Coast Guard officer headed to Tokyo Olympics - We Are The Mighty
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Coast Guard officer headed to Tokyo Olympics

United States Coast Guard Lieutenant Junior Grade Nikole Barnes will be the first active duty female officer in history competing in the 2022 Olympics in Tokyo. Her journey to making it is nothing short of extraordinary. 

Growing up in the Virgin Islands led to a love affair with the ocean for Barnes. “I was in the water all the time,” she explained. Sailing was one of her passions and she was a frequent sailing competitor beginning at just 7 years old. 

Her older brother always had his eye on going into the Coast Guard but the military wasn’t for her, initially. “I was invited to attend the Academy Introductory Mission [at the Coast Guard Academy]. I told my parents I was just going to do it for them. I flew in the day after traveling from Croatia, I was at a youth world championship. I was tired and jetlagged. Then they started yelling.” After being screamed at, she headed into seminar after seminar about the mission of the Coast Guard and what life would be like. “I loved it,” Barnes said with a laugh. 

“I saw how the Coast Guard worked in the Virgin Islands and I learned a lot from my brother. I just wanted to make it safer on the water,” she shared. Barnes applied to the Coast Guard academy and attended a military prep school for a year in Alabama in 2012 before heading to the academy in 2013. 

During her time at the academy, she had her eye on the Olympics. “I was called into the Commandant of the Cadets conference room my senior year and I had two days to decide where I was going to go after graduation,” Barnes said. She was told that they wanted to see how good she performed as an officer and from there they’d consider letting her train for sailing in the Olympics. 

In 2017 she graduated from the Coast Guard Academy and headed to Florida. “I got stationed at Sector Miami at the Incident Management Division,” Barnes said. She spent a year getting qualified and on her off time, sailing every chance she got. In 2018, she received word that the Coast Guard was going to approve her to train full time for the Olympics. 

The pandemic would cause the Olympics to be pushed out another year and she was granted permission to continue training. “During COVID, I was able to be in there seven days a week to knock out qualifications and help with the COVID response. My command is very supportive,” Barnes Shared. 

In 2021, Barnes and her teammate qualified for the Tokyo Olympics. “I think that week was the best and worst week of my life. I was just not sleeping, throwing up and always nervous. But the moment we got on the water it was just amazing,” she said. “When we turned the corner for the finish I remember being relieved and overwhelmed, I just knew we qualified. I just knew deep down that we did it.”

Coast Guard officer headed to Tokyo Olympics
From left, Coach Robby Bisi, Teammate Lara Dallman-Weiss and LTJG Nikole barnes

In the midst of making it through the trials and qualifying, Barnes was navigating through transfer season. She’ll be headed to the USCG District 7 Command Center in Florida this summer. She said that knowing if she didn’t make it to the Olympics she was still going to get to do her job as a coastie made it all worth it. “It wasn’t a matter of needing to win, it was a matter of wanting to win and to just be in it,” she said. 

Barnes will represent Team USA well as the first Coast Guardsman to make the team in any Olympic sport. It’s fitting that the military service which began with sailing vessels back in 1790 is sending one of their own to compete on the world stage for it. 

Putting her career as a Coast Guard officer on the back burner isn’t easy for her, even as she heads to the Olympics. “It’s always been a balance. I still struggle when I see my shipmates advancing in the Coast Guard or making big drug busts,” Barnes explained. “But I love this extraordinary opportunity and I am so grateful for the chance to represent my country.”

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US Coast Guard makes a big change for ethical animal treatment

U.S. Coast Guard medics have stopped using military contractors who intentionally injure sedated animals so that medics can practice treating combat wounds.


Spokeswoman Lisa Novak said in a phone interview on April 27 that the practice was suspended in January. A working group will decide if the training will continue.

The so-called “live tissue training” involved anesthetized goats.

Coast Guard officer headed to Tokyo Olympics
Here, the Army and Navy immunize a goat, which is much nicer. (Photo: U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Roger S. Duncan)

Novak said she didn’t know what led to the suspension. In 2012, activist group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, released a video of a goat’s legs being removed with tree trimmers during what it said was Coast Guard training.

Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, a California Democrat, wrote in The Hill newspaper on April 27 that she had raised concerns with the Coast Guard.

She said most Americans are against the practice.

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4 lopsided battles lost because of excessive pride

Leading a massive military force must be a huge ego booster for its commander. Wielding that much military power in one place has to make anyone feel confident of victory. Still, it’s always important to check yourself before you wreck yourself because even history’s greatest leaders can fall victim to hubris. 

In Pulp Fiction, Marcellus Wallace was right when he said “Pride only hurts you, it never helps.” It’s amazing how generally wise and experienced leaders can fail because their own overconfidence undermines that wisdom and experience. Here are four cautionary tales along those lines.  

1. The Battle of Red Cliffs (208 AD)

Coast Guard officer headed to Tokyo Olympics
A mural showing chariots and cavalry, from Dahuting Tomb of the late Eastern Han Dynasty (Wikimedia Commons)

This battle is not just monumental for its outcome, but also for who was involved, where it took place and how the battle was won. It happened on the Yangtze River in 208 AD during China’s Three Kingdoms period. It was also one of the largest naval battles in history, if not the largest. It pit legendary Chinese warlord Cao Cao, who wanted to unify China under his rule, against an alliance of two other greats from Chinese history, Liu Bei and Sun Quan. 

The two sides first met at Xiakou, but Cao Cao’s rush to meet his enemies pushed his army too hard and they were forced to retreat to Wulin. There, the two sides met on the water, with Cao Cao’s 250,000 men (who were largely not sailors) aboard a massive fleet of chained-together ships. The allies opposite had a force of 50,000 marines. 

When the fighting started, the allies had replaced the men and material aboard a number of boats with scarecrows, kindling, and fatty oil and sailed right at Cao Cao’s flotilla. His men fired fire arrows at the ships, which set them on fire. When they approached Cao Cao’s ships, they exploded, setting fire to his ships. Half his men were lost and the warlord was forced to retreat. 

2. The Battle of Carrhae (53 BC)

Coast Guard officer headed to Tokyo Olympics
Relief of a mounted Parthian archer (Wikimedia Commons)

Greed and ego claimed the loser at Carrhae. Marcus Licinius Crassus believed that he could overwhelm the Parthians at Carrhae at the head of 43,000 legionnaires. He was looking for an easy win that would give him the same military glory enjoyed by the other members of his triumvirate, Julius Caesar and Pompey the Great, while expanding the Roman treasury. Instead, it was one of the worst losses of all time. 

The Roman legions were literally showered with thousands of arrows from mobile Parthian horse archers. The deadly rain sliced through the Roman lines and when they moved to retreat, they were met by Parthian cataphracts, heavy horse cavalry with long spears. Crassus and the Roman leadership met with the Parthians to discuss surrender terms, but were killed instead. 20,000 legionnaires were killed in the fighting and 10,000 more were taken prisoner. The Parthian losses were so minimal, they weren’t recorded. 

3. The Battle of Morgarten (1315)

Coast Guard officer headed to Tokyo Olympics
Illustration of the Battle of Morgarten by Johannes Stumpf (Wikimedia Commons)

In 1315, the Habsburgs were divided among two camps for who would claim the title of Holy Roman Emperor. To assert its military dominance over three Swiss cantons who had recently sacked a monastery to assert their own autonomy, Habsburg Duke Leopold I led 9,000 of the family’s best troops to put them back in their place and capture an easy route to Italy. It didn’t work out the way he planned. 

Instead of crushing the Swiss Confederates, who only mustered 1,500 poorly armed peasants, they marched through a bottleneck at Morgarten Pass, which put the army between a mountain and a swamp. As the tightly-packed Habsburgs marched through, the Swiss dropped rocks and arrows at them, devastating the elite knights. When they moved to retreat, they ran into the force of peasants who slaughtered 1,500 of them and scattered the rest to the winds. 

4. The Battle of Hattin (1187)

Coast Guard officer headed to Tokyo Olympics
(Wikimedia Commons)

In 1185, crusader Raynald of Châtillon raided a Muslim caravan, violating the uneasy truce between the Crusader States and the Islamic leader Saladin. In response, Saladin assembled the largest force he ever led and laid siege to the city of Tiberias. To relieve the siege, Raynald marched his own massive Crusader army away from its fortified camp near the springs of Sepphoris to meet Saladin – which is exactly what Saladin wanted. 

The Crusaders marched in the heat of the desert by day without enough water to sustain them on their way. They decided to divert south to the springs of Kafr Hattin. There, they found Saladin’s Army standing between them and the water. Parched with thirst the Crusaders settled down for the night, but were harassed by smoke from fires set by Saladin’s forces, exacerbating their thirst. 

When the fighting started, the demoralized Crusaders were decimated by arrows. They formed their army but were swiftly routed. They tried to break for Lake Tiberias but were blocked on that road too. With nowhere to move, no possibility of retreat and much of their infantry deserted, the surrounded Christians were defeated. The 20,000-strong army was annihilated, its nobles were taken prisoner, and Raynald was executed for breaking the truce.

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Russia’s new all-terrain vehicle is a lifesized Tonka truck

The Sherp all-terrain Russian adventure-mobile looks like a Tonka truck. The two-passenger ATV with 63-inch wheels is deceiving in that it appears much larger than it actually is from far away.


Coast Guard officer headed to Tokyo Olympics
Image: Sherp

The Sherp’s all-terrain capabilities are impressive. With nearly two feet of ground clearance, it can roll over brush fields, swamps, forest floors, and even fallen trees — it can clear anything up to 27.5 inches tall. Its ridged wheels are grapplers in rocky terrain and act as water paddles in the river.

The truck is way underpowered, however, sporting a 1.5-liter four-cylinder turbodiesel with 44 hp. The engine gives it a head-spinning speed of 28 mph on land and 3.7 mph in the water. Despite the power let down, it looks incredibly fun to drive.

Watch the ATV tackle the snow and water:

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‘We lost everything’: As Kabul falls and more US troops rush to aid the evacuation, time runs out for Afghan interpreters

As the Taliban entered Kabul and the Afghan government dissolved on Sunday, one of the thousands of Afghans who served the United States as an interpreter — and has since waited more than a decade for his visa to be approved — watched the scene in despair.

“I can’t even talk right now,” the interpreter, who asked to be identified only as Said, said in an interview Sunday. “I’m just about to cry, because we lost everything.”Advertisement

He watched over the years as the U.S. and NATO allies tried to support the Afghan government and spent vast sums of money to do so.

Read Next: Biden Sending an Extra 1,000 Troops to Afghanistan as Taliban Forces Close in on Capital

“But, unfortunately, the Taliban can destroy everything in just the blink of an eye,” he said, referring to the deposed government in Kabul.Advertisement

As Kabul fell without a shot and the nearly 20-year Afghanistan campaign unraveled, the United States scrambled to shore up its hasty evacuation of personnel from the capital. A Defense official confirmed Sunday that the Pentagon was sending another battalion of 1,000 troops into Afghanistan — on top of the 1,000 announced Saturday – from the infantry brigade combat team that was slated to be deployed to Kuwait to bolster security at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul. 

Those troops are from the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The Defense official said that the battalions announced Saturday and Sunday will go straight from Bragg to Afghanistan, and that a third battalion is still headed to Kuwait in reserve. 

This weekend’s deployments bring the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan to about 6,000 including the roughly 1,000 service members already in Kabul, plus an added force of 3,000 soldiers and Marines who were announced Thursday.

Said, the interpreter who had worked with U.S. government groups, briefly left his home in downtown Kabul earlier Sunday and saw Taliban fighters patrolling the streets in their signature white robes and black turbans. The Taliban were driving Ford and Toyota pickup trucks they had captured from Afghan police and the National Directorate of Security, the deposed Afghan government’s intelligence and security service, he said.

He’s still trying to find a last-ditch way to get a visa and make it to the U.S. But even if that works and he were called to go to the airport, he’s not sure how he would manage it. He said he surely would have to bring documents proving he worked for the U.S.; if he were stopped at a Taliban checkpoint along the way and searched, those papers would seal his fate.

And even reaching the airport may not be a guarantee of safety. The U.S. embassy in Kabul on Sunday issued a security alert advising U.S. citizens at the airport to shelter in place, and said there were reports the airport, the last citadel of American power during the exodus, was taking fire.

Some Kabul citizens came out to high-five the Taliban, Said said, and they offered a friendly greeting of “Salaam” to one another. There were no Afghan military personnel to be seen.

For years, activists and others have sounded alarms about the need to evacuate Afghans who worked for the U.S. in interpreter, driver and other jobs, and about the dismal failings of the highly bureaucratic and understaffed Special Immigrant Visa, or SIV, process. Those advocates often called for relocating the Afghans — at one point estimated to be about 18,000, plus their family members — to locations outside of Afghanistan, such as Guam.

Those calls had become increasingly desperate since April, when the Biden administration announced plans to completely withdraw the U.S. military later in the year. Last month, the administration said it would start moving the first group of Afghans — about 2,500 in all, including 700 who were SIV applicants whose cases were far along — to Fort Lee in Virginia.

The Defense official stressed Sunday that part of the mission of the new wave of troops being sent to Afghanistan is to help the State Department accelerate the processing of SIV applicants. 

SpyTalk reported Sunday that the State Department’s SIV application system had a glitch that limited how many emails it could receive, and had become overwhelmed by the volume of applications from desperate Afghans in the last few days. State told SpyTalk that it has fixed the glitch.

But though Said knows friends who have scheduled flights upcoming, flights that may well be disrupted by the rapid victory of the Taliban that has placed the airport within their sights, he still has heard nothing from the U.S. Embassy.

He fears for his and his family’s safety.

“I think this is the beginning,” he said. “When they settle up, they will start looking at people who helped [the United States].”

When asked whether he feels betrayed by the United States, he said, “Of course.” He points to a stack of ceremonial coins he received from officials, and recommendation letters from doctors and officers who knew him and vouched for him during his six-year stint as an interpreter at the hospital at Bagram Airfield — now in the hands of the Taliban — as evidence of his reliability and proof that his visa should be approved.

In an interview in July, Said said he has tried unsuccessfully to obtain a visa for more than 12 years. He believes at least part of the problem is due to a clerical error.

He’s perplexed that his life is in danger because of the paperwork issue, which he claims mistakenly lists his departure from American service as a firing for poor performance. He said he was laid off because there weren’t enough positions for him, and that he was a hard worker — a characterization backed up by his former supervisor who spoke to Military.com last month.

Had the U.S. outright rejected his second visa application earlier, he said, instead of letting it hang on for years, he might have taken his family to another country. But now, it’s too late, and he doesn’t have enough money to relocate.

He said family members came by to see him Saturday night and were concerned that he still had bundles of recommendation letters and certificates.

“They said either grave it, or burn it,” he said. “Because it’s useless now, and will threaten your life.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

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Today in military history: Confederates score victory in Battle of Cross Keys

On June 8, 1862, General Stonewall Jackson scored a victory for the Confederates in the Battle of Cross Keys.

The fertile farmland of the Shenandoah Valley was vital to the food supply chain of the Confederate army. It was also a strategic launch point for invasions into the North as the valley created a path between the Blue Ridge and the Allegheny Mountains.

Fearing an invasion from the Shenandoah valley, two Union Armies descended on Jackson’s forces. Despite the overwhelming odds, Jackson led the Union army on a chase through the valley, and eventually forced the Union troops to withdraw.

Casualties were relatively light considering the size of both armies, and Jackson scored another victory the following day at the Battle of Port Republic. The back-to-back Confederate victories were decisive for Jackson’s Valley Campaign, allowing him to reinforce General Robert E. Lee in the wake of the retreating Union forces.

557 Union soldiers were killed and wounded, with another 100 captured, while the Confederates lost 300 men. The bloody war continued for two more years.

Featured Image: The Battle of Cross Keys — Sunday June 7, 1862 — Genl. Fremont and Genl. Jackson. (Library of Congress image)

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5 inventions DARPA just gave Santa in the ‘HO HO HO Initiative’

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has once again given top-performing American gear to Santa to assist him with his Christmas mission, despite Saint Nicholas’s ongoing refusal to release his aviation technology to the U.S.


Santa has received DARPA research the past two Christmas seasons under the High-speed Optimized Handling of Holiday Operations initiative. The HO HO HO initiative has previously gifted Santa with the tools to protect his network from hacks, land more safely on slanted roofs, and more effectively scout homes for people who are awake before he places the presents.

This year, DARPA’s gift features five major programs.

1. New tools for seeing through snow, dust, and fog

Coast Guard officer headed to Tokyo Olympics
(Illustration: DARPA)

The Multifunction RF program is working on creating new sensors for aircraft that can detect obstacles, terrain, and other aircraft during flight — even in severe dust and snowstorms. The military wants the technology to prevent crashes during dangerous operations.

But Santa can use it to more safely approach houses in severe snowstorms and dust storms. This will become increasingly important as Santa fights to maintain his tight timeline with more kids to serve every year.

2. A fancy new Santa suit will help prevent strain injuries

Coast Guard officer headed to Tokyo Olympics
(Photo: DARPA)

The Warrior Web suit is designed to protect soldier’s joints and muscles from damage while the wearer is carrying heavy loads, sometimes topping 100 pounds. To do so, the suit uses a bare 100w of power to augment the muscle work done by the user, lessening their muscle fatigue and injury risk.

While Santa’s average load from the sleigh to the tree is unknown, his sack sometimes has to accommodate dozens of toys, books, and electronic devices. Hopefully, a new Santa suit featuring Warrior Web technology will help Santa more safely move up and down the chimneys.

3. The TRADES program will lead to new toy designs

Coast Guard officer headed to Tokyo Olympics
An artist created this concept art of an artist creating concept art. (Illustration: DARPA)

The Transformative Design program is trying to give engineers new tools to model the properties of possible equipment designs and to figure out manufacturing processes to create those products.

For top elves, this means that they can start fabricating new toy designs that would have been impossible just a few years ago. The new technologies will be especially useful for 3D printing.

4. New computer chips will keep the North Pole’s computers cool

Coast Guard officer headed to Tokyo Olympics
(Illustration: DARPA)

As Santa and his staff serve a growing population, DARPA has become worried that the computer servers processing all that information will overheat.

To help prevent this, they’ve offered the Man in Red access to their Intrachip/Interchip Enhanced Cooling research. Computer chips integrating this technology are cooled more efficiently and are less likely to fail during high-demand tasks such as when Santa makes his list and checks it twice.

5. Programs from the Cyber Grand Challenge will defend against hacks by the naughtiest of children

Coast Guard officer headed to Tokyo Olympics
(Photo: DARPA Camilla Sjoden)

The Cyber Grand Challenge provided millions of dollars in prizes to teams who put created automated bug hunters and defenses against hacking and then pitted those software programs and machines against each other on a Las Vegas stage.

Now, DARPA has turned some of that research over to Santa to help him keep his computer systems secure. While there’s little evidence that any hackers have made it into the system so far, the Naughty/Nice list is too obvious a target to be unprotected.

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Russia condemns the US strike against Syrian airfield

Syria’s military on April 7 said U.S. missile strikes on the al-Shayrat airfield killed at least six people and made the United States a “partner” of terror organizations the likes of the Islamic State and al-Qaida.


U.S. President Donald Trump on April 6 ordered the Navy to fire 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles into the airfield in west Syria from where it’s believed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime launched a deadly chemical attack on April 4 that killed and injured hundreds of men, women, and children.

Russia on April 7 condemned the U.S. bombing and said it was abandoning an agreement designed to minimize the risk of in-flight incidents, such as collisions, between Russian and U.S. aircraft flying in Syria. Russian President Vladimir Putin called the strikes a violation of international law.

Coast Guard officer headed to Tokyo Olympics
Putin. (Photo: World Economic Forum/Flickr)

Russia said the U.S. bombing was carried out to distract from a March airstrike by the U.S.-led international coalition in Mosul, Iraq, where about 150 civilians died.

“The Syrian army has no chemical weapons,” Russia’s presidential press service said in a statement. “Vladimir Putin regards the U.S. strikes on Syria as an attempt to draw public attention away from the numerous civilian casualties in Iraq.”

Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Bolivia called for an immediate meeting of the United Nations Security Council.

“The U.S. opted for a show of force, for military action against a country fighting international terrorism without taking the trouble to get the facts straight,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “It is not the first time that the U.S. chooses an irresponsible approach that aggravates problems the world is facing, and threatens international security. The very presence of military personnel from the U.S. and other countries in Syria without consent from the Syrian government or a U.N. Security Council mandate is an egregious and obvious violation of international law that cannot be justified.”

Syria’s military called the U.S. bombing an “aggression” that undermined the government’s efforts to combat terrorism, which made the U.S. government a “partner” of internationally recognized terrorist organizations, such as al-Qaida and the Islamic State. The Syrian regime said there would be consequences for “those who would take such a tragic and unfounded action.”

The United States launched the Tomahawk cruise missiles — with around 60,000 pounds of explosives — within 60 seconds, targeting the al-Shayrat airfield near the city of Homs. The sea-launched missiles — which fly close to the ground to avoid radar detection — targeted planes, fuel, and other support infrastructure at the Syrian base.

Two U.S. Navy destroyers — the USS Ross and USS Porter — launched the missiles from the eastern Mediterranean Sea at about 8:40 p.m. EST, or 4:40 a.m. April 6 in Syria, the Pentagon said.

Coast Guard officer headed to Tokyo Olympics
Shayrat Airfield in Syria (Photo from DVIDSHub.net)

The missile strikes are the first known direct U.S. assault on the Syrian government since the country’s civil war began in 2011.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor said the Assad regime or Russia carried out its first airstrikes on April 7 in Khan Sheikhoun in the Idlib province — where the alleged chemical attack occurred — after the U.S. bombing that “destroyed” the regime airfield.

Authorities are assessing the chemical attack from April 4 in Syria’s Idlib province, which officials estimate killed more than 70 people and injured another 400. The strike further solidified the United States’ fierce opposition to leaving Assad in power — a leader Obama’s government repeatedly tried to remove through various means.

Syria’s civil war has resulted in the deaths of more than a half-million people. It has been a major source of tension between Washington, D.C., Damascus, and the Russian government, which remains a staunch ally of Assad’s and has provided his regime with military support.

Assad’s regime has previously been accused of carrying out chemical attacks — a claim denied by Assad and Russia.

Russia, Assad’s biggest ally, has provided military air support for Syria’s fight against Islamic State terrorists and rebels for more than a year. A U.S.-led coalition supporting the rebels has led the charge to oust Assad and has brokered multiple unsuccessful cease-fire agreements for that purpose. U.S. military troops, however, have been scarce inside Syria’s borders — as Pentagon strategists have instead chosen to maintain strictly a training and advisory role for the rebel alliance.

Russia said the United States used the allegations of the chemical attack as an excuse to bomb the Syrian regime.

“It is obvious that the cruise missile attack was prepared in advance. Any expert understands that Washington’s decision on air strikes predates the Idlib events, which simply served as a pretext for a show of force,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said. “There is no doubt that the military action by the U.S. is an attempt to divert attention from the situation in Mosul, where the campaign carried out among others by U.S.-led coalition has resulted in hundreds of civilian casualties and an escalating humanitarian disaster.”

Allen Cone and Doug G. Ware contributed to this report.

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These giant African rodents are used to sniff out land mines

A Belgian NGO is doing some incredible things with rats. The non-governmental organization, Apopo is dedicated to training African Giant Pouched Rats for land mine and tuberculosis detection. The critters make for very good pets because they are easily trained. This, with their sense of smell, said to be finer than a dog’s, make them perfectly suited for the job.


One rat can evaluate 100 samples in 20 minutes, equal to what a skilled lab technician, using microscopy, can do in two days. As of 2005, the rats were able to find 5 to 10 TB patients per week that were missed by microscopes.

Coast Guard officer headed to Tokyo Olympics
Photo by Apopo

More importantly for sub-Saharan Africa, a heavily mined region, the rats are able to smell explosives just as easily. Here, they are used effectively to uncover land mines in these areas. Whenever they find a mine, they are rewarded with a treat. The rats are so good at the search, they’re able to clear more than 650 square feet of earth in twenty minutes. According to handling teams interviewed by The Guardian, the rats are very accurate.

Coast Guard officer headed to Tokyo Olympics
Photo by Apopo

In Mozambique, heavily mined during the the country’s subsequent 15-year civil war, rat teams have found and destroyed more than 13,000 mines, reclaiming more than 11 million square meters.

If you’re worried about the rats setting off the explosives, rest easy. The rats weigh less than two pounds, not enough to set off the pressure-triggered anti-personnel mines.

Coast Guard officer headed to Tokyo Olympics
Photo by Apopo

Training starts at four weeks old, when the rats become accustomed to humans and then desensitized to sights and sounds. They associate a clicker with a food reward and are then trained to indicate the holes that contain explosive substances by put their noses against the holes.  Finally, they’re trained to wear harnesses and find inactive mines under soil. After a blind test with a real handler, the animals become full-fledged minesweepers.

Coast Guard officer headed to Tokyo Olympics
Photo by Apopo

The rats, once considered a pest animal, get more than just their food reward for good work. They are fed a steady, good diet of fruits and veggies and even get sunscreen to protect their ears and tails from the harsh sun.

Read more and donate to Apopo here.

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Jim Mattis wouldn’t be the first former general to serve as Secretary of Defense

With reports swirling that retired Marine Gen. James Mattis is a leading contender to be selected as Secretary of Defense for President-elect Donald Trump, some people think it would be unprecedented for a former general to serve as Pentagon chief.


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(Photo: U.S. Navy Chief Mass Communications Specialist Shawn P. Eklund)

But General of the Army George C. Marshall might have something to say about that.

Marshall is perhaps best known for the “Marshall Plan” he put together as Secretary of State under President Harry S Truman to help rebuild Europe after World War II. Marshall had served two years in that post before leaving to become president of the American Red Cross.

Coast Guard officer headed to Tokyo Olympics

But when the Korean War started in June 1950 and became a near-disaster, Truman fired then-Secretary of Defense Louis A. Johnson over the military’s lack of readiness. He then nominated Marshall to take over.

Marshall was technically prohibited from serving as Secretary of Defense. As a General of the Army, he was by law on active duty, and per 10 USC 113, nobody who was a commissioned officer can serve as Secretary of Defense without having been retired for seven years.

Congress, though, waived that provision to allow Marshall to serve.

Marshall spent a year in the Pentagon, not only working to get the military into fighting shape for the Korean War, but also rebuilding bridges that his predecessor had burned with the Joint Chiefs of Staff (particularly the Navy), and also with the State Department.

Within two months of Marshall becoming SecDef, the United States and allied forces had nearly reached the Yalu River in Korea. When the Chinese Communists intervened and pushed the allied forces back, Marshall would play a crucial role in President Truman’s decision to relieve General of the Army Douglas MacArthur as overall commander in Korea, despite his initial reluctance to see that happen.

Within a year, Marshall resigned as Secretary of Defense and was succeeded by his deputy, Roger A. Lovett. He would die eight years after leaving the Pentagon.

Famous for has program to save a war ravaged Europe, Marshall’s service as Secretary of Defense is a nearly-forgotten footnote in his long career.

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This is what the Navy wants to do with aircraft carriers

The Navy may consider alternative aircraft carrier configurations in coming years as it prepares for its new high-tech, next-generation carrier to become operational later this year, service officials have said.


The USS Gerald R. Ford is the first is a series of new Ford-class carriers designed with a host of emerging technologies to address anticipated future threats and bring the power-projecting platform into the next century.

Once it’s delivered, the new carrier will go through “shock trials” wherein its stability is testing in a variety of maritime conditions; the ship will also go through a pre-deployment process known as “post-shakedown availability” designed to further prepare the ship for deployment.

Navy leaders are now working on a special study launched last year to find ways to lower the costs of aircraft carriers and explore alternatives to the big-deck platforms.

The Navy study is expected to last about a year and will examine technologies and acquisition strategies for the long-term future of Navy big-deck aviation in light of a fast-changing global threat environment, service officials said.

Coast Guard officer headed to Tokyo Olympics
USS Gerald R. Ford under construction | Wikipedia

Configurations and acquisition plans for the next three Ford-class carriers – the USS Ford, USS Kennedy and USS Enterprise are not expected to change – however the study could impact longer-term Navy plans for carrier designs and platforms beyond those three, service officials have said.

Although no particular plans have been solidified or announced, it seems possible that these future carriers could be engineered with greater high-tech sensors and ship defenses, greater speed and manueverability to avoid enemy fire and configurations which allow for more drones to launch from the deck of the ship. They could be smaller and more manueverable with drones and longer-range precision weapons, analysts have speculated. At the same time, it is possible that the Ford-Class carrier could be adjusted to evolve as technologies mature, in order to accommodate some of the concerns about emerging enemy threats. Navy engineers have designed the Ford-Class platform with this ability to adapt in mind.

Ford-Class Technologies

The service specifically engineered Ford-class carriers with a host of next-generation technologies designed to address future threat environments. These include a larger flight deck able to increase the sortie-generation rate by 33-percent, an electromagnetic catapult to replace the current steam system and much greater levels of automation or computer controls throughout the ship, among other things.

The ship is also engineered to accommodate new sensors, software, weapons and combat systems as they emerge, Navy officials have said.

The ship’s larger deck space is, by design, intended to accommodate a potential increase in use of carrier-launched technologies such as unmanned aircraft systems in the future.

The USS Ford is built with four 26-megawatt generators, bringing a total of 104 megawatts to the ship. This helps support the ship’s developing systems such as its Electro-Magnetic Aircraft Launch System, or EMALS, and provides power for future systems such as lasers and rail-guns, many Navy senior leaders have explained.

The USS Ford also needs sufficient electrical power to support its new electro-magnetic catapult, dual-band radar and Advanced Arresting Gear, among other electrical systems.

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F/A-18 Hornet takes off from the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln | Wikipedia

 

 

 

As technology evolves, laser weapons may eventually replace some of the missile systems on board aircraft carriers, Navy leaders have said.

“Lasers need to get up to about 300 kilowatts to start making them effective. The higher the power you get the more you can accomplish. I think there will be a combination of lasers and rail guns in the future. I do think at some point, lasers could replace some existing missile systems. Lasers will provide an overall higher rate of annihilation,” Rear Adm. Thomas Moore,  Program Manager for Carriers, said last year.

Should they be employed, laser weapons could offer carriers a high-tech, lower cost offensive and defensive weapon aboard the ship able to potential incinerate incoming enemy missiles in the sky.

The Ford-class ships are engineered with a redesigned island, slightly larger deck space and new weapons elevators in order to achieve a 33-percent increase in sortie-generation rate. The new platforms are built to launch more aircraft and more seamlessly support a high-op tempo.

The new weapons elevators allow for a much more efficient path to move and re-arm weapons systems for aircraft. The elevators can take weapons directly from their magazines to just below the flight deck, therefore greatly improving the sortie-generation rate by making it easier and faster to re-arm planes, service officials explained.

The next-generation technologies and increased automation on board the Ford-Class carriers are also designed to decrease the man-power needs or crew-size of the ship and, ultimately, save more than $4 billion over the life of the ships.

Future Carriers

Regarding the potential evaluation of alternatives to carriers, some analysts have raised the question of whether emerging technologies and weapons systems able to attack carriers at increasingly longer distances make the platforms more vulnerable and therefore less significant in a potential future combat environment.

Some have even raised the question about whether carrier might become obsolete in the future, a view not shared by most analysts and Navy leaders. The power-projection ability of a carrier and its air-wing provides a decisive advantage for U.S. forces around the world.

For example, a recently release think tank study from the Center for New American Security says the future threat environment will most likely substantially challenge the primacy or superiority of U.S. Navy carriers.

“While the U.S. Navy has long enjoyed freedom of action throughout the world’s oceans, the days of its unchallenged primacy may be coming to a close. In recent years, a number of countries, including China, Russia, and Iran, have accelerated investments in anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) capabilities such as advanced air defense systems, anti-ship cruise and ballistic missiles, submarines, and aircraft carriers. These capabilities are likely to proliferate in the coming years, placing greater constraints on U.S. carrier operations than ever before,” the study writes.

In addition, the study maintains that the “United States will be faced with a choice: operate its carriers at ever-increasing ranges – likely beyond the unrefueled combat radiuses of their tactical aircraft – or assume high levels of risk in both blood and treasure,” the CNAS study explains.

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Navy officials told Scout Warrior that many of the issues and concerns highlighted in this report and things already being carefully considered by the Navy.

With this in mind, some of the weapons and emerging threats cited in the report are things already receiving significant attention from Navy and Pentagon analysts.

Emerging Threats

The Chinese military is developing a precision-guided long-range anti-ship cruise missile, the DF-21D, a weapon said by analysts to have ranges up to 900 nautical miles. While there is some speculation as to whether it could succeed in striking moving targets such as aircraft carriers, analysts have said the weapon is in part designed to keep carriers from operating closer to the coastline.

The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, a Congressional panel of experts, published a detailed report in 2014 on the state of Chinese military modernization. The report cites the DF-21D along with numerous other Chinese technologies and weapons. The DF-21D is a weapon referred to as a “carrier killer.”

The commission points out various Chinese tests of hypersonic missiles as well. Hypersonic missiles, if developed and fielded, would have the ability to travel at five times the speed of sound – and change the threat equation regarding how to defend carriers from shore-based, air or sea attacks.

While China presents a particular threat in the Asia Pacific theater, they are by no means the only potential threat in today’s fast-changing global environment. A wide array of potential future adversaries are increasingly likey to acquire next-generation weapons, sensors and technologies.

“Some countries, China particularly, but also Russia and others, are clearly developing sophisticated weapons designed to defeat our power-projection forces,” said Frank Kendall, the Pentagon acquisition chief said in a written statement to Congress in January of last year. “Even if war with the U.S. is unlikely or unintended, it is quite obvious to me that the foreign investments I see in military modernization have the objective of enabling the countries concerned to deter and defeat a regional intervention by the U.S. military.”

Enemy sensors, aircraft, drones and submarines are all advancing their respective technologies at an alarming rate – creating a scenario wherein carriers as they are currently configured could have more trouble operating closer to enemy coastlines.

At the same time – despite these concerns about current and future threat environments, carriers and power projects – few are questioning the value, utility and importance of Navy aircraft carriers.

Future Carrier Air Wing

The Navy is working on number of next-generation ship defenses such as Naval Integrated Fire Control –Counter Air, a system which uses Aegis radar along with an SM-6 interceptor missile and airborne relay sensor to detect and destroy approaching enemy missiles from distances beyond the horizon. The integrated technology deployed last year.

Stealth fighter jets, carrier-launched drones, V-22 Ospreys, submarine-detecting helicopters, laser weapons and electronic jamming are all deemed indispensable to the Navy’s now unfolding future vision of carrier-based air power, senior service leaders said. Last year, the Navy announced that the Osprey will be taking on the Carrier On-Baord Delivery mission wherein it will carry forces and equipment on and off carriers while at sea.

Citing the strategic deterrence value and forward power-projection capabilities of the Navy’s aircraft carrier platforms, the Commander of Naval Air Forces spelled out the services’ future plans for the carrier air wing at a recent event at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington D.C think tank.

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Wikipedia

Vice Adm. Mike Shoemaker, Commander, Naval Air Forces, argued last year in favor of the continued need for Navy aircraft carriers to project power around the globe. His comments come at a time when some are raising questions about the future of carriers in an increasingly high-tech threat environment.

“Even in contested waters our carrier group can operate, given the maneuverability of the carrier strike group and the composition of the carrier air wing,” Shoemaker told the audience at an event in August of last year.

Shoemaker explained how the shape and technological characteristics of the carrier air wing mentioned will be changing substantially in coming years. The Navy’s carrier-launched F-35C stealth fighter will begin to arrive in the next decade and the service will both upgrade existing platforms and introduce new ones.

The Navy plans to have its F-35C operational by 2018 and have larger numbers of them serving on carriers by the mid-2020s.

The service plans to replace its legacy or “classic” F/A-18s with the F-35C and have the new aircraft fly alongside upgraded F/A-18 Super Hornet’s from the carrier deck.

While the F-35C will bring stealth fighter technology and an ability to carry more ordnance to the carrier air wing, its sensor technologies will greatly distinguish it from other platforms, Shoemaker said.

“The most important thing that the F-35C brings is the ability to fuse information, collect the signals and things that are out in the environment and fuse it all together and deliver that picture to the rest of the carrier strike group,” Shoemaker explained.

At the same time, more than three-quarters of the future air wing will be comprised of F/A-18 Super Hornets, he added.

The submarine hunting technologies of the upgraded MH-60R is a critical component of the future air wing, Navy officials have said.

“The R (MH-60R) comes with a very capable anti-submarine warfare package. It has an airborne low frequency sensor, an advanced periscope detection system combined with a data link, and forward looking infrared radar. With its very capable electronic warfare suite, it is the inner defense zone against the submarine for the carrier strike group,” Shoemaker said.

Electronic warfare also figures prominently in the Navy’s plans for air warfare; the service is now finalizing the retirement of the EA-6B Prowler electronic warfare EA-6B Prowler electronic warfare aircraft in favor of the EA-18G aircraft, Shoemaker said.

“We’re totally transitioning now to the EA-18G Growler for electromagnetic spectrum dominance. This will give us the ability to protect our strike group and support our joint forces on the ground,” he said.

Also, the Growler will be receiving an electromagnetic weapon called the Next-Generation Jammer. This will greatly expand the electronic attack capability of the aircraft and, among other things, allow it to jam multiple frequencies at the same time.

The Navy is also moving from its E-2C Hawkeye airborne early warning aircraft to an upgraded E-2D variant with improved radar technology, Shoemaker explained.

“We’ve got two squadrons transitioned — one just about to complete in Norfolk and the first is deployed right now on the Teddy Roosevelt (aircraft carrier).  This (the E2-D) brings a new electronically scanned radar which can search and track targets and then command and control missions across the carrier strike group,” Shoemaker said.

Shoemaker also pointed to the Navy’s decision to have the V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft take over the carrier onboard delivery mission and transport equipment, personnel and logistical items to and from the carrier deck. The V-22 will be replacing the C-2 Greyhound aircraft, a twin-engine cargo aircraft which has been doing the mission for years.

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California may give legal aid to deported vets

California may start giving legal help to veterans who have been deported.


The state Assembly passed a bill May 8 to provide legal representation for people who were honorably discharged from the military but have since been deported.

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher says her bill is intended to help deported veterans return to the country. The San Diego Democrat says the bill would help them reunite with their families and access health services and other benefits.

“It’s time we bring our deported vets back,” Gonzalez Fletcher said. “California can lead the way by trying to bring them home.”

The American Civil Liberties Union says it has found dozens of cases where veterans have been deported.

Many deported veterans would have been eligible to become naturalized citizens but were not properly informed about the process, Gonzalez Fletcher said.

Funding for the bill will be subject to availability of money in the state budget.

The bill directs the state to contract with a nonprofit legal services organization. AB386 passed the Assembly without any dissenting votes and now goes to the Senate.

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13 photos showing the incredible determination of wounded warriors

The Department of Defense Warrior Games began in 2010 as a way to celebrate the the talents of injured or ill warrior-athletes. The 2015 games showcased some of the finest talent of the American and British wounded warrior communities. Showcased below are 13 of the most inspiring photos from the games.


While the games are about celebrating recovery and the warrior spirit, there are winners and medals. The Warrior Games closed on Sunday with the Army winning the overall competition. Check out the the final medal counts and more photos at Defense.gov.

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Photo: US Marine Corps Cpl. Mark Watola

1. U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Marcus Chischilly takes off during the swimming finals at the Freedom Aquatic and Fitness Center in Manassas, Va., June 27, 2015. Chischilly is a member of the 2015 Department of Defense Warrior Games All-Marine Team. The 2015 DoD Warrior Games, held at Marine Corps Base Quantico June 19-28, is an adaptive sports competition for wounded, ill, and injured Service members and veterans from the U.S. Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Special Operations Command, and the British Armed Forces.

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Photo: US Marine Corps Cpl. Jared Lingafelt

2. Lance Cpl. Charles Sketch is presented with a gold medal during a standing ovation from spectators from around the world at the 2015 Marine Corps Trials. Competition provides opportunities for the Marines to train as athletes, while increasing their strength so they can continue their military service or develop healthy habits for life outside the service. The Marine Corps Wounded Warrior Regiment enables wounded, ill, or injured Marines to focus on their abilities and to find new avenues to thrive.

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Photo: US Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt Ezekiel R. Kitandwe

3. A member of Team Air Force throws the shot put during field competition for the 2015 DOD Warrior Games, Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., June 23, 2015.

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Photo: US Marine Corps Sgt. Fareeza Ali

4. Retired Marine Cpl. Ray Hennagir, an Orlando, Florida native, keeps his eyes on the ball during sitting volleyball practice at the 2015 Marine Corps Trials.

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Photo: US Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Terry W. Miller Jr.

5. U.S. and British athletes compete in the 100-meter sprint at the 2015 Department of Defense Warrior Games on Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., June 23, 2015.

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Photo: US Marine Corps Cpl. Owen Kimbrel

6. U.S. Marine Corps veteran Ray Hennagir prepares to shoot the ball during the wheelchair basketball championship game at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., June 23, 2015.

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Photo: DoD News EJ Hersom

7. Army visually impaired cycling teams finish together to take gold, silver and bronze during the 2015 Department of Defense Warrior Games on Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., June 21, 2015.

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Photo: US Marine Corps Cpl. Owen Kimbrel

8. U.S. Marine Corps veteran Peter Cook practices swim form during the 2015 Department of Defense Warrior Games on Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., June 21, 2015.

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Photo: US Marine Corps Cpl. Owen Kimbrel

9. U.S. Marine Corps veteran Jenae Piper prepares to serve during the bronze medal volleyball game during the 2015 Department of Defense (DoD) Warrior Games at Marine Corps Base (MCB) Quantico, Va, June 26, 2015.

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Photo: DoD News EJ Hersom

10. Army Staff Sgt. Monica Martinez, left, And Army Staff Sgt. Vestor ‘Max’ Hasson compete, but in separate 1,500 meter wheelchair race categories during the Army Trials at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas April 1, 2015.

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Photo: US Marine Corps Cpl. Ashley Cano

11. U.S. Marine Corps veteran Clayton McDaniels’ son receives a gold medal on behalf of his father whose team won the wheelchair basketball championship game at the 2015 Department of Defense Warrior Games on Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., June 23, 2015.

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Photo: US Army Spc. Garry Abidin

12. U.S. Army Sgt. Blake Johnson, Bethesda, Md., attempts to block the shot of his Air Force opponent while playing a wheelchair basketball game during the 2015 Department of Defense Warrior Games at Barber Fitness Center, on Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., June 20, 2015.

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Photo: US Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt Ezekiel R. Kitandwe

13. A member of Special Operations Command throws the shot put during field competition for the 2015 DOD Warrior Games, Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., June 23, 2015.

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