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American, British Nuclear Experts Conduct Counterproliferation Exercise in United Kingdom

Saturday, August 20th, 2022

SELLAFIELD, England — American Soldiers from Nuclear Disablement Team 2 conducted nuclear counterproliferation training with personnel from the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration, or NNSA, and the United Kingdom Ministry of Defense during an exercise in May.

The exercise was the first time one of the U.S. Army Nuclear Disablement Teams, or NDTs, have trained in the United Kingdom.

Nuclear Disablement Team 2 is one of three NDTs from the 20th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, Explosives (CBRNE) Command, the U.S. Department of Defense’s premier deployable all hazards formation.

As a part of the 2018 Department of Defense Nuclear Posture Review, the NDTs provide advanced forensics and attribution capabilities in support of overseas and domestic missions.

NDTs directly contribute to the nation’s strategic deterrence by staying ready to exploit and disable nuclear and radiological weapons of mass destruction infrastructure and components to deny near-term capability to adversaries and facilitate elimination operations.

In addition to the NDT 1 “Manhattan,” NDT 2 “Iron Maiden” and NDT 3 “Vandals,” the Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland-based 20th CBRNE Command is home to 75 percent of the active-duty Army’s explosive ordnance disposal technicians and chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear specialists, as well as the 1st Area Medical Laboratory, CBRNE Analytical and Remediation Activity and five Weapons of Mass Destruction Coordination Teams.

From 19 bases in 16 states, Soldiers and civilians from the 20th CBRNE Command take on the world’s most dangerous hazards in support of joint, interagency and allied operations.

Maj. Neal J. Trump, a nuclear operations officer from NDT 2, said the nuclear disablement team began planning for the exercise in 2020 but COVID-19 postponed it.

In May 2022, the exercise took place at multiple locations in the United Kingdom. NDT 2 participated during the first half of the month at the Sellafield site in northwest England and at the Weeton Barracks about an hour from Manchester, England.

“The exercise as a whole validated the Department of Energy Mobile Packaging Teams in the receipt and processing of material collected from nuclear facilities and also integrated the participation of personnel from the Department of Energy’s Plutonium and Uranium Verification Teams,” said Trump, an Iraq veteran and former infantry officer from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, who has commanded Soldiers in the 82nd Airborne Division and 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (Old Guard).

The exercise offered a unique training opportunity for NDT 2 to characterize an industrial-scale reprocessing facility and to recognize the equipment and materials used there, said Trump.

In addition to seven Soldiers from NDT 2, four Soldiers from the other NDTs were able to participate in the exercise.

“This exercise presented a truly unique training experience for NDT 2 that will pay dividends for a long time to come,” said Trump. “Since there are currently no commercial reprocessing facilities for spent nuclear fuel operating in the United States, conducting training at Sellafield exposed team members to a portion of the nuclear full cycle that we rarely have the opportunity to work in and at a scale that nobody had witnessed before.”

Trump said the NDT Soldiers were able to conduct a reconnaissance and characterization of the Thermal Oxide Reprocessing Plant, as well as perform sampling operations of highly accurate simulants from large negative pressure gloveboxes.

“The most enduring effect of the exercise, however, will likely be the excellent relationships we developed with Sellafield personnel that we hope to leverage for further training opportunities in the future,” said Trump.

During the exercise, NDT Soldiers refined procedures for detecting nuclear material and collecting gamma ray spectra, as well as packaging simulated samples of nuclear material to transfer to the NNSA’s Mobile Plutonium Facility.

“Perhaps most importantly, the exercise allowed the team to further develop our relationship with the subject matter experts employed by Department of Energy and NNSA. We hope that our participation in this exercise will open the door to future collaboration between the NDTs and the NNSA,” said Trump. “The highlight of the exercise, from my point of view, was the degree of interagency partnership building that was able to occur.”

At Sellafield, representatives from the NNSA’s Uranium Verification Team and Plutonium Verification Team not only observed the training but also participated in discussions about how both organizations can better support one another in the counterproliferation fight.

NDT 2 Soldiers also used the U.S. Department of Energy’s reach-back process while in the United Kingdom to send requests for information to a U.S.-based team of subject matter experts who were able to provide technical guidance in support of the NDT characterization of the Thermal Oxide Reprocessing Plant.

“At the conclusion of our training, NDT 2 prepared and presented an exploitation brief to senior members of the 20th CBRNE Command and leadership of the NNSA’s Nuclear Compliance Verification and Mobile Packaging programs,” said Trump. “This interaction further served to demonstrate the capabilities of the NDTs to key interagency partners and acted as a relationship-building venue between key [Department of Energy] professionals and NDT personnel.”

Glen L. Jackson, the White Team lead from the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration, said the NNSA, U.S. Department of Defense, U.K. Ministry of Defense, Nuclear Decommissioning Authority and countless other mission partners came together to coordinate and deconflict the numerous training activities occurring simultaneously.

Jackson added that meticulous planning ensured that each organization could achieve their respective training objectives while also supporting the broader goals of the exercise.

The National Nuclear Security Administration is responsible for the monitoring, verification, removal and securing of high-risk nuclear and radiological materials and equipment around the world that pose a potential threat to the United States and the international community.

“Overseas deployment exercises provide the opportunity to practice not just these missions but also the foundational logistics required to execute them through the integrated and collaborative efforts of NNSA and Department of Defense,” said Jackson, who has served as a contractor at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina for 31 years.

Jackson was also the White Team leader when 20th CBRNE Command NDT personnel participated in Exercise Relentless Rook at the Savannah River Site in 2021.

Jonathan P. Spencer, a manager at the Sellafield site, said joint training exercises give his site invaluable opportunities to share knowledge and learn from the other participants.

“While Sellafield’s challenges are different in many ways to the challenges faced by the NDT, there are some similarities,” said Spencer. “Seeing how other teams approach tasks like characterization, sampling and radiation and contamination control is very instructive. There are many learning points from the exercise which will help inform our work in the future. Finally, Sellafield recognizes the important role the NDT performs and takes pride in being able to play a small role in the NDT training and exercise program.”

Spencer, who has worked at Sellafield Ltd. for 12 years, credited the success of the exercise to advanced planning done by NDT 2 Team Chief Lt. Col. Ronald C. Lenker and Maj. Neal Trump with his Sellafield team, including Astelle Batty and Gareth Bawden.

“It was evident that the attention to detail resulted in the successful running of the exercise,” said Spencer. “Due to the nature of work on the Sellafield deployments, such as this exercise while on paper may appear simple in reality are not straightforward.”

The exercise was the first at the Sellafield site’s new Glove Box Training Facility.

“It was a great pleasure and honor for Sellafield Ltd to host this visit within [the Thermal Oxide Reprocessing Plant] and our Glovebox Training Facility,” said Spencer. “It was a particular highlight to see NDT members calmly, methodically and professionally tackle the very challenging scenarios we created for them in this new facility.”

By Walter T. Ham IV

Ti-HDR Strap from PDW

Friday, August 19th, 2022

Nylon Watch Strap with Heavy Duty Titanium Hardware and NATO Type Construction

Prometheus Design Werx introduces their Ti-HDR Strap. A heavier duty, modified version of the classic, military issue, nylon watch strap. This version features the classic double strap layer “NATO-type” construction, heavier duty, custom made titanium rings and buckle, with a sturdy, thicker, yet pliable and comfortable nylon strap. The classic NATO or “G10” strap originally entered service in 1973 with the British Ministry of Defence. PDW built up from this baseline and used heavier gauge titanium in the rings and buckles for total corrosion resistance on land or under the sea, and 100% non-magnetic as to not interfere with the strap worn compasses such as our EWB-Compass Kit. Fits watches with 20, 22, 24mm width lugs.

The PDW Ti-HDR Strap is available with black or OD green nylon and fine matte finish titanium hardware.

The Design and R&D Team at PDW states:

“This is the classic NATO strap on corrosion-proof steroids. The strap follows the classic NATO double layer construction and features rings that have been upgraded to a heavier duty rugged titanium and a thicker, yet flexible nylon webbing strap. These straps are bomber and very field worthy.”

The PDW Ti-HDR Straps are available for $33.00 in 20mm, 22mm, and 24mm widths, and in either black or OD green nylon. Available now via their website, prometheusdesignwerx.com.

FirstSpear Friday Focus – Split Bar Tubes Fasteners

Friday, August 19th, 2022

The Most Anticipated Release of The Year

FirstSpear is pleased to announce the official release of Split Bar Tubes® Fasteners for purchase on the web.

Male and female Split Bar Tubes® Fasteners are offered in 4 inch and 2 inch sizes as well as four different colors: black, coyote, foliage green and tan.

Tubes® Quick Release technology allows end users to don and doff in seconds. Single handed operation with a two-motion quick release allows you to engage the lift gate with 3 to 4 pounds of force and slide in either direction to release the buckle. Ditch your cable, faster re-assembly and repeatable fit every time. Tubes® Fasteners eliminate the need for additional layers of fabric and Velcro and effectively reduce weight. Tubes® Fasteners meet all U.S. military specifications for infrared signature reduction between 600 to 800 nanometers.

FirstSpear is in the business of providing innovative solutions to long unanswered challenges. Our Tubes® technology reaffirms that position. Quick to close and even quicker to doff, Tubes® fasteners are manufactured from lightweight high-performance polymers that exceed the strength of other molded fasteners currently used on operational equipment. Molded in signature suppressive colors and with a variety of choices for activation, this closure system can be rapidly deployed and completely reassembled in SECONDS. Tubes® technology will improve performance, enhance mission functionality, and reduce weight.

Visit FirstSpear to find all the gear and apparel for America’s Warfighter.

2nd MAW Marines Train Using Video Games

Friday, August 19th, 2022

CHERRY POINT, N.C. —

The tension in the room was palpable as the prototype of the Gaming Environment for Air Readiness system was booted. Program stakeholders loomed over the shoulders of anxious developers as the Marines of Marine Air Support Squadron 1 prepared their demonstration of the program. Unit leadership observed as the Marines worked through air-control scenarios while plotting points on their maps, giving commands to a simulated pilot programmed with artificial intelligence. The Marines who work in the Direct Air Support Center were training with only a desktop computer instead of using a large quantity of vehicles, gear, personnel, and time.

“The role of the DASC is to control airspace,” said 2nd Lt. Joseph B. Greer, an air-support control officer with MASS-1 who was testing the GEAR. “While aircraft are in that airspace, we’re the ones who are telling them where to go and how they will go, as in altitude or specified route. We can deconflict aircraft paths with other supporting arms, like artillery, just to make sure that everyone’s getting where they need to be safely.”

“I’ve been at MASS-1 for almost a year, and I think this could be really beneficial for newer Marines, myself included.’

LCpl Matthew R. Gignac, an MASS-1 air-support operations operator

Marines that work in the DASC have an important role in military exercises involving aircraft. Controlling the ebb and flow of airspaces requires ample and continuous training, which can often be challenging to implement and maintain.

“Just to train personnel takes a lot of equipment, a lot of time, and upwards of 60 Marines just to go out and do a live exercise,” said Kyle B. Tanyag, the lead software developer for the GEAR program. “I think [GEAR] would benefit the Marine Corps by allowing them to train without restricting them to just these live exercises.”

Electronically replicating a DASC is no easy feat, for many Marines are required to fill in the roles necessary to run the center. To supplement this, the GEAR features artificial intelligence characters to interact with the user.

“When I speak, there’s a speech-to-text feature that is sent to the AI,” said Greer. “From there, the AI picks out the critical pieces of information from what I spoke and discerns a proper response in order to simulate what a pilot would be saying to me.”

“We call it a rule-based AI system,” said Tanyag. “The student either text chats something or responds via voice. We take that and parse through what was said or typed. The AI takes that input, and given the context of those messages, is able to respond.”

Although still a prototype, the Marines of MASS-1 are optimistic about the potential impact the GEAR could have on training.

“I’ve been at MASS-1 for almost a year, and I think this could be really beneficial for newer Marines, myself included,” said Lance Cpl. Matthew R. Gignac, an air-support operations operator with MASS-1. “Doing it like this, in a way less stressful environment, makes it really good training. If it was more developed it could definitely help progress Marines.”

The Marines of MASS-1 will continue to test new versions to help determine if the GEAR can potentially augment or replace traditional on-the-job training in the future.

By LCpl Elias Pimentel, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing

TACP Test Future Capabilities During Exercise “Gunslinger 22”

Thursday, August 18th, 2022

MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. —  

Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) Airmen from the 10th Air Support Operations Squadron (ASOS), 93rd Air Ground Operations Wing (AGOW), participated in Gunslinger 22, a joint Expeditionary Air Base Operations exercise with Marine Corps operators and aircrews, at Fort Riley, Kansas, June 13-14.

Gunslinger 22 was a joint, dynamic force employment exercise that integrated Marine Corps Air Command and Control System capabilities with Air Force Agile Combat Employment techniques. The 10 ASOS seized this as an opportunity to test the utilization of customer agnostic TACP strike teams, reconnaissance mission concepts and advanced infiltration training with joint-service partners.

The training consisted of air-to-ground synchronization as well as support functions necessary to combat operations.

“2d ANGLICO Marines provided the 10 ASOS TACP strike team with a small unmanned aerial system sensor operator to add standoff reconnaissance capability, and provided a Corpsman for medical support on the ground,” said Major Ralph Johnson, 10 ASOS director of operations. “Lt Hilvers, a TACP officer, had lead for mission execution and was tasked to conduct target acquisition of any threats that were in the vicinity of a planned forward area refueling point location, their purpose was to enable Expeditionary Air Base Operations.”

As the TACP weapon system (TP WS) continues to advance their capabilities for the future fight, Gunslinger 22 demonstrated TACP abilities to enable advanced options for Air Force Lead Wings via Agile Combat Employment (ACE) that other weapon systems are unable to provide.

“Gunslinger gave 10 ASOS the opportunity to conduct advanced infiltration techniques, and test a strike team’s ability to detect, positively identify, and pass targeting data to a supported commander in order to close a kill chain and gain an operational advantage” Johnson said. “TACP strike teams can develop an operational environment for commanders and facilitate engagement of targets in an area that is contested where others cannot operate.”

Along with the ACE capabilities that TACPs bring to the battlefield, as part of accelerating change, the TACP enterprise is transforming from an Army support focused force to a multi-role, customer agnostic, capabilities-based, and threat relevant weapons systems.

“Although TACP has traditionally supported the Army as its main customer, through proper application of the tools, equipment, qualifications, and delegated authorities, the TACP WS can be customer agnostic, and threat focused to solve a supported commander’s problems,” Johnson said.

The TACP enterprise as a whole provides Joint Force Commanders with expertise on the integration of air power while extending Theater Air Control Systems specifically for the Joint Forces Air Component Commander. Gunslinger 22 validated these proficiencies and improved TACP skills necessary for joint, adaptive operations in the future.

By 1stLt Katie Tamesis, 93rd Air Ground Operations Wing

Future Sailors, Prior-Service Members Eligible for Bonuses and Loan Repayment up to $115,000

Wednesday, August 17th, 2022

Future Sailors and Prior Service Members, either Navy Veterans or Other Services Veterans (NAVETs/OSVETs), are now eligible for enlistment bonuses and loan repayment up to $115,000, according to a message released by Navy Recruiting Command.

 “The maximum current enlistment bonus is $50,000, and the maximum loan repayment is $65,000,” said Rear Adm. Lex Walker, Commander Navy Recruiting Command. “They are not mutually exclusive, so if a Future Sailor maximizes both, that adds up to a life-altering $115,000, and the opportunity to serve in the world’s finest Navy.”

To qualify for the bonuses, Future Sailors and NAVET/OSVET applicants must be able to ship by Sept. 30, 2022.

NAVET/OSVET applicants must enter Active Duty in pay grade E-4 or below, meet specific bonus eligibility, and not have received a bonus in their first enlistment.

NAVETs are applicants whose last tour of active duty or active duty for training (AD/ACDUTRA) was in the U.S. Navy or U.S. Navy Reserve, have been discharged or released more than 24 hours, and who completed a minimum of 12 consecutive weeks of AD/ACDUTRA. OSVETs are applicants whose last tour of AD/ACDUTRA was in a branch of service other than the U.S. Navy (Army, Air Force, Space Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard) meeting the same requirements.

“If you are a Sailor, Marine, Airman, Soldier, Guardian, or Coast-Guardsman who recently separated, this is an opportunity without precedent,” said Walker. “And if you have student loan debt, you could be eligible for the Loan Repayment Program if you ship in any month of any fiscal year while the program remains active.”

NAVETs re-accessing into active duty do not attend Navy recruit training but are ordered to Recruit Training Command Great Lakes for in-processing, while OSVETs are not required to attend Navy recruit training but are required to complete a three week Naval Orientation Course at RTC Great Lakes. They must pass the same evolutions a typical recruit at boot camp would finish such as ship handling, live-fire, swim qualifications and firefighting.

The message also has something new for high school seniors. The Active component EB High School (EBHS) includes $10,000 available for High School Seniors who enter the delayed entry program by Oct. 31, 2022, and graduate from High School prior to shipping in July 2023.

For more information on bonuses and the NAVET/OSVET program, visit www.navy.com to find a local recruiter.

Belt Fed Magazines from Tribe Tactical Supply

Wednesday, August 17th, 2022

Tribe Tactical Supply out of Utah has developed a line of belt fed magazines (nutsacks) called BFM-100 (Belt Fed Magazine-100 round) and BFM-200 (200 round Belt Fed Magazine). Designed to be used with the M249 and its clones, MK46, FightLite MCR® , Shrike®, and the FN Minimi® 5.56 belt fed platforms, they are made in Utah out of Milspec, Berry Compliant Materials.

Currently offered in Coyote Tan, MultiCam®, Ranger Green, and Black in limited Runs and will be available in M81 soon. Contact Tribe Tactical Supply for unit specific or geography specific color requests.

They also manufacture a line of Starter Tabs that work in conjunction with M27 links and for 5.56mm Belt-Fed Weapons, available in Tan499, Coyote Tan and Black.

With products are made to to stand up to the toughest environments, Tribe BFM’s, among other gear, can be found at www.tribetacticalsupply.com.

Proud to serve patriots and those in uniform defending our Freedoms.

Armor Formations are Next for the Army’s Capability Set Designs

Wednesday, August 17th, 2022

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. — First came boots, then wheels and now tracks.

The Army’s Integrated Tactical Network, or ITN, continues to expand its capabilities across formations, as demonstrated during the ITN Armor Formation Field-based Risk Reduction Communications Exercise held in multiple locations across Aberdeen Proving Ground in mid-August. The exercise was designed to inform capability set, or CS, 25.

Whereas the Army’s CS21 provides ITN capabilities to dismounted troops and CS23 brings mounted to dismounted ITN connectivity for Stryker Brigade Combat Teams, CS25 will bring fully mounted ITN capabilities to multiple armor vehicle variants.

The result will be on-the-move communications in armor formations that are less dependent on command posts.

Led by the Product Manager Capability Set Development, under the Program Executive Office for Command, Control, Communications-Tactical — or PEO C3T — the exercise featured vehicle integration, in partnership with the DEVCOM Command, Control, Communication, Computers, Cyber, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Center’s Prototype Integration Facility; personnel safety and electromagnetic testing, with support from the Aberdeen Test Center and capped off by a fires support communications thread exercise, with support from the fires community.

“In CS23, we saw the benefit of early integration prototyping used on the Stryker combat vehicles” said Lt. Col. Jonathan Judy, product manager for capability set design, assigned to PEO C3T. “We plan to leverage those same activities for CS25 with the introduction of new Armored platforms used by the Armored Brigade Combat Teams.”

This exercise is not the first time the Army experimented with integrating network capabilities onto Armor vehicles. In February of this year, PEO C3T conducted a pilot to evaluate new and emerging commercial network on-the-move technologies integrated onto armored vehicle platforms with the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, to help inform CS25 capabilities.

The pilot focused on bringing high-bandwidth, satellite communications capabilities into armor formations above battalion.

Future plans are emerging to combine the ITN and satellite capabilities into one combined pilot, which will help inform holistic network designs from brigade to division level.

Gaining lessons learned is the primary benefit to the Army’s capability set process, where developers build capabilities based on each previous capability set. The process has been especially beneficial as the Army advances ITN integration from Stryker to armor formations, as engineers are reusing components already designed to integrate into small spaces.

The communications thread portion of the event featured a representative fire support element relaying a call for fires by passing data, not voice, through the fires chain.

“For the first time, we are testing the Warrior Robust Enhanced Network TSM secret and below waveform as a substitute to using [single channel ground and airborne radio systems]” said Wayne Rush, Systems Engineer for Product Manager, Capability Set Development.

The Warrior Robust Enhanced Network, or WREN, TSM is a commercial waveform integrated into the radios and dismounted Soldier end-user devices.

Using WREN, the dismounted Soldiers, in the role of forward observers, used precision fires-dismount software to send the call for fires to the fire support team at the company headquarters in the M113A3 armored personnel carrier. They then sent the request to the Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System in the squadron fire support element M1068A3 armored personnel carrier, which relayed the final order to fire to the mortar fire control system housed in the M1064 mortor carrier vehicle.

“The goodness of this is that we are providing an alternate digital fires thread for squadrons to conduct digital fires,” Rush said. “We’re trying to prove range message completion rates and speed of service over operationally relevant distances using WREN [secret and below] on the test course.”

A representative from the Army Capability Manager Fires Center of Excellence at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, was present to collect data, which will provide to [Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System] and precision fires-dismount software developers critical data for future software requirements modifications. A Picatinny Arsenal representative was also on hand to assess WREN’s performance for the final step in the fires chain process.

Instrumented results will inform the CS25 armored brigade combat team network basis of issue in support of FY25 fielding. Follow on efforts to the Armor Formation Field-based Risk Reduction include the CS25 Preliminary Design Review in 2023, which will set the stage for initial capability set integration and the CS25 Critical Design Review in 2024, which will solidify the designs for fielding.

“The capability set process is working,” Judy said. “Our continued armor vehicle integration efforts are a yet another shining example of the way the Army should be approaching integration and pilot efforts to inform design.”

By Kathryn Bailey, PEO C3T Public Affairs