Archive for May, 2014

FRIDAY FOTO (May 29, 2014)

Dog Day Afternoon.

U.S. Army photo by Capt. John Farmer

U.S. Army photo by Capt. John Farmer

Lithuanian soldiers provide a security escort for U.S. Army Sgt. Kara Yost, right, and Kajo, her military working dog, during urban assault training at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels, Germany.

Yost, a military police dog handler, and Kajo are assigned to the 131st Military Working Dog Detachment, 615th Military Police Company.

To see more photos of the training exercise, click here.

May 30, 2014 at 12:51 am Leave a comment

THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 (May 25-May 31, 1814)

Jackson promoted.

Andrew Jackson

Andrew Jackson

May 28 — With the resignation of William Henry Harrison, the U.S. Army has room for another major general in its ranks and Brigadier Andrew Jackson is promoted to the two-star rank. Jackson has become nationally famous after crushing the pro-Tecumseh/pro-British Red Sticks faction of the Creek (Muskogee) Indian nation at Horseshoe Bend in March 1814.

Jackson is put in command of the 7th Military District, which includes Tennessee, Louisiana and the Territory of Mississippi (which becomes the states of Alabama and Mississippi after the war).

Jackson will soon lead an army to Mobile on the Gulf Coast to resist the British massing in Florida (then owned by Spain, a British ally in the recently completed war with Napoleon).

– – –

War Comes to the Chesapeake

rear Adm. George Cockburn (Royal Museums Greenwich)

Rear Adm. George Cockburn
(Royal Museums Greenwich)

With Napoleon vanquished, the British government decides to take the gloves off in its dealings with the Americans, a British fleet steps up its activities in Chesapeake Bay in April under Rear Admiral George Cockburn and begins a series of raids and skirmishes up and down the bay from Virginia to Baltimore.

Cockburn’s superior, Vice Admiral Alexander Cochrane issues a proclamation inviting American slaves to flee their masters and join the British Army or otherwise assist British military actions against the Americans. Cochrane is hated by the locals because of the proclamation and the destruction of private as well as government property by his troops.

May 30 – The British launch a successful amphibious attack on U.S. artillery battery dug in on a bluff overlooking Pongoteague Creek in Virginia by militia.

– – –

Skirmish at Sandy Creek, New York

May 30 – The war in the North is not over yet.

Oneida warrior

Oneida warrior

U.S. forces ambush several British ships loaded with 153 sailors and marines patrolling the south shore of Lake Ontario between Oswego and Sackets Harbor, N.Y.  The British are pursuing an American supply convoy bound for Sackets Harbor. The U.S. boats move inland on Sandy Creek to avoid detection. The pursuing British are surprised by gunfire from the creek bank coming from about 250 U.S. regulars and militia plus more than 100 Oneida Indians allied with the Americans.

After 10 minutes of gunfire, 13 British are dead and the remaining 140 surrender. Two Americans (one of them an Oneida) are wounded.



May 29, 2014 at 12:03 am Leave a comment

SHAKO: Memorial Day 2014

The Long Remember.

Unknown Union dead at Memphis National Cemetery in Tennessee. (National Park Service photo)

Unknown Union dead at Memphis National Cemetery in Tennessee.
(National Park Service photo)

Memorial Day, by federal law, is commemorated annually on the last Monday in May to honor those who gave their lives for their country. The holiday grew out of local ceremonies throughout the North and South after the American Civil War (1861-1865). In many places the day — traditionally May 30 — was known as Decoration Day for the flowers and flags locals used to decorate soldiers’ and sailors’ graves.

As part of that tradition, there are ceremonies at military cemeteries throughout the United States, as well as speeches, wreath laying and parades of veterans and military units. Over the years, however, the holiday has morphed into the unofficial start of the summer vacation season for picnics, fireworks, concerts, and summer retail sales. But with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan being waged for over a decade, a wider number of Americans are taking time to pause and remember the real reason for the holiday.

Each May in Virginia, just across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., the soldiers of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment – known as The Old Guard because it is the oldest serving unit of the Army –  fan out across Arlington National Cemetery’s rolling lines of graves — and in a matter of just a few hours — place thousands of small U.S. flags before each marker and then salute.

Soldiers from the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) place flags in front of the gravesites in Arlington National Cemetery, Va., May 22, 2014.  (U.S. Army photos by Specialist Cody W. Torkelson)

Soldiers from the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) place flags in front of the gravesites in Arlington National Cemetery, Va., May 22, 2014.
(U.S. Army photos by Specialist Cody W. Torkelson)


SHAKO is an occasional 4GWAR posting on military history, traditions and culture. For the uninitiated, a shako is the tall, billed headgear worn by many armies from the Napoleonic era to about the time of the American Civil War. It remains a part of the dress or parade uniform of several military organizations like the corps of cadets at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, New York.

May 26, 2014 at 8:12 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO Extra (May 23, 2014) UPDATE

Wearin’ of the Green. 

UPDATES with link to AP story on Air Force report about a botched security drill at another ICBM site last summer.

U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Brittany Y. Auld

U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Brittany Y. Auld

We know we’ve run photos in the past of the sniper camouflage outfit known as a ghillie suit, but this one caught our eye. With the red plastic training rifles and all green smoke, it looks more like a special effects scene from a science fiction movie than an important security exercise at an Air Force nuclear missile base.

But as kooky as the scene in this photo may appear, it illustrates part of a key training session: keeping the nation’s intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) sites secure.

Here we see the opposing forces — the pretend bad guys — capturing a missile payload transport vehicle during a “recapture and recovery exercise” at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota. The exercise involved a mock hijack of a payload transporter and the necessary steps for the 91st Security Forces Group to recover the vehicle.

Such exercises evaluate the missile base’s response force and their abilities to deny hostile intruders access to Minot’s Minuteman III nuclear missiles and their launch area. The drills also hone skills for recovering control of critical equipment if attackers do gain access.

UPDATE: The necessity of such exercises has been underscored by an Air Force internal report on  the security team’s “botched response” to a simulated attack at another Air Force base last summer, according to an exclusive report by the Associated Press. (See it here)

For more photos, click here.

May 23, 2014 at 11:46 am Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (May 23, 2014)

Balikatan Bundle

(Photo by U.S. Air Force Maj. Teodoro Apalisok)

(Photo by U.S. Air Force Maj. Teodoro Apalisok)

Chief Master Sgt. Reynold Albright (right) and Philippine Navy personnel prepare a low altitude airdrop from a U.S. Air Force C-130H Hercules cargo plane during Exercise Balikatan near Subic Bay in the Philippines.

Albright is a 36th Airlift Squadron superintendent demonstrating the unique Low-cost, Low-altitude airdrop (LCLA) technique  to practice delivering humanitarian aid and supplies to remote regions. LCLA uses available resources and re-purposed personnel parachutes to build supply pallets at a fraction of the cost of other airdrop bundles. The pallets are dropped at low altitude, which improves drop accuracy.

Balikatan, which translates from Tagalog to “shoulder-to-shoulder,” is an annual bilateral exercise focusing on U.S. -Philippine cooperation and mutual defense.

May 23, 2014 at 12:45 am Leave a comment

SPECIAL OPERATIONS: International Special Ops Exercise in Tampa

Land, Sea and Air

TAMPA, Florida – Special Operations Forces from the United States and other nations converged on the waterfront of downtown Tampa today (May 21) via parachute, helicopter, inflatable assault boat, all terrain vehicle and swimming underwater in a demonstration of international commando skills at a defense industry conference today.

4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle

4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle

Your 4GWAR editor saw it all while covering this annual conference where special operators explain their technology and equipment needs to contractors and manufacturers.

The lunchtime event was conducted in the waters just outside the Tampa Convention Center where this year’s Special Operations Forces Industry Conference is being held.

(4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle)

(4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle)

The idea behind the exercise was to showcase the tactical capabilities of commandos from different nations working together. In addition to U.S. Navy SEALS and special boat operators,, Army Rangers, Army and Air Force pilots, the 30-minutes exercise included special ops troops from Britain, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Ireland, Poland and Sweden among others.

The scenario included the “rescue” of Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn from “terrorists.” Two MH-6 Littlebird helicopters delivered snipers to cover the rescue. Two rigid hull inflatable assault boats stormed the water front with covering fire from the two small helicopters. An MH-60 Blackhawk helicopter delivered additional troops via rappel rope down to the ground. Still more troops jumped into the water from the Blackhawk and parachutists from the United States, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Poland jumped from an MC-130 airplane from 8,000 feet and landed in the water near the convention center.

The conference, sponsored by the National Defense Industry Association, drew more than 300 exhibiting companies and nearly 8,000 attendees.

4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle

4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle

 Click on the photos to enlarge.


May 21, 2014 at 5:56 pm Leave a comment

THIS WEEK in the War of 1812: May 18-24, 1814

Major General Harrison Resigns.

William Henry Harrison circa 1813 (National Portrait Gallery)

William Henry Harrison circa 1813
(National Portrait Gallery)

Infuriated by plans in Washington to move him to a backwater and place one of his subordinates in command of half the Army of the Northwest, Major General William Henry Harrison, victor over Indian leader Tecumseh in 1813, submits his resignation from the U.S. Army.

Harrison joined the Army in 1791 as an ensign [second lieutenant] in the 1st Infantry Regiment. He was sent to the Old Northwest – the frontier area that became the states of Ohio, Indiana, Michigan and Illinois – where he served as aide-de-camp to General “Mad” Anthony Wayne at the Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794. Harrison left the Army in 1797 and was serving as territorial governor of Indiana in 1811 when he led troops against the confederacy of tribes gathered by Tecumseh at the Battle of Tippecanoe.

When the war with Britain broke out, Harrison, then 39, was made a brigadier general (one star) and after the fall of Detroit, Harrison was promoted to major general and placed in command of the Army of the Northwest in September 1812.

Leading green, badly disciplined troops, Harrison built forts in Indiana and Ohio and trained his army while fighting a defensive war against British, Canadian and Native Americans.

After Oliver Hazard Perry’s resounding naval victory on Lake Erie, and the arrival of reinforcements in the Fall of 1813, Harrison went on the offensive. He retook Detroit and invaded Canada, defeating the retreating British/Canadian/Native American army at the Battle of the Thames [October 5, 1813.] The Indian leader Tecumseh was killed in the battle, which broke Native American resistance to white settlement in the Old Northwest.

The Northern Frontier (Office of U.S. Army historian)

The Northern Frontier
(Office of U.S. Army historian)

But after continued disputes with Secretary of War John Armstrong, Harrison decides to resign, when Armstrong splits command of the Army of the Northwest. The resignation is accepted in the summer.

Harrison was a tough negotiator with the Indians, who lost millions of acres of their lands east of the Mississippi River in the period 1795-1809. That was a key reason why Tecumseh, a Shawnees, tried to organize all the Eastern tribes to fight the Americans and later threw in his lot with the British. Harrison also tried to introduce slavery into the Indiana Territory while he was governor from 1800-1812.

The son of a signer of the Declaration of Independence, Harrison was elected president in 1840 as a member of the Whig Party. Harrison was one of three War of 1812 commanders who won the White House in later the years. (Andrew Jackson and Zachary Taylor were the others). Harrison’s term was short. He came down with pneumonia after his long outdoor speech during a cold, rainy March 4 inauguration. He died just a month later – at 68, he is oldest man elected president (until Ronald Reagan) and the first U.S. president to die in office.

In 1888, his grandson, Benjamin Harrison, was elected president in 1888.


May 18, 2014 at 11:42 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (May 16, 2014)

Curious Schoolgirls.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Nikayla Shodeen

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Nikayla Shodeen

This is what human geography and cultural awareness is all about: getting to know the people where you fight as much as the terrain.

U.S. Army Specialist Josh Schleuss talks with students at Sheragha Shahed High School in Afghanistan’s Parwan province. Schleuss is assigned to the 101st Airborne Division’s 2nd Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment.

To see more photos of this school visit, click here.


May 16, 2014 at 2:24 am 1 comment

UNMANNED SYSTEMS: Notes from AUVSI’s 2014 Conference and Trade Show

 Show’s Over.

On the exhibit floor at AUVSI's Unmanned Systems 2014. (4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle)

Robots and drones on the exhibit floor at AUVSI’s Unmanned Systems 2014.
(4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle)

ORLANDO, Florida – The big droids, drones and bots show sponsored by the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) is over after four days in Florida and here’s what your 4GWAR editor learned in the process. (Be sure to click on the photos to see a larger image)


First off, the organization is considering a name change. If we had a dollar for every person we had to explain what AUVSI stood for over the years – we’d be at least a thousandaire. At the opening session of the gathering Monday (May 12) AUVSI Board Chairman John Lademan said the decade-old organization was at least thinking about a name that would better reflect its diversity: manufacturers and operators of robots, unmanned aircraft, remotely operated ground vehicles and automous vehicles that move in and under the waves – not to mention the sensor makers, parts suppliers, maintenance, training and research organizations that are also members.

“We’re looking at rebranding. That’s not something we’re committed to yet, but it’s something we’re exploring,” Landeman said. No word yet on when some ideas might be floated.

*** *** ***

General Explanation

Lt. Gen. Kevin Mangum on the big screen at AUVSI. (4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle)

Lt. Gen. Kevin Mangum on the big screen at AUVSI.
(4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle)

At that same session, the deputy head of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, Lieutenant General Kevin Mangum explained why the Army was teaming manned and unmanned systems – especially drones and helicopters – as it deals with reductions in force and funding.

Mangum said Army testing has shown Manned-Unmanned Teaming, known as MUM-T, can increase how long aircraft can conduct reconnaissance and surveillance missions – without putting humans in harms way (standoff capability). MUM-T also increases lethality and survivability he said.

As an example, he told 4GWAR after speaking, the Army is pairing drones like the MQ-1 Gray Eagle with Apache attack helicopters to replace the OH-58 Kiowa scout helicopter, which is being phased out – largely for financial reasons.

*** *** ***

Fire Ox

Lockheed Martin unveiled its commercial fire service variant of its Squad Mission Supply System robotic ground vehicle at AUVSI Unmanned Systems 2014. (4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle)

Lockheed Martin unveiled its commercial fire service variant of its Squad Mission Supply System robotic ground vehicle at AUVSI Unmanned Systems 2014.
(4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle)

Lockheed Martin introduced a fire fighting variant of the six-wheeled autonomous ground vehicle it unveiled in 2006 to carry the bullets, batteries and other heavy loads that a squad of soldiers or Marines would otherwise have to hump over rugged country.

That unmanned ground vehicle — officially the Squad Mission Support System but also called Ox — has been tested in the field by the U.S. and British armies and is slated for another capability test in August. It be guided from a distance using satellite communications and then picked up and carried in a sling beneath an unmanned helicopter, Lockheed’s K-MAX.

But a bright red version of the OX, known as the Fire Ox, was on display on the exhibit floor at the Orange County Convention Center. It has a dual use nozzle for spraying water or firefighting foam, as well as a video camera and thermal  imaging sensor so it can be sent on ahead of firefighters to assess danger.

Don Nimblett, Lockheed Martin’s unmanned systems business development manager, said the domestic military market is flat right now, adding: “that’s one of the reasons [why] we’re looking into the commercial market.”

Lockheed had plenty of company when it comes to re-purposing systems originally designed for the defense sector. Unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) maker Insitu talked up the capabilities of its Scan Eagle small UAS in helping emergency managers in Australia get a handle on wildfires. The land and ship-launched Scan Eagle was developed for the Navy and Marine Corps and was widely used in Afghanistan and Iraq.

And AeroVironment, another maker of small UAS brought in a North Dakota sherriff’s deputy – who also teaches the state’s school of aeronautics – to talk about how small unmanned fixed wing aircraft and helicopters have been used for police work by the Grand Forks County Sheriff’s Department.

*** *** ***

FAA Blues

Nine small UAS took to the air over NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on Sunday (May 11) to demonstrate the many uses of smaller remotely controlled and autonomous aircraft.

But the FAA, which oversees air safety, kept a pretty short leash on the event, preventing most visitors from approaching the staging area for aircraft launching. Instead spectators had to watch the proceedings about 100 yards away from the aircraft, monitoring their progress in the sky with several large TV monitors.

The "view" from the spectator section at the outdoor SUAS demo at Kennedy Space Center. (4GWAR Blog photo by John M. Doyle)

The “view” from the spectator section at the outdoor SUAS demo at Kennedy Space Center.
(4GWAR Blog photo by John M. Doyle)

That added to an undercurrent of grumbling throughout the conference about what is seen as the FAA’s slow pace in integrating unmanned aircraft into the national airspace with airliners, private planes and traffic helicopters. (More on this later)


May 15, 2014 at 11:58 pm 1 comment

UNMANNED AIRCRAFT: Small Drones Show Their Stuff

Drone Demonstration.

ORLANDO, Florida – The biggest robotics trade show in the United States (maybe in the world) is underway at the massive Orange County Convention Center in Orlando. Thousands of attendees from scores of countries are expected at the four-day event sponsored by the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI).

Ty Rozier (right) of Elevated Horizons, explains what his company's Agri6 unmanned helicopter can do. (4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle)

Ty Rozier (right) of Elevated Horizons, explains what his company’s Agri6 unmanned helicopter can do.
(4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle)

But on Sunday (May 11) nine small unmanned aerial systems (SUAS) strutted their stuff in a hot, grassy field at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center about an hour’s drive away on Florida’s Atlantic Coast. The demonstration of how small drones can operate safely in a confined space was jointly sponsored by AUVSI and Space Florida, the state’s economic development agency for the aerospace industry. Both groups also wanted to show that small unmanned aircraft – which are barred from being flown for commercial operations – can be useful and safe in a number of endeavors.

The demonstration included four research scenarios: crop health monitoring, searching for a lost or injured person, monitoring mock wildfire and disaster scenes. The Federal Aviation Administration, which is responsible for air safety and integrating unmanned aircraft into the national airspace in the near future, kept most spectators far back from the demo area and the tents and trailers housing the small drones. The crowd, which at times numbered in the hundreds, could watch both the unmanned aircraft and video being transmitted from the small aircraft on large TV screens.

The aircraft participating included a six-rotor mini helicopter – also called a vertical take off and landing (VTOL) aircraft (photo at left) operated by Florida-based Elevated Horizons. The company does aerial imaging, data collection and site surveys for a number of businesses – especially agriculture. Company executive Ty Rozier (pictured above) said one of their biggest customers was Dole’s fruit-growing operations in Costa Rica. “There are lots of local farmers who want to use our stuff but unfortunately you can’t do it” because of FAA restrictions.

Aeryon Labs North American Sale Director Cameron Waite shows the SkyRanger minicopter to the press. (4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle)

Aeryon Labs’ Cameron Waite shows the Canadian company’s SkyRanger mini-copter to the press.
(4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle)

Many unmanned systems makers these days are shifting products originally developed for the military toward the business and first responder markets. “We started in the military and we’ve moved into the commercial, industrial and public safety sector,” said Cameron Waite, North American sales directors for Aeryon Labs. The Canadian company flew its SkyRanger mini helicopter in the demonstration. The SkyRanger is a newer version of the Aeryon’s Scout quadcopter, which was the first UAS to fly from one of the six drone test sites designated by the FAA for developing ways to integrate UAS into the national airspace.

NOTE: Click on the photos to see an enlarged image.


May 13, 2014 at 1:44 am 2 comments

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