Iran plans post-2020 naval expansion - We Are The Mighty
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Iran plans post-2020 naval expansion

Iran is planning for a bigger navy as soon as provisions of the 2015 nuclear deal expire. Planned purchases include new warships and submarines much more advanced than vessels currently in the theocracy’s inventory.


According to the Times of Israel, the United States Navy’s Office of Naval Intelligence issued a report on Iran’s naval strength. The SS-N-26 Yakhont, already in service with Russia, was mentioned as one system Iran was seeking to acquire.

Iranian fast-attack boats during a naval exercise in 2015. (Wikimedia photo by Sayyed Shahaboddin Vajedi)

According to a website maintained by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Yakhont, which has a range of just under 162 nautical miles, has already been exported to Indonesia, Vietnam, and Syria. A variant of the SS-N-26, the BrahMos, is in service with India. CSIS noted that most of Syria’s missiles were destroyed in a July 2013 air strike by the Israeli Defense Force.

SS-N-26 at at MAKS Airshow in Zhukovskiy, 1997. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

According to the 16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World, Iran’s most modern combat vessels are three Kilo-class submarines acquired from Russia in the 1990s. The Kilos have six 21-inch torpedo tubes and can hold up to 18 torpedoes.

Modern versions of that sub in service with the Russian Navy can fire the SS-N-27/SS-N-30 Sizzler cruise missile. The SS-N-26, SS-N-27, and SS-N-30 have both land-attack and anti-ship variants.

The Times of Israel report comes just as the United States Navy announced a close encounter between a Military Sealift Command vessel and an Iranian frigate. According to CBSNews.com, an Iranian frigate came within 150 yards of the missile range instrumentation ship USNS Invincible (AGM 24).

The encounter was described as “unprofessional, but not unsafe” due to the fact that the frigate was not approaching the MSC vessel, but was instead on a parallel course.

USNS Invincible (T AGM 24). (MSC photo)

The Military Sealift Command website notes that USNS Invincible displaces 2,285 tons, has a top speed of 11 knots, and a crew of 18. The vessel is unarmed, and is used for collecting data on missile launches. It is one of two in service.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

Worried about coronavirus? Take this infection-control course online

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to uproot life around the world, it’s easy to feel, well, uneasy. After all, there are a lot of unknowns. But there are plenty of ways to arm yourself with proper information and feel a bit more grounded. Doctors, for instance, are all mandated to take state-mandated infection courses online. Available to the public, and free unless someone wants to take a test to pass, the courses offer a wealth of public information. While they are a bit of a slog to read (and nary an educational video in sight) they’re helpful for anyone who wants to know everything from if their bleach is strong enough to kill bacteria or how to put on gloves without covering them in germs.


So, which courses might be useful? One, administered by Access Continuing Education Inc., intended for doctors in New York State, and aptly (and drily) titled Infection Control: New York State Mandatory Training, contains a wealth of worthwhile information. The course isn’t like a typical virtual classroom — there are no teachers, no video sessions, and no mandated quizzes at the end. There are no hours required to finish the course and each ‘Element,’ a full-text article that reads about a page long, touches on a different process of how to limit transmission.

Is it an exciting read? No, but the pages are full of very, very important information, including hand washing technique, what the proper etiquette and technique is when coughing, and how to clean spills of bodily fluids. Other relevant information for parents within the text include what protective gear people can wear to limit transmission (including gloves, masks, and goggles) and how to put them on while also keeping them clean. The text also defines the different levels of sterilization and what recommended, medical grade sterilizers can be used and how to dilute bleach.

Now, a large chunk of the course does focus on safe usage of needles — which is not exactly relevant for parents and Coronavirus — but the text is free to read online for anyone who wants to be educated on best practices and how to stay safe. There’s a test at the end of the course, which does not need to be taken, obviously, as parents could just be reading this for their own information, but could be fun if you’re very, very bored.

The average parent won’t be using scalpels or lancets, but they can learn the differences between cleaning and disinfecting surfaces, learn how professionals limit potential exposure from patients when dealing with infectious diseases, and learn strategies for how to limit the spread of pathogens in the home and use those in their own spaces.

Knowledge, at a time like this, can be empowering. It can also be scary if that knowledge is not actionable. That’s why these courses are an excellent resource. They provide parents a sense of control of a situation over which no one has control. They can help parents do all that they can to help keep their families healthy. And that is what it will take to limit the spread of this disease: serious, educated action, social distancing, and disinfecting.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

China’s plans for J-20 will basically feed it to F-15s

The makers of China’s new J-20 stealth fighter revealed the combat mission of the aircraft, and one of its key tasks would most likely see it getting shot down by decades-old US and European fighter jets.

The J-20 has impressed observers with its advanced design and formidable weapons, but the jet’s actual combat mission has remained somewhat of a mystery.

But Andreas Rupprecht, a German researcher focused on China’s air power, recently posted an informational brochure from the Aviation Industry Corporation of China, the J-20’s maker, laying out its mission.


It described the J-20 as a “heavy stealth” fighter that’s “renowned” for its dominance in medium- and long-range air combat and first lists “seizing maintaining air superiority” as its core missions.

It also lists interception and deep strike as missions for the J-20, falling roughly in line with Western analyses of the jet’s capabilities.

But the J-20s purported air-superiority role is likely to raise more eyebrows.

J-20 stealth fighter jet.

(Flickr photo by emperornie)

J-20 loses the old-fashioned fight for the skies

Justin Bronk, an aerial-combat expert at the Royal United Services Institute, told Business Insider that for the J-20, fighting US or European jets for control of the skies represents a losing battle.

The J-20 is “certainly likely to be more capable as an air-superiority platform than anything else the People’s Liberation Army Air Force” — China’s air force’s official name — “is currently operating,” Bronk said.

“With a powerful radar and multiple internal air-to-air missiles as well as long range, it certainly shouldn’t be dismissed as an air-superiority machine,” he continued.

But just because it’s China’s best doesn’t mean it can hold a candle to Europe’s Typhoon fighter or even the US’s F-15, which first flew in 1972.

“In terms of thrust to weight, maneuverability, and high-altitude performance, it is unlikely to match up to the US or European air-superiority fighters,” Bronk said.

China’s J-20 made a solid entry into the world of stealth fighter aircraft and became the only non-US stealth jet in the world. It’s designed to significantly limit the ability of US radar to spot and track the large fighter, but the stealth mainly works on the front end, while the J-20 is flying straight toward the radar.

Tactically, experts have told Business Insider, the J-20 poses a serious threat in the interception and maritime-strike roles with its stealth design, but so far the jet has yet to deliver.

China has suffered embarrassing setbacks in domestically building jet engines that would give the J-20 true fifth-generation performance on par with the F-35 or the F-22.

Bronk said China still appears years away from crossing this important threshold that would increase the range and performance of the jets.

“The engines are a significant limiting factor” in that they require inefficient use of afterburners and limit high-altitude performance, Bronk said.

An F-15C Eagle preparing to refuel with a KC-135R Stratotanker.

(US Air Force photo)

What air superiority looks like

As it stands, the J-20 couldn’t match the F-15 or the Eurofighter Typhoon, or even get close to an F-22, Bronk said.

“Against the F-15C and Typhoon, the J-20 has a lower radar cross section but worse performance, and its air-to-air missiles are unlikely to yet match the latest [US] series and certainly not the new European Meteor,” Bronk said.

Bronk said that China had made great strides in air-to-air missile development and was testing at an “extremely high” pace, so the capability gap could close in a few short years.

But how does the J-20 stack up to the greatest air-superiority plane on the planet today, the F-22?

“The F-22 likely significantly outperforms the J-20 in almost every aspect of combat capability except for combat radius,” Bronk said, referring to the farthest distance a loaded plane can travel without refueling.

Undoubtedly, the J-20 represents a significant leap in Chinese might and poses a serious and potentially critical threat to US air power in its ability to intercept and launch deep strikes.

But in the narrow role of air superiority — beating the best fighters the other side can offer to gain control of the sky — the US and Europe could most likely beat down China’s J-20 without much trouble.

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

Articles

That time America abandoned an Abrams tank in Baghdad

In April 2003, Lt. Col. Eric Schwartz and his men were part of the “Thunder Run” — and armored push through the the city of Baghdad and a test of the new Iraqi resistance.


During the movement through the city, an enemy RPG pierced the fuel cell on the back of the tank and left it immobile and burning in the city streets.

The chaotic battle began as the tanks rushed into the city on its highway system. A gunner in the lead tank spotted troops drinking tea with weapons nearby and asked permission to fire. The tank commander gave it, and the fight was on.

(Photo: U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Aaron Allmon II)

While the gunner easily dispatched those first soldiers in the open, hundreds of fighters, many in civilian clothes or firing from bunkers, remained. And they put up a fierce resistance with small arms, mortars, and RPGs.

An early RPG hit disabled a Bradley, and the next major RPG hit disabled the Abrams. For almost 20 minutes, the Americans attempted to put out the flames and save the machine. But more fighters kept coming and Schwartz made the decision to sacrifice the tank wreckage to save the armored column.

A scuttled M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tank rests in front of a Fedayeen camp just outside of Jaman Al Juburi, Iraq, during Operation Iraqi Freedom. (Photo: Department of Defense)

The crew was moved to another vehicle and the crucial sensitive items were removed from the tank. Then the tankers filled the vehicle with thermite grenades and took off through the city. The Air Force later dropped bombs on what remained.

In the video below, Schwartz and other tankers involved in the battle discuss the unprecedented decision to abandon an Abrams tank.

The Iraqi government loyal to Saddam Hussein later claimed that the tank was killed, which would have given them credit for the first combat kill of an Abrams tank. The U.S. argued that it was merely disabled, and that it was the U.S. Army’s thermite grenades and later U.S. Air Force bombs that actually destroyed it.
MIGHTY TRENDING

The US is ‘late to the game’ in militarizing the Arctic

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson sent another signal that the U.S. is increasingly attentive to the Arctic and looking to catch up with other countries that are active in the region.


Melting ice has raised interest in shipping, mining, energy exploration, and other enterprises in the Arctic — not only among countries that border it, but also in countries farther afield, like China.

The Arctic “is important today,” Tillerson said during an event at the Wilson Center in Washington, DC, on Nov. 28. “It’s going to be increasingly important in the future, particularly as those waterways have opened up.”

“The whole Arctic region — because of what’s happened with the opening of the Arctic passageways from an economic and trade standpoint, but certainly from a national-security standpoint — is vitally important to our interest,” Tillerson said, adding that the U.S. is behind countries in the region that have responded more quickly.

US Marines with Black Sea Rotational Force 17.1 prepare to board a bus after arriving in Vaernes, Norway, Jan. 16, 2017. The Marines are part of the newly established Marine Rotational Force-Europe, and will be training with the Norwegian Armed Forces to improve interoperability and enhance their ability to conduct operations in Arctic conditions. (USMC photo by Sgt. Erik Estrada.)

“The Russians made it a strategic priority,” Tillerson said. “Even the Chinese are building icebreaking tankers.”

Related: The Coast Guard took the first Nazi prisoners of World War II

While China isn’t an Arctic country, the secretary of state said, “they see the value of these passages. So, we’re late to the game.”

Other countries build up in the Arctic

China’s research icebreaker, the Xue Long, made its first voyage through the Northwest Passage in October, and it is now the first Chinese polar-research vessel to navigate all three major Arctic shipping routes. China has three light icebreakers, with another under construction, according to a Congressional Research Service report.

“I think we have one functioning icebreaker today,” Tillerson said. “The Coast Guard’s very proud of it, as crummy as it is.”

At present, the U.S. Coast Guard has three icebreakers, and the National Science Foundation operates another. Only two of those Coast Guard vessels are operational: the heavy icebreaker Polar Star and the medium icebreaker Healy.

The Coast Guard Cutter Healy, a medium icebreaker, sits in the Chukchi Sea off the coast of Alaska during an Arctic deployment in support of scientific research and polar operations. (Image from DVIDS)

The Polar Star entered service in 1976, and while it was refurbished in 2012, it is beyond its 30-year service life. Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft said earlier this year that the Polar Star “is literally on life support.”

Russia has more than 40 icebreakers, including four operational heavy ones. Finland has seven, though they’re privately owned medium or light icebreakers. Sweden and Canada each have six, none of which are heavy.

During an event at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington on Nov. 29, Coast Guard Rear Adm. Michael McAllister, commander of the service’s 17th district, outlined a number of challenges facing his command, but he emphasized that the U.S. is on good terms with its neighbors in the Arctic.

Relations with Moscow on issues like waterway management in the Bering Strait — which separates Alaska from Russia — are positive, said McAllister, whose command encompasses more than 3.8 million square miles throughout Alaska and the Arctic.

“Across all these areas — law enforcement, search and rescue, environmental response, and waterways management — we see the relationship with Russia as positive,” he added.

China, too, is seen by the Coast Guard as a “good partner” that cooperates on a number of issues.

The Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star cuts through Antarctic ice in the Ross Sea near a large group of seals as the ship’s crew creates a navigation channel for supply ships. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer David Mosley)

“We have great operational-level relationships with the Chinese coast guard,” McAllister told an audience at CSIS. Chinese and U.S. ships do joint patrols and U.S. ships have welcomed aboard Chinese personnel, he said, which allows both countries to extend their presence at sea.

“I don’t think we fear the movement of the Chinese into the Arctic. I think we pay attention to what’s going on,” he said, describing efforts to monitor maritime activity in and around his area of responsibility, as well as the U.S. exclusive economic zone, which extends some 230 miles from U.S. shores.

‘That’s what keeps me up at night’

McAllister pointed to mismatches between his resources and responsibilities as his main causes of worry.

Two of his biggest concerns are responding to oil spills and mass rescues. “The distances are so great, and the difficulty in staging assets is so significant, that that’s what keeps me up at night,” he said.

Also read: 4 night terrors America’s enemies have about Jim Mattis

While he said the Coast Guard was doing well tracking ship movements, other issues, like monitoring ice data and marine wildlife movement, were still challenges.

Even though satellites have made communications with commercial ships easier, McAllister said he still lacked a local network that allowed him to readily contact small vessels. Military and secure communications are also still limited, he said.

Maintaining a sovereign presence also presented an ongoing challenge.

“At any given time, I will only have one or two ships in the Arctic during the open-water seasons, and a few helicopters in addition to that,” he said.

“If you know Alaska, if you know the [exclusive economic zone], it’s just too big an area to try to cover with such a small number of assets.”

But, he said, the replacement of decades-old cutters with new offshore-patrol cutters and national-security cutters, as well as discussions about icebreakers, were both encouraging developments.

The icebreaker USCGC Glacier is shown approaching Winter Quarters Bay harbor at en:McMurdo Station, Antarctica. (Image USCG)

The U.S. Navy and Coast Guard released a joint draft request for proposal in October, looking for the detail, design, and construction of one heavy icebreaker with an option for two more. The two service branches have already set up an integrated program office for the project.

The Coast Guard’s 2018 budget request asked for $19 million toward a new icebreaker it wants to start building in late 2019. The service wants to build at least three heavy icebreakers, which can cost up to $1 billion each (though officials have said they can come in below that price). The first heavy icebreaker is expected to be delivered in 2023.

Some of the money for the icebreaker has been appropriated and “acquisition is already off and running,” McAllister said. “But even with that capability, there’s still a lack of presence there, and that’s something that we, the Coast Guard, aspire to provide more of.”

Articles

Soldiers created these hauntingly beautiful paintings during the Vietnam War

The Vietnam War was the first American war broadcast on TV, something that profoundly changed the way we see expeditionary warfare. For the first time ever, Americans at home saw young men crawling through dense jungles thousands of miles away. And it wasn’t like the newsreel footage of the ’40s, scrubbed clean and careful to show the good guys fighting the good fight. The news coverage in Vietnam showed young American men out on patrol in a strange, foreign land in what was a bitterly controversial war back at home. But less well-known are the paintings created by dedicated teams of army painters tasked with depicting the war in Vietnam as they saw it, with unlimited creative license and no travel restrictions.


“Swamp Patrol” – Roger Blum, 1966

The Vietnam Combat Art Program was created in 1966 as a way to create a record of the war as seen through soldiers’ eyes (a similar program existed in WWII). Applications were solicited from soldiers through the U.S. Army Arts and Crafts Program, a separate program originally set up to boost morale in the mobilization leading up to WWII. But unlike the Arts and Crafts Program, which decorated barracks, hosted art classes and sought to fill the long periods of downtime of a life at war, this new Combat Art Program dedicated artist teams to observe and depict the war in Vietnam.

“Wounded” – Robert C. Knight, 1966

In a departure from the army’s caginess towards news media coverage of the war, the program sought out artists looking to depict scenes in Vietnam that were both honest and compelling. In the U.S. Army’s announcement of the program, it called for “competent artist-illustrators who have a sound foundation in life drawing, composition and color. They must be able to record military events and experiences pictorially and with strong emotional impact.” The teams were to spend 60 days traveling through Vietnam, following units on patrol while making sketches and doing preliminary research. The teams would later finish their work during a 75-day stay in Hawaii.

“Killed In Action” – Burdell Moody, 1967

The army assembled nine Combat Artist Teams (CATs) from 1966-1970. Each team consisted of about 5 artists who were given the freedom to travel wherever they wished in Vietnam. “We had open Category Z Air and Military Travel orders, which meant we could hitch a ride anywhere in Vietnam. It was a letter-sized sheet of paper with written and signed orders,” explained James Pollack, who was a member of CAT IV, which operated in late 1967. “We usually just walked up to a pilot or someone in charge and flashed the orders. We guarded these papers closely – if we lost them it would have been difficult trying to explain why we were hitchhiking around Vietnam.” Pollack described his experiences in the Vietnam Combat Art Program in an essay published in 2009 in War, Literature the Arts: An International Journal of the Humanities.

“Looking Down the Trail” – James Pollack, 1967

“Were we propaganda machines for the army? Absolutely not,” Pollack told The Magazine of the National Endowment for the Humanities in 2011. “I was drafted and didn’t even want to be in the army.”

“Unreal Realities” – Ronald A. Wilson, 1967

 

“Last Stand” – Phillip W. Jones, 1967-68

 

“Cobra” – Stephen H. Randall, 1968

 

“The Ladies” – David Fairrington, 1968

 

“Saturday Uptown” – James R. Drake, 1969

 

“Rice Mill, My Tho” – William R. Hoettels, 1969-70

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russian hackers now aim for US power and water systems

The United States, for the first time, is blaming the Russian government for an ongoing campaign of cyberattacks that it says is targeting the U.S. power grid, water systems, and other critical infrastructure.


A U.S. security alert published on March 15, 2018, said that Russian government hackers are seeking to penetrate multiple sectors that U.S. consumers depend on for day-to-day necessities.

Those targeted in the attacks, which began in March 2016 or earlier, include energy, nuclear, water, aviation, and manufacturing, the alert said.

Also read: Hackers are not afraid to commit cyber attacks against the US

The alleged breaches by Russian hackers were cited by the U.S. Treasury Department as one reason for imposing a new round of sanctions on Russia on March 15, 2018.

The Department of Homeland Security and FBI said in the alert that a “multi-stage intrusion campaign by Russian government cyber actors” has targeted small commercial facilities “where they staged malware, conducted spear phishing, and gained remote access into energy sector networks.”

Military and civilian computer network analysts with the California Army National Guard Computer Network Defense Team tackle a simulated virus attack. (Photo by Capt. Kyle Key)

The alert said the FBI and the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center determined that the ultimate objective of the cyberattacks is to “compromise organizational networks.”

U.S. intelligence officials have said cyberattacks on critical U.S. infrastructure could do significant damage to the economy if they cause extensive blackouts or major disruptions of transportation systems, the Internet, or other essential sectors.

Related: The NSA chief is unauthorized to fight Russian cyber attacks

The Russian intrusions reported on March 15, 2018, did not appear to cause such large-scale disruptions.

However, U.S. officials have been concerned about the possibility of damaging disruptions ever since suspected Russian hackers succeeded at causing temporary power outages affecting hundreds of thousands of customers in Ukraine through cyberattacks in 2015 and 2016.

Moreover, U.S. officials said they believe that the Russian military perpetrated the “NotPetya” cyberattacks in June 2017 that caused the most extensive and costly damage to global businesses in history.

Screenshot of the splash screen of the payload of the original version of Petya.

The NotPetya virus spread quickly across the world, paralyzing computers and resulting in billions of dollars in damage through disruptions in shipping, trade, health care, and other industries, the U.S. Treasury Department said.

U.S. cybersecurity official Rick Driggers told reporters on March 15, 2018, that the Russian breaches of U.S. critical infrastructure thus far have been limited to business networks and have not affected any plant’s control systems.

More: The Air Force wants cyber weapons that can knock out Russia’s air defenses

“We did not see them cross into the control networks,” he said, but “we know that there is intent there.”

U.S. intelligence officials recently testified that the Kremlin appears to believe it can launch hacking operations against the West with little fear of significant retribution. Russia denies trying to hack into other countries’ systems.

Articles

This was the final farewell of a heroic Marine military dog

US military hero dog “Cena,” a 9-year-old Black Labrador who served as a bomb detection dog in Afghanistan and saved the lives of his handler and uncounted other American warriors, ended his service July 26 after a battle he could not win with bone cancer.


Cena died peacefully in the arms of his battle buddy, former Marine Corps Cpl. Jeff DeYoung, in their hometown of Muskegon, Michigan.

The two first met during Improvised Detection Dog training in Virginia in July 2009. They were deployed to Afghanistan later that year and during their service together, the two were part of Operation Moshtarak in February 2010 that was the largest joint operation up to that point.

DeYoung and Cena typically led the way as U.S. troops trudged through the rugged and treacherous sandscapes of Afghanistan. Cena was trained to detect more than 300 different types of explosives and if he smelled something suspicious on patrol he alerted DeYoung, who would then call in an explosives technician to safely remove or detonate the bomb.

Cena and DeYoung ate together, slept together, and fought together, forging a deep bond between them.

“Once I laid down on top of him to protect him from gunfire,” said DeYoung. “I carried him through a freezing cold, flooded river on my shoulders.”

Cena and Corporal DeYoung (Photo from American Humane via NewsEdge) 

DeYoung’s protectiveness of Cena was repaid many times over. Each military dog is estimated to save the lives of between 150-200 servicemen and women during the course of their career, and one of those lives was DeYoung’s. Suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress and the recent loss of several close comrades in combat, DeYoung tried to take his own life. But Cena intervened and saved his comrade from committing suicide.

Despite their seemingly unbreakable bond, DeYoung and Cena were separated unceremoniously without even the chance for a goodbye when DeYoung left military service and Cena continued working through three deployments. For four years, DeYoung suffered nightmares and flashbacks, missing Cena every single day.

Finally, when Cena was retired for a hip injury, the two were brought back together in an emotional reunion made possible with the help of American Humane, the country’s first national humane organization, which has also been working to support the U.S. military, veterans, and military animals for more than 100 years.

The reunion in 2014 was covered by media across the nation and Jeff and Cena’s story has been carried in hundreds of countries around the globe.

Photo by Capt. Allie Payne

Since then, DeYoung and Cena have served as military ambassadors for American Humane, traveling around the country to raise awareness about the importance of reuniting service dogs with their handlers, and how the dogs can improve and save the lives of veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress.

“Military Working Dog Cena is a true American hero and an inspiring testament to the life-changing power of the human-animal bond,” said Dr. Robin Ganzert, president and CEO of American Humane. “He will be greatly missed by all those who knew and who owe their lives to him. His work and his example will live on in the memories of all who knew him and were touched by his story.”

Cena was family to me,” said DeYoung. “It’s always been him and me against the world, and losing him has devastated me to my core. Goodbye, my most faithful friend. I will never forget you.”

 

Articles

Army relaxes standards on beards, turbans and dreadlocks

Female Soldiers may now wear dreadlocks and male Soldiers whose religious faith requires beards and turbans may now seek permanent accommodation.


Army directive 2017-03, signed earlier this month, spells out changes to Army Regulation 670-1, the uniform policy, for the turban, worn by male Soldiers, the under-turban; male hair worn under a turban; the hijab, which is a head scarf worn by females; and beards worn by male members.

Sgt. Maj. Anthony J. Moore, the uniform policy branch sergeant major inside the Army’s G-1, said the policy change was made largely as a way to increase diversity inside the service, and to provide opportunity for more Americans to serve in uniform.

“This is so we can expand the pool of people eligible to join the Army,” Moore said. “There was a section of the population who previously were unable to enlist in the Army. This makes the Army better because you’re opening the doors for more talent. You’re allowing people to come in who have skills the Army can use.”

Female Soldiers have been asking for a while for permission to wear “locks,” or dreadlocks, Moore said.

“We understood there was no need to differentiate between locks, corn rows, or twists, as long as they all met the same dimension,” Moore said. “It’s one more option for female hairstyles. Females have been asking for a while, especially females of African-American decent, to be able to wear dreadlocks, and locks, because it’s easier to maintain that hairstyle.”

The Army directive says that each lock or dreadlock “will be of uniform dimension; have a diameter no greater than 1/2 inch; and present a neat, professional, and well-groomed appearance.”

All female Soldiers can opt to wear the dreadlocks, Moore said.

Spc. Harpal Singh, with Charlie Company, 3rd Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment, watches as his fellow Soldiers go through the Slide to Victory obstacle at the Fort Jackson Confidence Course. (Photo Credit: Robert Timmons)

The Army has granted waivers to Sikh Soldiers since 2009 to wear a turban in lieu of issued Army headgear, and allowed those same Soldiers to wear the turban indoors when Army headgear would normally be removed. Moore said for those Soldiers, the waivers were permanent, but that it was unclear Army-wide that this was the case. That is no longer true, he said.

The new policy is that religious accommodation for Soldiers wanting to wear the turban needs to be requested only once, and that the accommodation will apply to them for their entire Army career.

In an Army directive dated Jan. 3, then-Secretary of the Army Eric K. Fanning made official the policy regarding the wear of turbans, beards, hijabs, and under-turbans.

“Based on the successful examples of Soldiers currently serving with these accommodations, I have determined that brigade-level commanders may approve requests for these accommodations, and I direct that the wear and appearance standards established in … this directive be incorporated into AR 670-1,” Fanning wrote in the directive.

“With the new directive, which will be incorporated into the Army regulation, religious accommodations are officially permanent for Soldiers,” Moore said.

Also a change: whereas in the past requests for such accommodation rose to the Pentagon before they could be approved, permission can now be granted by brigade-level commanders. Bringing approval down to that level, Moore said, speeds up the approval process dramatically.

That was the intent, Moore said. “They are trying to speed up the process for the Army and for the Soldier.”

Moore said the same religious accommodation rules apply for those Soldiers seeking to wear a beard for religious reasons, and to female Soldiers who want to wear a hijab as well.

If brigade-level commanders feel it inappropriate to approve the accommodation for some reason, he said, then they can recommend disapproval, but it must be channeled to the GCMCA for decision. Under the new policy, requests for religious accommodations that are not approved at the GCMCA-level will come to the secretary of the Army or designee for a final decision.

Still at issue for Soldiers is wear of a beard in conjunction with a gas mask.

A Marine makes sure his gas mask has a proper seal to keep contaminants away from his face. Beards can inhibit a proper seal. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

“Study results show that beard growth consistently degrades the protection factor provided by the protective masks currently in the Army inventory to an unacceptable degree,” Fanning wrote in the Army directive. “Although the addition of a powered air-purifying respirator and/or a protective mask with a loose-fitting facepiece has demonstrated potential to provide adequate protection for bearded individuals operating in hazardous environments, further research, development, testing, and evaluation are necessary to identify masks that are capable of operational use and can be adequately maintained in field conditions.”

Moore said that until further testing is completed, and alternatives are found to protect bearded Soldiers in environments that are affected or are projected to be affected by chemical weapons, Soldiers with beards may be told to shave them in advance, with specific and concrete evidence of an expected chemical attack.

If a chemical warfare threat is immediate, Moore said, instructions to shave their beards would come from higher up, at the General Court-Martial Convening Authority-level — typically a division-level commander.

Likewise, Soldiers who seek religious accommodation to wear a beard will not be allowed to attend the Army schools required for entry into chemical warfare-related career fields, Moore said.

For wear of the beard, Moore said, the new directive allows for beards to be as long as the Soldier wants, so long as the beard can be rolled up and compressed to less than two inches from the bottom of the chin. Additionally, for those Soldiers wearing a beard under a religious accommodation, the rules for wearing a mustache are also new. Mustaches may extend past the corners of the mouth, but must be trimmed or groomed to not cover the upper lip.

Maj. Kamaljeet Kalsi, a civil affairs officer in the Army Reserve’s 404th Civil Affairs Battalion at Fort Dix, New Jersey, is a Sikh Soldier who wears both a turban and a beard. He said he welcomes the new policy change as an indication that the Army is now looking to both accolade his faith, and to open its doors to talent in the United States that might have been previously untapped.

“It means a lot to us,” Kalsi said. “And not just to Sikh Americans, but I think Americans that value religious freedom and religious liberty, and value diversity. I think it means a lot to all of us. To me it says the nation is moving in a direction that the founders intended, a pluralistic democracy that represents all. I think we’re a stronger nation when we can draw from the broadest amount of talent, the broadest talent pool. And it makes us a stronger military when the military looks like the people it serves.”

Capt. Simratpal Singh, with the 249th Engineer Battalion prime power section, said the policy is for him about acceptance.

“On a personal level, it means that I can serve freely and without having to worry about any stipulations or constraint,” he said. “That’s all I want: is to serve in the U.S. Army just like any of my peers.”

Because the next edition of AR 670-1 is expected to be published next month, the Army will not be able to include the new rules. But Moore said Soldiers can expect to see these most recent changes in the AR 670-1 that comes out at this time next year.

 

MIGHTY CULTURE

Air Force vet reunites with daughter for the first time in 36 years

Pamela Foley was 17 and pregnant in 1982 when her parents said she wasn’t welcome in their house, and wasn’t keeping her baby.

She searched and wondered for decades what happened to the child she gave up for adoption before the two reconnected in January 2019. They met again for the first time in 36 years at the National Veterans Wheelchair Games.

Foley, an Air Force veteran, who uses a wheelchair because of multiple sclerosis, pushed up from her chair July 9, 2019, as the two embraced and held each other tight.

“Let me look at your face!” Foley sobbed as she held her daughter’s face in her hands. “My baby!”


The two have since been inseparable at 2019’s Games, with her daughter, Carrie Knutsen, cheering on her birth mom, laughing and finishing each other’s sentences. While the two have filled each other in on the last 36 years, they cemented the reunion with matching tattoos of two hearts and a double helix DNA that Carrie designed.

Pamela Foley competed in bowling, 9-ball and slalom at this year’s Wheelchair Games, but will most remember her reunion with the daughter she was forced to give up for adoption 36 years ago.

Foley never stopped hoping this day would come, always marking Carrie’s birthday on her calendar. Carrie, based on what little information she had, would sometimes see a face in the crowd and wonder if they were related.

When Pamela told her parents she was pregnant 36 years ago, she wasn’t surprised at their reaction.

“They said, ‘You’re going to live with your sister in Virginia.’ They’re the type they always have to impress people, and if anybody had found out their daughter was pregnant, they couldn’t have that.”

Pamela got to spend time with her baby after giving birth April 29, 1983, in Roanoke, which made it even harder.

“That was the emotional pain,” she said. “They let me have her while I was there, feeding and clothing her. I saw and held her and was a blithering idiot. I had 30 days after signing the paperwork to change my mind. So I called my mom, crying in the hospital.”

“What would happen if I kept her?” Pamela asked.

“Oh, don’t come home,” her mom replied.

“And I’m crying more as I’m thinking of changing my mind. Then I thought about it. I was 17. I didn’t have a job, I had no resources. I didn’t know anything. I didn’t have any skills.”

Carrie interjects with a laugh: “I mean, you gave birth, that’s a pretty good skill. Just saying.”

“It just happens,” Pamela deadpans. “You just do it. It was going to happen regardless.”

Catholic Charities told Pamela the adoption records would be sealed for 18 years, then she could find information about her baby.

Although she was named Lisa Marie on the birth certificate, her adoptive parents — Casey and Marie — took parts of their name and changed her name to Carrie.

“It was a huge blessing for them, and they are amazing people,” Carrie said. “They changed my name because they wanted to give me a piece of them. I never wanted for anything. I went to college, I finished grad school. I don’t have any memory of not knowing I was adopted. They told me when I was young.

Mom and daughter got matching tattoos of two hearts and double helix DNA to commemorate the reunion. Carrie, who is a graphic artist, designed the artwork.

“I always wondered if she was a movie star and occasionally wondered why they gave me away. I knew I was born in Roanoke, so anytime we were there, I’d look at faces in the crowd and wondered if they resembled me or were family.”

Pamela moved back home after giving birth and graduated from high school. She joined the Air Force in 1985, married and had another daughter, Samantha, in 1986. She was diagnosed a year later with multiple sclerosis and separated from the military. She divorced her first husband, remarried and had a son, Sean, in 1991. Tragedy struck in 1993 when Samantha died after she fell through a glass table while playing.

“It was the worst thing in the world,” Pamela said. “It was worse than giving my baby away.”

Pamela and her husband, Michael, had another daughter, Megan, in 1994.

And in 2001 — 18 years after giving birth to Carrie — Pamela asked to see the adoption records.

“They were so rude. ‘Nooooo, these are sealed records. You have to get a lawyer and petition the court.’

“I let it drop,” she said. “We didn’t have that kind of money, and at that time, there was no internet like there is today. I did find an adoption registry and filled out all the information, what I knew. I never heard anything.”

Carrie filled out a similar registry around the same time.

“I thought, ‘What the hell? Maybe?’ I never heard and forgot all about it.”

She married in 2011, and tried to find more about her family’s health history, but hit the same road block with sealed records.

Another 17 years passed while Pamela watched a show about reuniting lost family members. There was a phone number for a private investigation company at the end of the program, and she gave them a call. For id=”listicle-2639220262″,000, she was told, they could probably find her daughter. Pamela reached out to the birth father and they split the cost.

In December 2018, the investigation firm sent Carrie a letter she almost didn’t open.

“I just stuck it in my purse, and when I opened it later, they said they had a client who was looking for me,” she said. “I thought it was probably my mother, but it might be a scam. I got in touch with them, and on January 2 told them they could use my e-mail. I’m sitting at work and 10 minutes later, I get an e-mail from Pam.”


Reunion at the Games . . .

www.facebook.com

This’ll get ya. Pamela Shears Foley was forced to give up her baby, Carrie Knutsen, at 17. They found each other in January and met for the first time in…

Pam wrote: “Hi my name is Pamela Foley … You might be the child I gave up 35 years ago. I would like get to know and possibly meet you sometime in the future … I know this a lot to take in, but I’m hopeful we can stay in contact.”

Carrie wrote back: “Hi, Pam! What a way to start a new year! You’re right, it is a lot to take in — but in an exciting way! For 30 years, since I first found out I was adopted at the ripe old age of 5, I have wondered everything about my birth family. I am thankful for my parents who have given me everything — the best life I could have ever imagined. But I’ve always had those thoughts in the back of my mind — who are they, where are they, what do they like, what do they look like, and so on. This is a fascinating new journey!”

The two e-mailed back and forth all day.

Does the rest of your family “know about me? If so, when did you tell them?” Carrie asked.

“Everybody in my life knows about you and has for many years,” Pam replied. “I don’t hide my past from my children, so they know about you and that we are in contact. They are also very excited!

Carrie said that made the difference in their new relationship.

“The biggest part for me was finding out I was nobody’s secret,” she said. “I was wanted.”

They are making plans to visit one another after the Games, and Carrie hopes to get to the 2020 event in Portland. She has since been in touch with her birth father and is finding other family members, too.

“We use social media a lot, and I’m getting all these friend requests from cousins, aunts, a grandma on my birth father’s side … my grandparents died in 2014 and now I get another grandma,” Carrie said as she dabbed a tear from her eye. “I’m finding out that I’ve had, like, 30,000 family members I never knew I had who had been praying for me my whole life. It’s wonderful.”

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

Articles

This is why Poland wants those Patriot anti-air missiles

Designed to blast aircraft, missiles and even drones out of the skies with deadly precision, the American-made MIM-104 Patriot missile system has been sought after by a number of countries over the last 30 years to defend their sovereign territories from threats in the air.


After expressing interest in the Patriot system for years, and failing to develop a suitably-priced medium/long range air defense missile of its own, Poland will finally get its hands on a group of eight Patriot batteries pending the signing of a deal worth billions of dollars with the United States.

Poland, a former satellite republic under the Soviet Union’s scope of influence, was previously armed almost entirely with Soviet-built hardware, including 1960s-era SA-5 Gammon surface-to-air missiles. However, in the years since the fall of the USSR, most of what was once the best Eastern Bloc military technology on the market has become almost entirely obsolete.

With the Eastern European nation formally joining NATO in the 1990s, and with a plethora of aged and below-standard military equipment in the country’s possession, Poland has begun the process of pushing its armed forces through a gradual yet massive overhaul that will see it retain a degree of relevancy against potential aggressors, especially Russia.

A Patriot missile test launch using the PAC-3 surface-to-air missile (Photo US Army)

At the top of the country’s wishlist is a new advanced missile defense system with the ability to deal with aerial threats in a quick and effective manner. With Russian military activity ramping up near its borders, the recent forceful annexation of the Crimea, and a general distrust for all things Russian anyways, Poland has not so subtly let the U.S. know it wants the air defense umbrella the Patriot can provide.

In 2015, Polish defense officials announced their intent to work with Raytheon, the creator and manufacturer of the Patriot, to buy eight missile batteries with a percentage of the system’s components built in Poland. But the deal, projected at $7 billion at the time, didn’t really materialize until earlier this week during a state visit by President Donald Trump.

That’s when Polish officials confirmed their country’s armed forces would begin receiving the Patriots it wanted for a little under $8 billion.

Currently, 14 countries including the United States operate the Patriot system, with a number of them having actually deployed the missile in combat situations against hostile aircraft, missiles and drones. Poland will be the 15th such country pending the signing of this multi-billion dollar deal.

Marines examine a Patriot battery aboard MCAS Futenma, Japan (Photo US Marine Corps)

The Patriot, originally designed in the early 1980s, received its combat baptism during the Persian Gulf War, engaging and destroying Iraqi Scud missiles with chemical warheads aimed at Israeli cities. In more recent history, the system has seen action in Iraq during the 2003 invasion, and in Saudi Arabia and Israel to ward off missile and drone attacks.

The Patriot achieved its first aircraft kill in 2014 in Israeli service after downing a Syrian Su-24 Fencer which penetrated protected airspace.

Among Poland’s other military modernization aims are the procurement of submarine-launched cruise missiles, UH-60 Black Hawk utility helicopters, and the construction of a series of watchtowers and observation posts on its border with the Kaliningrad Oblast region to keep an eye on any nearby Russian military activity.

Additionally, the country has discussed buying more F-16 Fighting Falcons and possibly brand new F-35A Lightning II stealth fighters for its air force.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US is putting 3,500 more boots on the ground in Afghanistan

A US official has told ABC news that the Defense Secretary James Mattis authorized 3,500 additional troops to deploy to Afghanistan as part of the troop buildup associated with President Donald Trump’s South Asia Strategy.


Late last month, Trump announced his new strategy on Afghanistan which included an increase in the number of US troops to the country.

Reports in the past indicated that Mattis favored the Pentagon’s recommendation to send about 3,900 more troops to Afghanistan.

Defense Secretary James Mattis (left) and Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford. DoD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith

On Sept. 8, Mattis told reporters that he had signed deployment orders for some of the additional troops that would be sent, though he would not disclose the number.

No details have however been released on when these troops will deploy.

On Sept. 6, Mattis, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford, the Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats briefed members of Congress about the new strategy in Afghanistan.

Last week, the Pentagon disclosed that the number of American troops actually serving in Afghanistan was 11,000 and not the 8,400 official numbers it had been providing for some time.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Army’s ‘Space Cowboys’ can see anywhere

It can sometimes be hard for commanders to get a full picture of the battlefield, whether that’s on the ground in Syria or in the forests of Colorado. The “Space Cowboys” of the Colorado Army National Guard‘s 117th Space Battalion aim to solve that problem.


Just the Facts

  • The 117th Space Battalion is the only unit of its kind in the National Guard.
  • Its 12 space support teams work with commercial and classified space-based assets to support command requirements.
  • The 117th has the highest concentration of space support teams anywhere in the Army.
  • Army Space Support Teams are made up of six soldiers — two officers and four enlisted — each with unique skills. The teams deploy around the world to enhance intelligence and operations planning abilities.
  • U.S. Army Sgt. Rick D. Peevy, a crew chief from Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 135th Aviation Regiment, Colorado Army National Guard, surveys the scene while wildfires burn the training range at Fort Carson, Colo., June 12, 2008.

  • “The [space] support team allows the warfighter to see and overcome enemy forces using the most appropriate amount of lethality available to them,” said Army Sgt. Maj. Fred Korb, the 117th’s senior enlisted leader. “For example, this allows the maximum effectiveness for targeting enemy forces while limiting danger to the coalition warfighter and noncombatants.”
  • More than 55 percent of soldiers in the unit have advanced degrees.
  • “Support can include producing imagery products, deconflicting GPS issues, missile warning, missile defense, satellite communications, and space as well as terrestrial weather effects on operations,” said Army Staff Sgt. Joseph Fauskee, the noncommissioned officer in charge of one of the battalion’s space support teams.
  • The 117th’s soldiers also produce the imagery needed to support wildfire fighting efforts in their home state. This year, some of its soldiers responded to the Spring Creek fire, the third-largest wildfire in Colorado history.
  • This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.