In pretrial hearings Aug. 22, the soldier’s defense team petitioned to remove Gen. Robert Abrams from the case for referring charges to a general court-martial “without considering defense objections to and comments on the report of the preliminary hearing officer” and for burning letters of support for the defense.
Bergdahl’s defense team also says Abrams “faced improper conflicts” as the senior military assistant to then-Sec. of Defense Chuck Hagel. The general was responsible for briefing Hagel on Bergdahl’s health and reintegration processes.
While the prosecution maintained the letters weren’t evidence and that Abrams shouldn’t be forced to testify, the judge ruled against those claims.
The Army alleges Bergdahl abandoned his post in Afghanistan in 2009 where the Taliban captured him and held him in captivity until his release in 2014. The Obama administration negotiated Bergdahl’s return in exchange for several high-ranking Taliban insurgents held in Guantanamo Bay.
Bergdahl faces two charges from the Army; Article 85 “desertion” and Article 99 “misbehavior before the enemy.”
Bergdahl’s lawyers have tried before to prove the military mishandled his case, included citing an October statement from Sen. John McCain who said if Bergdahl wasn’t punished, he’d launch a Senate probe. The defense argues McCain’s statements improperly impacted the public perception of the case and violated Bergdahl’s Constitutional due process rights.
The Army Office of the Chief of Legislative Liaison reportedly asked McCain to “back off,” saying his statement could allow Sgt. Bergdahl’s defense to show unlawful command influence in his case.
The defense believes the events are part of a pattern of Army meddling in the case, and that the charges should be thrown out or that Bergdahl should receive no punishment if convicted.
This latest revelation, combined with Bergdahl’s attempts to join the French Foreign Legion and his time aboard an Alaskan fishing boat, shows what the prosecution alleges is a “psychological disposition toward adventure.”
Sgt. Bergdahl’s trial is scheduled to start in February 2017.
There is a proverbial 800-pound gorilla that the United States Army is facing. Well, more like 110 pounds. That’s the weight some soldiers have to haul on their backs. And it’s a big problem.
“We [now] have Soldiers in their late teens and early 20s and they’re getting broken sometimes in training before they see a day in combat,” Zac Wingard, a mechanical engineer for the Army Research Laboratory’s Weapons and Materials Research Directorate, was quoted in an Army release as saying during the Association of the United States Army’s Global Force Symposium.
How to prevent this? One solution is to give the troops a third arm. Yeah, you read that right. The Army Research Lab has a prototype third arm for troops that will hang off their body armor.
The device, which weighs about 4 pounds, is currently in testing at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds. Currently, the third arm is being used to help re-direct the weight of weapons, currently M4 carbines, onto a soldier’s body.
“With this configuration right now, we can go up to 20 pounds and take all of that weight off of the arms,” mechanical engineer Dan Baechle said.
During the testing, troops have been wearing sensors to determine how much muscle activity is occurring. Eventually this system could be used with other weapons, like the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon or the M240B machine gun. But it might not end there – troops could be able to carry more powerful systems, since the recoil won’t be directly impacting them.
“We could potentially look at very high recoil systems that aren’t going to beat up on the soldier like they normally would,” Baechle said. There are also application for other tactical needs, like shooting around corners, close-quarters combat, and other fighting techniques.
But it might not just be about helping to shoot a weapon. Troops could also use the third arm to hold shields or keep a weapon ready while using other tools to breach barricades.
That said, before this system goes into the field, they will try to make sure it can be rugged enough to handle whatever the battlefield throws at it.
While a leaked US intelligence report suggests North Korea now can build warheads small and light enough to fit inside its intercontinental ballistic missiles, nuclear weapons experts doubt that Pyongyang can develop an operational ICBM with a reliable warhead capable of hitting the US mainland.
Reports about the intelligence community’s consensus on North Korea’s weapons capability came this week as Pyongyang and Washington exchanged war threats.
The July 28 analysis from the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency, disclosed August 8 by The Washington Post, concludes that Pyongyang has “produced nuclear weapons for ballistic missile delivery, to include delivery by ICBM-class missiles.” On August 10, NBC News quoted unnamed US officials as saying the CIA and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, as well as other intelligence agencies, agreed with the assessment.
Key questions unanswered
Miniaturization technology was one of the major hurdles in Kim Jong Un’s nuclear and missile programs. If the DIA assessment holds true, the regime is now closer to achieving its ambition: striking the continental US with a nuclear-tipped ICBM.
Determined as North Korea is to become a full-fledged nuclear power, experts say several important questions about its capabilities remain.
David Albright, a former UN nuclear inspector, told VOA’s Korean service the DIA assessment appeared to have ignored “uncertainties and caveats” about the reliability of the miniaturized warhead, once it is loaded atop an ICBM, and little is known about the chances that the payload will reach its target.
Pyongyang already can miniaturize nuclear warheads and mount them on its medium-range Rodong missiles, which have been test-launched repeatedly since the early 1990s. Albright said it might be possible, but less likely, that they could do the same with an ICBM.
Difficulties only begin at launch
Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security, explained that a nuclear warhead must survive the entire ICBM mission – the rigors of blastoff, possibly from a mobile launch vehicle, the flight into space and then a blazing re-entry into the atmosphere – before it can detonate above its target.
Failures can occur, Albright noted, because of the much more exacting requirements of the Hwasong-14 ICBM missile system, which has been tested only twice, and just within the past month – not enough to establish its reliability.
“Countries spend a lot of time working this problem to try to build up what they call the reliability of the warhead in a delivery system, and it just takes time,” Albright said. “I think I would be skeptical that North Korea can do it right now.”
Michael Elleman, senior fellow for missile defense at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, had similar views. But in terms of volume, he said, if a warhead can fit inside the payload bay of Pyongyang’s Scud-type short-range missile, which has a relatively narrow diameter, any of the regime’s other missiles, including the Hwasong-14, certainly could accommodate it.
Lighter warheads travel farther
It is not yet clear by how much the North Koreans can lighten their missiles’ payloads, which would extend their range.
“It is still a question mark as to whether they can threaten deep into the United States,” Elleman said.
However, he told VOA, it appears the North Koreans’ rockets could deliver a 500-kilogram warhead as far the western portions of the continental US
Further undercutting confidence in the North’s technical capabilities is a lack of clarity about the Kim regime’s mastery of atmospheric re-entry technology for the warhead, a crucial requirement for operational ICBMs.
For long-range flights, Elleman said, “the re-entry velocity, when it comes back into the Earth’s atmosphere, is much higher, and so the protection mechanisms for the re-entry vehicle [must be] more rigorous, to survive the much greater amount of heat and the vibrations as it slows down, passing through … thicker and thicker [air] as you get closer to the surface.”
Tests show ‘substantial progress’
Siegfried Hecker, a former director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, is now a professor at Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation, and he has visited North Korea seven times and toured its nuclear facilities.
Hecker said in an interview with The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists that making miniaturized warheads robust enough to survive the extreme conditions of ICBM flight “is very demanding and takes time, particularly because warheads contain materials such as plutonium, highly enriched uranium, high explosives and the like.”
“These are not,” he added, “your ordinary industrial materials.”
However, Hecker added in a separate interview this week, Pyongyang’s latest two missile tests, of their ICBMs, “demonstrate substantial progress, and most likely mean they will be able to master the technology in the next year or two.”
The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, founded in 1945 by scientists who worked on the US Manhattan Project and built the first atomic bomb, has for 70 years published the “Doomsday Clock,” intended as a measure of how close the world is to a thermonuclear war – or to midnight, on the clock, because that could lead to a worldwide cataclysm.
The Doomsday Clock stood at three minutes to midnight in 2016. The scientists involved advanced it in late January this year, and it is now just two minutes and 30 seconds short of midnight.
Nearly four decades ago, America’s fledgling counter-terrorism force launched a daring operation to a remote desert outpost to rescue Americans held hostage. The mission failed, but its repercussions were felt for years, and the flames and death of that day forged the special operations force that was able to successfully execute even more daring — and successful — missions in the decades to come.
On Nov. 4, 1979, approximately 3,000 Iranian militants took control of the U.S. embassy in Tehran, holding 63 Americans hostage. An additional three U.S. members were seized at the Iranian Foreign Ministry for a total of 66.
This was in response to President Jimmy Carter allowing Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, the recently deposed Iranian ruler, into the U.S. for cancer treatment. New leadership in Iran wanted the shah back as well as the end of Western influence in their country.
After a few weeks, 13 hostages, all women or African Americans, were released but the remaining 53 would wait out five months of failed negotiations.
President Carter, originally wanting to end the hostage crisis diplomatically and without force, turned to alternative solutions as he felt the political pressure to resolve the problem. On April 16, 1980, he approved Operation Eagle Claw, a military rescue operation involving all four branches of the U.S. armed forces.
The two-day rescue mission consisted of eight Navy RH-53D helicopters and multiple variations of C-130 aircraft. All aircraft were to gather together at Desert One, a salt flat about 200 miles outside of Tehran. There, the helicopters would refuel through the C-130’s and then transport assault units into a mountain location near Tehran where the rescue mission would begin. Unfortunately, the mission never made it that far.
On April 24, 1980, Operation Eagle Claw began. All aircraft proceeded to Desert One but a strong dust storm complicated traveling. Two of the eight helicopters were unable to complete the mission and had to turn around. Another helicopter broke down at Desert One, leaving a total of five working helicopters. Mission commanders and leadership needed a minimum of six to complete the mission. The decision was made to abort the operation and return home.
During departure from Desert One, one of the helicopters collided with a C-130, killing eight U.S. service members. The remaining members all left in the additional C-130 leaving behind numerous helicopters, a C-130 and the eight dead Americans. The failed mission, in addition with loss of life, was a humiliating blow for the U.S. However, this tragedy put a magnifying glass over the inadequacies of joint operations, forever changing the future of the U.S. military and special operations.
The need for enhanced capabilities between more than one military service was the prediction for the future of the Armed Forces. Significant military reforms, such as the Goldwater-Nichols Act and Joint Doctrine, addressed the readiness and capability issues demonstrated in Operation Eagle Claw. It pointed out the necessity for a dedicated special operations section within the Department of Defense with the responsibility to prepare and maintain combat-ready forces to successfully conduct special operations.
Today, the different branches training alongside each other is common practice. Planning for missions consist of specific details with back up plans to the back up plans. Ultimately, the lives lost as Desert One weren’t in vain. The lessons learned from that mission made special operations into what we know them as today.
Iraqi armed forces have pushed out Daesh from Tal Afar city while some parts of the district bearing the same name remain under the terrorist group’s control, a senior army official said Aug. 27.
“Joint forces of the army and the Hashd al-Shaabi — a pro-government Shia militia — have liberated two neighborhoods of Al-Askari and the Al-Senaa Al-Shamaliya, as well as the Al-Maaredh area, Tal Afar Gate, and the Al-Rahma village in the eastern part of the city,” Lt. Gen. Abdul-Amir Yarallah, Mosul operation commander, said in a televised statement.
While all parts of the city have been recaptured, fighting for control of some parts of Tal Afar district continues.
Yarallah said only the Al-Ayadieh area and its surrounding villages in the district now remain in Daesh’s grip, adding the armed forces were advancing “towards the last targets in order to liberate them”.
On Aug. 27, the Iraqi government launched a major offensive to retake Tal Afar, involving army troops, federal police units, counter-terrorism forces and armed members of Hashd al-Shaabi — a largely Shia force that was incorporated into the Iraqi army last year.
Ministry of Displacement and Migration official Zuhair Talal al-Salem told Anadolu Agency 1,500 people fled the district’s surrounding villages and areas.
“The displaced people were transferred from security checkpoints to Nimrod camp, where they are receiving relief assistance,” Al-Salem said.
Nimrud camp in the southeast of Mosul is said to have a capacity to house 3,000 families.
The ministry transferred some 500 displaced families to the camp after checking their names August 26 in the district of Hamam al-Alil, south of Mosul.
Seventy-two years ago Marines raised the American flag over Mount Suribachi on the island of Iwo Jima on Feb. 23, 1945. Joe Rosenthal’s photo of the second flag-raising became one of the most famous photos of World War II, but the battle actually raged from Feb. 19 to Mar. 26. Here are 18 other photos from the battle where almost 7,000 Marines, sailors, Coast Guardsmen, and soldiers lost their lives:
1. The Marines landed on Iwo Jima in waves on tracked boats.
2. The water was thick with the Marines, sailors, and Coast Guardsmen of the landing force.
3. At the beaches, the Marines poured onto the black, volcanic sand under Japanese fire.
4. Japanese artillery and mortars took out a lot of the heavy equipment as it got bogged down in the sand.
5. The Navy used its big guns to destroy the lethal Japanese artillery where possible and to break open bunkers firing on U.S. troops.
6. This duel between the heavy guns played out on the island as constant explosions.
7. The Marines would advance when the fire was relatively light, trying to take Japanese positions before another artillery barrage.
8. When the fire was particularly heavy, they’d burrow into the sand for cover.
Performance will be the primary factor in the future if the Defense Department has to resort to a civilian reduction in force, DoD officials said today.
The department revamped the rules for the reduction-in-force process as a result of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2016.
That law requires the department to establish procedures to provide that, in any reduction in force of civilian positions in the competitive or excepted service, the determination of which employees shall be separated from employment shall be made primarily on basis of performance.
A reduction in force, or RIF, as it is known, is the term used when the government lays off employees. The RIF procedures determine whether an employee keeps his or her present position, whether the employee has a right to a different position or whether the employee must be let go.
In the past, tenure was the primary factor when making RIF calculations. Now, an employee’s performance rating of record will carry the greatest weight followed by tenure group, performance average score, veterans’ preference and DoD service computation date-RIF.
“The DoD civilian workforce is one of the department’s most important assets,” said Julie Blanks, acting assistant secretary of defense for civilian personnel policy. “However, there are times when the department must make difficult decisions that impact our civilians, and in doing so, it is imperative these decisions result in our continued ability to seamlessly execute our national security mission. When circumstances necessitate a RIF, the department must ensure we are retaining our highest performing employees.”
The changes will apply to almost all of DoD’s 750,000 civilian employees. This change in the RIF process only applies to DoD. The government-wide provisions that rank four retention factors by tenure of employment; veterans’ preference; length of service; and performance remain in place for other federal agencies.
Under the new system, if an agency is forced to employ a RIF, employees will be placed on a retention register based on periods of assessed performance of 12 months or more or less than 12 months. The idea is to give an equitable comparison for employees whose performance has been assessed over a comparable period of time.
The first retention factor is rating of record. The rating of record is the average drawn from the two most recent performance appraisals received by the employee within the four-year period preceding the cutoff date for the RIF.
The second factor is tenure group. There are three tenure groups, with group III being temporary or term employees, these employees will be ranked at the bottom of the retention register below groups I and II.
Tenure group I and II employees are those serving on permanent appointments. Tenure group I includes employees who are not on probation and whose appointments are not career-conditional.
Tenure group II employees are those hired into permanent appointments in a career-conditional or probationary status. In general, tenure group II employees must have three years of creditable service and meet all other stated conditions of their probationary period in order to attain Tenure group I status. Tenure group I will be ranked above employees in tenure group II within each rating of record group.
The third factor is an employee’s average score. In general, an employee’s average score for one performance appraisal is derived by dividing the sum of the employee’s performance element ratings by the number of performance elements. For purposes of RIF, average score is the average of the average scores drawn from the two most recent performance appraisals received by the employee within the four year period preceding the “cutoff date” for the RIF.
Veterans’ preference is the fourth factor. “Veterans are a key part of the civilian workforce, representing a highly skilled, extremely well-qualified cadre of employees,” Blanks said. “The department firmly believes that highly performing veterans in the civilian workforce will not be disadvantaged by the new RIF policy.”
The final factor is the DoD service computation date-RIF, with those serving the longest having the edge.
DoD officials stress that a RIF is always the last resort for the department. They will do everything they can to mitigate the size of reductions, including the use of voluntary early retirement authority or voluntary separation incentive payments. Agencies will also use hiring freezes, termination of temporary appointments, and any other pre-RIF placement options.
The new DoD RIF policy and procedures are consistent with the implementation of the DoD Performance Management and Appraisal Program. This program standardizes the civilian performance appraisal system throughout the department.
The Air Force is working closely with industry partners to strengthen cybersecurity for larger service platforms such as an F-22 or F-35 fighters.
“We have to understand that today’s weapons systems are not operating in isolation. They are operating as part of a netted enterprise. Each weapons system will interface with a broader DOD network,” Allan Ballenger, vice president of the Air Force division at Engility Corp, told Scout Warrior.
Engility was recently awarded a $31 million task order deal from the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, at Hanscom AFB, Mass.
The F-22, often referred to by Air Force developers as an “aerial quarterback,” relies upon data link technology connecting to other aircraft and ground stations as more of the F-22’s technologies and avionics–such as radar warning receivers, mission data files, navigation and target mapping systems–are computer based.
The emerging F-35’s “sensor fusion” is entirely contingent upon modernized computer algorithms able to help gather, organize and present combat-relevant information to a pilot by synthesizing otherwise disparate data such as targeting, mapping and sensor data onto a single screen.
“The real focus is on the cyber vulnerability assessments across many Air Force platforms, such as command-and-control and battle management systems,” Ballenger said.
Engility’s focus is closely aligned with cybersecurity priorities recently articulated by senior Air Force leaders.
Air Force Chief Information Security Officer, Peter Kim, recently told Scout Warrior that the service was vigorously invovled in expanding cyber security beyond IT to inlcude larger platforms.
Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski, Commander of Air Force Material Command, has articulated seven lines of attack that are essential to better securing networks, data and command-and-control systems. One of the key intiatives informing this effort is an attempt to “bake-in” cyber security provisions into the earliest phases of weapons development.
Part of the focus, Ballenger explained, is to examine trends and current security controls with a mind to the kinds of attacks likely to emerge in the future against IT systems, platforms and networked weapons.
While increased interoperability among networks, weapons and platforms vastly expedites combat efficacy in a wide range of scenarios, Ballenger emphasized that greater connectivity can also increase vulnerability to malicious penetration and server attacks, among other problems.
“We are looking much earlier in the life cycle of these systems with a concern not just about their security but how they interface with other elements of the network. We want to embed cybersecurity earlier in the process,” Ballenger added.
Seeking to emulate threat vectors and anticipate potential methods of attack — such as how a web-based application could be exploited or the extent to which a trap door may interact with other elements – is an important ingredient in establishing the most effective security protocols.
Also, much of this begins and ends with network IP protocol–codes which can both further enable interoperability between networks and systems while also possibly exposing networks to additional vulnerabilities
“When you have an IP address that is assigned to you, you need to have the appropriate controls in place to reduce that vulnerability,” Ballenger added.
The need for better information security extends from larger systems down to an individual soldier or airmen on a particular combat mission. Tactical Air Controllers are an instance cited where ground targeting technology is used to identify and secure targets for nearby air assets. This kind of air-ground synergy is itself reliant upon computer networking technologies, he explained.”You do not want someone to manipulate data going from airmen on the ground to a shooter in the air,” Ballenger said.
F-22 and Air Superiority
As a fifth-generation stealth fighter, the F-22 is specifically engineered for air supremacy and air dominance missions, meaning its radar-evading technology is designed to elude and destroy enemy air defenses. The aircraft is also configured to function as the world’s premier air-to-air fighter able to “dogfight” and readily destroy enemy aircraft.
“Air superiority, using stealth characteristics is our primary role. The air dominance mission is what we will always do first. Once we are comfortable operating in that battlespace, our airmen are going to find ways to contribute,” Col. Larry Broadwell, the Commander of the 1st Operations Group at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, told Scout Warrior in a special pilot interview last year.
The F-22’s command and control sensors and avionics help other coalition aircraft identify and destroy targets. While some of the aircraft’s technologies are not “publically discussable,” Broadwell did say that the F-22’s active and passive sensors allow it to function as an “aerial quarterback” allowing the mission to unfold.
Drawing upon information from a ground-based command and control center or nearby surveillance plane – such as a Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System – the F-22 can receive information or target coordinates from nearby drones, Broadwell explained.
At the moment, targeting information from drones is relayed from the ground station back up to an F-22. However, computer algorithms and technology is fast evolving such that aircraft like an F-22s will soon be able to quickly view drone video feeds in the cockpit without needing a ground station — and eventually be able to control nearby drones from the air. These developments were highlighted in a special Scout Warrior interview with Air Force Chief Scientist Greg Zacharias last year.
Zacharias explained that fifth generation fighters such as the F-35 and F-22 are quickly approaching an ability to command-and-control nearby drones from the air. This would allow unmanned systems to deliver payload, test enemy air defenses and potentially extend the reach of ISR misisons.
U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Corey Hook)
“Because of its sensors, the F-22 is uniquely able to improve the battlefield awareness – not just for airborne F-22s but the other platforms that are airborne as well,” he said. The Raptor has an F-22-specific data link to share information with other F-22s and also has the ability to use a known data link called LINK 16 which enables it to communicate with other aircraft in the coalition, Broadwell explained in an interview last year.
Newer F-22s have a technology called Synthetic Aperture Radar, or SAR, which uses electromagnetic signals or “pings” to deliver a picture or rendering of the terrain below, allow for better target identification.
The SAR technology sends a ping to the ground and then analyzes the return signal to calculate the contours, distance and characteristics of the ground below.
“The addition of SAR mapping has certainly enhanced our air-to-ground capability. Previously, we would have to take off with pre-determined target coordinates. Now, we have an ability to more dynamically use the SAR to pinpoint a target while airborne,” Broadwell added.
“The F-35 is needed because it is to global precision attack what the F-22 is to air superiority,” he added. “These two aircrafts were built to work together in concert. It is unfortunate that we have so few F-22s. We are going to ask the F-35 to contribute to the air superiority mission,” he said.
The F-22 is known for a range of technologies including an ability called “super cruise” which enables the fighter to reach speeds of Mach 1.5 without needing to turn on its after burners.
“The F-22 engines produce more thrust than any current fighter engine. The combination of sleek aerodynamic design and increased thrust allows the F-22 to cruise at supersonic airspeeds. Super Cruise greatly expands the F-22’s operating envelope in both speed and range over current fighters, which must use fuel-consuming afterburner to operate at supersonic speeds,” Broadwell explained.
The fighter jet fires a 20mm cannon and has the ability to carry and fire all the air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons including precision-guided ground bombs, such Joint Direct Attack Munitions called the GBU 32 and GBU 39, Broadwell explained. In the air-to-air configuration the Raptor carries six AIM-120 AMRAAMs and two AIM-9 Sidewinders, he added.
“The F-22 possesses a sophisticated sensor suite allowing the pilot to track, identify, shoot and kill air-to-air threats before being detected. Significant advances in cockpit design and sensor fusion improve the pilot’s situational awareness,” he said.
It also uses what’s called a radar-warning receiver – a technology which uses an updateable data base called “mission data files” to recognize a wide-range of enemy fighters, Broadwell said.
Made by Lockheed Martin and Boeing, the F-22 uses two Pratt Whitney F119-PW-100 turbofan engines with afterburners and two-dimensional thrust vectoring nozzles, an Air Force statement said. It is 16-feet tall, 62-feet long and weighs 43,340 pounds. Its maximum take-off weight is 83,500.
The aircraft was first introduced in December of 2005, and each plane costs $143 million, Air Force statements say.
“Its greatest asset is the ability to target attack and kill an enemy without the enemy ever being aware they are there,” Broadwell added.
The Air Force’s stealthy F-22 Raptor fighter jet delivered some of the first strikes in the U.S.-led attacks on the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, when aerial bombing began in 2014, service officials told Scout Warrior.
After delivering some of the first strikes in the U.S. Coalition-led military action against ISIS, the F-22 began to shift its focus from an air-dominance mission to one more focused on supporting attacks on the ground.
“An F-22 squadron led the first strike in OIR (Operation Inherent Resolve). The aircraft made historic contributions in the air-to-ground regime,”
Even though ISIS does not have sophisticated air defenses or fighter jets of their own to challenge the F-22, there are still impactful ways in which the F-22 continues to greatly help the ongoing attacks, Broadwell said.
“There are no issues with the air superiority mission. That is the first thing they focus on. After that, they can transition to what they have been doing over the last several months and that has been figuring out innovative ways to contribute in the air-to-ground regime to support the coalition,” Broadwell said.
The new PWS Diablo AR15 pistols give us the warm ‘n’ fuzzies.
A gear porn bulletin from WATM friends The Mad Duo of BreachBangClear.com.
Remember: At the risk of sounding orgulous, we must remind you – this is just a “be advised”, a public service if you will, letting you know these things exist and might be of interest. It’s no more a review, endorsement, or denunciation than it is an episiotomy.
PWS recently released a limited run of AR15 pistols, and while it’s too late to get one in hand for Christmas, it’s not too late to ask for one. Why? Two reasons:
One, its close kin to the Diablo AR pistol. Diablo, as you already know if you’ve ever watched Talladega Nights, is Spanish for “fightin’ chicken.”
Two, they make snow-dicks at their headquarters during the winter.
True story, and one that might stem from or more of the large number of veterans PWS employs.
There are actually two new pistols, both using the PWS long stroke *snicker* piston system. That system is something of a bastard offspring, merging elements of the Kalashnikov operating system with that of the Stoner. More on that below.
Both pistols use the Maxim Defense CQB Pistol EXC, a so-called “cheek rest” that runs something like $400 by itself. The EXC is a well regarded brace, and its use reduces overall weight.
The pistols are available in .223 Wylde or 300BLK, and with a 7.75 in. or 11.85 in. barrel, but the MK1 MOD1-P (Patrol) version features a forged receiver set with forward assist and uses a KeyMod rail, while the MOD2 uses PicMod, with a proprietary upper receiver with lightening cuts and no forward assist.
Barrels are machined there in-house at the PWS facility in Idaho; they’re rifled with a 1:8 twist.
Now, speaking of bastard offsprings, if you’re not already familiar with the PicMod system from Bootleg, you should check it out. PicMod itself is the love child of Pic rails and KeyMod.
In addition to providing the utilitarianism of having two mounting systems, it will allow you to tuck accessories like a WML in really tight too.
Grunts: utilitarianism. We may not be using that correctly, but you already knew that.
Both weapons ship with the PWS CQB Comp, a muzzle device designed to tame muzzle blast and improve rifle control at short distances.
Here’s a quick look at that long stroke *snicker* piston system:
If you’re looking for more details about the CQB Comp, you can learn more about the various PWS muzzle devices in a blog post from earlier this year on Rogue Dynamics (here). Here’s what they had to say about the CQB:
“At first glance it looks like some gimmicky, wannabe-sound suppressor, but just a few rounds later and it’s clear that this is something else. The CQB was specifically designed for SBRs that would be running in close quarters, with rounds going off inches from friendly forces.”
The three members of Army Special Forces who were killed earlier this month outside a Jordanian military base were working for the Central Intelligence Agency, according to a report in The Washington Post.
The three soldiers with the Fort Campbell, Kentucky, 5th Special Forces Group were killed while entering a military base in Jordan on November 4. The soldiers, Staff Sgts. Matthew C. Lewellen, 27; Kevin J. McEnroe, 30; and James F. Moriarty, 27, were apparently fired upon by Jordanian security forces at the gate to King Feisal Air Base, where they were deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.
According to The Post, the soldiers were working on the CIA’s program to train moderate Syrian rebels. It’s still unclear what the circumstances were surrounding their deaths.
Jordanian military officials said that shots were fired as the Americans’ car tried to enter the base, and a Jordanian military officer was also wounded, according to Army Times. Reporting from the Post seems to suggest that an accidental discharge from the Green Berets inside their vehicle may have led to a shootout, which an official called a “chain of unfortunate events.”
The loss of the three soldiers may be the deadliest incident for the CIA since 2009, when a suicide bomber killed seven members of a CIA team in Khost, Afghanistan.
The CIA often “details” special operations units to operate within its paramilitary force, called Special Activities Division. Some notable examples include the use of Army’s Delta Force in the 2001 US invasion of Afghanistan and the operation to kill Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, which was carried out by Navy SEALs assigned to the CIA.
It has been particularly rough time for the Army Special Forces community. Besides the three soldiers killed in Jordan, there were two others killed in Afghanistan and another killed during scuba training this month.
The moment Otto Catalan had waited almost two decades for had finally arrived. Sitting in a small office, surrounded by his doctors and other medical staff, the blind U.S. Navy Veteran could only hope for one thing: to see the face of his teenage son for the first time.
“I see a lot of flashes, and they’re getting brighter,” he said. “Wow. It’s amazing.”
He turned his head to the right and saw bright flashes of light reflecting off the white coat of Miami VA Chief of Ophthalmology Dr. Ninel Gregori. When he turned to the left to talk with his son, he paused and began to cry. Gregori hugged him.
“Thank you very much, guys,” he said. “I’ll work hard, so I can see. It’s been 19 years, and I have been able to see my son. Thank you. Thank you so much.”
Catalan is keeping true to his word and continuing to work hard to learn how to use his new Argus® II prosthesis or “bionic eye.” Even though he struggled for years to come to terms with the loss of his sight, Catalan now feels optimistic about moving forward and beginning a new life.
“I’m learning something new everyday,” he said. “This prosthetic will help me be more successful in life. It’s already helping me be more mobile at home, and it’s going to make a big difference for me at work.”
Catalan’s struggles with vision loss began in 1989, when he was serving as a ship serviceman in the U.S. Navy. While he was on guard duty aboard a ship in the middle of the Persian Gulf, everything suddenly went dark.
“It felt like I was walking in the dark,” he said. “I told my superior officer, and he sent me to a doctor, but they couldn’t find out what it was. We went back to Virginia. They did extensive tests, and that’s when they found out I had retinitis pigmentosa.”
Catalan was scared when he heard the diagnosis. He never heard of retinitis pigmentosa and didn’t know what it would mean for his future. He was immediately removed from the ship and sent to rehab, and would eventually be medically separated from the military.
What is retinitis pigmentosa?
“Retinitis pigmentosa is one of the most common inherited diseases we see in ophthalmology,” Gregori said. “For people with this condition and certainly in Mr. Catalan’s case, the retina becomes very thin, and the photoreceptors, which convert light into electrical signals, gradually die off over time. Initially, peripheral vision, or the side vision, goes away, and then finally the central vision disappears.”
Catalan’s eyesight continued to deteriorate. Still needing to make money, he took a job as a cook. As his conditioned worsened, he struggled to tell if food was cooked and even burned himself multiple times. It was at this point that Catalan knew he needed help, so he went to the Northport VA Medical Center in New York.
“My doctors told me I needed to start preparing because I was going to be permanently blind soon,” he said. “After I heard that, I remember crying all the time. I couldn’t even hear someone say the word ‘see’ because I would burst into tears.”
The Northport VAMC referred Catalan to the VA Connecticut Healthcare System to participate in its Eastern Blind Rehabilitation Service’s three-month training program. While sitting through the training sessions and listening to the instructors and other Veterans, Catalan unexpectedly learned a valuable life lesson.
“Once I met other blind Vietnam Veterans at VA Connecticut and saw how well they were dealing with their situation, I never cried about my own condition again,” he said.
Throughout the program, he also learned to perform everyday tasks, such as shave his face, eat with utensils, identify clothing and walk with a cane. He stayed an additional two months to learn to use a computer and screen-reader technology.
Moving to Florida
In 2005, Catalan heard about ophthalmology research being conducted at the Miami VA Healthcare System and the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, which serves as the ophthalmology department of the University of Miami Health System. He moved his family to Cutler Bay, Florida and transferred his care to the then Miami VA Medical Center—where he worked with Roberta Goldstein, now retired Miami VA visual impairment services team coordinator.
“Roberta was great,” he said. “She referred me to the prosthetics department at the West Palm Beach VAMC, so I could get equipment to help me go back to work. She’s the best.”
Shortly after receiving his prosthetics equipment, Catalan landed a job as a resource specialist with Marriott Hotels—where he still works today. He says Marriott has been accommodating to his condition, and he hopes to be considered for promotion one day.
In March 2015, he received a phone call that would help his chances of getting that long-awaited promotion and also change his life.
One of my hopes was to see my son’s face for the first time
When he heard about the “bionic eye,” Catalan requested an evaluation for the device at the Miami VA Eye Clinic. With the help of the low vision Miami VA team, Gregori selected him for the Argus II® screening evaluation and personally called his home to ask if he was still interested.
“He was a perfect candidate,” Gregori said. “His personality was extremely important. With artificial vision, the patient must have the patience to learn to interpret the lights and images he or she is seeing. Learning to use the Argus II is like learning a new language, so individuals with both an optimistic personality and a strong willingness to work hard are the best candidates for the technology.”
Dr. Gregori is the Miami VA chief of ophthalmology and an associate professor of clinical ophthalmology at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute. In 2004, she was part of the surgical team that implanted the first Argus II® retinal prosthesis in a Florida patient, a non-Veteran from Tampa. She was eager to bring the new technology to the Miami VA, where she proudly serves South Florida Veterans and has lead the ophthalmology department for the past 10 years.
“Miami VA Medical Center Director Paul Russo and Chief of Surgery Dr. Seth Spector both enthusiastically welcomed the idea of making the bionic eye available to our Veterans. It would not have been possible without their support,” Gregori said.
It felt like I had just given somebody the best Christmas present
Catalan underwent surgery to implant the Argus® II, a new prosthesis approved in 2013 by the Food and Drug Administration to treat people with end-stages of retinitis pigmentosa, at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute on Nov. 24, 2015. Catalan’s bionic eye was activated Dec. 11 by the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute’s biomedical engineers, under the supervision of Miami VA’s Dr. Ninel Gregori. Even though Gregori and her team had already been through the experience of turning on the prosthesis with a previous patient, Catalan’s moment was emotional nonetheless.
“When it was turned on, Mr. Catalan started crying, and it brought tears to my eyes,” Gregori said. “It felt like I just gave somebody the best Christmas present I had ever given to anybody in my life. That’s why I went into ophthalmology.”
“After 19 years, the first thing I saw was my son’s face,” Catalan said. “I could also see Dr. Gregori, and when we walked around the hall, I was able to tell where the door and window frames were for the first time. That might not mean a lot to other people, but it meant so much to me.”
Catalan continues to work with the Miami VA Blind Rehabilitation Team, lead by optometrist Dr. Kasey Zann, to learn how to use the Argus II® in his everyday life. Blind Rehabilitation Outpatient Specialist Linh Pham visits his home and trains him to use the device in his home environment and in public. He also works regularly with Gregori and her team at the Miami VA Eye Clinic.
“The Miami VA Healthcare System has amazing low vision and blind rehabilitation resources for Veterans. It is an ideal setting for rehabilitation after Argus II implantation,” Gregori said.
At home, Catalan now sees objects and walls, and can even see lights and motion on his television for the first time. His next goal is to learn to use his new computer at work. After his training, he will be able to see shapes, the different windows and letters on his computer screen.
During an outing with his family in early 2015, Catalan was surprised to see a sight he had not seen in years.
“On New Year’s Eve, I was able to see the fireworks outside for the first time in 19 years. My mouth stayed open for a while,” he said. “Now, when I’m walking on the grass, I can see the lines where the grass is versus where the sidewalk is. The fact that I’m walking outside and can see the lights makes it all worth it.”
About the Argus® II Retinal Prosthesis System
The Argus® II Retinal Prosthesis System—made by Second Sight Medical Products, Inc.—is an artificial retina, or bionic eye, that converts images into light and uses a miniature video camera that is mounted on a pair of glasses, said Gregori. Once the images are converted, they are wirelessly transmitted to a surgically implanted prosthesis located in the patient’s eye. The implant then stimulates the retina to produce an image that is sent to the brain for interpretation.
After another week of keeping the barracks secure from enemy attack, Pokemon, and —most importantly—the staff duty NCO, you deserve some funny military memes. Here are 13 of the best that we could find:
1. Wait, you can get out of PT just because you’re already dead?
Frank Levingston, the oldest living World War II veteran, died on May 3 in Bossier Parish, Louisiana. He was 110 years old, which also made him the oldest living man in the United States.
According to his wikipedia page, he was born on November 13, 1905 in North Carolina, one of seven children. Levingston enlisted in the US Army in 1942. He served as private during the war in the Allied invasion of Italy which lasted from September 1943 to January 1944. After receiving an honorable discharge in 1945, he became a union worked specializing in cement finishing. He never married.
On August 16, 2015, he became the oldest recognized living military veteran in the United States, following the death of Emma Didlake.
“I’ve been through so many dangerous things and I’m still here. I’m thankful to the almighty God for it,” Levingston said in an interview with WTVR marking his 110th birthday. “I think I’m one of the blessed ones.”
Pamela Gobert, one of Levingston’s good friends, said in that interview: “He’s always got a kind word and he lets me know that sometimes it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish,” said Gobert. “One time we were at Memorial and a young lady asked him ‘Mr. Frank how old are you going to live?’ and he said ‘110.’” He was right.
In December of 2015, he went on an honor flight to Washington, D.C. – it was his first time to ever visit the nation’s capital and war monuments. He helped to mark Pearl Harbor Day by taking part in a wreath-laying ceremony at the World War II Monument. He was unable to meet the President but did meet representatives of his state.