U.S. Army and Air Force Agonize Over Picking a New Handgun
Popular Mechanics, By Kyle Mizokami, May 31, 2016

The Beretta M92 ​ranks at the bottom of all the firearms used by the U.S. Army and Air Force—but it'll take the Pentagon years to field a replacement.


mhs

The Department of Defense will soon choose three finalists in a competition to be the U.S. Army and Air Force's new sidearm. One of the three finalists could go on to outfit all of the services, with total sales of of 500,000 handguns—but not before the Pentagon bureaucracy makes it as long and complicated as possible.

 

The Modular Handgun System (MHS) is a $17 million dollar effort to replace the aging Beretta M92 handgun. First adopted in the 1980s, the U.S. Army's Berettas are beginning to wear out. The M92 is also a product of another time, and hasn't kept up with recent advances in pistol technology.

 

The first requirement is that the new handgun surpass the M92 in accuracy, reliability, ergonomics, durability, and maintainability. In a 2006 report on U.S. infantry weapon reliability, the M92 scored at the bottom compared to the M4 carbine, M16 rifle, and M249 squad automatic weapon. In every category, from handling to accuracy to maintainability, the M92 came in dead last—or tied for last.

 

Twenty-six percent of soldiers polled reported their weapon jammed while shooting at the enemy. Forty-six percent reported they didn't have confidence in their pistol's reliability.

 glock

Glock 17

The MHS will also incorporate new advances in infantry small arms. The pistol will have a modular grip system, a recent development that involves interchangeable, different-sized grip panels to accommodate larger or smaller hands. This has become an important feature as the percentage of women in the military—who tend to have smaller hands—has jumped 50 percent since the 1980s when M92 was adopted.

The handgun will have an integral MIL-STD 1913 Picatinny Rail underneath the barrel, allowing the attachment of gadgets such as flashlights and lasers. It will also have a threaded barrel to accommodate a suppressor and should have low recoil.

Currently there are twelve bidders for the contract, including the Beretta APX, Ceská Zbrojovka's CZ P-09, FN Herstal's Five-Seven Mk 2, General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems (GDOTS) and Smith & Wesson's M&P polymer handgun; the Glock 17 and 22; and Sig Sauer's P320. An updated version of the M9, the Beretta M9A3, was rejected by the Army and won't be involved in the competition. 

 

Sig Sauer P320

 

The pistol's caliber is still up in the air. Nine-millimeter and .40 Smith & Wesson appear to be the top contenders, with FN's 5.7-millimeter pistol also in the running, shooting a bullet that hadn't been invented when the M92 was first fielded. The venerable .45 ACP round, used for decades with the M1911A1 pistol, appears to have been disregarded due to the round's perceived heavy recoil.

 

The selection process—beset by the Pentagon bureaucracy—is progressing at a snail's pace. First begun in 2015, the MHS program will chose three semifinalists in August, with a nine-month evaluation process to follow. A winner will be picked afterward, with the winning entry to go into "low rate production." That means it will be at least another thirteen months before any pistols are delivered to the military.

 

The program's complexity has been stifling, prompting complaints from the Army's top general and Congress. The paper outlining the MHS's requirements runs a ridiculous 350 pages. Senator John McCain described the handgun selection process as "byzantine", and Army Chief of Staff General Mark Miley complained in March, "We're not figuring out the next lunar landing. This is a pistol. Two years to test? At $17 million?" Miley claimed he could walk into a Cabelas outdoors store with $17 million dollars and buy a handgun for every person in the military.

 

FN Herstal Five-seven

 

Miley may be exaggerating on how many pistols he could buy—even with a 20 percent bulk discount, $17 million would still only score you 40,000 Glock 17 pistols—but he's not wrong about the guns themselves. Practically every entrant for the Modular Handgun System is already on the lucrative civilian market in the United States, owned by thousands—in some cases, such as the Glock 17—by millions. The selection should be a fairly easy choice.

 

For most gun owners, buying a new handgun is a quick process that takes no more than a few hours scrutiny. For the Pentagon, it's a process that requires hundreds of pages of paperwork and years of hand-wringing before even finalists can be named.

 

DoD Plans Benefit Revision With ‘Blended Retirement’
By Karen Parrish DoD News, Defense Media Activity

Changes to the military's retirement system could have a big impact on the way you invest in your future.

WASHINGTON, Feb. 12, 2016 — Upon taking office almost a year ago, Defense Secretary Ash Carter promised reforms, saying “that a blended retirement system is a key step in modernizing the department’s ability to recruit, retain and maintain the talent we require of our future force.”

An overhaul of the current military retirement system is slated to take effect January 1, 2018. The new system has three elements: a 401(k)-style component with Defense Department matching funds for entry-level and other service members, a mid-career continuity bonus, and a retirement annuity similar to the one now in place for service members that complete twenty or more years of eligible service.

DoD News spoke with Army Sgt. Maj. Mike Schultz while he was the senior enlisted advisor to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Manpower and Reserve Affairs about the details of the new modernized retirement system.

One key point, Schultz said, is that many of those now serving will have the choice to opt into the new blended retirement plan.

Training the Force on Retirement Options
The first critical step in the change, he said, is educating senior leaders about the program’s provisions. Those leaders will then ensure training takes place at the “camps, posts and stations” where service members work.

Training tools now in the works will include online classes and benefits calculators for troops and their families, as well as classroom and distance learning, Schultz added. 

He said the “deliberate approach to educate the force” will be a key effort from now until rollout. 

Grandfathering and Opting In
The sergeant major said the question he hears most often about blended retirement is: “What will it mean to me?” 

First, he said, all troops now serving are grandfathered and will be allowed to remain in the current system. 

Those who have served in uniform for fewer than 12 years as of December 31, 2017, will have a choice to stay in the current system or to opt into the new retirement plan, Schultz said, and those who enter service after the blended retirement rolls out will automatically be covered by the new modernized retirement system.

Incentives, ‘Portability’ Built In
The phase-in will, Schultz noted, both keep faith with those who could retire under the current system, and offer new options for what he termed a “portable” retirement benefit plan to those who will serve in the future.

The aspects that make the plan “blended” are automatic and matching government contributions in the Thrift Savings Plan, similar to a 401(k) and transferable on leaving service, for service members in the new retirement plan, and retaining lifetime monthly retired pay for those who serve at least 20 years.

The government will automatically contribute 1 percent of a member’s basic pay into the member’s TSP account even if the member contributes nothing. After 24 months of service, the government will match member contributions, dollar-for-dollar, up to the first 3 percent the member contributes and fifty cents per dollar for the next 2 percent the member contributes. 

Thus, if a member contributes 5 percent into the member’s TSP account, the government will contribute an additional 5 percent (1 percent automatic plus 4 percent matching), Schultz said. Members who serve at least 24 months and then separate will be able to keep the government contributions and transfer them to a new employer’s retirement plan. For service members that stay in the military for a full career of 20 years or more, the new plan continues to offer monthly retired pay similar to today’s system, although it will be computed based on a length-of-service factor of 2 percent per year, instead of the 2.5 percent per year used in the current system.

“A midcareer bonus is in addition to the TSP account and the 20-year annuity modeled on the current plan,” Schultz said. The DoD will pay a bonus of at least two and a half months’ basic pay (one-half month for reserve and National Guard members not serving in a full-time capacity) to those service members who have served 12 years and who agree to remain in uniform for four more years.

Stay tuned during the coming months as additional information and opportunities to learn more about the new blended retirement system become available.

Command: No Greater Honor
Official Web Site of Joint Base Andrews
Commentary by Colonel Victor Moncrieffe
11th Security Forces Group, Commander


5/26/2016 - JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md.  -- Since commissioning I have desired to lead Airmen.  I believe, commanding Airmen is the greatest honor any commissioned officer can achieve.  The privilege and honor of being responsible for the successes and failures of American patriots serving something bigger than themselves, in the noblest occupation known to man, is unprecedented. That said, the mission of defending our nation is job number one.  It is the primary reason we serve and develop the weapon systems we do, and by doing so, continue to uphold the principles which make our great country free.  But as a leader, once you realize that your Airmen are the ultimate weapon system and that developing, caring and trusting the Airmen you serve equates to mission success, your focus becomes very clear.  Take care of your Airmen and they will take care of the mission.

In my 22 years of donning the uniform of our country, the Airmen I have served never cease to amaze me.  Regardless of the environment, lack of resources or the dangers associated with the mission, when asked, our Airmen will always perform to the best of their abilities.  I know this because I have had the pleasure of seeing this first hand. As a lieutenant, on the plains of Montana, my Airmen did the ominous job of ensuring the deterrent was safe, secure and reliable in some of the most austere environments.  As a major, I witnessed Airmen strive to make their dreams of becoming cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy come true by enduring the academic and physical rigors associated with acceptance to this institution.  In the deserts of Iraq, I thought of my Airmen daily as they left the safety of the installation responding to reports of improvised explosive devices and searched for weapons caches outside the wire.  And, even here at America's Airfield as a full colonel, I've seen Airmen execute numerous National Special Security Events, an air show and other no-fail missions with precision and the utmost professionalism.  Despite the many reasons and circumstances that bring people from diverse backgrounds into our Air Force, when our nation calls our Airmen will always answer.

As I conclude my leadership tour and contemplate that this may be the last time I hold the title of "commander", I am both grateful and humbled to a nation and an Air Force that granted me the wonderful opportunity on multiple occasions to lead Airmen.  I can recall the promotions, awards, disappointments and both personal and professional accomplishments that my Airmen have attained and I am thankful just to have been a small part of their experience.  As I think of my own successes I have had throughout my career, each one can be traced back to the hard work and sacrifices of those I led and served...the American Airmen.  Even after more than 25 years of continued operations overseas and with constrained resources, our Airmen are making the impossible possible every day because failure is not in their creed.  And as the torch of leadership is passed on from my generation to the next, I am encouraged by the fact that those officer and enlisted leaders coming after me will be more than prepared to take our Air Force to even greater heights because they care about their families, our nation, our Air Force, and fellow Airman.

So to you... future leader... commander..., know that there is no greater honor than leading Airmen.  Use your rank and position to develop your Airmen, execute the mission and leave the institution better than you found it.  Command is a sacred responsibility that our Air Force has entrusted to you that can never be taken lightly nor should it be squandered.  Live up to your responsibilities as a leader, rely on your moral compass to stay grounded and stay true to our core values.  If you do these three simple things your Airmen will fly, fight and ultimately... win! 

Grand Forks Air Force canines 'love' job helping base, local police
The Bismark Tribune, Becky Jacobs Forum News Service, Jun 9, 2016

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Forum News Service
Arco, a seven-year-old Belgian Malinois, watches her handler Staff Sergeant Victoria Dames while she searches Kennel Master Matthew Byrnes during training.

GRAND FORKS -- Tech Sgt. Matthew Byrnes took off his protective jacket and held out his arms, looking at the teeth-shaped marks and discolorations on his skin.

But that's just part of his job as kennel master of the Grand Forks Air Force Base 319th Security Forces Squadron K-9 section, he said.

The unit has nine dogs, training and working every day with their handlers. Part of their duties include patrolling the base and its perimeter to keep people from getting any ideas of jumping the fence. The dogs might be searching buildings and cars to make sure everything is in order with military police. Or they could be called out of the base to nearby cities in emergency situations.

"If it requires K-9, most of the time that's bomb threats," said Staff Sgt. Victoria Dames, a working dog handler. "So, if the schools get bomb threats or the buildings get bomb threats downtown, we are the K-9 for what's closest for us."

Dames and her Belgian Malinois, Arco, were called in to the bomb threats that were determined to be hoaxes at Century Elementary School on May 23 and at Red River High School a few days later.

The base has a good working relationship with Grand Forks and UND police in addition to other law enforcement agencies in the area with whom they have working agreements, Byrnes said.

"We provide the specialty because it's something that we have a lot of experience in when it comes to explosives," Byrnes said. "If there's a bomb threat downtown, we basically deal with that stuff more frequently than the local law enforcement may."

And there's expertise police have that they can help the base with, too.

"We need their assistance maybe with more drug interdiction type stuff," Byrnes said. "Not that we can't handle it ourselves, but they do a lot more of it and they have a hot commodity of it, so it's something we share."

'Nice bite'

After walking through a kennel of barking dogs, Dames took 7-year-old Arco on a leash outside Wednesday to go through a practice course. The two work together every day, and part of that is going through these drills.

Arco ran over a beam, leapt through a wooden stand and practiced chasing down a suspect. Meanwhile, Byrnes strapped on a thick, black protective jacket and started waving his arms around as he ran away from Arco. Dames shouted a command, and that's when Arco took off running after Byrnes. 

But at the last second, Dames ordered Arco to stop, and Arco sat with his tongue out, staring up at Byrnes.

Later, Dames ordered Arco to latch onto Byrnes. Arco doesn't have all of his canines, but "he still has a nice bite," Byrnes said after Arco let go. The dog uses his back teeth to make sure he's on and won't slip off if a person moves around, Byrnes explained. 

The dogs are trained as puppies in Texas before coming to Grand Forks and other bases. And just like the dogs, Dames had to go through months long training to be a handler. 

But eventually the dogs retire, just like the airmen do. It depends on the dog, but most work in the unit for 10 to 12 years, Byrnes said. Next week, Ferra is retiring from the Air Force at 10 years old, and there will be a ceremony complete with a dog bed and steak for Ferra.

"They put in just as much work as we do," Byrnes said.

After she retires, she's living on a farm to have relaxing life, he said. 

"It's just like us when we stop and go back to civilian life," Byrnes said. 

Dog people 

Byrnes and Dames have been at Grand Forks Air Force Base with the dog unit for about three years, but both of them didn't originally plan on it.

"I didn't even know the military had it when I came in," Byrnes said. "As soon as I could do it, I put in for it." 

And while Dames loves working with Arco now, she wasn't always a dog person. Dames was stationed in England when she found out about the program. 

"They wanted a new program where they were starting to filter in younger airmen into the K-9 program," Dames said.

She went through the selection process and was chosen to go through a three-month training program. But at the time, she said just seeing a dog's saliva made her nauseous. 

"Personally, I didn't really care for dogs too much. I was definitely a cat person before I went K-9," Dames said with a laugh. "And now I just I love it."

She's built a relationship with Arco and taught him some extra tricks, such as weaving through her legs like a basketball player might dribble a basketball between his legs as he walks.

Dames has different methods on how to reward Arco for a job well done. When she pulled a plastic blue ball from the front right pocket of her uniform, Arco didn't take his eyes off it, watching its every move.

The dogs have an important job, but they are still dogs at heart, enjoying the ups and downs of the jobs like the airmen do.

"(The dogs) love what they do," Byrnes said.

Defender, Wingman, Scholar
by Airman Gabrielle Spalding, 11th Wing Public Affairs


Tech. Sgt. Collin Meisel, 811th Security Forces Squadron operations non-commissioned officer, poses for a portrait at Joint Base Andrews, Md., May 11, 2016. After being accepted to Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy, Meisel was awarded the McCourt Scholars scholarship, which includes full tuition, health insurance and a $10,000 stipend. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Gabrielle Spalding)

6/1/2016 - JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. -- Applying to a university can seem daunting without the right support. For Tech. Sgt. Collin Meisel, 811th Security Forces Squadron operations non-commissioned officer here, the encouragement from his peers, as well as the leadership prowess he gained while serving in the Air Force, has helped him appreciate being awarded the McCourt Scholars scholarship to Georgetown University's McCourt School of Public Policy.

"Being offered the fellowship completely blew me away," Meisel said. "I feel honored.

" Meisel will be attending McCourt August of 2016 to obtain his Master of Public Policy.

Georgetown, which is home to MSPP and eight other schools, is a prestigious university and is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

McCourt welcomes students with a variety of professional backgrounds, including working in the military.

Each year, five in-coming scholars are nominated by a committee, based on the clout of their applications to MSPP and a phone interview, according to the Georgetown website.

Of the five universities he applied to, Georgetown was Meisel's first choice, and to his surprise, the first to accept him.

"Georgetown was a longshot," Meisel said. "I didn't even expect to get in."

Shortly after being accepted to GU, and the interview for the fellowship, he received a phone call.

"It was really exciting," Meisel said. "Especially because I was hauling a bunch of pallets. It wasn't an exciting day at all, so to get that news was pretty sweet."

Meisel had an opportunity to meet one of the professors on the committee who remembered voting for him, and told Meisel that his leadership experience was unmatched due to his frequent travel with the executive aircraft security section at Andrews as a team leader.

Capt. David Nugent, 811th SFS operations officer, who has known Meisel for three years, has experienced firsthand the leadership capabilities of the OPS NCO.

"Meisel is an outstanding leader and critical thinker," Nugent said. "He was responsible for tasking teams of SF members to protect executive aircraft overseas. It was a difficult job to coordinate with so many different agencies, but he always excelled."

Nugent also provided support for Meisel during his application process to GU.

"I had to write two essays as part of the application process," said Meisel. "Nugent reviewed them and also wrote a letter of recommendation. He was a huge mentor and helped me think it was possible.

" Having the mentorship from peers and gaining leadership while in the Air Force, Meisel can aim high for academic mastership.

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