U.S. Army celebrates 245th birthday

The U.S. Army was established June 14, 1775, and this year marks 245 years of the Army’s legacy of service to the nation. During the Army Birthday observance, the Army focuses on its people and their accomplishments. This year, the tagline is, “America’s Army: When We are Needed, We are There.” It provides an overarching framework to champion stories of bravery, patriotism and legacy of service. Since its establishment, the Army has played a vital role in the defense and protection of America. The Army remains committed to upholding the Army Values, serving with honor and making a difference in communities throughout the nation. Through the Army’s steadfast dedication to the mission and its core values, the Army safeguards the hard-earned trust and confidence of the American public. The Army continues to increase and strengthen its readiness to fight against any threat in an increasingly complicated global security environment. The Army is America’s first national institution. It was established before the Declaration of Independence was signed and before the Continental Congress approved the design for the first U.S. flag. There is a deep and powerful bond between the Army, the flag and the nation. Click here for 23 fun facts about the Army:

The Army is the senior military service, because it was our nation’s first military service.  I’m proud to have served in it.  A big Army HOOAH to all my brothers and sisters past present and future from a former Army “field grade.”  Happy Birthday Army!!     🙂

Trump tells West Point graduates America’s institutions endure against ‘passions and prejudices of the moment’

President Trump on Saturday addressed the graduating class at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, telling them they are the “bravest of the brave” and hailing the durability of America’s institutions “against the passions and prejudices of the moment.” “To the eleven hundred and seven cadets who today become the newest officers in the most exceptional Army ever to take the field of battle, I am here to offer America’s salute. Thank you for answering your nation’s call,” he said. The address at West Point in New York was the one remaining military service academy where he had yet to give a graduation address. “This premier military academy produces only the best of the best — the strongest of the strong — and the bravest of the brave,” he said. “West Point is a universal symbol of American gallantry, loyalty, devotion, discipline, and skill.” Trump’s speech comes amid a backdrop of dueling crises of the coronavirus pandemic and recent protests and questions about police conduct related to the recent death of George Floyd in police custody. He made a number of references to national unity, telling the graduates that they “exemplify the power of shared national purpose to transcend all differences and achieve true unity.” Later, he hinted at the instability rocking the country: “What has historically made America unique is the durability of its institutions against the passions and prejudices of the moment. When times are turbulent, when the road is rough, what matters most is that which is permanent, timeless, enduring and eternal,” he said. On the topic of foreign policy, Trump declared that his administration is “restoring the fundamental principle that the job of the American soldier is not to rebuild foreign nations, but defend — and defend strongly — our nation from foreign enemies.” “We are ending the era of endless wars. In its place is a renewed, clear-eyed focus on defending America’s vital interests. It is not the duty of U.S. troops to solve ancient conflicts in faraway lands that many people have never even heard of,” he said. In a lighter moment, he drew applause when he used his power as commander-in-chief to absolve “all cadets on restrictions for minor conduct offenses, and that is effective immediately.” The address comes amid tensions between Trump and the military. Trump reportedly yelled at Defense Secretary Mark Esper for opposing his call to use active-duty troops to quell rioting. Meanwhile, Gen. Mark Milley, the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, said it was a “mistake” to accompany Trump on a trip to St. John’s Church on June 1. Critics had accused Trump of putting cadets at risk of coronavirus for the purposes of a photo opportunity. A group called Veterans For Peace held a protest outside West Point’s main gate against what it called “Trump’s dangerous narcissistic Photo-Op Stunt at the West Point Graduation.” But Army officials defended the move, saying the cadets would have had to brave the health risks of traveling back to campus anyway for their final medical checks, equipment and training. The cadets had been home since spring break, just before the coronavirus was declared a pandemic. They returned to campus in late May. A number of health precautions were in place to stop the spread of the highly contagious virus. The recently commissioned second lieutenants wore masks as they marched onto West Point’s parade field, instead of into Mitchie Stadium, the longtime commencement venue. They were also sitting six feet apart, and saluted the president instead of shaking hands. Meanwhile, there were no guests, with family and friends watching online instead.

The speech by the President this morning at West Point was excellent.  It wasn’t political.  It was perfect for the occasion, and I think the cadets appreciated it.  To see it, click on the text above.  To all the cadets today, congrats from a former Army Major.  Go Army!     🙂

82nd Airborne Division’s Immediate Response Force Headed to D.C. amid Riots

The Pentagon has ordered the 82nd Airborne Division’s Immediate Response Force to deploy to the D.C.-area amid rioting across the nation, according to multiple sources on background. The force is the same one that deployed earlier this year to quell violent Iran-backed protests in Iraq. Sources told Breitbart News earlier on Monday that the forces were preparing their gear to deploy, but Pentagon officials would not confirm. A source also told Breitbart News that the 16th Military Police Brigade from Fort Bragg was also headed to D.C. The deployments to D.C. comes after rioters looted stores, defaced national monuments, and burned a historic church a block from the White House. Trump during a press conference on Monday announced he was dispatching military units in response to the riots. “My first and highest duty as president is to defend our great country and the American people. I swore an oath to uphold the laws of our nation, and that is exactly what I will do,” he said. “As we speak, I am dispatching thousands and thousands of heavily-armed soldiers, military personnel, and law enforcement officers to stop the rioting, looting, vandalism, assaults and the wanton destruction of property,” he added. Trump also spoke to governors earlier during a conference call in which he urged them to show strength and take back the streets from rioters. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), an Army veteran who is close to the Trump administration, said Monday morning that “anarchy, rioting, and looting needs to end tonight,” and suggested sending active duty forces. He added: “And, if necessary, the 10th Mountain, 82nd Airborne, 1st Cav, 3rd Infantry — whatever it takes to restore order. No quarter for insurrectionists, anarchists, rioters, and looters.” Trump had responded with: “100% Correct. Thank you Tom!”

Sounds like help is on the way!  Stay tuned…

Army to test prototype COVID-19 vaccine on humans in September, after mice trials

Army scientists plan to start testing new COVID-19 vaccines on humans as soon as this coming September if small animals — such as mice now being tested — succeed in developing antibodies after receiving a new prototype vaccine. “The Walter Reed Army Institute of Research has now produced three vaccine types, with the Army planning to select one to move forward to initial clinical testing in humans,” Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy told reporters April 16, according to a Pentagon transcript. Candidates for human testing are slated to arrive as soon as June of this year, once a vaccine prototype is determined to be safe for human experimentation, Terry Welch, strategic communications director, Walter Reed Institute of Research, told Warrior. With safety and effectiveness as defining requirements for use of new vaccine prototypes in humans, Army developers seeking to fast-track the project explain that formal approval for a new vaccine is still likely as far as a year away. However, Welch did say that there are some instances where preliminary FDA approval can be expedited for “emergency use,” depending upon need and established safety parameters. One reason it can take many months to solidify or formally approve an effective vaccine is due to the complexity associated with what scientists call the “adaptive immune system.” Developing antibody defenses against specific pathogens can be a complex and challenging medical process, according to a 2011 essay in the “Journal of Infectious Global Diseases” called the “Fundamentals of Vaccine Immunology.” As opposed to the body’s more general resistance, called the “innate immune system,” an adaptive immune response is “specific to the particular pathogenic agent.” Therefore, an innate system, the article explains, consists of protective measures described as a “first-line defense” such as intact skin and mucous membranes that “prevent the entrance of many microorganisms,” the essay states. Other elements of an innate system include things like inflammation or elevated body temperatures caused by a fever able to further stop or fight off pathogens and toxins. However, these biological methods used by the so-described “innate immune system” do not enable an immune response to “improve its reaction with each repeated exposure to the same pathogenic agent,” the essay explains. This is where the adaptive immune system comes in, as it consists of blood proteins called antibodies and T-cells able to fight-off, target or defend against a specific pathogen. While an adaptive immune response takes longer to develop, it “has a memory which means that the adaptive immune system will respond more rapidly to a particular pathogen with each successive exposure,” the essay states. These biological phenomena described in the essay explain why there is so much discussion now about “antibodies” specific to COVID-19; a vaccine exposes the body to low levels of a pathogen to help the body develop the “antibodies” needed to destroy it, as referred to by Welch. COVID-19 immunity is, not surprisingly, capturing the attention of many experts at the moment who are vigorously working to better understand the virus. Interestingly, one ICU doctor now treating COVID-19 in Northern Virginia said one treatment being explored involves taking blood plasma from recovered coronavirus patients and injecting them into sick or infected patients — to give them the antibodies and, in effect, pass on an immunity.

Army researchers at Fort Detrick who helped discover Ebola treatment seek coronavirus vaccine

Army researchers at Fort Detrick are fast at work growing batches of COVID-19 to help test treatment options and eventually find a coronavirus vaccine. “They take some of the virus and put it onto cells,” Dr. Kathleen Gibson, a core laboratory services division chief at the U.S. Army’s Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases [USAMRIID], explained through a triple-glass window as Army researchers wearing protective gear worked with the deadly virus. “They look for the virus that will actually kill portions of the cells and they’ll count those killed portions.” These are the same army scientists who helped develop vaccines for anthrax, the plague and Ebola. Now, they have been working double shifts growing large amounts of the COVID-19 virus at this sprawling lab complex. “We have more capacity to run more studies at the same time,” Col. E. Darrin Cox, the commander of USAMRIID, explained. “We can be running things in parallel rather than having to do things sequentially, and that’s helped speed up the process of the science.” Fort Detrick has one of the country’s few labs with biosafety level 4-specialized equipment, allowing researchers to work on the most deadly viruses. It’s taken two weeks to grow a lot of COVID-19. Fort Detrick received its first vial of the virus from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] a month ago. Its scientists have started the genetic sequencing of the virus, using machines capable of fast, large-scale drug testing as well. “We have a large capacity to be able to test a very large number of products. Most other places don’t have that infrastructure to be able to develop or test as many products at a time,” according to Dr. John Dye, the USAMRIID viral immunology chief. “There are at least eight different companies that are developing vaccines that all can be assessed looking for safety in humans… Having multiple shots on goal is our best chance of being able to basically battle this virus.” Army researchers have shot compounds such as chloroquine into vials of COVID-19 to see how it’s reacted. “We can test about 300 drugs or compounds in each plate,” Dr. Sheli Radoshitzky said. “We add the compounds using this robotic system and then we transfer the plates into bio-containment where we add the virus.” Since 1969, this warren of Army research labs known as USAMRIID has served as the Defense Department’s lead laboratory for medical biological defense research. It has worked with biotech firms such as Gilead to discover drugs including Remdesivir — an antiviral to fight Ebola — which may work on COVID-19. USAMRIID has worked with the CDC, National Institutes of Health [NIH] and private drug companies to bring these drugs to market. This past December, a vaccine for Ebola produced in conjunction with Merck received its license, a key step in Food and Drug Administration [FDA] approval. It was several years in the making, but these Army labs found the key particle that led to the discovery Men and women in these hallways were some of the first boots on the ground during the first Ebola outbreak. The Army scientists working with COVID-19 have used level 3 gear because the virus is less lethal than Ebola, but still highly contagious.

Major kudos to the men and women at Fort Detrick, MD for literally putting their lives on the line every day searching for a vaccine for this Wuhan virus.  We can all take comfort in knowing these folks are the best in the world at what they do, and they WILL find a cure.  It’s just a matter of when.  For more on this story, click on the text above.

Army Corps of Engineers Working with 18 States to Surge Hospital Space

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is helping New York turn existing facilities into hospital space to help the state address an expected influx of patients seeking treatment for coronavirus. “We’re talking about over 10,000 [hospital rooms] that we are looking at right now,” Chief of the Army Corps of Engineers Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite told reporters on Friday at the Pentagon. While the Army Corps of Engineers does not actually build projects itself, its engineers make assessments on projects that are needed and work with private contractors to build them. “We got money from FEMA to go into buildings on Tuesday night. We did the Javits Center yesterday, and we were into some of the SUNY schools yesterday,” he said. “Today, my engineers were walking through 10 other buildings — five of those are hotel-like capabilities, and five of those are open spaces,” he said. The agency is currently working with at least 18 states to expand available hospital bed space to address potential shortages. A recent USA Today study said that in the worst case scenario — if everyone who gets ill requires hospitalization — the civilian hospital system would have 5.7 patients for every bed. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday the state predicts that as many as 110,000 people will need beds in 45 days, when the state currently has 53,000 beds. Semonite said his agency is looking at turning hotels, college dormitories, and large spaces into temporary healthcare facilities. “We cut a contract to be able to have the state set up a lease with that particular facility…and we would go in and turn this into an ICU-like facility,” he said. He said there are four phases to converting an existing space to a medical facility: First, a state has to nominate facilities in prioritized order. Second, the Army Corps of Engineers, working with private contractors, has to come in and modify those facilities. Third, supplies need to be placed there. Fourth, the state needs to staff it. “Think of the second floor of a standard hotel. The rooms would be like a hotel room, and then we would build nurses’ stations in the halls, we would have all of the equipment, wireless going into the nurses’ stations,” he said. Every room would have to have negative air pressure, and doors outfitted with plastic with zippers on them. “It’s a relatively simple process,” Semonite said. He acknowledged time is of the essence, with most governors predicting a peak somewhere around the middle of April. He said the agency is dealing with the states with the biggest demand first. “We’re looking very hard at California, the state of Washington, we’ve already been in New Jersey,” he said. “We’re really looking at where’s the biggest demand, so we go to those states first.” He said the Army Corps of Engineers is designing a standard contract so that states can work with private industry directly. He continued: ” If states want to do this on their own and contract by themselves, we’re giving you something that is an [Health and Human Services]-validated concept and you don’t have to wait on the Corps of Engineers. You can do this independently, even to the point where you can go back and be able to try to secure that money through FEMA. So this goes back to where we need everybody going full-bore to be able to figure out: Where is that bed space capacity delta there and then how can everybody pull together to make this happen?” “President Trump said yesterday on TV, you know, when things get going tough in America, everybody rallies,” he said. “We need our engineering contractors to be able to step up, the hotel industry to be able to step up.”

Yes we do.  Kudos to LTG Semonite and the rest of his very capable team at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for stepping up like this.  Normally, they handle things like building our nation’s bridges, damns, and so on.  And, while this isn’t typically within their wheelhouse, it’s something they’re definitely able to tackle and we have every confidence they’ll do a great job.

On short notice, Army’s 82nd Airborne Division’s “Immediate Response Force” flies to Mideast

Being a U.S. soldier in a fast-response force sometimes means being sent halfway across the world within a day, leaving no time to say goodbye to those staying behind. That’s what happened to April Shumard when her husband, a member of the 82 Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, NC got the call. He was at home, minding the couple’s five children while Shumard was at work at Healing Hands day spa, when he sent her a text. He had to rush to base. He wasn’t sure if it was a drill or a deployment. Then she got another text: “We’re leaving tomorrow.” She said her husband has been in the military since 2010 and has already deployed twice to Afghanistan. But with those prior instances, the family had much more time to prepare and say goodbye. “The kids kept going, ‘When’s Dad going to be home?’” said Shumard, 42. Her husband was among hundreds of U.S. soldiers deployed Saturday from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to Kuwait to serve as reinforcements in the Middle East amid rising tensions following the U.S. killing of a top Iranian general. Lt. Col. Mike Burns, a spokesman for the 82nd Airborne Division, told The Associated Press 3,500 members of the division’s quick-deployment brigade, known officially as its Immediate Response Force, will have deployed within a few days. The most recent group of service members to deploy will join about 700 who left earlier in the week, Burns said. A loading ramp at Fort Bragg was filled Saturday morning with combat gear and restless soldiers. Some tried to grab a last-minute nap on wooden benches. Reporters saw others filing onto buses. The additional troop deployments reflect concerns about potential Iranian retaliatory action in the volatile aftermath of Friday’s drone strike that killed Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force who has been blamed for attacks on U.S. troops and American allies going back decades. President Donald Trump ordered the airstrike near Baghdad’s international airport. Iran has vowed retribution, raising fears of an all-out war, but it’s unclear how or when a response might come. Reporters weren’t able to interview the soldiers leaving Fort Bragg on Saturday, but an airman loading one of the cargo planes told an Army cameraman he was making New Year’s plans when he got a call to help load up the soldiers, according to video footage released by the military. “We’re responsible for loading the cargo. Almost our whole squadron got alerted. Like a bunch of planes are coming over here,” the unnamed airman said. “I was getting ready to go out for New Year’s when they called me.” In the gray early morning light Saturday, Army video showed soldiers dressed in camouflage fatigues filing into planes, carrying rucksacks and rifles. Humvees were rolled onto another cargo plane and chained in place for the flight to the Middle East. Burns said the soldiers within the Immediate Response Force train constantly to be ready to respond quickly to crises abroad. When called by their superiors, they have two hours to get to base with their gear and must maintain a state of readiness so that they can be in the air headed to their next location within 18 hours. “So whether they were on leave, whether they were home drinking a beer, whether they were, you know, hanging out, throwing the kids up in the yard, you get the call and it’s time to go,” he said. He said that soldiers typically keep individual “go-bags” of their personal gear with them at their living quarters. Shumard said Fayetteville is a tight-knit community, and she expects people to work together to support families who are suddenly missing a parent. “This was so last-minute,” she said, urging people to reach out to 82nd Airborne families. “Just try to help out whoever you know who might need some babysitting or help or just get some groceries and bring it to their house.” Similarly, Bri’anna Ferry’s husband got the call on New Year’s Eve, and she said he was on a plane to the Middle East within hours. “This isn’t how military life goes, normally you have advanced notice about what’s happening,” she said. She fears he could miss milestones with their baby daughter, including her first birthday, but also wants him to focus on his mission. “I told him, don’t worry about us. We’ll be fine,” she said. “Focus on your mission.”

Army struggles to reach Generation Z, tries recruiting at e-Sports events

Generation Z is proving to be a tough nut to crack for the U.S. Army. Recruiters are racking their minds for ways to convince Americans born between the mid-1990s and mid-2000s to sign on the dotted line. The situation is so challenging that they are turning to e-Sports video game tournaments. “It is incredible, the amount of coverage that you get and the amount of the Z Gens that are watching these games,” Gen. Frank Muth, the head of Army Recruiting Command, recently told NPR. The move (coming after the Army fell short of its 76,500 recruitment goal by 6,500 people last fiscal year) is part of a broader strategy requiring recruiters to leverage social media platforms such as Instagram to reach potential troops. “Calling the Z generation on the phone doesn’t work anymore,” Gen. Muth told NPR’s Leila Fadel. “We’re really giving the power back to our recruiters to go on Twitter, to go on Twitch, to go on Instagram, and use that as a venue to start a dialogue with the Z generation.” The media organization noted that a recent e-Sports event featuring an Army recruiter as an announcer netted 2 million views. “Half [the views] were from people aged 17 to 24,” NPR reported. “Here’s what we’re finding different as we’ve shifted from the millennials to the Z Generation. Z Generation, they do want to be part of something bigger,” the officer added. “They do want to give back. They do want to serve, and they want to get out there and be part of something other than just being about themselves.”

A sign of the times…  Gone are the days where Army recruiters met you at fairs and campuses.  That’s how I was approached back in the day.

US Army by the numbers

The U.S. Army will celebrate its 243rd birthday on June 14, the same day as Flag Day. Here are some important figures and dates for the military branch. 1775: The year the Second Continental Congress established a Continental Army. “George Washington was unanimously elected Commander-In-Chief of the fledgling Army, and he would lead the colonies to victory and independence,” the Army says online. 468,579: The total number of “active duty military personnel” in the Army, according to the Defense Manpower Defense Center (DMDC). Of these, there are ten generals, 50 lieutenant generals, 121 major generals, and 133 brigadier generals. 336,619: The size of the Army National Guard. 190,350: The number of people in the Army Reserve. 69,872: The amount of active duty women (including commissioned officers, enlisted ranks and cadets) in the Army. June 14, 1956: The date the U.S. Army flag “was dedicated and unfurled to the general public,” the Army says on its website. November 11, 1956: The date “The Army Goes Rolling Along” was made the Army’s official song. 7: The number of core Army values. They are loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage. 1: The Secretary of the Army, Dr. Mark T. Esper.

Happy Birthday, and a big Army HOOAH to all my brothers and sisters who currently serve, and have served in any of the Army components (i.e. active, Guard, and Reserve)!!  I was honored to have served in all three components.   🙂


101st Airborne first test Army’s new M17 pistol made by Sig Sauer: ‘An easy, smooth-firing weapon’

Soldiers from the U.S. Army’s iconic 101st Airborne Division out of Fort Campbell, Kentucky, were the first to field the new M17 pistol this week. The era of the Beretta-made M9 for Army leaders is over with the introduction of Sig Sauer’s new Modular Handgun System. A select group of soldiers tested M17s on Monday. Roughly 2,000 pistols were inventoried and inspected prior to the demonstration. “This is another 101st first,” Maj. Gen. Andrew P. Poppas, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) commander said Wednesday. “Our 75-year legacy is full of landmark moments like this. […] It is an easy, smooth-firing weapon.” The M17 pistol and the M18 (a compact alternative) are variants of Sig Sauer’s commercially available P320 pistol. The products are the result of the New Hampshire-based company’s $580 million contract with the Army signed in January. “[M9s are] pretty dated technology,” Lt. Col. Steven Power said of Beretta’s pistol, which was an Army standard sidearm since 1986. “The specific performance improvements from MHS over the M9 include better accuracy, tighter dispersion, and better ergonomics, which combined result in a far more lethal pistol.” An official told Stars and Stripes on Thursday that the Modular Handgun System will be issued to 1st Security Forces Assistance Brigade at Fort Benning, Georgia, along with other units, before the end of the year. The decision to issue the sidearm to team leaders is a first for the service, the newspaper reported.

Congrats to Sig Sauer for another big win, and congrats to the Army for finally dumping the M9, which I’ve had the frustration of jamming on me more than once.  Sig Sauer is a HUGE improvement.  That’s why ALL of my personal sidearms are Sig Sauers.  Excellent!!   🙂