update to the Coast Guard’s tattoo policy in three decades — limited Coasties to tattooing no more than 25% of an exposed limb, among other restrictions.

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(Photo by Andrew Leu)

The other military services have all issued updates in recent years to address concerns in the active force and current trends in the recruitable population.

In 2016, then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter warned that services’ tattoo policies could be preventing otherwise eligible young people from serving. As the percentage of prospective recruits who can meet fitness, education and background standards shrinks, the service branches have even greater incentive to remove secondary barriers to service.

The Army loosened its tattoo policy in 2015, saying society’s view of body ink was changing; the Navy thrilled sailors with a significantly more lenient set of rules in 2016. The Marine Corps also released a relaxed 2016 tattoo update, and the Air Force did a 2017 about-face, allowing airmen to sport coveted sleeves.

Military officials have said they’re working to find the line between professionalism and practicality when it comes to tattoos.

“This is not an episode of [History Channel show] Vikings, where we’re tattooing our face. We’re not a biker gang, we’re not a rock and roll band. We’re not [Maroon 5 lead singer] Adam Levine,” then-Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller told Military.com in 2017. “You can get 70 percent of your body covered with ink and still be a Marine. Is that enough?”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

How a Chinese spy blew the cover for CIA assets in Russia

A former CIA case officer who was arrested on Jan. 16 on a single count of illegally possessing classified information — real names and phone numbers of covert CIA sources, locations of covert facilities, and meeting locations — may have compromised U.S. assets in Russia, according to current and former U.S. officials cited in an NBC News report published Jan. 19th.


A secret task force involving the FBI and CIA suspected that 53-year-old ex-CIA officer, Jerry Chun Shing Lee, could have been spying for China, during a period when at least 20 CIA informants in China were executed. FBI agents were said to have received information that Lee, who left the CIA in 2007, was cooperating with Chinese intelligence officers while working in Hong Kong, according to sources cited in the report.

In 2012, agents reportedly searched his hotel room and discovered notebooks with the names and phone numbers of CIA sources.

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The Memorial Wall is on the north wall of the Original Headquarters Building lobby. This wall of 103 stars stands as a silent, simple memorial to those CIA officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice. The Memorial Wall was commissioned by the CIA Fine Arts Commission in May 1973 and sculpted by Harold Vogel in July 1974. (Image CIA Flickr)

U.S. intelligence officials, who suspected that China had infiltrated their covert communications following the executions of their sources in the country, believed that Chinese intelligence officers shared the U.S.’s method of covert communications with Russian intelligence officers during a joint training session. After the training session, Russian officers reportedly “came back saying we got good info on [covert communications],” a former official said to NBC News.

U.S. assets in Russia reportedly began disappearing, prompting a change in operational procedures for communications.

The former officials noted that the information Lee possessed was not all-inclusive, and that not all of those who were sought by Chinese officials were linked to his notebook: “No single officer had access to all of them,” one official said to NBC News.

Also Read: Sailor accused of spying for China, Taiwan cuts deal with feds

The former officials also noted that the CIA’s method for sharing messages with agents could have been easily accessed by the Chinese due to its simplicity: “All they had to do was get one agent’s laptop, and they could figure it out,” and official said.

Lee reportedly flew to back to the U.S. in 2012 with his family on the promise of a job offer, which turned out to be a plan by authorities to lure him back to the U.S. Photographs taken of items in Lee’s hotel room at the time indicated he possessed a 49-page datebook and a 21-page address book filled with sensitive information.

Lee was arrested after flying into John F. Kennedy Airport from Hong Kong.

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