Everything Guardsmen need to know about their retirement options - We Are The Mighty
popular

Everything Guardsmen need to know about their retirement options

Let’s chat retirement for a quick minute. You took the Blended Retirement System training, right? Probably because your boss told you to get it done so she could report 100 percent completion for your unit, right? And it was probably the most boring two hours of your life, right? So, now that we’re halfway through 2018, how much do you actually remember about BRS and retirement from that training? Not much, am I right?

Exactly. So let’s break it down.

Who’s eligible for BRS?


Anyone who was in the military as of Dec. 31, 2017, is automatically grandfathered into the High-3 Legacy retirement system. Remember, that’s the one where you multiply the number of years you serve by the average of your highest 36 months of basic pay by 2.5%. This option requires you to serve at least 20 years to qualify for retirement. However, if you have less than 12 years of service (active duty) or less than 4,320 points (Reserves/National Guard), then you have a choice to make. You can either stick with the High-3 system or opt into BRS.

First, let’s be frank. This is a highly personal decision, and quite honestly, we support you either way. But we (the Department of Defense) want to ensure you have the right tools and information to make the best choice for you and your family.

So. You need to take a hard look at your finances and your goals. Chat with your spouse or family. Make an appointment with your installation’s personal financial manager or another trusted advisor and run the BRS calculator. See which choice is best for you.

If you want to stick with the High-3, great! Enjoy that retirement and ride off into the sunset!

If you choose BRS, that’s great too! There are some great benefits to BRS, IF you decide it’s the best choice for you. So let’s look at how you can 1) take ownership of your retirement, and 2) make the most of it.

Everything Guardsmen need to know about their retirement options
(National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Caycee Watson)

Remind me again what BRS is?

Through the Blended Retirement System, you don’t have to serve 20 years to walk away with government-provided retirement benefits. So, if you don’t think you’ll make a career out of your military service (and that’s FINE!), BRS would be a great choice for you. If you do plan to serve 20 years, the important thing to remember is that if you opt into BRS early and maximize your Thrift Savings Plan contributions, you could have a retirement that is potentially equal to or more than what you might earn with the legacy retirement system.

There are three main parts of BRS that make it different from the High-3 Legacy system:

Defined benefit: Monthly retired pay for life after at least 20 years of service. This is part of BOTH retirement options. However, under BRS, the defined benefit multiplier changed from 2.5% to 2.0%. So apply this to the formula:

High-3: Number of years you serve X Average of your highest 36 months of basic pay X 2.5%

BRS: Number of years you serve X Average of your highest 36 months of pay X 2.0% (This results in about a 20% reduction in monthly retired pay. However, you have the opportunity to make up the difference by maximizing your TSP contributions and receiving the government matching funds.)

Defined contribution: Government automatic and matching contributions of up to 5 percent of basic pay to your Thrift Savings Plan. Even if you’re sticking with the legacy system, TSP is still something you should consider. While the government won’t match your contributions (that’s BRS only), TSP is a great way to augment your monthly retired pay.

Continuation pay: A one-time, midcareer bonus in exchange for an agreement to perform additional obligated service. It’s a direct cash payout, much like a bonus, and is only available to service members enrolled in BRS. Service members who are eligible may receive a payment of at least 2.5 times your monthly basic pay. Reservists and members of the National Guard are eligible to receive 0.5 times their monthly basic pay as if serving on active duty. However, this is unique to each service, so ensure you check with your Manpower/Personnel office to find out more information. You can find more information on continuation pay here.

So, if you opt into BRS and serve 20 years or more and qualify for retirement, you have a pretty sweet deal. But the cool part is that even if you DON’T stay for retirement (which again, is totally OK), you still walk away with your TSP. And don’t worry, you’re always vested (entitled to) your own contributions and earnings. However, to become vested in the Service Automatic Contribution (1%), you must have completed two years of service. After two years of service, you are considered fully vested.

AND what’s even cooler is that, say you get out of the military completely and you get a civilian job with a 401(k) — you can roll your TSP into that company’s retirement fund. Or, you can choose to leave your TSP alone until you’re of the age to tap into it (which is 59 1/2, btw). Even if you’re not contributing to it anymore, your TSP will continue to grow over time based on the market’s performance. So, you could potentially have a tidy sum that you can access when you finally retire from working. Let’s just call this what it is … a win-win.

What’s next?

First and foremost, like we said already, it’s critically important that you make this decision fully armed with the information you need to make the best choice possible for your financial future. That means going to your installation’s financial manager, talking with your spouse or someone you trust. Deeply consider what you want your life after the military to look like, how you’ll get there and how either the High-3 system or BRS can help you get there.

Everything Guardsmen need to know about their retirement options
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Michael E. Davis Jr., Maryland National Guard Public Affairs Office)

If you are one of those folks who is grandfathered into High-3 and choose to stay there, then there’s nothing you need to do. Just keep going to work, doing great things and getting closer and closer to retirement.


If you decide that BRS is the way to go, remember that you have until Dec. 31, 2018, to opt in. That can be done via MyPay if you’re a Soldier, sailor, Airman or Coast Guard member, or MarineOnline for you Marines. Once it’s done though, you can’t change your mind. The decision is final.

Then, after that, double check your TSP contribution to ensure that you receive the government matching benefit. If you opt in, you automatically receive the 1 percent government contribution. But YOU have to physically adjust anything after that to ensure you receive the government matching. If you don’t make any TSP changes, your existing contribution rate stays the same, even if that is zero. And if you can’t afford to contribute the full amount right now, that’s totally OK. But think about what you can contribute now and then factor in pay raises or bonuses for potential opportunities to increase your contribution when you can.

If you’re a Reservist, this applies to you, too. But your TSP contributions come from your weekend drill pay. But, any time you’re on long-term active duty orders, your contributions will continue, but come from your basic pay.

So, let’s recap for a hot minute.

While planning for retirement might not be on your mind now, it’s really, really important that you take a second to thoroughly think through your options: BRS v. High-3. And if you’ve made your decision and BRS is it, ensure you opt in by the deadline, Dec. 31, 2018. However, after Dec. 31, 2018, your retirement choice will be irrevocable. If you’ve already opted in, or once you do so, ensure your TSP contributions are adjusted to maximize your TSP and ensure you receive the government matching capability. You’ll be able to adjust your TSP contributions at your leisure any time moving forward.

We just ran through a lot of pretty dense stuff. But, like we said, we, the Department of Defense, are totally cool with whatever choice you make. We just want to ensure you have the tools and resources to make an educated decision. Your retirement is your future – be sure you’re financially prepared for it — and give yourself a high five for making the right choice for you!

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

Military Life

This was the first woman in the Iraq War to earn a Silver Star

The Silver Star is currently the third-highest award for valor in combat. The decoration is given to those that exhibit exemplary courage in the face of the enemy. For reference, there are only three women in history that have garnered the honor. The first woman since WWII to earn this prestigious medal did so by directly engaging in combat with the enemy.


Everything Guardsmen need to know about their retirement options
Above, a photo of Sgt. Leigh Hester’s Silver Star (Photo by NPR)

When Army Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester joined the military in 2001, neither she nor anyone else would have guessed that she would be the second woman to be awarded the Silver Star. Hester was assigned to 617th Military Police Company, National Guard, Richmond, KY. The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, happened right before Hester was shipped off to basic training. Soon after Hester completed training in 2004, she deployed to Iraq.

Hester and her team ran convoys to clear an area of IEDs and ensure safe passage. According to the Pentagon’s policy, women are not allowed to be assigned to units where their primary mission is to “engage in direct combat on the ground.” Even though women, at the time, were banned from combat positions, some engaged in and witnessed combat. Hester’s experience proves that everyone has the possibility of engaging in combat.

On one particular convoy, in Baghdad, the Humvee ahead of Hester was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade. Explosions and gunshots rang out while Hester followed her squad leader, Sgt. Timothy Nein, as they positioned themselves in front of a trench and fired back. After 45 minutes of taking enemy fire, the ordeal had ended.

Although three of Hester’s team members were injured, all of them survived the firefight. Hester and Nein received Silver Stars for their actions that saved their whole squad from insurgent attack.

Everything Guardsmen need to know about their retirement options
Sgt. Leigh Hester holds up her Silver Star.

Women are still gaining ground in the arena of combat positions, and Hester wants to be clear that her actions had nothing to do with her sex. She states, “I’m honored to even be considered, much less awarded, the medal,” Hester told the American Forces Press Service. “It really doesn’t have anything to do with being a female. It’s about the duties I performed that day as a soldier.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Army Just Wrapped Up Its First Robot Vehicle Experiment. Here’s What It Learned

U.S. Army modernization officials are about to finish the service’s first experiment to see whether the Robotic Combat Vehicle effort can make units more deadly on the future battlefield.

For the past five weeks, a platoon of soldiers from the 4th Infantry Division has been conducting cavalry-style combat missions using two-person crews in specially modified Bradley fighting vehicles to control robotic surrogate vehicles fashioned from M113 armored personnel vehicles in the Robotic Combat Vehicle Soldier Operational Experiment.


The platoon has operated in the rugged terrain of Fort Carson, Colorado, testing different technologies to control the robotic vehicles, sending them out hundreds of meters ahead to scout for enemy positions.

“This experiment was 100% successful … because we learned; the whole purpose was to learn where the technology is now and how we think we want to fight with it in the future,” Brig. Gen. Ross Coffman, director of the Army’s Next Generation Combat Vehicle-Cross Functional Team, told defense reporters Thursday during a virtual roundtable discussion.

“All of the technology was not successful; it’s a sliding scale. Some knocked our socks off, and some — we’ve got a little bit of work to do.”

The experiment, scheduled to end Aug. 14, is one of three designed to evaluate the performance and potential of robotic combat vehicles on the battlefield, Coffman said.

Some of the technology tested in the experiment worked better than anticipated, he added.

“The interface with the crew … so the soldiers see where they are, they see where the robots are, they can communicate graphics … it just absolutely blew us away,” he said. “The software between the robotic vehicle and the control vehicle — while not perfect — performed better than we thought it would.”

There were challenges with the target recognition technology that links the robotic vehicle with the control vehicle.

“It works while stationary, but part of the challenge is how do you do that on the move and how that is passed to the gunner,” Coffman said. “We’ve got some work to do with that.

“We have some work to do with the stability systems with the weapon systems as you are going across terrain,” he continued.

Another challenge will be to get the control vehicle and the robot vehicle to communicate adequately beyond 1,000 meters.

“The distance between the robot and the controller is a physics problem and, when you talk flat earth, you can go over a kilometer from the controller to the robot,” Coffman said, adding that potential adversaries are wrestling with the same challenge.

Several defense firms participating in the experiment have “created radio waveforms to get us the megabytes per second to extend that range” in dense forest terrain, he said.

“That’s the hardest part, is you get into a dense forest, it’s really hard to extend the range,” he said. “We tested them; we went after them with [electronic warfare] … so we have a really good idea of what is the realm of the possible.”

The Army announced in January that it had selected QinetiQ North America to build four prototypes of the Robotic Combat Vehicle-Light, and Textron to build four prototypes of the RCV-Medium. Both companies were present at the experiment, but their prototypes are still being finalized and did not participate.

After the experiment, an independent evaluation will be conducted on the technical and tactical performance of the robots to decide whether manned-unmanned teaming in combat vehicles can make combat units more effective, Coffman said.

In the first part of fiscal 2022, the Army is scheduled to conduct a second experiment at Fort Hood, Texas, using the same M113 robot vehicles and Bradley control vehicles to focus on company-size operations. The service also plans to conduct a third experiment in the future that will focus on more complex company-size operations.

After each of these experiments, the Army will decide “is the technology where we thought it would be, should we continue to spend money on this effort or should we cease effort?” Coffman said.

The service is also scheduled to make a decision in fiscal 2023 on when manned-unmanned teaming with RCVs will become a program of record, he said, adding that no decision has been made on when the Army will equip its first unit with the technology.

Coffman admits that the technology is “not 100% there yet,” but he remains confident that combat leaders will one day have the option to send unmanned combat vehicles into danger before committing soldiers to the fight.

“This is about soldiers and this is about commanders on the battlefield and giving them the decision space and reducing the risk of our men and women when we go into the nastiest places on Earth,” he explained.

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

popular

Watch rare footage of a Kamikaze attack caught on film

Kamikaze pilots struck fear in the hearts of allied troops as they conducted their nose-dives right into U.S. ships during World War II’s Pacific fight.


Reportedly, the first kamikaze operation of the war occurred during the Battle of the Leyte Gulf in the Philippines.

After a mission had been planned, the pilots of the “Special Attack Corps” received a slip of paper with three options: to volunteer out of a strong desire, to simply volunteer, or to decline.

Related: This video shows rare footage from an actual Vietcong ambush

Everything Guardsmen need to know about their retirement options
These Kamikaze pilots pose together for the last time in front of a zero fighter plane before taking off from the Imperial Army airstrip.

On Apr. 6, 1944, Marines and sailors aboard Naval vessels located in the Pacific were going about their regular workday knowing the enemy was planning something soon — something big.

On the nearby island, the Japanese gathered every operational plane remaining in their arsenal. Many of the Kamikaze pilots were inexperienced but highly devoted to the Empire.

Once they were armed and loaded, the flying fleet took off in waves heading toward their American targets.

Everything Guardsmen need to know about their retirement options
A Kamikaze operated plane takes off from the Japanese airstrip heading toward their American target. (Source: Smithsonian Channel)

As the suicidal pilots reached their target, they began an attack that would supersede any air raid in history. Over the course of two days, over 350 enemy planes imposed absolute havoc on the allied vessels.

As American forces defended themselves with well-trained fighter pilots and ship gunners, the enemies’ ambitious nature proved costly.

The Japanese crashed over 1,900 planes in choreographed kamikaze dives around Okinawa — sinking a total 126 ships and damaging 64 others.

Also Read: This is actual footage of the Japanese surrender aboard the USS Missouri

Everything Guardsmen need to know about their retirement options
Sailors and Marines work together putting out the fires caused by the Kamikaze pilots. (Source: Smithsonian Channel/ Screenshot)

Although the destruction took a toll on allied forces, it also helped fortify their motivation to continue with the fight — eventually defeating their Japanese adversaries.

Check out the Smithsonian Channel’s video below to see the historic and rare footage for yourself.

Smithsonian Channel, YouTube
MIGHTY MOVIES

Everything you need to know to start watching M*A*S*H

This article was sponsored by WGN America. Be sure to tune in to the All-Day All-Night M*A*S*H Marathon, Saturday, December 8th, starting at 9am/8am central.

The millennials out there know what I’m talking about. As kids, nothing made you keenly aware that your TV-watching session had run well past your bedtime quite like those distinctive opening chords and telltale yellow letters that meant a rerun of your parents’ favorite show was coming on.

Everything Guardsmen need to know about their retirement options

But now that we’re all grown up and don’t need a constant stream of slapstick comedy, cutesy characters, and teenage drama to sustain our attention, it’s time to revisit and start binge watching one of the greatest television shows ever made — and I promise your dad didn’t tell me to write this.

Before you dive in (you’ll thank me later), here’s what you need to know to start watching M*A*S*H.


Everything Guardsmen need to know about their retirement options

Inside a real MASH operating room during the Korean War, from a real-world Korean War doctor, Dr. Robert L. Emanuele of Chicago.

(Photo by Dr. Robert L. Emanuele)

A MASH was a real thing

In the Korean War, a MASH unit was a frontline medical unit, a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital. Wounded troops would be treated by a medic or corpsman, then taken to an aid station if necessary. Once there, if they needed more care, they would be evacuated, sometimes by the newly-developed helicopter, to a MASH for surgery. These units were as close as ten miles to the front.

What later became a movie and a legendary TV show, M*A*S*H got its start as a book, written by Richard Hornberger under the pen name Richard Hooker. Hornberger was a real-life surgeon in a MASH unit and the book documented a few things the author says were based on real events — though he never says which ones.

While the setting of the series is important, it’s all the characters that really drive the show. Here’s who you’ll meet:

Alan Alda as Hawkeye Pierce.

Capt. Benjamin Franklin “Hawkeye” Pierce

Hawkeye is a talented surgeon and pacifist from Maine who was drafted at the outset of the Korean War. He won’t use a weapon but he’ll let himself be sent to the front line if it means it’ll save a life. Like almost everyone in the 4077th, he enjoys a drink after work, even going as far as constructing a still in his tent, nicknamed “the Swamp.” His nickname comes from the book, The Last of the Mohicans.

Wayne Rogers plays Trapper John.

Capt. “Trapper” John McIntyre

Trapper is Hawkeye’s best friend on the camp for the first three seasons of the show (actor Wayne Rogers left the series after season three) before being replaced by Capt. BJ Hunnicutt. Trapper, a former football player at Dartmouth, was drafted from a hospital in Boston and was sent home from Korea before the end of the first year. He shares a tent with Hawkeye and Maj. Frank Burns, and spends his spare time drinking and chasing nurses.

Loretta Swit as Maj. Houlihan.

Maj. Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan

Major Houlihan is the chief nurse at the 4077th, a career member of the Army Nurse Corps, and a military brat – her father was an artillery officer. She’s a by-the-book kind of officer and the most capable nurse in the OR, but she’s carrying on an illegal relationship with Maj. Frank Burns.

With Frank, she is constantly battling the practical jokes from Hawkeye and Trapper and doesn’t respect the leadership style of the 4077th’s commander, Lt. Col. Henry Blake, who she is constantly trying to undermine.

Larry Linville as Major Burns.

Maj. Frank Burns

In the U.S., Frank Burns is an Army reservist with his own successful practice who married into a wealthy family in Indiana. In Korea, Major Burns is carrying on an illicit affair with Major Houlihan and, with her, trying to undermine the authority of Lt. Col. Blake. Despite his higher rank, Burns isn’t respected as a doctor, having flunked out of medical school twice. His actions in and out of the operating room reflect his ineptitude in medicine and in life.

McLean Stevenson as Lt. Col. Blake.

Lt. Col. Henry Blake

Henry Blake is an Army reservist and the commanding officer of the 4077th who was sent to Korea after asking a general if he took cream and sugar with a coffee enema. Blake is also a skilled surgeon but a chronic alcoholic. He’s a friend to Hawkeye and Trapper and puts medical needs ahead of Army formalities. He knows he’s not the best choice to be a commander of anything, but asserts his authority when needed.

Blake was sent home in the third season of the show and replaced by Col. Sherman Potter for the rest of the series. But the producers famously wrote a final scene into the third season finale that only Alan Alda knew about as they were filming the episode. It wasn’t until they finished shooting the regular script that the actors were told, and they filmed the final scene where Radar announces that Henry Blake’s plane was shot down over the Sea of Japan.

Cpl. Walter “Radar” O’Reilly 

Gary Burghoff was the only actor to play his character in both the 1970 M*A*S*H film and the CBS television show. He’s the company’s enlisted clerk, and one of the only two enlisted recurring characters, the other being Cpl. Max Klinger. His nickname comes from the fact that he acts on orders before they’re given and can predict things before they happen.

Cpl. Maxwell Klinger

Corporal Klinger was only supposed to be an extra in one episode, but viewers loved Jamie Farr’s character so much he was brought back in the regular cast for the rest of the show. Klinger was drafted from Toledo, Ohio, and is constantly looking for ways to get kicked out of the Army, most famously trying to be considered crazy and get a section eight discharge for wearing women’s clothes.

Capt. B.J. Hunnicutt 

Captain Hunnicutt was a young doctor fresh out of residency when he was drafted and replaced Trapper John at the beginning of the show’s fourth season. Where most of the other doctors are loose with their morals when it comes to women and war, Capt. Hunnicutt is true to his wife and the Hippocratic Oath.

He still enjoys having drinks with his colleagues, though.

Col. Sherman Potter

Colonel Sherman Potter is also a fourth season replacement, coming in for the dearly departed Lt. Col. Blake. Unlike Blake, Potter is a career U.S. Army surgeon who pays closer adherence to Army regulations – though hardly as strict as Maj. Houlihan and Maj. Burns would like. He fought in World War I as an enlisted cavalry troop at age 15 who was captured by the Germans. He later earned a commission after going to medical school in the years between World Wars. He was also in the Battle of the Bulge in World War II.

It’s not known how old Col. Potter is during the Korean War.

Maj. Charles Emerson Winchester III 

Major Winchester is a classically-trained physician and surgeon from an aristocratic family who isn’t accustomed to the “meatball surgery” performed at a MASH unit. He enters the show in season six as a replacement for Frank Burns who went crazy after Maj. Houlihan got married to someone else and was promoted out of the Korean War for it.

Winchester gets stuck at the 4077th after winning so much money betting against his commanding officer in Tokyo that his CO exiles him to the Korean War. He’s a much smarter, more conniving foil to Hawkeye and BJ’s antics.

Father Mulcahy 

Father Mulcahy is an Irish-Catholic chaplain at the 4077th and is surprisingly non-judgemental about the extramarital affairs of the unit’s doctors and nurses. Even though most of the staff is not religious (and Klinger is an avowed atheist), everyone treats the Chaplain with respect – even more because he tends to win all the base betting contests and poker games.

Everything Guardsmen need to know about their retirement options

Things like not saluting superior officers.

So, how do Army officers get away with all this stuff?

As you can imagine, talented surgeons were hard to find in the Army. Of course some existed, but in a war like the Korean War, the numbers of military surgeons working on the front lines were augmented by conscription – in other words, they were drafted. The doctors of a MASH unit were doctors first, then Army officers if time allowed.

Writers, actors, and producers of the TV show M*A*S*H actually spoke with and interviewed many MASH doctors at length to get ideas for the show, so at least some of the antics you see on the show were grounded in reality. Again, they never specify which ones.

Now that you’ve read this primer, the only thing left to do is dive into the show and experience it for yourself. And believe me, there’s a reason why the show captured the attention of an entire generation of TV fans.

Be sure to tune in to the All-Day All-Night M*A*S*H Marathon, Saturday, December 8th, starting at 9am/8am central.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Britain’s highly successful balloon attack against the Nazis

In perhaps one of the oddest British strategies against Nazi Germany, British troops launched almost 100,000 hydrogen-filled latex balloons into Nazi-controlled territory to set fires and short out power wires as part of Operation Outward.


Everything Guardsmen need to know about their retirement options

Women’s Auxiliary Air Force members recover a kite balloon.

(Royal Air Force)

Operation Outward was the result of an accident. Barrage and observation balloons in World War I got more coverage than in World War II, but the floating sacks of hydrogen were widely used in both conflicts. You can actually spot them in some of the more famous D-Day photos from later in the day or over the days and weeks that followed.

(The 320th Barrage Balloon Battalion was the only Black combat unit that came ashore on D-Day, though plenty of Black logistic and engineer units were there on June 6.)

But in September 1940, a few British barrage balloons broke free during a storm and drifted across Scandinavia, pissing the Scandinavians all the way off. The steel tethers these balloons dragged behind them had a pesky habit of shorting out power lines and otherwise damaging infrastructure.

Everything Guardsmen need to know about their retirement options

A U.S. Army Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System, known as JLENS.

(U.S. Arny)

Ya know, about like what happened when that JLENS aerostat (blimp, basically) broke free in October 2015.

But when it happened in the Scandinavian countries in 1940, the Brits were all, “Wait, what’s bad for the goose is bad for the gander, so let’s apologize to Scandinavia but then do the same thing, on purpose, to Hitler’s Third Reich. Screw those guys.”

The British relied on a couple infrastructure advantages for this plan. Britain’s electrical grid was more developed, and therefore more susceptible to disruption, but it also featured faster circuit breakers. This meant that Britain’s grid, if hit with balloons trailing wires, would suffer relatively little damage. Germany’s, with slower breakers, had a real risk of losing entire sections of the grid or even power plants to balloon disruptions.

So, even if it led to a balloon trading war, Britain could expect to hold the upper hand. And so weather balloons were filled with hydrogen, fitted with either spools of wire or incendiary devices, and floated over the channel into Germany.

Everything Guardsmen need to know about their retirement options

An “incendiary sock” like those used to burn German towns.

(UK National Archives)

The wires were relatively thin. Experimentation showed the designers that they didn’t need the thick steel of normal tethers to short lines, cause electrical arcs, and damage German power distribution. The electrical arcs were the real killer, draining power from the grid, overworking the components of the power generation, and weakening the transmission lines so they would later break in high winds.

The incendiary devices were filled with wood shavings and paraffin wax.

Both types were made to fly over the channel at a little over 20,000 feet, then descend to 1,000 feet and do their work. They needed winds of about 10 mph or more to be as effective as possible.

And they worked, well. The idea wasn’t to cripple Germany in a single blow, but to cost them more in economic damage and defensive requirements than it cost Britain to deploy them. And, thanks to the low-cost materials Britain used, Britain only had to pay around the U.S.equivalent of .50 per balloon. Shooting a balloon down could cost much more than that in ammo, and that was if it was shot down by air defenders. If fighters had to launch, the fuel and maintenance would be astronomical.

And balloons that weren’t shot down could easily do hundreds to hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of damage. In 1942, a balloon launch overloaded a power plant at Böhlen so badly that the plant was completely destroyed. And while the power was off in this and other events, German units were made less ready for combat, and German wartime production was slowed.

Assessments found during and after the war painted a picture of constant disruption on the German side. In occupied France, there were 4,946 power interruptions during the program, most of them caused by the balloons. In 11 months from early 1942 to early 1943, Germany had 520 major disruptions of high-voltage lines.

And at a cost of .50 a balloon plus the wages of balloon launchers, mostly members of the Women’s Royal Navy Service, the more than 99,000 balloons launched were a hell of a deal.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How the Marine Corps gets personnel ready to kill with pistols

Every Marine is a rifleman. This is evident in every photo of a Marine donning the service alpha uniform, courtesy of the shimmering marksmanship badge over their left breast pocket. Oftentimes this rifle marksmanship badge is accompanied by another badge, indicating the Marine is qualified with the Beretta M9 service pistol.

The pistol qualification is one that is not required by every Marine; instead, only certain military occupational specialties, officers and staff non-commissioned officers require annual qualification on the service pistol. In order to ensure these Marines are properly trained with the weapon, the Marine Corps implemented the Combat Pistol Program.

The CPP was introduced in 2012 after the Corps decided it needed to revamp its pistol qualification, the entry level pistol program. The ELP course of fire was less combat-oriented and was more inclined to promote fundamentals and accuracy.


While these are essential aspects of pistol marksmanship that challenge the shooter to maintain pinpoint accuracy, the ELP lacked sufficient tactical drills to prepare Marines to draw their weapon and engage a target. Thus, the CPP was introduced.

“The goal of marksmanship training is to develop this proficiency to a combat-effective level,” states Weapons Training Battalion Training Command lesson plan CPP.

One of the hallmarks of the CPP is how the first two stages of qualification start with the weapon in the holster, requiring the Marine to present the weapon and engage the target in one motion – this gives the training a more combat-oriented and tactical approach.

While the CPP is known for its tactical application, the fundamentals and coaching are not abandoned.

Everything Guardsmen need to know about their retirement options

U.S. Marine Cpl. Bradley Binder conducts pistol qualification with a Beretta M9 service pistol at Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Japan, Sept. 6, 2018.

Marine Corps Order 3574.2L states, “The execution of dry practice conducted by properly trained CMT [combat marksmanship trainer] and CMC [combat marksmanship coach] Marines is a critical element in the development of a Marine’s fundamental marksmanship skill, speed, and accuracy in the Combat Pistol Program.”

Following classroom instruction and non-fire sessions, Marines participate in live-fire drills — training blocks one through three. During these training blocks, range coaches have the opportunity to mentor and guide Marines during practical application where the ELP did not provide this luxury, which results in a more qualified, skilled and effective Marine with the service pistol.

Staff Sgt. Brandon Schuster, a CMT with the 3rd Law Enforcement Battalion, III Marine Expeditionary Force Information Group, vehemently supports coaching and its effects – “If we can hone those qualities, those little things…we can take your shooting to another level.”

The ELP was conducted on a National Rifle Association 50-yard bullseye target. To replace this, the Marksmanship Program Management Section combat pistol target (MPMS-1) was introduced. This scoring system trains Marines to see, present their weapon, and engage the target, rewarding shooters for hitting vital areas – the tighter the grouping in the center, the higher the score.

The MPMS-1 is a favorite with Schuster who states, “The scoring rings, while they’re bigger, they’re more applicable… You’re not grading on a circle, you’re grading on – did you neutralize the target?”

Gunnery Sgt. Jarod Vedsted, the lead instructor with 3rd LE Bn, III MIG and former instructor of the protective services course, states “we’re in tandem with them” when asked how the CPP correlates with civilian counterparts in the sense of basic pistol training.

Tables one through five of the CPP teach basic pistol skills and marksmanship, but any further pistol training does not exist in formal standards in the Marine Corps.

“I do think that’s the direction we’re headed. Now how fast do we get there? And at what varying degrees? I don’t know,” states Schuster, “but from my experience with Marine Gunners, they are always looking for ways to better the program.”

The CPP is just one of the ways the Marine Corps has made efforts to make its training more realistic and combat-oriented to better prepare Marines. “Programs evolve as we learn new things about marksmanship,” says Schuster.

Marines are supporters of the CPP, and five years after its official release, it still receives praise among marksmanship instructors. “I prefer it,” said Schuster, “The CPP definitely introduced a more tactical mindset on the pistol range.” Wherever the Marksmanship Program Management Section goes next, Marines are likely to be enthusiastic and motivated to send rounds down range.

This article originally appeared on the United States Marine Corps. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

An airman looks back on the Khobar Towers attack

Post-Traumatic stress disorder carries him into the depths of fear and pain; reliving images of death and destruction. Closing his eyes to night terrors at sundown and fighting through daily anxiety attacks eventually pushed him to the brink of suicide so he could put an end to the never-ending cycle.

It wasn’t until his second suicide attempt that Air Force veteran and Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center support agreement manager Ryan Kaono took steps to face his invisible scars and reach out for help.

It was 2010 and he hadn’t slept in more than four days, knowing he’d get flashbacks of what he’d experienced during deployments to Saudi Arabia and Iraq.


“They were terrible,” Kaono said. “I would wake up screaming and my wife would be scared. Out of desperation, I decided I was going to end it.”

Kaono’s wife, Alessa, said it was very difficult for her to watch her husband suffer with no real diagnosis.

“You feel helpless,” she said. “I described it as having an animal or child unable to speak yet you know they’re feeling something. You see a look in their eyes that they’re suffering but you don’t know what you can do to help them.”

Everything Guardsmen need to know about their retirement options
Ryan Kaono, a support agreement manager with the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center, takes a moment to breath while his service dog Romeo assesses the situation.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Armando Perez)

Exhausted and going through myriad feelings, Kaono swallowed numerous prescription drugs in the hopes of not waking up. Something inside him, however, made him reach out to his commander for help, letting her know what he’d done.

He was admitted to the Los Angeles Veterans Affairs hospital for a few days of observation and diagnosed with PTSD. This began his journey of living with the disorder instead of being a slave to it.

His diagnosis came with some relief but angst as well.

“I was scared yet relieved at the same time,” Alessa said. It was a roller coaster of emotions. I was happy he was finally diagnosed but both he and I knew it would be a long and difficult journey at times.”

Even today, two deployments replay in the mind of the former security forces military working dog handler and logistician.

Khobar Towers, Saudi Arabia

In June 1996, Kaono was working a gate at Khobar Towers, Saudi Arabia, when a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device detonated on the other side of the compound, killing 19 and wounding countless others.

“When the actual blast went off, it was chaos everywhere,” Kaono said. “I had to stop and put that part behind me. I needed to focus and ensure that the folks who had been injured or disoriented … were taken care of.”

For years, he continued pushing the many visions of pain and suffering he’d seen there to the back of his mind where they festered.

In total, the Hawaii-native had 11 deployments as a security forces defender by the time he found himself at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, struggling with anger issues.

“I would quickly get frustrated; I would have bouts of just frustration and real anger,” he said.

While on a smoke break outside of central security control one day, Kaono lost consciousness and fell to the ground. Controllers inside the building were able to see what happened and his officer-in-charge ran to his aid.

When he regained consciousness, his captain was leaning over his chest, trying to wake him.

Everything Guardsmen need to know about their retirement options
U.S. and Saudi military personnel survey the damage to Khobar Towers caused by the explosion of a fuel truck outside the northern fence of the facility on King Abdul Aziz Air Base near Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, at 2:55 p.m. EDT, Tuesday, June 25, 1996.

He was quickly taken to the hospital where he suffered with partial paralysis in his legs for about 10 hours and the inability to use his body from the base of his neck to his fingertips for three days.

His medical team diagnosed him with syncope; the uncontrollable loss of consciousness with no real explanation.

“From that, they determined I couldn’t deploy, I couldn’t carry a weapon so I couldn’t really be a security forces member anymore,” Kaono explained. “I was force retrained for medical reasons into logistics.”

Balad Air Base, Iraq

Fast forward to 2005 when Kaono served as first sergeant and deployment manager for the 93rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron in Balad, Iraq.

As a dual-hatted logistics planner and first sergeant in the Reserve, he was responsible for making sure unit members arrived safely at their deployed location, were able to get their jobs done and would return home to Homestead Air Reserve Base, Florida, when their deployment was over.

While in a meeting with senior leaders, the base began taking mortar fire that impacted closer and closer to Kaono’s trailer and two fully-loaded F-16s nearby.

“They were trying to walk (mortars) up our runway to our loaded aircraft,” Kaono said, with the expectation that they’d be able to hit the aircraft causing secondary explosions with more damage.

While everyone in the room was running for cover, Kaono gathered up classified materials to stow in a safe.

“It wasn’t my first mortar attack so I really didn’t think anything of it,” he said.

With the sensitive documents in the safe, Kaono turned to leave to seek shelter when a mortar pierced the aluminum trailer and exploded, sending him 15-20 feet in the air before slamming his head and right shoulder into a concrete Jersey barrier.

“It felt essentially like The Matrix … I’m floating through the air and everything is going in slow motion. I see shrapnel and dust and everything just going around me,” he said.

Once he hit his head, he was snapped back to reality and felt the severe pain of what would later be diagnosed as a traumatic brain injury.

“I went to the hospital there at Balad and they checked me out and told me I had a concussion but that was about it; nothing really life threatening so I didn’t get sent home,” he said.

When he eventually rotated back to Homestead, he went through a standard post-deployment physical health assessment where he initially struggled with discussing what he’d endured. When he was able to talk about it, the doctor said he entered what was considered a fugue state — a complete loss of what was going on around him.

“I essentially was staring off into nothingness for a period of time suffering a flashback,” he said.

“From there, they said I had a possibility of PTSD and they sent me on my way.”

Five years later, after his extreme cries for help, his PTSD diagnosis came.

PTSD, the daily struggle

“PTSD and living with it is a daily struggle,” Kaono said. “We’re always cognizant of it. Those who are around us may see us and see absolutely nothing’s wrong. We don’t typically have external signs of our disability but emotionally and mentally, we still have to deal with it.”

In the years between 1996 and today, Kaono said there were times when he would just shut himself away because he didn’t want to be a burden on anyone. There were also times when he could go to work and feel that people would think there was nothing wrong with him because he looked fine.

Everything Guardsmen need to know about their retirement options
Ryan Kaono, a support agreement manager with the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center, shares a laugh with a videographer during an interview while his service dog Romeo keeps a steady eye on the photographer.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Armando Perez)

“That just reinforced the issue that I had,” he said. “To me, one of the main issues of dealing with PTSD is that people don’t (realize) … they don’t see you missing a limb, they don’t see you scarred, they don’t see you burned and so to the outside world you look like you’re no different — you’re not special, you have no issue, no disability to really claim.”

In order to live his life, Kaono has to acknowledge his PTSD and what caused it every single day.

“If I continued down the path that I was on previously, where I just let it consume me, I wouldn’t be here today,” he said.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates 31 percent of Vietnam veterans, 10 percent of Gulf War veterans, 20 percent of Iraqi war veterans and 11 percent of veterans from the war in Afghanistan live with PTSD.

To be able to help them, Kaono recommends people educate themselves on the disorder.

“Find out what post-traumatic stress is, see what it does, look at the studies that show why there are 22 people per day committing suicide because they can’t handle the stress anymore. Don’t just pass us off as being fine … that’s the worst thing that people can do.”

On top of everything else, dealing with the stigma of having PTSD is a struggle for the Kaono family.

“When people hear the word PTSD they think of the negative news articles out there. Ryan may have PTSD, but it doesn’t make him any less of a human being,” Alessa said.

“We’re not asking people to walk on eggshells around us,” Kaono said. “Treat us as if you would treat anybody else … we are still people. We still hold jobs. We still have families.We still have responsibilities and if you don’t give us the opportunity to meet those responsibilities, you’re not helping us.”

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

popular

How sailors keep their warships from breaking down

American warships are capable, lethal, and imposing, so much so that it can be easy to forget that they are still just lumps of metal floating through highly damaging saltwater while running at high power as hundreds or thousands of sailors prowl their decks.

Here’s how sailors make sure that all the sailing, work, and seawater doesn’t doom the ship before it can shoot its way through enemy fleets:


Everything Guardsmen need to know about their retirement options
Hull Maintenance Technician 2nd Class Ryann Galbraith brazes piping aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt.
(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Michael Hogan)

One of the most important parts, besides avoiding enemy missiles and shells, obviously, is making sure that the saltwater stays in the ocean and doesn’t get inside the ship. That’s why the Navy has hull maintenance technicians like Ryann Galbraith, above. They work on all the plumbing, decks, structures, and hulls, patching, welding, riveting, etc. to keep fluids and steam in dedicated pipes.

Everything Guardsmen need to know about their retirement options
U.S. Navy divers, assigned to Southwest Regional Maintenance Center, drop a cofferdam into the water prior to performing underwater hull maintenance on the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer.
(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Trevor Welsh)

Of course, the hull itself can be vulnerable, accumulating barnacles and other sea life and rusting from the exposure to water and salt. To deal with this, the Navy sends sailors around the ship, often in small boats, to touch up paint or clean off risky accumulations. Also, they send divers under the water to clean the hull and perform more maintenance.

Everything Guardsmen need to know about their retirement options
Chief Fire Controlman Ryan Pavelich and Fire Controlman 2nd Class Robin Norris inspect the closed-in weapons system on the USS Wayne E. Meyer.
(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kelsey L. Adams)

But the ship also needs to be able to hit back if it comes under attack, and weapons like the Phalanx close-in weapons system allow it to knock the enemy’s missiles and other airborne threats out of the sky. But, you guessed it, all those moving parts and sensitive electronics need a lot of maintenance as well.

Wires fray, parts wear out, electronics degrade. Fire control sailors make sure their weapons will protect the ship when called upon.

Everything Guardsmen need to know about their retirement options
Chief Machinist Mate Benjamin Carnes and Gas Turbine Systems Technician 1st Class Johnathan Hovinga make final inspections in preparation to start the main engines on the littoral combat ship USS Fort Worth.
(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Antonio P. Turretto Ramos)

The maintenance can get a lot more complicated when you go inside the ship. The engines on Navy ships, whether fueled by diesel, gasoline, or nuclear, are pretty complicated. They need to be regularly inspected, pumps and belts have to get replaced, oil and other fluids need to be changed.

And that’s all if everything goes according to plan. When engines experience a real breakdown, it can necessitate people crawling through the engine or the ship getting towed into port for drydock maintenance. So, doing the maintenance is worth the effort.

Everything Guardsmen need to know about their retirement options
Gas Turbine System Technician Fireman Steven Garris, from Youngsville, Pennsylvania, changes a burner barrel to prevent soot build up in a boiler aboard amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard.
(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Diana Quinlan)

But Navy engines actually have a lot of maintenance needs with few civilian equivalents. The sailor above is changing out the burner barrel on an amphibious assault ship. Do any of your vehicles have burner barrels? Mine don’t. And few people need specially trained staff to keep their nuclear reactors from poisoning the passengers.

Everything Guardsmen need to know about their retirement options
Onboard USS Wasp, Petty Officer 2nd Class Jarrod Prouse conducts repairs on the handle of a Collective Protective System hatch.
(U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Rebekah Adler)

Other routine maintenance on ships is much more sensitive and demanding as well. Navy ships have doors that need to be welded properly, or else lethal substances could leak through when the ship is in a chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear environment.

Everything Guardsmen need to know about their retirement options
Hull Maintenance Technician 2nd Class Alexander Fleischer, from Crystal Lake, Ill., assigned to the submarine tender USS Frank Cable, welds a gusset while performing repairs to the cradle of a crane aboard the ship.
(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Heather C. Wamsley)

By the way, there are so, so many pictures online of sailors welding. That’s not surprising since ships are made of metal and that metal needs to be repaired. But still, so many pictures. This particular one shows a hull maintenance technician repairing a crane cradle on a submarine tender.

Everything Guardsmen need to know about their retirement options
Aviation Boatswain’s Mate 1st Class Scott Skeate, Aviation Boatswain’s Mate 1st Class Darryl Johnson, Aviation Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class Luke Hart, and Airman Apprentice Mccord Brickle perform maintenance on a waist catapult shuttle on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz.
 (U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jacob Milner)

Most Navy ships have specialty systems not seen on civilian vessels or even on most other vessels of the fleet. For instance, carriers have catapults that, except for the USS Gerald R. Ford, are powered by steam. The catapults have to be repaired as parts wear out, and they have to be carefully calibrated even when everything is working properly.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Revamped training curriculum will develop ready and resilient airmen

After listening to feedback from the field, a few changes to the Air Force Basic Military Training curriculum will transform trainees into more combat-ready airmen.

The changes, which began Sept. 4, 2018, are entirely focused on readiness and lethality, airmanship, fitness, and warrior ethos.

“The future of BMT focuses on creating disciplined, warrior-airmen who are ready to support our joint partners in conflicts around the globe,” said Col. Jason Corrothers, former 737th Training Group and BMT commander who spearheaded the modifications. “These changes to refine the basic training experience are about increasing our readiness and lethality while simultaneously instilling airmanship and core values from the very beginning.”


Restoring readiness is one of the Air Force’s top priorities. The changes address readiness through a revamped expeditionary skills and weapons training curriculum, said Lt. Col. Jose Surita, 326th Training Squadron commander, who has overseen the development of the revamped curriculum.

Basic Expeditionary Airmen Skills Training which previously took place in week five of training, is resequenced to the final training week as the culminating event of BMT. Air Force recruits will also experience a beefed up Self-Aid/Buddy Care regimen, called the Tactical Combat Casualty Course.

“We need highly trained and ready airmen,” Surita said. “Readiness is the central theme across the BMT curriculum as we deliver trained and committed airmen capable of delivering 21st century airpower.”

There is also an increased focus on weapons handling and familiarization, said Surita.

Everything Guardsmen need to know about their retirement options

Air Force Basic Military Training trainees prepare for a log climb and rope walk obstacle during the Basic Expeditionary Airman Skills Training.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Bennie J. Davis III)

Airmen’s Week, which was focused on a values-based “Airmanship 100” curriculum, was taught the week after trainees completed basic training. Airmen’s Week lessons, which are not being changed, are now incorporated throughout 8.5 weeks of BMT.

This change gives end-to-end ownership of the training to the military training instructor corps, delivering a continuous immersion that accelerates “mind to heart” adoption of the Air Force core values and warrior ethos principles

“Our airmen need to be technically capable, but they also need to be motivated,” said Master Sgt. Robert Kaufman, military training instructor. “Airmanship 100 lessons focus on their resilience and challenge recruits to commit to holding each other accountable to our core values.”

Everything Guardsmen need to know about their retirement options

An Air Force Basic Military Training trainee attacks a dummy during an obstacle during the Basic Expeditionary Airman Skills Training.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Bennie J. Davis III)

With an emphasis on improving human performance, BMT will also see a bump up in the overall number of fitness sessions, increasing from 31 to 44 periods throughout training. Workouts will be a balanced mix of cardio, strength, and interval training.

“Physical fitness is a critical component of readiness,” said Master Sgt. Andrea Jefferson, military training instructor. “By increasing the number of physical training sessions, we build fitness habits that will help recruits perform both in the military environment, and in their personal lives.”

BMT curriculum changes also includes a purpose built heritage program that introduces recruits to Air Force heroes, and weaves heritage and warrior ethos throughout training.

Everything Guardsmen need to know about their retirement options

An Air Force Basic Military Training Instructor watch an Air Force Basic Military Training (AFBMT) graduation.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Bennie J. Davis III)

“We will be introducing warrior identity, as well as Air Force history and heroes, every week throughout training,” said Master Sgt. Richard Bonsra, military training instructor. “Those topics will then be reinforced during all training events, such as naming physical training sessions after a fallen airman to cement the experience.”

Future changes to how heritage and warrior ethos are ingrained into BMT will include naming obstacles on the “Creating Leaders, Airmen, Warriors” Course after Air Force heroes, said Bonsra.

Everything Guardsmen need to know about their retirement options

Air Force Basic Military Training Instructors train drill and ceremony movements at Air Force Basic Military Training at Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Bennie J. Davis III)

“Over the last 70 years, we have become the most dominant Air Force the world has ever known, but there is no doubt we must be, and can be better in the future,” said Chief Master Sgt. Lee Hoover, 737th TRG superintendent, “The next generation of airmen will take us there, so it’s critical we start them on the right foot. These changes ensure we move in that direction.”

Headquartered at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, the 737th TRG is the Air Force’s largest training group, comprised of nine squadrons and more than 900 permanent-party personnel. BMT, with an average daily load of 7,000 trainees, graduated more than 37,314 airmen in fiscal year 2017 and BMT instructors are postured to increase that number to more than 40,200 graduates in fiscal year 2019.

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This ‘light tank’ is specially designed to support infantry

General Dynamics Land Systems has unveiled a new heavily armed, yet lighter-weight expeditionary armored vehicle as part of an effort to build a future Army war platform, a new combat vehicle being engineered to support maneuvering infantry — and ultimately change land war.

Called the Griffin III, the General Dynamics Land Systems offering is a 40-ton armored vehicle with both deep-strike technology and counter-drone sensors, Michael Peck, GDLS Director of Enterprise Business Development, told Warrior.

“This is a deployable tracked vehicle with the armor protection required by the Army,” Peck said in an interview.


While referred to by some as a “light tank,” Army officials specify that plans for the new platform seek to engineer a mobile combat platform able to deploy quickly.

The new vehicle represents an Army push toward more expeditionary warfare and rapid deployability; it is no surprise that two Griffin IIIs are being built to fit on an Air Force C-17 aircraft.

“In the future it will be important to get off-road. Mobility can help with lethality and protection because you can hit the adversary before they can disrupt your ability to move,” Rickey Smith, Deputy Chief of Staff, G-9, TRADOC, told Warrior Maven in an interview in early 2018.

Smith’s emphasis upon how lighter-weight armored vehicles can address terrain challenges, and off-road mobility aligns with findings from analytical historical research performed years ago by the Dupuy Institute.

The research study, called “The Historical Combat Effectiveness of Lighter-Weight Armored Forces,” examined combat scenarios from Vietnam, The Korean War, the Persian Gulf War, and even WWII.

Everything Guardsmen need to know about their retirement options

U.S. Soldiers load the .50-caliber machine gun of an M1A2 SEPv2 Abrams main battle tank during a combined arms live-fire exercise in Grafenwoehr, Germany, Nov. 19, 2015.

(U.S. Army photo by Markus Rauchenberger)

Commissioned by the US Army Center for Army Analysis, the study concluded that heavily armed, yet lighter-weight, more maneuverable armored combat platforms could provide a substantial advantage to combat infantry in many scenarios.

“Vehicle weight is sometimes a limiting factor in less developed areas. In all cases where this was a problem, there was not a corresponding armor threat. As such, in almost all cases, the missions and tasks of a tank can be fulfilled with other light armor,” the study writes.

Drawing upon this conceptual premise, it also stands to reason that a medium-armored vehicle, with heavy firepower, might be able to support greater mobility for advancing infantry while simultaneously engaging in major combat, mechanized force-on-force kinds of engagements where there is armored resistance.

Current Abrams tanks, while armed with 120mm cannons and fortified by heavy armor, are challenged to support infantry in some scenarios due to weight and mobility constraints.

As Smith explained, bridges, or other terrain-oriented impediments preclude the ability of heavy tanks to support maneuvering IBCTs.

Smith also explained that Infantry Brigade Combat Teams (IBCTs), expected to operate in a more expansive battlespace, will require deployable, fast-moving close-to-contact direct fire support.

Also, while likely not able to match the speed of a wheeled Stryker vehicle, a “tracked” vehicle can better enable “off-road” combat, as Smith explained.

Also, rapid deployability is of particular significance in areas such as Europe, where Russian forces, for instance, might be in closer proximity to US or NATO forces.

Tactically speaking, given that IBCTs are likely to face drones armed with precision weapons, armored vehicle columns advancing with long-range targeting technology and artillery, infantry on-the-move needs to have firepower and sensors sufficient to outmatch an advanced enemy. General Dynamics plans to model construction of eight new prototypes, is one of several industry offerings for the Army to consider.

Everything Guardsmen need to know about their retirement options

Soldiers inspect an M1A2 Abrams tank.

(Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Battles)

While many details of the GDLS Griffin III have yet to be revealed, Peck did say the vehicle is engineered to accommodate built-in Active Protection Systems — sensors, fire control radar and interceptors used to detect, track and destroy incoming enemy fire, Peck said.

GDLS is pursuing a two-fold strategy with its Griffin III; the firm plans to work with the Army to adjust as needed and refine aspects of the platform, while also jumping in front of the Army’s current plan to build prototypes in the next few years.

The Army’s new lightweight armored vehicles are expected to change land war by outmatching Russian equivalents and bringing a new dimension to advancing infantry as it maneuvers toward enemy attack.

Long-range precision fire, coordinated air-ground assault, mechanized force-on-force armored vehicle attacks, and drone threats are all changing so quickly that maneuvering US Army infantry now needs improved firepower to advance on major adversaries in war, Army leaders explain.

All of these factors are indicative of how concepts of Combined Arms Maneuver are evolving to account for how different land war is expected to be moving forward. This reality underscores the reason infantry needs tank-like firepower to cross bridges, travel off-road and keep pace with advancing forces.

For the Army, the effort involves what could be described as a dual-pronged acquisition strategy in that it seeks to leverage currently-available or fast-emerging technology while engineering the vehicle with an architecture such that it can integrate new weapons and systems as they emerge over time.

An estimation of technologies likely to figure prominently in the Army’s future vehicle developmental process leads towards the use of lightweight armor composites, Active Protection Systems and a new generation of higher-resolution targeting sensors. Smith explained how this initiative is already gaining considerable traction.

This includes the rapid incorporation of greater computer automation and AI, designed to enable one sensor to perform the functions of many sensors in real-time. For instance, it’s by no means beyond the imagination to envision high-resolution forward-looking infrared (FLIR) sensors, electromagnetic weapons, and EO-IR cameras operating through a single sensor.

“The science is how do I fuse them together? How do I take multiple optical, infrared, and electromagnetic sensors and use them all at once in real-time ” Smith said. “If you are out in the desert in an operational setting, infrared alone may be constrained by heat, so you need all types of sensors together, and machines can help us sift through information.”

In fact, the Army’s Communications Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center (CERDEC) is already building prototype sensors with this in mind. In particular, this early work is part of a longer-range effort to inform the Army’s emerging Next-Generation Combat Vehicle (NGCV). The NGCV, expected to become an entire fleet of armored vehicles, is now being explored as something to emerge in the late 2020s or early 2030s.

One of the key technical challenges when it comes to engineering a mobile, yet lethal, weapon is to build a cannon both powerful and lightweight enough to meet speed, lethality and deployability requirements.

U.S. Army’s Combat Vehicle Modernization Strategy specifically cites the need to bring large-caliber cannon technology to lightweight vehicles. Among other things, the strategy cites a lightweight 120mm gun called the XM360 — built for the now-cancelled Future Combat Systems Mounted Combat System. While the weapon is now being thought of as something for NGCV or a future tank variant — which seeks to maximize lightweight, mobile firepower.

Special new technology was needed for the XM360 in order to allow a lighter-weight cannon and muzzle to accommodate the blast from a powerful 120mm tank round.

Elements of the XM360 include a combined thermal and environmental shroud, blast deflector, a composite-built overwrapped gun, tube-modular gun-mount, independent recoil brakes, gas-charged recuperators, and a multi-slug slide block breech with an electric actuator, Army MCS developmental documents describe.

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The first Hurricane Hunters flew through storms on a dare

Seventy-five years ago, on July 17, 1943, one Army Air Corps pilot dared another to fly his plane into the eye of a hurricane, and a new method of predicting storms and getting adrenaline highs was born.

Army Air Force Lt. Col. Joseph P. Duckworth flew an T-6 trainer aircraft into the eye of a hurricane headed to the Texas coast on a dare just to prove it could be done.


www.youtube.com

After the flight, he wrote,

“The only embarrassing episode would have been engine failure, which, with the strong ground winds, would probably have prevented a landing, and certainly would have made descent via parachute highly inconvenient.”

But the dare proved fruitful, and Duckworth went back up with a weather officer. Studying the hurricane allowed the meteorologists to not only better predict that storm, but to start building a better understanding of how hurricanes form and move.

Everything Guardsmen need to know about their retirement options

Air Force 1st Lt. Tina Young examines data gathered while flying into the eye of Hurricane Ophelia on Sept. 14. Young is an aerial reconnaissance weather officer with the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron.

(U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Michael Eaton)

This preceded a massive expansion of the Army’s weather reconnaissance squadrons, with new squadrons being stood up throughout the late 1940s and the ’50s with names like “Hurricane Hunters” and “Typhoon Chasers.” The introduction of satellites eventually made many of the formations unnecessary, leading to them being inactivated or re-missioned, but one unit remains in service.

The 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, based in Mississippi, is an Air Force Reserve Unit still tasked with flying into the hearts of storms. But most of the missions into storms are now conducted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Aircraft Operations Center.

In fact, the widely covered video of hurricane hunters flying into Hurricane Florence was shot by an NOAA crew working to collect data on the storm before it hits the U.S. east coast.

And the U.S. has been transitioning to using drones for hurricane flights where possible, saving pilots, even if it does make the news releases less exciting.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How these soldiers survived the Tet Offensive

The screams of a fellow soldier trapped inside his armored vehicle pierced through the radio.

Apparently surrounded by the enemy with no more ammunition, the soldier cried for help saying his crew had all been killed.

But with his radio keyed open and no one able to talk back to him, then-Spc. 4 Dave Garrod and others in Bravo Troop, 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, could only listen to the desperate pleas.


“It was a knee knocker,” Garrod recalled as his 25th Infantry Division unit raced down to Tan Son Nhut Air Base, which was under siege by enemy forces. “I had no idea what we were driving into.”

Tet Offensive 

On Jan. 30, 1968, the Vietnam War escalated as enemy forces launched surprise attacks during the country’s New Year holiday.

Everything Guardsmen need to know about their retirement options

Then-Spc. 5 Dwight Birdwell, middle, seen on top of a tank during the Vietnam War. Birdwell and other Soldiers with the 25th Infantry Division’s 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment helped defend Tan Son Nhut Air Base in a Tet Offensive attack Jan. 31, 1968.

About 85,000 Viet Cong and North Vietnamese army fighters rushed across the border to attack over 100 cities and towns in southern Vietnam in an attempt to break a stalemate in the war.

Weeks of intense fighting ensued causing heavy losses on both sides.

Before they could repel many of the attacks, thousands of U.S. and South Vietnamese troops would die. Tens of thousands of enemy fighters were also killed.

While not largely deemed a victory for the enemy forces, which suffered a greater toll, the attacks did trigger many in America to rethink U.S. involvement in the protracted war.

Tan Son Nhut

One of the enemy’s main targets was Tan Son Nhut, a key airbase near Saigon where the Military Assistance Command Vietnam and the South Vietnamese air force were headquartered.

After reports of Viet Cong fighters attempting to invade the airbase on Jan. 31, 1968, soldiers with 3rd Squadron’s Charlie Troop responded to the call.

As they drove toward the airbase in the early morning hours, then-Spc. 5 Dwight Birdwell remembers seeing no civilians along the highway — typically a bad omen.

Everything Guardsmen need to know about their retirement options

Photos of Dwight Birdwell before he deployed to Vietnam.

Birdwell had seen attacks before during his tour, he said, but they were mainly mines or other small arms weapons fired by a hidden enemy. This day would be different.

When they arrived just outside the airbase, his unit’s column of tanks and armored personnel carriers suddenly stopped.

As if on cue, thousands of tracer rounds began to pepper the vehicles in front of his tank from both sides of the highway. Enemy fighters then jumped onto the vehicles, shooting inside of them.

“All hell broke loose,” Birdwell recalled.

A bullet then struck Birdwell’s tank commander right through the head and he collapsed inside the tank. Birdwell pulled him out, he said, and passed him over the side for medical treatment, which kept him alive.

Birdwell took command of the tank. By that time, all the vehicles ahead of him had been wiped out or were unable to return gunfire. Enemy fighters also set some ablaze after they failed to drive off with them.

“There was a lot of confusion and pandemonium,” he said.

His tank fired its 90 mm cannon toward the enemy while he shot off rounds from the .50-caliber machine gun to hold the enemy back.

Birdwell’s unit was stuck in the middle of an enemy invasion as hundreds of fighters had already crossed the highway and penetrated the airbase to his left. On his right side, even more fighters — some just 50 feet away — prepared to join the assault.

“They were getting close,” he recalled. “I could see their faces quite well.”

Around the same time he ran out of ammunition, a U.S. helicopter was hit and made an emergency landing behind his tank.

Everything Guardsmen need to know about their retirement options

Spc. 4 Dave Garrod, left, poses for a photo with Spc. 5 Ed McKenna and Spc. 4 Joe Carlton during their tour in the Vietnam War.

“I thought that this is unreal,” Birdwell said. “Somebody is filming a movie.”

He jumped down from the tank and ran toward the helicopter. Once there, he grabbed one of the helicopter’s M-60 machine guns the door gunners had been using and returned to his position.

After a few minutes of firing rounds at the enemy, something hit the machine gun — likely an enemy bullet. The impact, he said, sprayed shrapnel up into his face and chest.

With the M-60 now destroyed, Birdwell said he took cover in a nearby ditch. He and a few soldiers then grabbed some M-16 rifles and grenades and moved to a closer position behind a large tree.

There, they exchanged gunfire and tossed grenades over the road until the enemy started to fire a machine gun at them.

As the barrage of bullets cut into the tree, it sounded like a chainsaw chewing it down.

“We were in a very desperate situation,” he said.

Reinforcements

Around that time, Garrod’s Bravo Troop began to roll into the area.

Soldiers in a different platoon within Charlie Troop also arrived to suppress the attack from inside the base.

“After pulling on line we started laying down fire,” Garrod recalled, “and trying to keep it as low as possible so as not to fire on Charlie Troop on the road.”

Garrod and other soldiers were then pulled away to help wounded crewmen near a textile factory from which the enemy had been commanding its attack.

Once there, he ran over to a tank that had been hit by a rocket-propelled grenade. Inside, he could see the tank’s loader who could not move due to his legs being seriously wounded.

“Being a small, skinny guy, I jumped down in the hatch and without thinking put him on my shoulders and stuck him up through the hatch,” he said.

Later that day, the intensity of the battle hit home for Garrod as he rested in the shade of his vehicle.

Everything Guardsmen need to know about their retirement options

Dave Garrod, fifth from right, poses for a photo in front of a Vietnam War memorial near where the Tan Son Nhut Air Base attack occurred on Jan. 31, 1968.

He lifted his canteen up to take a drink when an awful smell overcame him.

“When I looked down on my flak jacket, there was a hunk of flesh from that loader,” he recalled. “It’s something that’s etched into your mind forever.”

Almost 20 soldiers from the squadron were killed and many more wounded as they defended the airbase that day. About two dozen South Vietnamese troops were also killed along with hundreds of enemy fighters.

Garrod earned an Army Commendation Medal with valor device for his actions and a Purple Heart in another mission a few days later. Birdwell earned a Silver Star and a Purple Heart.

The squadron was also awarded the Presidential Unit Citation.

Thirty years later, Garrod and other veterans traveled back to the site on the anniversary of the offensive as a way to find closure for what they saw that day.

They also visited a statue in a nearby park that honors those who were lost or suffered as a result of the battle.

Because of the devastation the war had caused, Garrod expected to see animosity on the faces of the Vietnamese people.

“Instead we found gracious, friendly people,” he said. “Even the veterans from the north whom we met … greeted us with hugs. It was very surprising. They had definitely moved on.”

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

Do Not Sell My Personal Information