This Memorial Day, honor through action. Here's how. - We Are The Mighty
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This Memorial Day, honor through action. Here’s how.

There’s a reverence that surrounds Memorial Day in the military community. A day that’s typically associated with summer barbecues and mattress sales has a very different meaning to those of us who understand that “the fallen” we’re all asked to honor are our brothers and sisters in arms, husbands, wives, mommies, daddies, friends.

It’s a day that feels heavy, weighted with nostalgia and fraught, wanting to honor their sacrifice by living, but wanting the rest of the world to pause alongside us, to bear some of the burden of the grief and to mourn our collective, irreplaceable loss.

This year, we’re asking you not just to pause, but to act.


In 2018, USAA, in partnership with The American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, created the USAA Poppy Wall of Honor to ensure the sacrifice of our military men and women is always remembered, never forgotten. The wall contains more than 645,000 artificial poppies – one for each life lost in the line of duty since World War I. Red flowers fill one side while historic facts about U.S. conflicts cover the opposite.

The exhibit was installed on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., over the Memorial Day weekend in 2018 and again in 2019. This year, USAA is making it available to more people by presenting the educational panels of the wall digitally. We encourage you to take the time to look at the wall, to teach your children and grandchildren about service and sacrifice. But more than that, we’re asking you to dedicate a poppy.

This Memorial Day, honor through action. Here’s how.

WATM had the opportunity to sit down with Wes Laird, Chief Marketing Officer at USAA, to talk about why this event matters, not just to the company, but to him.

“I tell people I grew up in a Ranger Battalion,” Laird said. “A long, long time ago in a land far, far away. Just eight and a half months after I enlisted, I was in combat on a tiny island called Grenada. I lost five people from my company, including a young man named Marlin Maynard, who was a PFC. When I got back, I was asked to eulogize PFC Maynard. I just turned 19 and I had to talk about the sacrifice he’d given. It was a very formative, impactful moment in my life.

This Memorial Day, honor through action. Here’s how.

Wes Laird in his Army days. Photo courtesy of Wes Laird.

“Every Memorial Day since, every 4th of July, every time I hear the National Anthem, I think about PFC Marlin Maynard. I think about how I went to college with my veteran benefits. I think about how I went on to have a family, to raise two boys — one who is in the Air Force — how I had a career and a whole life, and how he, and 645,000 other soldiers, sailors, Marines, airmen, Coast Guardsman, how they didn’t. But that’s why this – why Memorial Day, and what we’re doing at USAA – is so important. I want Marlin’s family to know that he is remembered and honored. That his sacrifice, all these years later, has never been forgotten.

This Memorial Day, honor through action. Here’s how.

PFC Marlin Maynard, Grenada Company A, 1st Battalion (Ranger)

75th Infantry, kia October 25, 1983. Photo via Sua Sponte Foundation.

“This Memorial Day and every Memorial Day, I dedicate a poppy to him and the four others we lost in Grenada that day. What we’re doing at USAA with the USAA Poppy Wall is giving others an opportunity not just to honor, but to act. This year especially, with the COVID crisis, we are providing people the ability to come together, to unify around something we can all agree on — the importance of remembering the ultimate sacrifices of so many men and women.

“We are proud to partner with the incredible team at the Tragedy Assistance Survivors Program (TAPS) to provide meaningful opportunities for Gold Star families. You see these kids come in who have lost a parent, and the fact that we’re able to assist in their journey is so humbling. These kids need to know that their moms and dads are remembered and honored by all of us. Yes, it’s the right thing to do, but it’s also part of our DNA. We were formed by the military for the military. We say we know what it means to serve and we do know what it means to serve. It’s part of who we are, why we exist — to honor the great sacrifices of so many thousands of men and women who have served before us, alongside us and will continue to serve after us. Memorial Day is the most important day of the year for us. We hope you’ll join us this year by honoring through action.”

For more information about the USAA Poppy Wall, click here.

MIGHTY TRENDING

China holds surprisingly short opening of massive bridge

After 10 years and 420,000 tons of steel, and at a devastating cost in lives and renminbi, the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge is officially open — and the announcement came by a strangely curt Chinese President Xi Jinping in the port city of Zhuhai.

The opening ceremony was shrouded in some of the trademark confusion that has dogged the megaproject since its inception in 2009, with the big day having only just been announced in late October 2018.

In an unexpected and breathtaking display of brevity, Xi declared the world’s longest sea crossing — a 35-mile (55-kilometer) bridge and underwater tunnel connecting Hong Kong, Macau, and the mainland Chinese port city of Zhuhai — as open with an abrupt two-second speech that, it is fair to say, was not what everyone was expecting.


“I announce the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge is officially open,” Xi said.

With those accurate, though perhaps less-than-memorable words, China’s strongest leader since Mao Zedong caught the 700-strong audience, which included media members and dignitaries, on the hop.

It was an exercise in concision from a president who, almost a year ago to the day, opened the Communist Party congress in Beijing with a granular 3-hour, 23-minute speech summarizing his thoughts on a new era in socialism with Chinese characteristics.

This Memorial Day, honor through action. Here’s how.

Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Instead, before an audience of top officials including Chinese Vice Premier Han Zheng and Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, Xi said his piece at the strategically located port of Zhuhai and left the podium as electronic fireworks flailed about on a television in the background.

Reporters on the ground, including Bloomberg’s Fion Li, were quick to express their surprise and disappointment.

Rhetorical revelry is a party tradition

Chinese leaders have a proud tradition of ponying up when history calls for it.

Deng Xiaoping, who while diminutive in stature was a political juggernaut in the 1980s, made a career with pithy insights that Chinese speakers around the world still quote and reexamine.

And while Mao Zedong may have presided over some of the least poetic policies of the 20th century, the Great Helmsman could turn a phrase when he had to, like this brutal and blunt firecracker from 1957.

As president, general secretary of the Central Committee of China’s Communist Party, and chairman of the Central Military Commission, Xi has quickly and effectively concentrated influence into his sphere.

And Oct. 23, 2018’s event seemed tailor-made for a long-winded reflection on China’s increasingly successful exercise of soft power, its sheer engineering audacity, and the political genius of building a 55-kilometer crossing that continues to grow the mainland’s security apparatus and authority on both the semiautonomous gambling enclave of Macau and the city-state financial powerhouse of Hong Kong.

But in the end, the president perhaps decided to let the massive, looming achievement speak for itself.

It’s all part of the plan

The bridge is part of China’s ambitious “Greater Bay Area Master Plan” to integrate Hong Kong, Macau, and the manufacturing powerhouse Guangdong province’s nine biggest cities to create a combined id=”listicle-2614804819″.5 trillion tech and science hub intended to rival even Silicon Valley.

The 55-kilometer megastructure is a typically intimidating, awe-inspiring, and slightly pointless statement of state authority and universal purpose. It rises from the Sun and Moon Bay in the Zhuhai port like some giant, disoriented concrete serpent, snaking off mercurially into the distance.

The air is very thick too, with southern Chinese humidity and the ever-present eerie gray-brown pollution that wafts in blooms from heavy manufacturing out of the Pearl River Delta — the factory floor of the world — ensuring the megabridge in all its glory will be largely obscured from view year-round.

What it does provide, however, is direct access to both potentially wayward semiautonomous regions, binding the gambling enclave and the city-state tighter to the breast of the motherland. Indeed, it may be the angst of an ever-encroaching China that has tilted the president to such a rare and unexpected pithiness.

This Memorial Day, honor through action. Here’s how.

Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge Site under construction in 2015.

Commentators have been quick to describe the project as a white elephant, noting that the lightly traveled crossing can hardly be a push for convenience but rather another covert expansion by Beijing as it extends its reach back into the supposedly autonomous enclaves of Hong Kong and Macau.

The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge is the second major infrastructure project binding Hong Kong to the mainland opened in just a few weeks, following a new high-speed rail connection that opened in September 2018 — the first time Chinese security were stationed on and bestowed authority in Hong Kong territory.

Certainly, there is anxiety in Hong Kong, with critics fearing the increasing inroads into the special administrative region’s territory by an ever-assertive mainland, while some local media has suggested that drivers on the bridge will be closely scrutinized by cameras that examine even their physical condition and how fatigued a driver is becoming.

The issues of territoriality may dominate the project for years to come; most of the bridge is considered mainland territory and Hong Kong vehicles and drivers, already hit by restricted access, will be traveling under the laws of the mainland, Hong Kong’s transportation department has warned.

“The Hong Kong government is always out of the picture and is under the control of the Chinese government,” the Hongkonger lawmaker Tanya Chan told AFP last week. Construction of the bridge began in 2009 and was targeted for completion two years ago.

According to the South China Morning Post, 10 workers died and 600 were injured in the construction of the typhoon-proof, two-way, six-lane expressway bridge that the government expects to carry 29,100 vehicles and 126,000 single-day passenger trips by 2030.

But for now, the bridge is open to some traffic, including certain buses, freight, and selected permit-holding passenger vehicles.

It’s also a gorgeous trip by ferry.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This World War I veteran came home and built himself a castle in Ohio

A lot of American troops find something to love about cultures they discover during their service. One World War I veteran left Ohio and discovered the magical history of Medieval Europe amid the fighting and squalor of the trenches. When he returned to the rolling hills next to Ohio’s Little Miami River, he decided to build that magic in his own backyard. Literally.


This Memorial Day, honor through action. Here’s how.

Complete with sword room.

Just north of Loveland, Ohio sits a structure that has no business standing in the American midwest. Harry D. Andrews began constructing a full-scale replica of the castle where his medical unit was stationed in Southern France. It was built brick-by-brick by Andrews himself on land he acquired from buying yearlong subscriptions to the Cincinnati newspaper, The Cincinnati Enquirer, taking stones from the Little Miami River, and even using bricks formed from milk cartons.

It took him 50 years to complete the project.

Though it has come to be known as Loveland Castle, the building began its life as Chateau Laroche – French for “Rock Castle” – and Andrews was a huge fan of the Medieval Era of European History. As the Castle Museum’s website reads:

[It was built as] “an expression and reminder of the simple strength and rugged grandeur of the mighty men who lived when Knighthood was in flower. It was their knightly zeal for honor, valor and manly purity that lifted mankind out of the moral midnight of the dark ages and started it towards the gray dawn of human hope.”
This Memorial Day, honor through action. Here’s how.

Loveland Castle via Instagram

Harry D. Andrews was born in 1890 and served as a medic in France during World War I. While “over there,” he contracted spinal meningitis and was declared dead. Except that he was very much alive and in hospital at the actual Chateau La Roche in southwest France. It would take him six months to recover. By the time he was declared alive, the war was over, and his fiancée was married to someone else. So Andrews stayed in Europe and toured the castles. He never much cared for modern war and believed the weapons used by knights in the Medieval Era were much more fair to a fighting man.

That’s when Harry Andrews gave up on women and dedicated his life to recreating the Medieval Era right there in his native Ohio. As he built the castle, he also constructed a year-round hotbed garden, a secret room, and wrote a book about immigration. As a lifelong Boy Scout leader, he donated the castle to his scouts when he died in 1981. Called the “Knights of the Golden Trail,” they guard the castle to this day.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Beloved Coast Guard veteran and crossing guard, ‘Mr. Bob,’ dies while saving two children from speeding car

Every child can tell you the name of their school’s crossing guard. At Christ the King Catholic School in Kansas City, KS, 88-year-old Robert James Nill, better known and loved as “Mr. Bob,” was one of the best.


Tuesday, Mr. Bob made the ultimate sacrifice for two of his students when a speeding car careened through the school’s crosswalk. The Washington Post reported that a few minutes before school started at 8 a.m., two boys in grades third and fifth stepped off the curb in front of the school. It was about five minutes before 8 a.m., five minutes until the first bell rang and Nill’s job ushering kids through the crosswalk would be over for the morning. Two young boys, in third and fifth grade, stepped off the curb. Nill motioned for them to step back, said school principal Cathy Fithian. He saw a black sedan speeding toward them and likely sensed it wasn’t stopping or slowing, despite Nill’s handheld stop sign and the school zone’s flashing lights. The two boys came running into Fithian’s office in tears, screaming for Mr. Bob. The principal consoled them and then went outside to find an awful scene as first responders swarmed the intersection, she told The Washington Post on Tuesday night.

This Memorial Day, honor through action. Here’s how.

“Mr. Bob,” Robert James Nill was the beloved crossing guard at a Kansas City, Kansas school.

Nill was struck by the vehicle and ultimately succumbed to his injuries.

Reports say the driver was likely speeding but did not flee the scene. The driver was taken to a nearby hospital and treated for injuries.

Nill served in the United States Coast Guard and following his service, went on to a career in banking. After retirement, he wanted something to look forward to every morning, to get him out of bed. His family told FOX 4 Kansas City that he felt young at heart and didn’t want to spend his golden years sitting around. “This was something I think he felt like he could help children and help himself feel good about what he was doing,” said Randy Nill, Bob’s nephew.

Being a crossing guard brought him that joy and sense of purpose. By the outpouring of support on social media, it is apparent that his joy and love of life were contagious.

“Bob was such a fixture at my children’s school,” Connie Lynn Worrell commented on Facebook. “We would wave at him every day and in the morning I always made sure to wave at him after dropping off the boys. This is truly heartbreaking. He will be sorely missed.”

Articles

Signs point to North Korean role in global cyber attack

Cybersecurity firms have found clues that last weekend’s global “ransomware” attack, which infected more than 300,000 computers in 150 countries, could be linked to North Korea.


The security companies Sympantec and Kaspersky Lab said on May 15 that portions of the “WannaCry” ransomware used in the attacks have the same code as malware previously distributed by Lazarus, a group behind the 2014 Sony hack blamed on North Korea.

“This is the best clue we have seen to date as to the origins of WannaCry,” Kaspersky researchers said.

But it’s possible the code was simply copied from the Lazarus malware without any other direct connection, the companies said.

Symantec said the similarities between WannaCry and Lazarus tools “so far only represent weak connections. We are continuing to investigate for stronger connections.”

Israeli security firm Intezer Labs said it agreed that North Korea might be behind the attack.

Vital Systems Paralyzed

The WannaCry virus over the weekend paralyzed vital computer systems around the world that run factories, banks, government agencies, and transport systems in some 150 countries.

The virus mainly hit computers running older versions of Microsoft Windows software that had not been recently updated.

But by May 15, the fast-spreading extortion scheme was waning. The only new outbreaks reported were in China, where traffic police and schools said they had been targeted, but there were no major disruptions.

The link to North Korea found by the security firms will be closely followed by law-enforcement agencies around the world, including Washington.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s homeland security adviser said on May 15 that both foreign nations and cybercriminals were possible culprits.

Symantec and Kaspersky said they need to study the code more and asked for others to help with the analysis. Hackers reuse code from other operations at times, so even copied lines fall well short of proof.

U.S. and European security officials told the Reuters news agency that it was still too early to say who might be behind the attacks, but they did not rule out North Korea as a suspect.

The Lazarus hackers, acting for impoverished North Korea, have been more brazen in pursuit of financial gain than some other hackers, and have been blamed for the theft of $81 million from a Bangladesh bank.

‘Highly Destabilizing’

Moreover, North Korea might have motives to launch such a large-scale, global attack as its economy is crumbling under some of the stiffest-ever UN economic sanctions imposed over its repeated testing of nuclear bombs and ballistic missiles.

The United Nations Security Council on May 15 condemned Pyongyang’s latest missile test the previous day, and vowed to take further measures, including possible new sanctions, in response to its “highly destabilizing behavior and flagrant and provocative defiance” of existing prohibitions against such tests.

Whoever is responsible, the perpetrators of the massive weekend attacks have raised very little money thus far — less than $70,000 from users looking to regain access to their computers, according to Trump’s homeland security adviser Tom Bossert.

Some private sector cybersecurity experts do not believe the motive of the attacks was primarily to make money, given the apparently meager revenues that were raised by the unprecedented large operation. They said that wreaking havoc likely was the primary goal.

The countries most affected by WannaCry were Russia, Taiwan, Ukraine, and India, according to Czech security firm Avast.

Bossert denied charges by Russian President Vladimir Putin and others that the attacks originated in the United States, and came from a hacking tool developed by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) that was later leaked online.

“This was not a tool developed by the NSA to hold ransom data. This was a tool developed by culpable parties, potentially criminals or foreign nation-states, that were put together in such a way as to deliver phishing e-mails, put it into embedded documents, and cause infection, encryption, and locking,” Bossert said.

British media were hailing as a hero a 22-year-old computer security expert who appeared to have helped stop the attack from spreading by discovering a “kill switch” — an Internet address which halted the virus when activated.

With reporting by AP, AFP, and Reuters

MIGHTY TRENDING

Former Afghan interpreter detained, threatened with deportation

A former interpreter who helped US troops in Afghanistan before fleeing the country with his family was detained at the international airport in Houston, Texas, on Jan. 11, 2019, upon their arrival from Kabul, according to a Texas-based immigration advocacy group.

Mohasif Motawakil, 48, was detained by Customs and Border Protection along with his wife and five children, the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) told The Washington Post. Though his wife and children have since been released, Motawakil is still being held by authorities.


RAICES said Motawakil served alongside US troops as an interpreter from 2012 to 2013, later working as a US contractor in his home country.

He and his family were reportedly traveling to the US on Special Immigrant Visas, which are hard to come by and granted to those whose lives are in danger as a result of their service with the US military.

Special Immigrant Visas take years to obtain, and tightened immigration controls have apparently made the process even more difficult for applicants.

“The father remains detained and his wife and children were allowed into the US pending the outcome of his proceedings,” CBP told The Hill, further explaining that “due to the restrictions of the Privacy Act, US Customs and Border Protection does not discuss the details of individual cases.”

The temporary release of the mother and the children was attributed to the efforts made by four Texas Democrats working on behalf of the family.

Texas Reps. Lloyd Doggett and Joaquin Castro called CBP while Reps. Al Green and Sheila Jackson Lee supported the family at the airport.

Nonetheless, the family is is “confused and traumatized” by the situation, RAICES spokesman William Fitzgeral told The Post. Motawakil’s wife and children spent Jan. 11, 2019 at the Afghan Cultural Center in Houston.

The reason for the detention is murky, but Fitzgerald told The Post the family was threatened with deportation after someone — potentially a relative — opened sealed medical records, leading authorities to question the authenticity of the family’s documentation.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Military bases linked to cancer and health problems

CBS recently released a story about toxic chemicals at Air Force bases and their link to severe health problems, like cancer and birth defects, but this is in no way new information. In 2001, the Deseret News raised the same question: Do military bases have links to cancer?


The correlation, at least, is astounding.

This Memorial Day, honor through action. Here’s how.
Exposure to jet fuels can occur if you have skin contact with soil or water contaminated from a spill or leak. You might breathe in some of the chemicals evaporating in the vicinity of an aircraft during cold engine startup. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Beth Holliker.)

In 2001, communities near Hill Air Force Base in Utah showed a high risk of developing brain cancer, while Fallon Naval Air Station was investigated for acute childhood leukemia incidents, and Kelly Air Force Base near San Antonio, Texas, was revealed to have contributed to water and air pollution when clusters of cancer and leukemia popped up.

Also read: The VA is running out of money for Veterans Choice health care program — again

At the time, however, officials kept to a firm statement: Correlation does not equate causation.

In other words, it was clear that military bases were contaminating the water, air, and environment. It was clear that there were higher-than-expected cases of severe illness. It was not clear that one caused the other.

This Memorial Day, honor through action. Here’s how.
Air Force firefighters extinguish burning jet fuel during a fire training exercise at Fort McCoy, Wis. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Heather Cozad)

Air Force bases, in particular, show high cases of contamination for a few reasons: jet fuel is extremely toxic by itself, but it is also highly flammable, requiring toxic flame retardants. These leak into the ground and contaminate water supplies; jet fuel is also known to pollute the air, especially in areas like airports or flight lines, where there are high volumes of active engines.

In 2016, residents near Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Michigan discovered that the water they drank, bathed in, swam in, and fished in was contaminated with jet fuel, cancer-causing chlorinated solvents, and toxic fire retardants. Military families and members of the local community have since reported cases of hypertension, lung disease, nervous system issues, blood vessel damage, asthma, spinal defects, and thyroid problems.

This Memorial Day, honor through action. Here’s how.
Members of the 151st Air Refueling Wing Medical Group don their hazardous material suits for training at Camp Williams, Utah. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jeremy Giacoletto-Stegall)

And now, in 2018, the communities near Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, are considering a class action lawsuit due to the health defects linked to contaminated water.

The number of people — service members, their families, and civilians in communities near military bases — affected is in the millions (as of 2014, there were 21.8 million living veterans alone).

Related: How Vietnam veterans can get a rare cancer from this parasite

So, while it has been clear since the first World War that the United States and its military has a global impact, and therefore an imperative to maintain military superiority so we may continue to defend not only our way of life, but the livelihoods of our friends and allies, the question remains: at what cost?

MIGHTY TRENDING

The UK and France will also challenge China in the South China Sea

Both France and the United Kingdom will challenge Beijing by sailing through “territorial waters” in the South China Sea in early June 2018.

French Minister of Armed Forces Florence Parly and British Secretary of State for Defense Gavin Williamson made the announcement while speaking at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore on June 3, 2018. While neither official mentioned China in regards to the exercise, which will involve a French maritime task group and UK ships, the language they used was pointed.


“We have to make it clear that nations need to play by the rules, and there are consequences for not doing so,” Williamson said, adding that the UK will send three ships to the South China Sea in 2018 to enforce rules-based order.

Parly also gave further details of how a challenge will play out.

“At some point a stern voice intrudes into the transponder and tells us to sail away from supposedly ‘territorial waters,'” Parly said. “But our commander then calmly replies that he will sail forth, because these, under international law, are indeed international waters.”

“By exercising our freedom of navigation, we also place ourselves in the position of a persistent objector to the creation of any claim to de facto sovereignty on the islands,” Parly added.

This Memorial Day, honor through action. Here’s how.
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and Florence Parly, France’s minister of defense.
(DOD photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jette Carr)

The South China Sea is a highly contentious area in which China, Brunei, Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam, and the Philippines have competing claims.

But China has drawn increasing ire for the militarization of its islands, and the US recently disinvited the PLA Navy from an international military exercise because of Beijing’s “continued militarization of disputed features in the South China Sea” which “only serve to raise tensions and destabilize the region.”

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis reiterated this stance on June 2, 2018, at the Singapore meeting, saying that the placement of weapons on South China Sea islands “is tied directly to military use for the purpose of intimidation and coercion.”

“There will be consequences to China ignoring the international community,” Mattis said.

“I believe there are much larger consequences in the future when nations lose the rapport of their neighbors… eventually these [actions] do not pay off,” he said.

Several hours later, China’s Lieutenant General He Le slammed “irresponsible comments from other countries.”

“Certain countries, under the guise of so-called ‘freedom of navigation’ and ‘freedom of aviation,’ have sent military vessels and aircraft to the waters and airspace near China’s territory, even sailing within 12 nautical miles of Chinese waters,” He said.

“This has jeopardized China’s security and challenged China’s sovereignty,” He said, highlighting that such acts “are the true root of the militarization of the South China Sea.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

AI experts want to get their tech to troops in the field

Two Defense Department artificial-intelligence experts testified on Capitol Hill Dec.11, 2018, on DOD’s efforts to transform delivery of capabilities enabled by artificial intelligence to the nation’s warfighters.

Lisa Porter, deputy undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, and Dana Deasy, DOD’s chief information officer, testified at a hearing of the House Armed Services Committee’s subcommittee on emerging threats and capabilities.


The John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2019 directed the defense secretary to conduct a comprehensive national review of advances in AI relevant to the needs of the military services. Section 238 directed the secretary to craft a strategic plan to develop, mature, adopt and transition AI technologies into operational use.

“Today we are experiencing an explosion of interest in a subfield of AI called machine learning, where algorithms have become remarkably good at classification and prediction tasks when they can be trained on very large amounts of data,” Porter told the House panel. Today’s AI capabilities offer potential solutions to many defense-specific problems, such as object identification in drone video or satellite imagery and detection of cyber threats on networks, she said.

This Memorial Day, honor through action. Here’s how.

Deputy undersecretary of defense for research and engineering Lisa Porter.

However, she added, several issues must be addressed to effectively apply AI to national security mission problems.

“First, objective evaluation of performance requires the use of quantitative metrics that are relevant to the specific use case,” she said. “In other words, AI systems that have been optimized for commercial applications may not yield effective outcomes in military applications.”

Challenges, vulnerabilities

DOD is working to address such challenges and vulnerabilities in multiple ways, she said, most of which will leverage the complementary roles of the new Joint Artificial Intelligence Center and the department’s research and engineering enterprise.

Second, Porter said, existing AI systems need enormous amounts of training data, and the preparation of that data in a format that the algorithms can use, in turn, requires a large amount of human labor.

“AI systems that have been trained on one type of data typically do not perform well on data that are different from the training data,” she noted.

The JAIC’s focus on scaling and integration will drive innovation in data curation techniques, while the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency will pursue algorithms that can be “robustly trained with much less data,” Porter said.

“The high-performance computing modernization program is designing new systems that will provide ample processing power for AI applications on the battlefield,” she added.

This Memorial Day, honor through action. Here’s how.

Department of Defense Chief Information Officer Dana Deasy.

Countering adversarial AI is one of the key focus areas of DARPA’s “AI Next” campaign, she emphasized. “Ultimately, as we look to the future, we anticipate a focus on developing AI systems that have the ability to reason as humans do, at least to some extent,” Porter said. “Such a capability would greatly amplify the utility of AI, enabling AI systems to become true partners with their human counterparts in problem solving. It is important that we continue to pursue cutting-edge research in AI, especially given the significant investments our adversaries are making.”

Three themes of JAIC effort

Deasy detailed the JAIC and highlighted three themes of its effort.

“The first is delivering AI-enabled capabilities at speed,” he said. “JAIC is collaborating now with teams across DOD to systematically identify, prioritize and select mission needs, and then rapidly execute a sequence across functional use cases that demonstrate value and spur momentum.”

The second theme is all about scale, he said.

“JAIC’s early projects serve a dual purpose: to deliver new capabilities to end users, as well as to incrementally develop the common foundation that is essential for scaling AI’s impact across DoD,” he explained. “This means [the use of] shared data, reusable tools, libraries, standards, and AI cloud and edge services that helped jumpstart new projects.”

The third theme is building the initial JAIC team.

“It’s all about talent,” he said. “And this will be representative across all the services and all components. Today, we have assembled a force of nearly 30 individuals. Going forward, it is essential that JAIC attract and cultivate a select group of mission-driven, world-class AI talent, including pulling these experts into service from industry.”

In November 2018, before more than 600 representatives of 380 companies, academic institutions and government organizations at DOD’s AI Industry Day, Deasy said, he announced that the department had achieved a significant milestone: “JAIC is now up and running and open for business.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Japan’s first woman fighter pilot was inspired by ‘Top Gun’

When Misa Matsushima joined the Japan Air Self Defense Force, she was one of 13,707 women service members who made up just 6.1% of all Japanese troops.

Four years later, now 1st Lt. Matsushima is in even more rarified air: The 26-year-old was named as Japan’s first female fighter pilot on Aug 24, 2018.


For Matsushima, the achievement was inspired by the movie that made the fighter jock a mainstream figure.

“Ever since I saw the movie ‘Top Gun’ when I was in primary school, I have always admired fighter jet pilots,” Matsushima told reporters on Aug 23, 2018.

“As the first female (fighter) pilot, I will open the way. I would like work hard to meet people’s expectations and show my gratitude to people who have been supporting me,” she added. “I want to become a full-fledged pilot, no different from men, as soon as possible.”

This Memorial Day, honor through action. Here’s how.

1st. Lt. Misashi Matsushima, the first woman fighter pilot in Japan’s Air Self Defense Force.

(Japan Air Self Defense Force / Twitter)

Originally from Yokohama in eastern Japan, Matsushima graduated from the National Defense Academy in 2014. After that she got her pilot’s license and moved to fighter-pilot training with the JASDF.

Matsushima completed the fighter-pilot course alongside five men and is expected to start flying F-15s in six months to a year. The F-15J that the JASDF flies is a twin-engine fighter designed for air-to-air combat. It can hit a top speed of Mach 2.5 — nearly 2,000 mph.

She has to undergo further training to qualify to scramble the jet to intercept aircraft that enter Japanese airspace. She will be stationed at Nyutabaru air base on the eastern coast of Kyushu, the southern most of Japan’s four main islands.

Her appointment comes amid a broader move toward gender equality in Japan’s armed forces, which are also trying to grow their ranks.

Japan’s Air Self Defense Force opened many of its positions to women in 1993, but they were still barred from fighter and reconnaissance aircraft until 2015, when the prohibition was lifted as part of an effort to increase the number of women in the service. Matsushima had planned to fly transport planes before the restriction was lifted.

This Memorial Day, honor through action. Here’s how.

1st. Lt. Misashi Matsushima, the first woman fighter pilot in Japan’s Air Self Defense Force.

(Japan Air Self Defense Force / Twitter)

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged in 2013 to empower more women to join the workforce, a landmark move for a leader in a society that has long been male-dominated.

Spring 2018, Japan’s Defense Ministry began several initiatives to boost the number of women in the military from the current 6.1% of the 228,000-strong force to 9% by 2030. Women are 16% of the US’s military’s roughly 1.29 million enlisted personnel.

Other women have achieved similar feats. Ryoko Azuma became the first woman to command a warship squadron in early 2018, a decade after Tokyo lifted a ban on women serving on warships. Women are still barred from submarines.

But Japan remains profoundly unequal for women. The country slid three spots in the World Economic Forum’s global gender-equality rankings for 2017, falling from 111 to 114 out of 144 countries. That drop was driven largely by the low proportion of women lawmakers and Cabinet ministers.

Matsushima’s accomplishment comes amid a broader push by the hawkish Abe government to grow the military. The Defense Ministry said in early August 2018 that it would raise the maximum age for military recruits form 26 to 32 to expand the pool of potential soldiers that has shrunk due to the country’s low birth rates and aging population.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Corpsman saves family from crushed car

“I don’t know how many people were outside the vehicle, but I heard them counting down ‘three, two, one, lift!’ while they moved the weight of the tree off the car. I pushed up on the roof with my back to allow just enough room to get the boy out without causing further injury to him,” said the corpsman of 15 years. The boy’s head had been lodged into the side of his own left knee. The vehicle’s roof was also pushed into the child’s back.

At this point, Rory Farrell had already saved the boy’s mother who was not breathing in the front seat of the vehicle. He was now determined to save her trapped son.

Farrell, a native of Colchester, Connecticut, had always shown compassion and the willingness to help others even at a young age, according to his family.


“In that time, there have been moments that hinted to the amazing young man he would become. Sparks of light in moments of darkness that were ignited by Rory,” said Alexandra McGrath, one of his sisters.

Farrell had never been to Yosemite National Park in California before deciding to vacation there. After suffering a hand injury, he thought a simple camping trip would help him “push the reset button.”

This Memorial Day, honor through action. Here’s how.

Tree involved in the accident at Yosemite National Park.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

It was Labor Day weekend 2017, a very busy time to visit the park. Farrell left a day earlier than anticipated. The U.S. Navy special amphibious reconnaissance corpsman finished up on a weapons range the day prior, where he supported U.S. Marines at Camp Pendleton, California, and decided it would be a good idea to keep his medical bag with him on the trip nearly 400 miles away. He did not know just how important that choice would be.

The following day soon after arriving in the park, he realized just how crowded it could be. Not wanting to be around that many people, Farrell decided to drive farther up north in the park.

After some time on the road, he eventually decided to turn around and started to backtrack his way toward the crowds once again for no particular reason.

“To this day, I still look back and say ‘wow that was a big decision,'” said Farrell.

It was only 15 minutes after he turned around that a tree, later measured to be 33 inches in circumference and 110 feet high, fell onto a parked Toyota Prius, crushing the car no more than 100 meters in front of him.

“It didn’t make sense at first, because you’re just seeing a giant tree crush a car,” said Farrell.

He got out of his truck and ran toward the vehicle to figure out how he could help.

Farrell saw two occupants outside of the vehicle and breathed a sigh of relief, thinking everyone made it out OK. He then saw the facial expression and desperation of the driver, clearly panicking – speaking no English – made it clear to Farrell that there were still people in the car.

Running up to the crushed vehicle, he could see a woman unresponsive in the front passenger’s seat and just behind her a 4-year-old little boy pinned down by the roof of the car, trapped in his booster seat.

“In a situation like that, time is of the essence,” said Farrell.

Because there were two people, he had to make the immediate decision of who to assess first. The mother was not pinned in the vehicle. He saw this as an opportunity to get her out of there quickly, according to Farrell.

He gave a single rescue breath to the mother, who responded. He then directed a few bystanders who had arrived at the scene to take the mother out of the vehicle and get her to safety, according to the accident report.

Because of the boy’s position and not wanting to risk further injury to him, Farrell decided to get into the vehicle and push up on the roof with his back while bystanders outside lifted the tree off the car just enough for the child to be removed from his booster seat.

This Memorial Day, honor through action. Here’s how.

Rear view of white Toyota Prius involved in the accident at Yosemite National Park. Photo taken after the tree and occupants have been removed from the vehicle.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

With the boy free from the weight of the tree, Farrell could start a more detailed assessment. He felt for a pulse, which was high.

“As a medic, this is a good sign, a really good sign,” said Farrell.

The boy was not breathing, and his jaw was locked in place. Farrell’s attempted rescue breath did not work as it did with the child’s mother.

Realizing the increasing danger of the tree pushing into the roof, Farrell called for a bystander to come grab the boy as he passed him through the window. After getting out of the car himself, he immediately took the boy back and put him next to his mom, according to Farrell.

After manipulating his jaw enough to get it open and clearing the airway of any blockage, Farrell gave another rescue breath. This time the boy responded, taking a breath.

Remembering he had his medical supplies in his truck, he sprinted to retrieve the bag and return to the boy and his mother to further administer first aid.

Farrell heard a bystander on the phone with emergency services and requested to speak with the dispatcher. He disseminated vital information to the 911 operator, including a recommendation to fly the patients out instead of using ground transportation. The dispatcher requested a medevac, according to the accident report.

An ambulance arrived shortly after to transport the two to their respective helicopters. Farrell was asked by the paramedics to ride with the boy and further assist until they reached the medevac crew. He hopped into the ambulance and continued his efforts. He did so until the boy was turned over to the helicopter crew.

Farrell’s preparedness for this situation stems from his occupation as a special operations independent duty corpsman.

“Since Rory was a little boy, he has dreamed of being in the military,” said Megin Farrell, another one of his sisters.

With this goal in mind and the aspiration to help others, he joined the Navy in 2004 to be a corpsman. From there, he worked his way into the special operations community.

He became a special amphibious reconnaissance corpsman or SARC, giving him a unique opportunity to complete additional and more challenging schooling, furthering his personal goal of being able to help others, according to Farrell.

Whether during this incident or when helping an injured Marine or sailor on one of Farrell’s multiple overseas deployments, his reaction is no different.

On his behalf, Farrell’s family traveled to Washington, D.C., Sept. 12, 2019, and accepted the U.S. Department of the Interior Citizen’s Award for Bravery for his actions and heroism.

“I was at the right place at the right time with the right training to make a difference, and that’s what’s important in a situation like this,” said Farrell.

Farrell is currently deployed aboard the USS Boxer with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The differences between America’s top special operators

The US military’s special operators are the most elite in the world.

Depending on the unit, special operators are charged with a variety of missions: counterterrorism, direct action (small raids and ambushes), unconventional warfare (supporting resistance against a government), hostage rescue and recovery, special reconnaissance (reconnaissance that avoids contact behind enemy lines), and more.

They’re also very secretive.

As such, it can be difficult to tell certain operators apart, especially since most units wear the standard fatigues within their military branch — and sometimes they don’t wear uniforms at all to disguise themselves.

So, we found out how to tell six of the most elite special operators apart.

Check them out below.


This Memorial Day, honor through action. Here’s how.

The yellow Ranger tab can be seen above.

(US Army photo)

1. Army Rangers.

The 75th Ranger Regiment “is the Army’s premier direct-action raid force,” according to the Rangers.

Consisting of four battalions, their “capabilities include conducting airborne and air assault operations, seizing key terrain such as airfields, destroying strategic facilities, and capturing or killing enemies of the nation.”

They wear the same fatigues as regular soldiers, but there’s some ways to distinguish them.

The first sign is the yellow Ranger tab on the shoulder (seen above), which they receive after graduating from Ranger school. But this tab alone does not mean they’re a member of the Army’s special operations regiment.

This Memorial Day, honor through action. Here’s how.

The black Ranger scroll can be seen on the left arm of the Ranger, right.

(75th Ranger Regiment documentation specialist)

Soldiers don’t actually become 75th Ranger Regiment special operators until they finish the eight-week Ranger Assessment and Selection Program.

After finishing the Ranger Assessment and Selection Program, they receive a tan beret and black Ranger scroll (seen on the Rangers left arm above) and are now official members of the 75th Ranger Regiment.

Read more about Ranger school here and Ranger Assessment and Selection Program here.

This Memorial Day, honor through action. Here’s how.

The Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command emblem.

2. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command (MARSOC).

Founded in February 2006, MARSOC operators are rather new.

Consisting of three battalions, MARSOC operators conduct “foreign internal defense, special reconnaissance, and direct action,” according to MARSOC.

Foreign internal defense means training and equipping foreign allied military forces against internal threats, such as terrorism.

MARSOC operators wear the same fatigues as Marine infantrymen, and therefore, the only way to tell them apart is the MARSOC emblem seen above, which is worn on their chest.

Unveiled in 2016, the emblem is an eagle clutching a knife.

You can read more about the emblem here.

This Memorial Day, honor through action. Here’s how.

A PJ patch can be seen on the operator’s shoulder.

(US Air Force photo)

3. Air Force Pararescue specialists (PJs).

PJs “rescue and recover downed aircrews from hostile or otherwise unreachable areas,” according to the Air Force.

Consisting of about 500 airmen, these “highly trained experts perform rescues in every type of terrain and partake in every part of the mission, from search and rescue, to combat support to providing emergency medical treatment, in order to ensure that every mission is a successful one.”

And there’s three ways to distinguish PJs from other airmen.

The first, is the PJ patch seen on the shoulder of the operator above.

This Memorial Day, honor through action. Here’s how.

(US Air Force photo)

This Memorial Day, honor through action. Here’s how.

(US Air Force photo)

This Memorial Day, honor through action. Here’s how.

The Army’s Special Forces only wear their green berets at military installations in the US.

(US Army photo)

To be clear, the US Army’s Special Forces are the only special forces. Rangers, PJs, MARSOC — these are special operators, not special forces.

The US Army’s Special Forces are known to the public as Green Berets — but they call themselves the quiet professionals.

Green Berets, which work in 12-man teams, can perform a variety of missions, including unconventional warfare, special reconnaissance, direct action, foreign internal defense, and more.

Like many operator units, they wear the same Army fatigues as regular soldiers (you can read more about the current and past Army uniforms here), but there are three ways in which you can distinguish them.

One, is the green beret seen above, which they only wear at military installations in the US, and never while deployed abroad.

This Memorial Day, honor through action. Here’s how.

(US Army photo)

The two patches below are the other ways to distinguish them.

The patch that reads “Special Forces,” known as the “Long Tab,” is given to operators after finishing the 61-week long Special Forces Qualification Course.

Green Berets also wear patches of a dagger going through lightning bolts, but the colors vary depending on the unit.

Read more about Army Special Forces here.

This Memorial Day, honor through action. Here’s how.

The SEAL trident is an indicator of Navy SEALs.

(US Navy photo)

5. Navy SEALs.

The Navy’s Sea, Air and Land Forces, or SEALs, were established by President John F. Kennedy in 1962.

Working in small, tightly knit units, SEAL missions vary from direct-action warfare, special reconnaissance, counterterrorism, and foreign-internal defense, according to the Navy.

SEALs also go through more than 12 months of initial training at Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL school and SEAL Qualification Training, as well as roughly 18 months of pre-deployment training.

And there are two ways to tell SEALs apart from other sailors.

The first is the SEAL trident seen above, which is an eagle clutching an anchor, trident, and pistol. The insignia is worn on the breast of their uniform.

This Memorial Day, honor through action. Here’s how.

Only SEALs and Special Warfare Combatant Craft Crewman wear the Type II Navy Working Uniform.

(US Navy photo)

The other is their uniforms.

Only SEALs and Special Warfare Combatant Craft Crewman wear the Type II Navy Working Uniform.

A Type II uniform is a “desert digital camouflage uniform of four colors … worn by Special Warfare Operators, sailors who support them, and select NECC units,” according to the Navy.

Delta Force operators in Afghanistan, their faces censored to protect their privacy.

(Courtesy of Dalton Fury.)

6. Delta Force.

The Army’s 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, or Delta Force, is perhaps the US military’s most secretive unit.

A United States Special Operations Command public affairs officer told Business Insider that they do not discuss Delta Force operators, despite providing information about other special operator units.

“We are very strict with our quiet professionalism,” a former Delta operator previously told We Are The Mighty. “If someone talks, you will probably be blacklisted.”

Formed in 1977, Delta operators perform a variety of missions, including counterterrorism (specifically to kill or capture high-value targets), direct action, hostage rescues, covert missions with the CIA, and more.

In general, Delta and SEAL Team 6 operators are the most highly trained operators in the US military.

Both units have the most sophisticated equipment and are highly trained in Close Quarters Combat (CQB), hostage rescue, high-value-target extraction, and other specialized operations. The difference is the extensive training SEALs receive in specialized maritime operations, given their naval heritage.

“Each unit has strengths and weaknesses, neither is better or worse,” the former Delta operator said.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

No joke: Here’s how you can join President Trump’s COVID-19 briefing April 1

During the COVID-19 crisis, President Trump has been holding daily briefings from the White House to provide updates on the pandemic. Now, the president is extending an opportunity for service members and their families to listen in on a conference call hosted especially for them, to discuss the status of COVID-19 and how it impacts the military.


The Department of Defense announced the call on social media, requesting that interested parties RSVP via a provided link.

According to the Center for Disease Control, as of March 31, 2020, there were 163,539 total cases of COVID-19 reported in the United States and 2,860 deaths. The military announced they will no longer be releasing numbers of infected service members due to security reasons.