Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Before Their Time - Army Sci-Fi Weapons Research

The Army has a flying saucer -- a real, honest-to-goodness flying saucer. It also has a jetpack, a hover car and an all-terrain walking vehicle. If that sounds like something out of a "Star Wars" movie, that's because Hollywood is influenced by the Army's experimental technologies.

Those technologies, developed in the 1950s through the 1970s, were public knowledge, and concept artists and directors could take inspiration from them. Army veteran and artist Ralph McQuarrie, known as "the godfather of the Star Wars aesthetic," created stunning concept art of hovercraft, androids and cybernetic walkers for George Lucas' films.

A combat veteran of the Korean War who survived a bullet wound to the head, McQuarrie would have known about the Army's experiments, said Command Sgt. Major Dennis J. Woods, the command sergeant major for initial military training and senior enlisted advisor on Fort Eustis, Virginia. And some of those technologies that inspired McQuarrie can now be seen at the U.S. Army Transportation Museum on Fort Eustis.

"[The museum] represents the Army's attempt at problem solving over time," Woods said, "And then how many of these objects have led to other developments."

The museum itself, a single-story brick building just inside the main gate of Fort Eustis, appears small. Off to the right, visitors can see older jeeps and a few dry-docked marine vehicles on the grass. Parking is sparse, but don't let any of that fool you.

"We have over 35,000 square feet of galleries and indoor exhibits, and then we have four outside, thematic exhibit areas that include the four major nodes of transportation: rail, aviation, maritime and of course, vehicles," said David S. Hanselman, director of the Transportation Museum.

The museum is one of more than 65 museums in the Army, which shares a central mission, Hanselman continued, to train and educate Soldiers on the history and heritage of the Army.

"As a branch museum, if you will, we also have the dual purpose of being a technological repository to document the things that the Army uses through the ages," he said. The museum has been around since the 1950s in one form or another, but the current facility was established in 1976.

The Transportation Museum is touted as having the most diverse collection of artifacts in the entire Army museum system, Hanselman added.

Extensively researched dioramas and text displays fill the indoor space of the museum. Visitors walk through the exhibits chronologically, from the beginning of the Army's transportation history all the way up through the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. From tiny models to glass-enclosed artifacts to life-sized dioramas, there is always something interesting to explore. Hanselman explained that the dioramas ensure that all visitors will learn something while at the museum, even if they aren't reading the text.

"It puts it into a contextual setting that allows folks to understand a little bit more about [an artifact], even if they don't read a single word of text," he said.


Larger experimental machines are on display outside. The four open-air exhibits house an incredible variety of cars, aircraft and marine vehicles, with examples from World War II forward. A chilly wind whipped through the maze of artifacts in the Aviation Pavilion as Hanselman described the artifacts, but the cold didn't damper his enthusiasm.

"What we have here in our experimental craft, we have a lot of one-of-a kind experimental craft and a couple of those are kind of direct descendants of the Star Wars technologies that you see on the screen today," he said.

The Cybernetic Walker, which is quite similar to its fictional Imperial Walker counterpart, is kept with the aviation artifacts. Two extra legs support the bright orange, elephant-sized walking machine for the display, Hanselman explained as he wove through rotor- and fixed-wing craft.

"Normally, it's just the four legs that it stands on," he said. "It does work, it did work, I mean, but it's a hydraulic nightmare. It actually had to be tethered to a hydraulic tank because it would blast through so much hydraulic oil in operation," Hanselman added. The operator would sit in the middle of the walker and use a series of levers to move the vehicle.

The walker was developed as a concept vehicle for lifting heavy loads over any kind of terrain, since helicopters were only just coming of age. The walker could carry 500 pounds of cargo, and was easy to maneuver, but being tethered to a hydraulic tank limited its usefulness.

"It did work, but the turbine engine was coming of age and as it developed, it vastly increased the capability of the helicopter, and this thing was proved obsolete, not needed, so it never went past the experimental stage," Hanselman said.

An improved version of that technology is being used by logging companies today to move timber over mountainous terrain, Woods said. He also pointed out AirGeep II VZ-8P, or "flying jeep," could be developed in the future for civilian medical use, allowing emergency personnel to soar over traffic and arrive at the scene much faster.

The AirGeep itself just appears to be two giant turbines held together by a couple of jump seats, what Woods described as a "baby helicopter." It was developed in 1946 as a solution for getting Soldiers into destroyed urban areas in World War II, but the helicopter won out.

"This thing would do about 85 miles per hour, and could reach an altitude of 3,000 feet, so you could cruise that just over the ground level into these leveled cities, and it was originally going to be a machine gun vehicle," he said, tapping the metal frame. The two seats on the craft also had ejection capabilities.

Another hovercraft sat near the Airgeep. This one, shaped like a 1950s convertible, is known as the Ground Effects Machine, or GEM, and resembles the landspeeder that Luke tools around in during "Star Wars: A New Hope."

"Curtis Wright [corporation] made this thing; it's a hovercraft, pure and simple," Hanselman said. "But they made it to look like an automobile with the thought that the general public would accept this and want one in every driveway.

"Pardon the pun, but it didn't quite take off as an idea," he added. The Army purchased two of the GEMs to test the capabilities in concept. The hovercraft could cross water and smooth ground, but had trouble on rough terrain.

The GEM has two turbines, similar to the Airgeep, which are encased in the body of the craft. Rubber skirting along the bottom of the vehicle traps the air from the turbines and creates a cushion to move on. Allowing air to escape from vents on the front, rear and sides of the vehicle enabled directional control, Hanselman explained.


One of the most iconic pieces inside the museum is the Vietnam-era gun truck, "Eve of Destruction." As the only gun truck to return from combat in Vietnam, Eve is a popular exhibit. Hanselman and his staff built a mock guard tower as a viewing platform next to the truck so that visitors could see into the bed without climbing in the artifact. The truck is particularly special because it becomes a key point of study for the war in Iraq, Hanselman said.

"For the first time since Vietnam, our convoys become the main target of the enemy. They want to shut down our logistics chain, and so, our guys said, just like in Vietnam, we've got to start protecting ourselves, we've got to start developing gun trucks," he continued. Museum staff spent weeks with Army researchers discussing the design of the gun truck, which led to the development of today's convoy escort platforms. In fact, a descendant of Eve can be seen at the end of the museum's indoor display in the Iraq exhibit.

Around the corner from the gun truck are two experimental flying machines developed originally for the transportation of individual Soldiers: The De Lackner Aerocycle and the rocket belt.

The pilot shifting his weight maneuvers the aerocycle, which is an alarming combination of what appears to be a lawn mower engine, two helicopter blades and a platform with handlebars.

The counter-rotating, 15-foot blades gave the Soldier three-dimensional mobility, Hanselman said, but the device was hard to control.

"It was actually tested at Fort Eustis, out at Felker Army Airfield, by that guy," Hanselman added, pointing at the mannequin atop the aerocycle, "Capt. [Selmer] Sundby, who retired Col. Sundby -- I say that so you know he lived through the program."

During one of Sundby's test flights, the blades on the Aerocycle flexed and collided with one another, which crashed the machine at 40 feet in the air. The then captain sustained a broken leg, but was otherwise unharmed, Hanselman explained. The Aerocycle was eventually abandoned in favor of the helicopter.

The rocket belt, on the other hand, was easy to control, but had several drawbacks of its own.

"The problem is it had a limited burn time, and if you're in combat, you have a 40-second burn time, well, it could be detrimental to your health, and oh, by the way, you have two highly volatile chemicals strapped to your back," Hanselman said."And it's a really big, bulky piece of equipment, so where do you put your rucksack and all of your other gear that you need in a combat environment?"

Military planners came to visit the museum and study the rocket belt during the Iraq war, to research possibilities for urban flight, Hanselman added.

Woods went on to describe a flying saucer -- complete with three jet engines -- that had been packed away for future study, since it couldn't maintain stability higher than four feet off the ground.

The museum may seem like a graveyard for failed experiments, with so many outrageous vehicles resting in the pavilions, but both Hanselman and Woods emphasized that failures pave the way for progress.

"As history geeks, we find out … that you learn more probably from your failures than you do your success," Hanselman said. "For every success, there's 100 failures out there, you can't get them all. But some of those failures will help tell the story of how you got to the success that everybody knows, and that's a big part of the learning curve, especially when you're talking about this for military operations, which is a pretty demanding environment for anything to operate in."

"We got to shoot broad, here," Woods said. He hopes that these older technologies can be repurposed with newer, composite materials. For example, that flying saucer could be a viable drone, computer stabilized and able to fly in any direction.

"This is what we were doing in the past," Woods said. "Just imagine what we're up to now."

Friday, December 18, 2015

AEGIS Ashore Deploys from Romania

U.S. Ambassador to Romania Mr. Hans Klemm and Romanian Foreign Minister Lazar Comanescu announced the major military components of the Aegis Ashore Missile Defense System in Romania have been transferred to Commander, U.S. 6th Fleet, during a ceremony at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Dec. 18.

The Aegis Ashore Missile Defense System (AAMDS) in Deveselu, Romania, is a key element in Phase II of the European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA).


"I'm happy to report that this ceremony today marks that all major military construction on the base - that is, everything necessary for operating the system - is complete and functioning, and that the project came in under-budget, thanks in no small part to the excellent cooperation we received from the government of Romania. We now move on to the next phase of operational testing and evaluation, in preparation for its Initial Operating Capacity declaration, as well as the NATO integration process."

- U.S. Ambassador to Romania Hans Klemm

"[Missile Defense Agency Director] Vice Adm. Syring and I conducted a thorough walk through of the Aegis Ashore site in Deveselu yesterday. I am impressed by all of the progress the U.S. and Romanian team has made since my last visit in February. Now that CNE-CNA (Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Africa)/U.S. 6th Fleet has ownership of Aegis Ashore-Romania, we will begin integration into the existing NATO BMD (Ballistic Missile Defense) architecture."

- Vice Adm. James Foggo, commander, U.S. 6th Fleet

Quick Facts:

EPAA is the U.S. national contribution to NATO Ballistic Missile Defense and was implemented in phases in order to be adaptable and flexible and be able to include evolving BMD technology to counter the growing BMD threat.

The purpose of the EPAA is to protect European NATO allies and U.S. deployed forces in the region against current and emerging ballistic threats from the Middle East.

Phase One - completed in fiscal year 2011 - involved the deployment of current and proven missile defense systems, including one deployed BMD capable ship, the SM-3 Block IA interceptor, and a forward-based Army Navy/Transportable Radar Surveillance system (AN/TPY-2) in Turkey.

U.S. 6th Fleet will test and evaluate the AAMDS-Romania in preparation for future integration into the NATO Ballistic Missile Defense Architecture.

NATO BMD architecture includes the Army Navy/Transportable Radar Surveillance System (AN/TPY-2); a command and control network operated from Ramstein Air Base, Germany; and the BMD-capable guided missile destroyers, forward deployed to Rota, Spain.

U.S. and Romanian officials broke ground Oct. 28, 2013 for the AAMDS at Deveselu Air Base, Romania.

US Aircraft Carriers Deploy NULKS Decoys

The aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) (Ike) completed the first successful carrier launch of the MK 234 Nulka countermeasure fired from the MK 53 Decoy Launching System (DLS), Dec. 16.

Nulka, an Australian Aboriginal word meaning to "be quick," is a rapid-response active expendable decoy (AED) capable of providing highly effective defense for ships against modern anti-ship missiles (ASM).

The decoy was developed through a joint effort by Australia and the United States. Australia developed the hovering rocket while the U.S. developed the electronic payload.

When launched, the Nulka decoy radiates a large, ship-like radar cross section that attempts to lure ASMs away from their intended targets.

"The Nulka system brings with it a needed upgrade to the Ike's current Anti-Ship Missile Defense (ASMD) capability," said Senior Chief Cryptologic Technician (Technical) Christopher Noltee, the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) Program Executive Office (PEO), Information Warfare Systems (IWS) 2.0 military liaison. "When a signal originates from the ship, you're still a potential target. Nulka gives you separation. This round sends out the electronics, away from your ship. The goal is to get the missile to fly to the Nulka round instead of coming here."

Although the Nulka round has been used on smaller naval vessels for years, it had never been used aboard a ship as large as an aircraft carrier. Ike is the second carrier to have the MK 53 DLS installed, but the first to successfully deploy the Nulka countermeasure while at sea. It's considered a "soft-kill" weapon, which means that it's used to deceive and never makes physical "skin-to-skin" contact.

"Hard-kill weapons systems are used for both offensive and defensive purposes while soft-kill weapons systems are used strictly for defensive purposes." Noltee said.

During the testing phase, all aircraft and personnel were removed from the flight deck while weather conditions and the sea-state were closely monitored.

"For testing purposes, we wanted to have baseline conditions," said Senior Chief Cryptologic Technician (Technical) Robert Whiddon, Ike's Electronic Warfare Module leading chief petty officer. "We wanted to be able to control everything we could to mitigate risk. In the real world, you don't have hours to prepare for a Nulka launch, you have less than a minute. But when you're testing, you want to control the environment."

Cryptologic Technician (Technical) Seaman Apprentice Jerry Dalalo pressed the button that launched the first Nulka round from a carrier platform.

"I had to go through a lot of procedures to make sure every condition was right," Dalalo said. "I was really nervous. I had a lot of butterflies in my stomach, but luckily it went through fine."

Ike successfully launched the Nulka countermeasure five times over the course of three days, surpassing the minimum testing requirement by two launches.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

USAF Short on UAV Pilots, Turns to Enlisted

Air Force officials announced a new initiative Dec. 17 to enhance the Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance mission by integrating enlisted remotely piloted aircraft pilots into the force.

Air Force officials stated a dynamic threat environment calls for innovative approaches to high-demand missions. After careful consideration and with an eye toward potential future force needs, service officials plan to deliberately integrate the enlisted force into flying operations, starting with the RQ-4 Global Hawk.

"Our enlisted force is the best in the world and I am completely confident they will be able to do the job and do it well," said Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James. "The RPA enterprise is doing incredibly important work and this is the right decision to ensure the Air Force is positioned to support the future threat environment. Emerging requirements and combatant commander demands will only increase; therefore, we will position the service to provide warfighters and our nation the capability they deserve today and in the future."

The secretary and chief directed Air Combat Command to develop an implementation plan over the next six months to address items like entry requirements, training plans, career path development, delineation of duties, compensation details and an appropriate force mix. Implementation is focused on the Global Hawk community, not the MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper force.

"This action will make the most of the capabilities of our superb enlisted force in order to increase agility in addressing the ISR needs of the warfighter," James said. "Just as we integrated officer and enlisted crew positions in the space mission set, we will deliberately integrate enlisted pilots into the Global Hawk ISR community."

In the space mission arena, the Air Force took a deliberate approach to incorporate enlisted personnel into satellite operations. During the space mission transition, the Air Force ensured enlisted Airmen were prepared to successfully assume these new responsibilities. Phasing the conversion also allowed squadrons to build expertise and transition officers into other areas that faced shortages, officials said. As a result, the Air Force grew leadership opportunities and normalized operations, posturing for a more congested and contested environment in space.

"We are taking action now to address future ISR needs," said Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. Mark A. Welsh III. "Not too long ago, we took the best of both officer and enlisted development tracks to lead the space mission. A similar model can be applied to our Global Hawk operations."

This initiative to incorporate enlisted pilots is the first step to developing future operating concepts within the multi-domain ISR enterprise. The Global Hawk is the most stable RPA community and presents an ability to integrate new capabilities in an effort to better posture the force for the dynamic future operating environment.

"The Global Hawk mission is a strategically vital mission," Welsh said. "The transition to enlisted pilots will be managed with minimum impact on current Global Hawk pilots. As always, we will continue to assess and balance our force to meet warfighter needs while ensuring appropriate force development."

The service plans to be deliberate in its approach, ensuring learning occurs along the way.

  "What we learn from flying Global Hawks with enlisted pilots under the supervision of rated officers will inform whether we apply a similar approach to other weapon systems," Welsh said. "It is too soon to speculate on any expansion of enlisted aircrew beyond the Global Hawk program."

Air Force officials are confident this decision will enable flexibility heading into the future.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

"Lifesaver" Horoho Retires as Surgeon General

"I was there [in Afghanistan] to witness her performance, and it was incredible. There are many, many lives today that would not be living without the efforts of Patty Horoho," Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley said.

Milley spoke during a special retirement review in honor of Lt. Gen. Patricia D. Horoho, the 43rd Army surgeon general, here at Conmy Hall.

While deployed to Afghanistan, Horoho saved lives through improvements to tactical combat casualty care, medevac procedures, getting needed care during the critical "golden hour" following wounds or injuries, tele-behavioral health, resiliency training, encouraging sleep discipline, looking after women's health, health records improvements, and much more, Milley said.

Following her deployment, she was the first woman, and the first non-physician in any service to serve as a surgeon general, "and that's an amazing achievement," Milley said.

Horoho received a direct commission from the University of North Carolina as a nurse.

As surgeon general, and throughout her career, Horoho epitomized the best qualities of Army leaders, the chief said. She has had a reputation for breaking down barriers, increasing collaboration, innovativeness, upholding moral and ethical values and team building. She accomplished every mission given her.

She's also a leader of great character and compassion, Milley added, saying these characteristics are "the embodiment of what I expect in all our senior leaders."


The job of surgeon general is a big one, Milley said. She's tasked with providing health and medical services to some 1.8 million Soldiers from all components, retirees and all their Families.

Besides that, she's "dual-hatted," commanding the U.S. Army Medical Command and its vast network, covering five continents, he added.

As surgeon general, Horoho significantly increased readiness and resilience, with her emphasis on sleep, activity and nutrition, which forms what's termed the Performance Triad, he said.

Besides that, she's delivered proactive Army medicine and health care and her warrior care effort has resulted in about 45 percent of sick, ill or wounded Soldiers on the road to recovery and back in a duty status, he said.

She's also collaborated with the Department of Veterans Affairs to help reduce medical board process time required for transitioning Soldiers, he said.

In sum, "she puts meaning into taking care of troops and their Families more than any person I know," Milley said.


Horoho said the Army is fortunate to have great leaders who are selfless, committed and serve with honor.

Three words best sum up why the Army is great, she said: "service, relationships and trust."

She said she's been blessed to have a great life, career and Family, along with her "brothers and sisters in arms."

Milley noted that her husband, Ray, is a retired Army colonel and since retiring, he's been a good supporting spouse and has volunteered his time to help Soldiers and their Families.

The Horohos have two children, Maggie, who is pursuing an FBI career, and John, an Army cadet at the College of Charleston, who will be commissioned next year. Milley presented John his mother's second lieutenant bars.

For her 33 years of distinguished service, Milley awarded Horoho the Distinguished Service Medal.

Notable guests included former Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki and Ann Campbell, wife of Gen. John Campbell, the commander of all U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

Milley said it was fitting that the ceremony took place here, as Fort Myer has had a rich medical history, dating back to the Civil War, when battlefield hospitals on post took care of the sick and wounded.

In all, some 85 hospitals were built throughout the Washington, D.C. area during the Civil War, including Walter Reed, which Horoho once commanded, he noted.

In conclusion, Milley said Horoho has been "a transformational leader focused on improving care and reforming the entire Army medical system; from health care delivery to patient care to a proactive system of health."

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Dr. Tanya West First African-American Army Surgeon General

Maj. Gen. Nadja West was sworn in Friday as the Army's first African-American surgeon general.

When she pins on her third star, West will become the Army's first female African-American lieutenant general and the highest-ranking woman to graduate from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York.

The Senate confirmed West Thursday for the position and Acting Army Secretary Eric Fanning administered the oath of office to her Friday, making her the Army's 44th surgeon general and commanding general of U.S. Army Medical Command, or MEDCOM.

West most recently served as the Joint Staff surgeon at the Pentagon.

The Army surgeon general provides advice and assistance to the Army secretary and chief of staff on all health care matters pertaining to the U.S. Army and its military health care system.

West will be responsible for development, policy direction, organization and overall management of an integrated Army-wide health service system and is the medical materiel developer for the Army. These duties include formulating policy regulations on health service support, health hazard assessment and the establishment of health standards.

Dual-hatted as the MEDCOM commanding general, West will oversee more than 48 medical treatment facilities providing care to nearly four million active-duty members of all services, retirees and their Family members. MEDCOM is composed of three regional health commands, the Medical Research and Materiel Command, and Army Medical Department Center and School.

West holds a bachelor of science in engineering from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and a doctorate of medicine from George Washington University School of Medicine. She has held previous assignments as commanding general of Europe Regional Medical Command; commander of Womack Army Medical Center, Fort Bragg, North Carolina; and division surgeon, 1st Armored Division, Army Europe and Seventh Army, Germany.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Patriot Test Vehicle Launched

The U.S. Air Force's Rocket Systems Launch Program and its mission partners successfully completed the fourth launch of a Patriot Test Vehicle today.

"Continued success of the Juno target series provides a reliable and affordable test target for our US Army mission partners," said Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves, Space and Missile Systems Center commander and Air Force program executive officer for space at Los Angeles Air Force Base. "Congratulations to the Launch Enterprise team and its mission partners."

The Patriot Target Vehicle, known as Juno, was designed by Orbital ATK to provide a realistic threat target, which meets the stringent performance requirements of the U.S. Army's Patriot missile defense system. The target's first stage lifts the rocket from its launch pad to above the earth's atmosphere. After a short coast period, the rocket's second stage ignites, extending the range of the target missile to complete its flight path into the defended footprint of a Patriot test battery. In addition to Orbital ATK's work as the prime contractor for the target, TASC Inc. provided mission assurance services to independently verify and validate the Juno Target's performance.

The Juno Target contributes toward meeting the Rocket Systems Launch Program responsibilities to re-utilize excess motors from intercontinental ballistic missiles for U.S. government research, development, test and evaluation efforts, incorporating two solid rocket motors from the LGM-30F Minuteman II weapon system which was retired in 1994.

The Air Force Space Command's Space and Missile Systems Center, located at the Los Angeles Air Force Base in El Segundo, California, is the U.S. Air Force's center of excellence for acquiring and developing military space systems. Its portfolio includes the Global Positioning System, military satellite communications, defense meteorological satellites, space launch and range systems, satellite control networks, space based infrared systems and space situational awareness capabilities.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Tactical Air Controllers - Airmen Train For Ground Combat

The staccato rhythm of automatic weapons fire punctuated by the deep bass thumps and sharp explosions of artillery blasts fill the air. Sudden whooshes signal the launch of shoulder fired surface-to-air missiles, adding to the commotion. The bright ting of bullets ricocheting off armor plating join the other sounds orchestrating a freakish battlefield symphony.

Through it all the Joint Terminal Attack Controller maintains focus. He coordinates artillery to suppress the SAM fire long enough for a circling A-10 Thunderbolt he is directing to strafe an enemy tank, all without hitting any friendly elements. At the precise second the command is given, SAMs are suppressed, enemy tank is neutralized and the A-10 flies off into the distance and a successful mission is completed under the direction of the JTAC.

Even though the previous scenario was a simulation, it's all in a typical days work for members of a 13th Air Support Operations Squadron Tactical Air Control Party, whether training or deployed. The JTAC is one of the positions within the TACP. The Air Force squadron provides tactical command and control of close air support assets to U.S. Army ground commanders of the 4th Infantry Division during combat operations. The squads are normally located on Army posts working through a memorandum of agreement.

"We accomplish the ground commander's intent and keep people safe," said 1st Lt. Marc Buker, 13th ASOS chief of training at Fort Carson, Colorado.

The squadron's mission is straightforward; they are either in battle or preparing for battle. Unlike other Air Force squads the ASOS's do not supply ancillary services to the greater Air Force like security forces does, so when members are not deployed they are training in preparation for deployment.

"Our only mission is war," Buker said. Training for battle functions includes flag exercises at places like the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, Calif., where brigade on brigade - comparable to an Air Force Wing - exercises take place. With no aircraft of its own, 13th ASOS chases aircraft Buker said. What he means is that TACPs frequently travel to where aircraft are participating in training to be able to work on live scenarios with real assets.

The focus on training as frequently as possible includes sending people to various Army schools such as the Ranger, Airborne, Air Assault and Pathfinder schools. Earning badges from these schools helps JTACs understand Army methods better. It also improves credibility with the soldiers with whom they serve, Buker said.

TACP Airmen are both "green" and "blue," having an Air Force chain of command but living and working with the Army for most of their careers. While they dress in Air Force uniforms, their squadron headquarters is more Army-like. Army combat vehicles and equipment are standard parts of the facility.

"This situation creates a unique, joint individual well postured to be a force multiplier for both services. This is demanding on our airman, as an (airman first class) might have dual responsibilities: briefing an Army commander on how best to use (close air support) and then going outside the wire that same day to control the CAS," he said.

Immersed in the Army, Buker admits 13th ASOS members lean a little to the green, or Army, side. But since they come to Peterson AFB for things like medical and financial services it helps keep them blue. The biggest blue influence is working with and communicating with Air Force pilots regularly.

"It keeps us a little blue," Buker said. "We get to be part of both organizations. We get the best of both worlds. Most of us are glad we are in the Air Force."

The 13th ASOS is somewhat spoiled being located so near to Peterson AFB. Many other squadrons are located at Army bases distant from Air Force bases where they go for services. Most of what the 13th ASOS needs is readily available to them at Fort Carson or on Peterson AFB with only a short trip to get what they need.

When the services work together there is a synergy that benefits both. Buker said TACP can't do its job without the Army and the same goes the other way. The mutual support brings together a level of expertise that allows the roughly 140 members of 13th ASOS to coordinate support for a 25,000 person strong Army division.

And it takes more than JTACs to provide the needed level of support. Many people usually associate the ASOS with JTACs because they are the tip of the spear Buker said. For example, the 13 ASOS has the 4th Infantry Division Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance Officer, who is the principal Air Force expert on intelligence to the whole division. Expert radio maintainers are another integral position in the ASOS.

"JTACs use portable communication radios to coordinate and control the airpower we project and without them we are combat ineffective," Buker said. "Here at the 13th ASOS it takes the whole team to accomplish the mission."

Other members of the ASOS team include air liaison officers, radio maintainers, vehicle maintainers, power production, and intelligence personnel.

"Without any member of that team, we falter. When we work together as a resilient and lethal Gunslinger family, we thrive," he said.

The TACP career field is small, elite and in great demand. Because of the value of the TACP, personnel are constantly deployed and not just with 4th Infantry Division. TACP members deploy with Army units all over the world as needed. They may even deploy with special operations groups like Navy SEAL teams if the mission demands their expertise. The high operations tempo means there are many personnel deployed across the globe at any time.

The most important skills needed to be a TACP are intelligence, communication, physical prowess and character. Coordinating multiple fixed-wing and rotary aircraft as well as artillery all while moving, targeting and returning enemy fire requires a high level of intellect. Because the job relies almost entirely on communication the JTAC needs to be able to communicate clearly in the languages of both the Air Force and the Army keeping all involved on the same page. Physical ability is critical because the Airmen of the TACP need to move with their assigned Army units.

"A good measure of a physically fit TACP is the ability to ruck," Buker said. "No TACP can graduate our schoolhouse until they can greatly exceed all Army standards of rucking, running, and calisthenics. We cannot afford to be mentally tired when doing our jobs, so we have to do everything the Army is doing and still be fresher than they are in order to provide terminal attack control and communicate with the aircraft."

Because of the unique nature of the TACP career field, strong character is a prerequisite. Unlike other Airmen, Buker said a TACP is an example of character and professionalism not just to other Airmen, but to the Army. With the great responsibility TACPs are given, much is expected and character cannot be taken lightly.

Through performance in action the TACP has proven its worth time and again. The need to expand the availability of TACPs and JTACs throughout the globe is recognized. Buker said TACP was recently classified as a major weapons system. The classification brings with it more funding allowing for more, and more sophisticated, training.

"The last two conflicts shined the spotlight (on TACP) as a force multiplier," said Buker.

Increased training will only improve what the TACP is able to bring to bear in combat. For example, with increased threat of space warfare and the potential for satellite communications to be disabled, TACPs must be ready to handle a variety of situations and methods of calling in munitions to carry out the mission.

One thing is certain, when experts are needed to drop bombs close to friendly forces, there are none better than U.S. Air Force TACPs to accomplish it while keeping friendly forces in both the air and on the ground safe, Buker said.

US Army - Rapid Reaction vs Russian Threat in Europe

Russians can operate on their interior lines and quickly shift forces around. As a result, all exercises conducted by the U.S. and its European allies place heavy emphasis on speed, said Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges.

Hodges, commander, U.S. Army Europe, or USAREUR, spoke Dec. 9 at a Pentagon press briefing.

By speed, Hodges said he meant the speed to recognize a potential crisis, speed to act politically and speed of assembly and movement of troops to the point of crisis by road and rail. Once in place, speed and proper execution of operation would also depend on interoperability among all of the U.S. allies. That's the focus of training and exercise.

The general then provided an overview of Russian actions and the responses by the U.S. and its European allies.


Hodges explained that as recently as a few years ago, the U.S. thought Russia could be a partner. Russian-led incursions into eastern Ukraine and occupation of Crimea changed all that.

The Russians have not allowed independent monitoring to determine Russian compliance with the Minsk Agreement, he said. Since September, there have been several hundred cease-fire violations and Ukrainians have been killed.

Although a lot of their heavy equipment has been pulled back from the border area with Ukraine, the infrastructure remains in place and the Russians could quickly ramp up if they wanted to, he said.

In Crimea, Russia has 25,000 soldiers, a credible air defense and its Black Sea fleet, which has the capability of blocking U.S. and ally access to the Black Sea, where allies Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, as well as Georgia are located, he said.

Moving westward, the Russians have a significant naval and ground force in Kaliningrad, a wedge of Russian territory between Lithuania and Poland. That force, he said, could effectively cut off access to the Baltic area.

Furthermore, Russian officials have talked about Denmark, Sweden and Romania in terms of being nuclear targets, he said. That's a very irresponsible use of words. "So you can see why our European allies are nervous."


As mentioned, the allies are working on speed of response. Hodges said the Wales Summit was all about preventing crisis and improving deterrence and being more responsive.

An outcome of that was the development of the alliance's Very High Readiness Joint Task Force. The U.S. contribution to that is a rotational brigade out of Fort Stewart, Georgia.

Since Eastern Europe is not a small distance from Fort Stewart, the U.S. has set up European Activity Sets, or EAS, in Romania, Bulgaria and Lithuania. That includes about 1,300 vehicles, including tanks and howitzers, he said.

By September of 2016, the U.S. expects to have additional EAS sites in Poland, Estonia and Latvia, and by 2017, Hungary. Guard units are welcome to add their equipment to any of those sites, he added.

All of this is being funded by the European Reassurance Initiative, and Hodges said he's optimistic funding will extend into 2017.

Some 400 Soldiers are now helping allies train and equip Ukrainian troops in the western part of the country, Hodges said.

It's part of the Joint Multinational Training Group Ukraine, which includes British, Lithuanian and Canadian trainers.

He noted that training has been a two-way street as Ukrainians have been helpful in describing what happens during a Russian attack. For instance, they've tuned their ear to differentiate between different types of unmanned aerial vehicles and when they hear certain ones, they know missiles will soon follow.

The U.S. hasn't had to fear attack from the sky in decades, he noted. As the U.S. learns more and more about Russian capabilities, they've employed opposition force teams in German training areas to test their capabilities against things like air power, jamming and intercept capabilities.

Lastly, Hodges said that while the U.S. has and will continue to do a lot, each European country is responsible for its own defense too, in terms of training and equipment.
"We don't want Russians to miscalculate that we're not capable or willing to respond."

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Army begins positioning equipment in Eastern Europe

Equipment for the European Activity Set, or EAS, is scheduled to be turned in to the first forward-positioned sites beginning this week, Defense Department officials said.

About 1,400 pieces of equipment that had been used in Operation Atlantic Resolve by Europe's Regionally Aligned Force - 1st Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division - will be turned in at sites in Bulgaria, Lithuania and Romania, officials said.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced during a trip to Estonia earlier this year that the United States will temporarily stage enough vehicles and associated equipment in Central and Eastern Europe to support an armored brigade combat team.

The equipment placement will allow U.S. rotational forces in the region to move more quickly and easily to participate in training and exercises, said Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman.

The items are part of the EAS, which includes some 12,000 pieces of equipment, including tanks, infantry fighting vehicles and artillery. The EAS equipment will be moved around the region for training and exercises as needed, Davis said.

Carter also announced earlier this year that Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania agreed to host company- to battalion-sized elements of EAS equipment. Germany already hosts EAS equipment.

The gear has been and will continue to be used in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve training and exercises that demonstrate the U.S. commitment to the collective defense of NATO allies, Davis told DOD News following the briefing.

"These continuing engagements strengthen our ability to work effectively among our allies, enhance trust, and help build enduring relationships that will be the foundation for future security in the region," he said.

Storing the U.S. equipment within allied and partner nations allows regionally-allocated forces easier access to that equipment when and where it is needed for training, which saves time, resources and potentially money, Davis said.